Smashing Pumpkins Billy Corgan on the importance of Radiohead in the ’90s

“Radiohead figured out the world that was coming pretty much before every band on the planet”

Billy Corgan has openly praised Radiohead in a new interview, and hailed them as one of the first bands to harness a new way of making music in the 1990s.

The Smashing Pumpkins frontman discussed the impact the band had on the decade in a recent interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music 1, and shared the respect he developed for Thom Yorke and co in 1997 – the same year they released ‘OK Computer’.

The topic arose when Corgan explained how some artists have “a certain type of affirmational faith” instilled into them, where they believe that if they follow a certain process, things will start to work out. It was here that the host agreed, and claimed that one person he sees as having that quality is Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke.


Corgan agreed, and explained how he initially had “very little respect for the band”, however, came to appreciate Yorke once he became more experimental, and released the band’s iconic third album.

“I want to praise him here. When Radiohead made the shift from [sounding] like every other UK alternative band …we had very little respect for what they were doing,” he said, joking that they were an “enemy band”.

“[However,] when he made his pivot, wisely so, with his band to what they became — which is the great band — I found myself thinking: ‘He figured something out before you,’” Corgan continued. “And at that moment, when they started doing it … I found myself flatfooted because I didn’t see that coming. I was so disconnected from what was happening because I was on all these mega tours.”

Billy Corgan
Billy Corgan. CREDIT: Don Arnold/WireImage/Getty

In the discussion, the ‘Cherub Rock’ singer also hailed the band as being the first to see the changing tide in the ‘90s music, and praised Radiohead for not only noticing the shift to electronic methods of creating music but harnessing it before anyone else.

“Radiohead figured out the world that was coming pretty much before every band on the planet, and they reaped the reward of that and did a lot of great work, in essence, anticipating this dissociative world,” he explained. “I was making music for a world that was basically dead and dying, but I was the last to get the memo. So I really credit them with figuring that out.


“And I’m not saying I wanted to make laptop rock, but there’s something pretty cool about figuring out that music was going to be more environmental and less standing-on-the-beach-with-a-cassette-deck.”

This isn’t the first time that Corgan has openly celebrated the impact Radiohead had on music. Back in 2015, the sing claimed he had written off the last 15 years of rock music, and insisted that the band were the last to do anything innovative with their guitars.

Phil Selway and Thom Yorke of Radiohead (Photo by Andy Sheppard/Redferns via Getty Images)
:Phil Selway and Thom Yorke of Radiohead (Photo by Andy Sheppard/Redferns via Getty Images)

In other Billy Corgan news, earlier this week the singer made headlines when he explained how he was devastated to hear that Kurt Cobain had died as he felt like losing the Nirvana frontman was like losing his “greatest opponent”. He also shared how he helped U2 improve their 10th studio album by offering Bono some words of advice.

This month, Smashing Pumpkins released the last part of their rock opera ‘ATUM’ — a three-part sequel to ‘Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness’ (1995) and ‘Machina/The Machines Of God’ (2000).

In March, they also headlined a new festival in Mexico called The World Is A Vampire alongside Interpol. They later announced a US tour of the same name, which will kick off in Las Vegas this July and run until September.

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