Billy Corgan on Chris Cornell's Death: "I've Been in That Exact Spot a Thousand Times"

"I'm not trying to write Chris Cornell's story. I'm just saying I know what that feels like."

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Dec 4, 2020

In an appearance on The Howard Stern Show this week, Billy Corgan spoke about his Soundgarden fandom and the late Chris Cornell. Calling the iconic vocalist "one of the greatest singers of all-time," the Smashing Pumpkins frontman also felt it appropriate to share how he could relate to Cornell's emotional state moments before taking his own life.

Asked by Stern if Cornell's 2017 death "triggered anything inside of you," Corgan proceeded to explain "his own version" of what could lead a famous frontman to suicide, based on his own experiences.

"I've stood in front of that mirror a thousand times — just like he did," Corgan shared. "You know, kind of an okay gig, you ain't getting any younger. They weren't playing the arena, they were playing the theatre. I've been on those shit tours. You have to be an older band to know what I mean by that. I know there's a lot of people who would love to play for 2,500 people, but when you've been at the top and you're somewhere on the other side. Whether they were going to have a comeback, or they were just out doing whatever they were doing."

Corgan clarified he wasn't slagging Soundgarden, explaining, "What I'm saying is that I've been there many nights where even during the highest highs you look in the mirror and think, 'Is this worth it?' And I couldn't in a million years tell you why it's not worth it. Something inside of you is just like, 'This is not what I signed up for' or 'Everybody else thinks this is great, but it's not great to me and I don't know what to do about it.' In my version of reality, he made a decision in that moment that took his life. I've been in that exact spot a thousand times, so it made sense to me — even though suicide is obviously the thing that makes no sense."

"I'm one of the only people who can say I know what the feels like it," Corgan claimed. "Am I wrong? Am I making up a fantasy. It's completely possible, but that's my version of what happened.

"There was a period of my life where everywhere I went I was recognized — and just one day it stopped. It's kind of a haunting feeling. And if you're insecure, which most artists are, you start to think you did something wrong or you haven't done something right. And that's when people around you start getting in your head."

Making it clear he was not "trying to write Chris Cornell's story," Corgan said, "I'm just saying I know what that feels like — to have done so much and still kind of come up feeling hollow. That's my version of what happened; that easily could have been me. I'm not trying to make it about me, I'm saying I know what that feels like. You're in the cool boutique hotel after a so-so gig and you're like, 'What the fuck is this? I didn't sign up for this. This is not the stuff of teenage dreams.'"

Corgan concluded: "I'm sure someone will be mad at me about it, but that's just my version of it because that's the only version I know. I know what that feels like and that's where I went. We sit here from the outside and we say, how does somebody like that walk themselves off the cliff? I can only go to the thing I know where I've been on that same cliff edge and where I didn't make that choice, but I know the feeling."

Did the two vocalists ever cross paths? Corgan told Stern than he knew Cornell "pretty well," but that they had a "weird falling out and we never really made up, which is a shame."

Cornell and his Smashing Pumpkins bandmates recently released new double album Cyr, while the frontman has also been at work on the band's Machina reissues.

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