Billy Corgan: Eddie Van Halen was always an “alternative guitar player,” even though “he gets kind of lumped in the other way”

Classic rock and alternative rock don’t have to be at loggerheads…

Billy Corgan, Eddie Van Halen

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C Flanigan / Getty

Smashing Pumpkins singer and guitarist Billy Corgan has said that, despite Van Halen being often billed as a ‘classic rock’ band – to him, Eddie Van Halen was more of an “alternative guitar player.” And this is why he was so keen to visit Eddie Van Halen’s studio for an extensive interview.

Speaking to BBC Radio 6, he recalled the visit – which took place in the late 1990s – as being like “a religious experience.” He said: “around 1997, ’98, there was a guitar magazine in America, and I went to them, and I said, ‘I’d really like to interview Eddie Van Halen,’ and they said, ‘Why do you wanna interview Eddie Van Halen?’ I said, ‘Because I’d really like to introduce him to a generation of alternative guitar players. To me, he really is an alternative guitar player; I know he gets kind of lumped in the other way.’”

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The guitar work of Eddie Van Halen may on the surface seem a far cry from the disaffected riffs of 90s alternative rock. But following his passing last month, players from across the world of music paid tribute to Van Halen’s relentlessly innovative talents.

Corgan continued: “And so they allowed me to basically have a four-hour interview with Eddie at his studio. I got to sit two feet away from Eddie and watch him play, and I’m telling you, it was like a religious experience. I mean, the man was so gifted, so kind.”

He also revealed he got some insider information on EVH’s gear, saying: “Towards the end of the interview, I said to him, ‘There’s all those stories about the amp you used on Van Halen … I said, ‘Do you still have the amp?’ He goes, ‘Oh, yeah.’

“He takes me around the corner, kind of near the dustbin, and he’s, like, ‘There it is.’ I go, ‘What about all the stories that you did all this special modification?’ He goes, ‘Oh, it’s not true at all.’”

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