“I haven’t felt joy like that since my baby was born!”: Kiki Wong on landing the gig with The Smashing Pumpkins

Over 10,000 people applied to be the alt-rock powerhouse’s new guitarist, following the departure of Jeff Schroeder in 2023.

[L-R] Kiki Wong and Billy Corgan

Credit: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images [L], Gina Wetzler/Redferns [R]

When you purchase through affiliate links on Guitar.com, you may contribute to our site through commissions. Learn more

When the Smashing Pumpkins put out a call for a new guitarist at the start of the year, the guitar world was sent into a frenzy. If you could pick up a guitar, you were in with a chance – and that’s why over 10,000 people applied.

After weeks of deliberating, last month it was revealed that Instagram guitarist Kiki Wong had secured the gig. In a recent interview with Guitar World, Wong opens up about the life-changing opportunity – and how she’d nearly given up on her dreams after having a child.

“One of my boyfriend’s close friends sent me a DM about the audition… I thought my touring days were over, since I have a little kiddo now,” she explains. “I sort of gave up hope on any future tours, though my dream was always to play to a sea of people in the audience.”

Known for posting her ‘Shrednanigans’ on Instagram, the metal guitarist has shared her immense shredding skill online for years – and Billy Corgan has been a longtime fan.

“When we started the Zoom call, one of the first things Billy said was that he followed me on social media,” Wong explains in a recent chat with Guitar World. “He’d always stop to watch my videos, and he was a fan of my work.”

But Corgan’s appreciation of Wong’s work alone wasn’t enough to secure her the gig – she had to have an in-person audition to prove herself. “The in-person audition was so intimidating at first,” she admits. “When I walked in, it was one of the biggest rehearsal studios I’ve been to. My heart was going a million miles per hour because almost the whole OG line-up was there. It was like looking through a glimpse of my teenage years in real life!”

“They gave me four songs to play: Today, Cherub Rock, Jellybelly and Bullet With Butterfly Wings… I practiced those songs like my life depended on it for three weeks,” she explains. “I watched every live video I could find of those songs, trying to analyse every move they made. I wanted to make sure I did it right, not just do it the way I thought it sounded.”

Despite the anxiety, The Smashing Pumpkins made Wong feel comfortable. “The vibes were so good I kind of forgot about the nerves and we just jammed,” she says. “In that moment it didn’t even matter if I got the gig or not. I was so grateful to be jamming with such legendary players. Truly.”

Of course, it wouldn’t just be a one-off jam session. “The day after I auditioned, I got the life-changing call. I honestly haven’t felt joy like that since my baby was born!”

Fans of Wong might have been surprised by the news. Wong is a metal shredder through and through – quite at odds with the group’s grunge-y alt-rock style. But the gig is forcing her to grow and adapt as a guitarist. “It’s definitely been a challenge learning the Pumpkins style of rock,” Wong admits.

“There’s so much feel and rhythmic eloquence that goes into their style of playing. I’ve been taking guitar lessons, going back to the blues roots, and even playing more acoustic to integrate it into my playing. Honestly, I may not be the absolute best player out there – in fact, I know I’m not! I’m continuously learning, trying to improve every day.”

While Wong may not fit perfectly into the group’s sound, she hopes her heavier style will offer a unique spin on classic Pumpkins. “I have is an undying love for guitar and heavy metal… I hope it can bring a little bit of that heavy side of Pumpkins out more, since I know that’s what their music is rooted in,” she explains.

Related Artists

Related Tags


The world’s leading authority and resource for all things guitar.

© 2024 Guitar.com is part of NME Networks.