Billy Corgan on Kurt Cobain’s Death: “I Cried Because I Lost My Greatest Opponent”

"Kurt had so much talent. It's like frightening."

Billy Corgan cried Kurt Cobain opponent
Billy Corgan (photo by Philip Cosores) and Kurt Cobain (photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc.)

    Billy Corgan and the late Kurt Cobain are no doubt two of the greatest songwriters of the early ’90s alternative-rock revolution. In a new interview, the Smashing Pumpkins frontman likened it to a competition, calling the Nirvana mastermind his “greatest opponent.”

    Speaking with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, Corgan opted for the sports analogy when discussing his reaction to the death of Cobain in 1994, while also reflecting on Smashing Pumpkins’ legacy compared to the other greats of the era, including Nirvana.

    “I want the Pumpkins standing on the top of the heap of our generation,” Corgan said in the interview. “If that means I got to write 800 songs to do it, I’ll do it. I ain’t shy about that. I will go down always as saying, Kurt was the most talented guy of our generation. Kurt had so much talent. It’s like frightening. It was like a John Lennon level of talent, where you’re like, ‘how can you have all this talent?’ Or Prince, right? But Kurt’s not here, sadly. So I looked around, I was like, ‘All right, well, I could beat the rest of them for sure.'”


    Regarding Kurt’s passing, Corgan continued, “When Kurt died, I cried because I lost my greatest opponent. I want to beat the best. I don’t want to win the championship because it’s just me and a bunch of gabronis, to use a wrestling term. It’s like, Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest sports competitor I’ll ever see in my lifetime — I mean, you want to talk about an alpha. That guy wanted to win the valet tip. You know what I mean?”

    Corgan went on to discuss other acts such as Deftones’ Chino Moreno (“the real deal”), Radiohead (who “figured out the world that was coming pretty much before every band on the planet”), and U2, retelling a story of how he gave advice for the latter’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind LP that Bono and company apparently ended up using.

    “So, I’m over in Dublin, circa 2000, and I go to visit Bono at his house,” Corgan said. “We stayed up all night, and in the morning, for some reason, me and him are the only people up, and he says, ‘I want to play you something. We’re going to have to go out in the car, because I don’t want to wake the house up.'”


    He continued: “So it’s me and him freezing in the driveway, and he pops in and he’s playing me what became the ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’ album, and it’s not all the way there, but sort of there. And he goes, ‘Tell me honestly what you think.’ I’m like, ‘You really want me to give you my opinion?’ And I told him what I thought, and they actually used my advice, and he let me know later, ‘Hey, we used your advice.'”

    Corgan will be out on the road in North America this summer with the Smashing Pumpkins on the band’s “The World Is a Vampire Tour,” featuring support from Interpol, Stone Temple Pilots, and Rival Sons. Tickets for the Pumpkins’ upcoming dates are available here.

    Below you can watch the full interview with Billy Corgan for Apple Music.