I’ll admit to once being a fan of The Smashing Pumpkins. Although, I stopped listening to them after Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness but up to that landmark third album I really believed that Billy and his attendant whine could do no wrong. I don’t know what happened after that. Maybe Billy shaved his head, I don’t know. Although there are folks who swear by Adore and Machina maybe I’m just missing it.
I still think Billy is one of the guys who took his shoegazer influences and built on them to make a signature sound. So, when I saw that Fender announced at Summer NAMM the new Billy Corgan Artist Series “Signature” Stratocasters I took some interest.
Effectively, we have two new American Hard Tail Strats (the first since they were killed off in 2006). One interesting aspect to them is that they utilize a CBS-era “big” headstock on a satin polyurethane-covered 22-fret maple neck. Not something I’m used to seeing on an American Stratocaster. The body is a standard “contour” alder body with satin nitrocellulose finish done with tasteful “tuxedo” (white knobs on black pickguard, black knobs on white) trim in two colors: classic Olympic White, or black. Then we get to the parts that Billy influenced. In the interview with Billy on Fender’s site, he says that he didn’t set out to make a guitar that would give the player his sound, but a guitar with a “modern” “high gain” guitar that a player could express themselves on. That said, it is a guitar that he is currently playing in the spirit of Artist Series guitars like Clapton’s “Blackie” (not the mega-thousand-dollar reproduction of his 70’s guitar but the one that he designed for Fender).
To achieve this high gain, Billy worked with DiMarzio to develop a “Billy Corgan” single-spaced humbucker pickup that this guitar is using in the neck and bridge positions. This guitar is also utilizing a DiMarzio “Chopper” in the middle. However, rather than just making a “hot rod” Strat with humbuckers, he has the 5-position switch providing any of the three humbuckers or the neck and bridge with a split of the middle. Oddly, the middle position only gives the Chopper in a humbucker mode rather than all three humbuckers being hot. Billy explains that he wanted to preserve some of the single coil sound that it’s known for rather than just loading the guitar up with humbuckers. I’d argue that the classic Strat sound doesn’t involve any DiMarzio pickups OR humbuckers for that matter.
Still the guitar seems intriguing to me. I’m kind of in the market for a Les Paul to achieve a humbucker sound in my collection, but maybe this is the guitar to do it, and it would look great next to my black Hard Tail Strat and my black P-Bass. Unfortunately, it will be a bit before anyone takes delivery of these since they were just announced (unless Fender would like to send me one for review– I’ll take an Olympic White one, thanks!).
This guitar MSRP’s at $1999 and comes with a vintage tweed case that fits the big headstock. If I manage to try one of these out, I’ll write a review here.