Billy Corgan shares what Tony Iommi taught him about tone: “At the time I didn’t get it”

“He was talking about how people romanticise the old sound, but how he’s trying to update that into the modern era.”

Billy Corgan and Tony Iommi

Image: Michael Campanella / Kevin Mazur / Getty Images

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Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan has opened up about a conversation he once had with Tony Iommi about evolving one’s “old sound” for the modern age.

In a recent chat with Reverend Guitars’ founder and CEO Joe Naylor, Corgan recalls how the Black Sabbath guitarist was on a mission to evolve beyond the tone that most fans associate with him.

“I remember talking to Tony Iommi years ago about his relationship with certain amp makers,” Corgan says [via Guitar World], referencing Iommi’s long standing use of Laney Amplification.

“He was talking about how people romanticise the old sound, but how he’s trying to update that into the modern era.”

“At the time I didn’t get it,” Corgan adds. “But as I’ve gotten older I realised that you want your sound, but at the same time, you don’t want it to be dated or old. You want your sound to be brought into the 21st century.”

As the musician explains, this advice is something he’s kept in mind during the development of his line of Reverend signature guitars. Citing the guitar sound in Smashing Pumpkins’ Bodies and Zero as examples, Corgan says, “I was playing an original [Reverend] signature guitar which I still love, but it has a much brighter, more modern tone and a clarity that’s really good for recording with.”

“From the live side, playing old Pumpkins stuff I found myself fighting with the guitar, wanting something a little darker with less high end on the very top and the Tony Iommi low-mid note.”

“The most impressive thing about the guitar is its ability to get a vintage tone but find that balance with modernity.”

To achieve that, Reverend and Corgan opted for alder bodies — instead of korina — on the new generation of guitars. They also incorporated Railhammer pickups, which were derived from the company’s custom Humcutter ones.

“I get to play brand-new Reverend guitars and it’s not like I’m getting an old tone,” Corgan says. “I’m getting a new version of the tone. I can get my sound out the box, literally with any amp, whereas in the past it would have to be the right amp and the right guitar.”


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