‘This Is What God Sounds Like’

Billy Corgan looked back at the first time he heard Black Sabbath, recalling the profound effect it had on his young mind.

The Smashing Pumpkins frontman was 8 years old when he discovered the legendary heavy metal band. “My uncle was a drummer,” Corgan explained during an interview with KROQ’s Nicole Alvarez. “He passed away very young, but he had this cool stereo and a bunch of progressive rock records like Yes and Jethro Tull. And the first record in the pile was Black Sabbath, Master of Reality.”

The 1971 album intrigued the young Corgan, who immediately asked his grandmother if he could play it.

“She gave me that look like, ‘I’m gonna get into big trouble from your uncle,’” Corgan admitted. “And I talked her into it.”

As the album began to play, Corgan quickly realized he’d discovered something life-changing.

“The first song was ‘Sweet Leaf,’” he recalled. “You know, you hear the Ozzy cough or whatever, and then that sound comes in. And I was just like, it made me feel as if I was staring into the cosmos or something. I don’t know how else to explain other than I felt this kinda sense of agape. Like, ‘Wow, this is what God sounds like.’ So it’s the 8-year-old version of what God sounds like, but I’ve never found anything cooler.”

Even as he’s enjoyed a long and successful career, Corgan admitted he continues chasing the Sabbath sound he heard when he was young. Smashing Pumpkins’ most recent album, Atum: Act One, arrived Nov. 15. It’s the first installment of a three-part rock opera, with acts two and three due in 2023.

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Everything is cyclical is Billy Corgan’s world, no entryway ever fully shut. As a wise man once sang, “The End Is the Beginning Is the End.”

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