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Guitar rig for Billy Corgan – Bringing Back the Smashing Pumpkins

kronisofficial | July 19, 2008
Smashing Pumpkins Live

Smashing Pumpkins Live

According to and what I heard on Kroq driving to work the other morning was that the only announced date of this Smashing Pumpkins 20th Year Reunion Tour is in HAMMOND, INDIANA on August 9th.

Why there?

Shows have also been confirmed but not scheduled for New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

This is a quote from the Smashing Pumpkin’s official website:

“We can confirm the band will be playing in New York, Chicago, L.A. as well as additional cities that have yet to be announced. These shows will focus on the band’s history, legacy, and accomplishments over their career.”

For you kids out there, if you don’t remember or know these guys (the Smashing Pumpkins) here is a video called Rocket from what I have always said is the best pumpkins work so far – Siamese Dream. Buy that album.


So to honor whatever you want to call it when a band breaks up for 5 years and then has a reunion at 20th year – Today we will be discussing the last guitar rig Billy Corgan was using with the pumpkins and what he needed to pull of his ‘antics’ electrically on stage.

Billy Corgans guitar Rig Smashing Pumpkins
Here is a photo of his rig (click to enlarge)
It works is as follows: There are 2 rigs.

Rig A and Rig B.

This is for redundancy. If his guitar goes out…the tech simply hits an a/b switch to have the performer back up and live on the backup rig. So rig A would be the main rig and rig B would be the backup rig.

Now if you are a guitar tech and you have to deal with a personality such as Billy Corgan, you’d better get this right and also explain it to him well.

If Billy was to edit a new patch onto rig B for some new idea he has…then the tech must know this and copy it over to rig A. A solution to this is that the artist ONLY edits rig A, then the tech copies it all to rig B and backs it up to disk as well.

ahh..but if the artist can’t remember and then edits on rig B it can become a bit of a pain to manage as you really don’t want to delete any ‘new ideas’.

Okay, so POWER.

You will notice on the left side there is what almost looks like a computer tower. It in fact is a UPS. An Uninterrupted Power Supply – these things have large capacitors that can hold a charge for 20-30 minutes depending on their model. Basically if the power goes out, likely the show is over but these units will keep the entire guitar rig on and functioning, also regulate power, protect against surges and in an emergency, allow you to shut everything down in the proper sequence and gradually, to prevent damaging any equipment or losing any data. Tubes can have problems as well as Speakers when turned on and off at quick intervals when at high volumes.


Rocktron All Access pedal.

Billy uses what a Bradshaw system is very similar too…simply a tank like midi foot-controller that can switch patches and control midi in specific ways. Basically one funciton of the rocktron All Access pedal is to control the 8 separate loops in the GCX (ground control) Loop Switcher.

(download Manual for All Access here:)Rocktron

How it works -> Each patch has the ability to turn on or off any of the 8 loops that are being sent along the signal chain.

For example I modeled my rig after his and Vegas (billy’s tech) help me build this. We used the same idea as billy’s rig with the difference being an additional backup rig and UPS power supply, as well as different effects units and amps on the loops.

Guitar input-> Loop 1 goes to Tuner from which the signal goes to a Volume Pedal then returns -> Loop 2 goes to a Dunlop Rack Wah – > Loop 3 goes to Digitech Whammy Pedal – > Loops 4, 5 & 6, Go to the Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier Channel switch jacks -> Loop 7 Goes to the Mesa Solo Boost Switch -> Loop 8 Goes out to the Effects Processer which I keep INLINE Before the amp to get the sounds I need. Then from there it goes to the Mesa Boogie Solo boost Jack.-> out to the Input of the Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier.

With all of this I can use any combination of these loops to get the desired effects I need.

MIDI PATH. Options are to use an adapter for the rocktron’s power or a powered midi cable that will allow you to remove the need for a wall wart plug on stage.

Midi goes FROM the Rocktron into the GCX Audio Loop Switcher. if you run midi to the Boss SX700 Effects Processor, you can also control which patches come on when you engage the loop it is on. Midi THRU should allow you to do this, also set the Boss SX700 (or other effects unit such as a G-Force) to a specific Midi Channel that nothing else in your chain is using.


Foot pedal consists of the Rocktron All Access Foot Controller. Dunlop Wah CONTROLLER pedal. This controls a rackmount dunlop ‘rack wah’ which kicks ass and the pedal on the floor doen’st require any audio to go through it.

With this setup there is NO AUDIO ON THE FLOOR at all. That means shorter signal cables which means less signal loss issues.

How to work this setup?

Lets say that on the rocktron you want the very first sound, Patch one to have a clean sound with a wah pedal.

LOOPS: 1=tuner/volume pedal 2=wah controller 3=whammy pedal 4,5,6=channel jacks 7=solo boost 8=FX

1   |  2  | 3  | 4   | 5 |  6 |  7 | 8
on | on | on| on |on | on| on| on

I would create the clean sound by engaging which ever combination of 4,5,6 switches to clean added to loops 1 and 2.

1   |  2  | 3  | 4   | 5 |  6 |  7 | 8
on | on | x | x  |on | x  | x | x

And I would name the patch ‘Clean Wah’ and save it.
NOTE: I would always leave the tuner engaged and the volume pedal(LOOP 1) engaged to allow for tuning whenever needed by simply turning the volume down with the pedal.

Additionally: can leave loop 2 on and just activate the wah pedal with the footswitch when needed. This way you know its always available for emphasis or something to experiment live with.

This setup also allows for using the volume pedal to make ‘swells’ of volume which can be combined with delay in very interesting ways, to make string-like effects or other weird sounds.

If I wanted to have my heavy sound with delay and a solo lead boost with a specific delay patch on the SX 700, (provided MIDI through the GCX is connected to the MIDI In at the back of the SX 700)

I would do this (using whatever the combination of 4,5,6 switches to the high gain channel on mesa)

1   |  2  | 3  | 4  | 5 |  6 |  7 | 8
on | on | x  | x  | x | on | on| on

The rocktron can also assign through its midi setup which patch on the unit on a specific MIDI channel is needing to use. Here you can have it so the delay on the boss unit is appropriate for the solo patch.

So what does Billy Use?

Rocktron All Access Pedal

Rocktron All Access MIDI Foot Controller Pedal
Billy Corgan Smashing Pumpkins All Access Rocktron Controller

How Billy Corgan uses the Rocktron All Access MIDI Foot Controller Pedal

Billy Corgan uses an All Access to control his use of either the Deisel head for massive distortion, a small amp (similar to a peavey rage!) for some weird clean effects.

His main effects generation comes from the Eventide Ultra Harmonizers with one in each rig. These expensive studio units have a wide variety of different digitally processed effects that are very cleanly implemented and sound great with a lot of different parameters that can be easily manipulated.

Other Units in Billy’s rack:

Diezel Amplifiers. Two for redundancy.

Billy Corgan's Diezel Amps

Billy Corgan Diezel Amps

Alesis Datadisk:

Alesis Datadisk - MIDI Backup/Restore unit

This is a MIDI backup utility unit that allows you to save, for example all the patches on the Eventide Ultra Harmonizer to a 3 1/2 ” floppy disk. You can also use this to recover from backups.

Whenever you update your should backup all your sounds to an Alesis Datadisk in this situation.

Rockman Midi Octopus.

Rockman Half Rack Space Midi Octopus

These units KICK ASS and are used very simply to change channels on 8 different amps at once!
HOWEVER I don’t recommend dealing with as they don’t communicate very well. I don’t care if i burn that bridge because they’ve burnt it with me – or they could email and be nice. I mean seriously folks. I use lots of products and can endorse them on here and explain how they are used so people will by them. I OWN an octopus and to have delete the image I had which ‘LINKED’ to their website and replace it with some stupid image.. i just don’t get it. Links are GOOD things. especially from sites in your niche. Oh well, I guess in France they don’t email you first to ask you to remove an image. Yes I’m in the USA but I’m Canadian. Way to piss me off guys! hahaha fuck it. I guess I just don’t give a shit about websites in France – Au Revoir.

Well you could if you had to… but basically the 1/4 inch outputs on the back of these units are used for things like switching an amplifier from a clean channel to a heavy channel, but VIA MIDI. Basically anything that requires a 1/4″ footswitch should be controllable from here.

Simply connect any of the 8 1/4″ output jacks to your amps channel switching jack and you can now use midi to control very simply whether you want that set to on or off and it will switch for you via midi.

This helps us in our quest to have ONE BUTTON control everything.

His rig includes custom patches that we can’t explain here as they were simply programmed by billy and his tech into his Eventide Ultra Harmonizer.

For now this is a good start to understanding simply the components of a large professional guitar rig and what it takes simply to be able to use all this gear with ONE button controlling it!

Till next time,


Written by kronisofficial


This post currently has 7 comments.

  1. BC

    August 20, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Damn, I didn’t even know there was that much TO know about dealing with bastard rock stars…I thought you just shoot them up, roll them on stage, and hope a drunk groupie mistakes you for the drummer.

  2. Gordon

    March 28, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Great info here. Thank you very much. I had the pleasure of meeting Billy’s Tech. And what a gentleman. I was teching for the band first on at Glasgows SECC but he still took the time to speak with me. I never went too in-depth with questions regarding billy’s set-up as he was a busy man that day.This article has answered almost everything I needed to know.

  3. Tim Holtze

    December 5, 2009 at 8:35 am

    This is great to finally find some people that know what they’re talking about. I have trouble trying to understand how to make midi work a guitar rig. The gear I have is a Silver Dragon into a Yamaha DG60 fx-112 which is feeding into an Eventide DSP7000 via spdif and then into a Boss RC-50 stereo loop station and then to a Carvin stereo valve amp and then into a stereo Behringer quad. I have a Rocktron Midi Mate which so far I have only been able to use to switch programs within a single bank on the Eventide. I don’t understand how to switch effects on and off within a program and I have yet to attempt to use midi to do switching between the preamp and loop station and Eventide all together! I’ll have to work out what to ask you guys specifically if that’s cool, thanks.

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