Thirty-one years after Gish, the Smashing Pumpkins are still exploring the architecture of sound in their often explosive and unpredictable songs. For their current Spirits on Fire Tour, Billy Corgan leads with his Reverend signatures and a few other carefully culled guitars, and Jeff Schroeder lends support with his fleet of Yamahas.
The Smashing PumpkinsSmashing Pumpkins' first two albums, Gish and Siamese Dream, were a huge part of the soundtrack for the early ’90s alternative rock revolution. Still sounding revolutionary all these years later, the band’s leader, Billy Corgan, recently brought the Smashing Pumpkins to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for the Spirits on Fire tour, on the heels of their 11th studio album, Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts.
The concept album is a sequel to the Smashing Pumpkins’ definitive three-LP masterwork Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, from 1995—which also brought them crushing into the mainstream. Acts two and three of Atum are scheduled for January and April 2023. But meanwhile, there are live shows … and all the gear it takes to recreate more than three decades years of the band’s signature sounds. PS: Special thanks to super-tech Trace Davis for his help with the fine points.
Brought to you by D’Addario XPND Pedalboard.
Billy Corgan’s main guitar, tuned in standard, is his Reverend signature Z-One in midnight black, loaded with Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One neck and bridge pickups. This model is the third collaboration between Corgan and Reverend’s Joe Naylor, and Mr. C’s axe takes Ernie Ball Regular Slinkys, gauged .010–.046.
For a back-up, Billy has his Reverend BC1 signature in satin purpleburst, loaded—again—with Z-One neck and bridge pickups, which blend the bite of P-90s with humbucker heaviness.
Those Pickup Covers!
Stare long enough at those pickup covers, and perhaps you’ll see the universe, putting a new spin on the old Zen koan. When Corgan wants things just a bit looser, in Eb standard tuning, he’ll reach for this Z-One sig in silver freeze. Oh! The strings? Ernie Ball Power Slinkys, .011–.048.
For a classic P-90 voice, Corgan lets the strings on this 1994 Gibson Les Paul Special sing. He keeps it tuned to C# standard and the switch has been modified (it's a secret), as has the sticker. Ernie Ball Not Even Slinkys (.012–.056) adorn this axe.
ES for Eb Standard
Another low-tuned Gibson, Corgan’s 1972 ES-335 with block inlays and a trapeze tailpiece, lives in Eb standard land and gets called out to play on the song “1979.”
The Silver Surfboard
For some mini-hum sting, Billy plays this Gibson Firebird with a Bigsby in silver finish. There are several switches in the headstock, which Corgan’s tech Davis says control the “secret sauce and voodoo magic.”
Corgan tours with two of his signature Yamaha LJ16BC acoustics—one in E and one in Eb standard. They’re medium-jumbos and all-stock, which means a spruce top, rosewood back and sides, a 5-ply mahogany and rosewood neck, and the company’s comfort traditional neck style.
Corgan tours with two identical amp rigs, with four different heads used separately for different tones, and all switched with an Ampete 444. This allows him to drive all four heads into one Laney Black Country Customs LA412 4x12 speaker cab loaded with Celestion G12H-75s. It lives in an iso box under the stage. The amps? There’s a Laney Supermod, an Orange Rockerverb 100 MKIII, a Carstens Grace, and an Ebo Customs Del Rio.
Billy Corgan’s Pedalboard
Here’s what underfoot: an RJM Mastermind GT/16 MIDI controller, an MXR CAE Power System, Analog Man Beano Boost treble booster with Mullard-style transistors, a Lehle III switching and looping tool, a Tone Bender-inspired Minotaur Sonic Terrors Evil Eye MkIII fuzz, a Strymon Brigadier delay, a Behringer Octave Divider, and a Dunlop Volume (X), used as an expression pedal for the Strymon.
Jeff Schroeder plays Yamaha guitars. And he’s got four Revstars on tour. This one has an especially elegant finish. They came stocked with P-90s, but now one has Black Cat Vintage Repro Minis, another features Lollar Low Wind Imperial Humbuckers, and the one he keeps in dop D is totally stock. Schroeder goes with Ernie Ball Paradigm .009 sets for standard, .010s for Eb standard, .009s with a heavier .046 on the bottom for drop D, and .011s for C# standard.
Cutaway to the Pacifica
This Yamaha Pacifica has a scalloped fretboard and Seymour Duncan Hunter humbucking pickups in the bridge and neck, and an SSL-5 single-coil in the middle. It also features a Floyd Rose whammy upgraded with titanium parts.
For a semi-hollow, Jeff goes with his Yamaha SA2200 guitars, with Lollar Low Wind Imperial Humbuckers.
As with all his axes, his plectrum choice is Dunlop Tortex 1.14 mms, including the the just-for-fun Dunlop YJMP03YL Yngwie Malmsteen picks (yellow), but the Dunlop YJMP02RD Yngwie Malmsteen picks (red) are beefier at 2 mm.
Schroeder tours with two Revv Generator 120 MKII tube heads—big, beefy, and versatile.
Don’t Call a Cab
No big boxes for Schroeder … at least onstage. He uses a pair of Two Notes Torpedo Captor X simulators, emulating a 4x12 mic’d with a Shure SM57 and Sennheiser MD421 on Celestion V30s. As a back-up, there is a Marshall 4x12 in an isolation cabinet—with a Shure SM57—under the stage. And Jeff’s “icing on the cake”—a suggested addition from tech Trace Davis (of Voodoo Amps)—is a Retrospec Juice Box. This inconspicuous box is a transformer-less, all-tube DI that has upped his live tones to a studio quality.
His effects array has two Line 6 Helix Rack units that live in his rolling rock case.
At his feet he has a Line 6 Helix Control Foot Controller that works with an Analog Man Beano Boost, like Billy’s. These are fired up for solos. Also, Schroeder has a pair of Dunlop DVP3 Volume (X) pedals (one for volume and another for pitch-shifting effect from the Helix) and a Dunlop JB95 Joe Bonamassa Signature Cry Baby wah.
Open up a world of routing options by getting to know the ABCs of ABYs.
If you like the idea of seamless switching between two amps or running both simultaneously, or perhaps swapping between two guitars with minimal fuss, it’s high time to consider working an ABY box into your rig. We’ve rounded up 10 options to get you started on your search.
ORANGEThe Amp Detonator
This active ABY with two buffered outputs can run on an adaptor or 9V battery and features an internal charge pump that doubles the internal voltage to 18V for increased headroom.
This box houses flexible routing that can send any two inputs to any two outputs, independent level controls, and a pair of LED indicators for clear status of the channel outputs.
RADIAL ENGINEERINGBigShot ABY
This switcher features 180-degree polarity reverse to phase-match amps, a 100-percent passive audio path, and an onboard transformer for eliminating hum and buzz.
Super small and compact, this ABY switcher can operate without a power supply, but, when plugged in, it features a 3-way LED that indicates mode selection.
DIAMOND AMPLIFICATIONAmp Switch
This stealthy looking box gets the job done with features like ground-lift and phase-reverse switches, and the ability to power up via DC or 9V battery.
This nice-priced switcher has a completely passive audio path and features a dedicated tuner out that can also be utilized for other effects.
Featuring gold-plated phase-reverse and ground-lift switches, this little red box was designed to eliminate hum thanks to its transformer-isolated signal paths.
These ABYs give players the option of choosing buffered or non-buffered modes for each channel, and feature nickel-core, custom-wound 1:1 transformers that do not boost treble frequencies.
RJM MUSIC TECHNOLOGYY-Not 2.0
This MIDI-controllable ABY features a high-quality switchable buffer, an isolation transformer and phase-inversion switch on output B, and 256 available presets.
Powered by 9V or DC adapter, this box is reported to offer completely noiseless switching between channels, whether it’s used to put one guitar into two amps or two guitars into one amp.
Ten volume pedal options aimed at making guitarists feel swell.
A volume pedal may not be the sexiest effect on a pedalboard, but for many, going without hands-free volume control—not to mention all the other interesting things you can do with one—is a scary thought. Here are 10 that’ll help you get your swell on.
The magnetic sensor in this pedal allows it to run nearly wear-free, and its buffered direct output can be used to supply a DAW, tuner, or second amp without affecting the sound.
Sized right to maximize pedalboard space, this pedal features a long-throw treadle for full range of control, a built-in treble-bleed circuit, and a gear drive for worry-free performance.
At about half the size of its big-brother DVP3, this mini features adjustable rocker tension, a low-friction band drive for durable action, and expression-pedal mode with the flip of a switch.
Housed in aircraft-grade aluminum and designed to provide an ultra-smooth foot sweep, the MVP features a powerful gain boost permitting an increase of the audio signal up to 20 dB.
Much more than a standard volume pedal, the Voluum also boasts onboard features such as a chromatic tuner and five effects including compression and tremolo.
GOODRICH SOUNDH-120 Standard
Whether you’re behind a pedal steel or a 6-string, this stomp features dual outputs and is equipped with an Ultra Life million-cycle potentiometer to ensure many hours of trouble-free use.
HILTON ELECTRONICSPro Guitar
Built to last and adjustable, these volume pedals house an internal preamp that’s responsible for helping to preserve pickup frequency response at any volume.
MISSION ENGINEERINGVM-1 Aero
The ergonomically designed VM-1 Aero features an illuminating base and houses a passive “no tone suck” circuit, an isolated tuner out, and an integrated mode switch.
CLASSIC AUDIO EFFECTSPassive Volume Roller G2This pedal incorporates a unique Kevlar drive-belt system and preserves real estate by trading the treadle for a roller to manipulate volume.
This lightweight-yet-rugged volume pedal features smooth action and a selectable high- or low-impedance switch for universal compatibility.