Editor’s Note: It was a blustery cold day as Corky Laing, the drummer for the legendary rock band Mountain, called in to discuss coffee, vinyl records, and playing with Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule. “Mississippi Queen” is one of the most famous classic rock songs in history as people look to that song along with “In Gadda Vida” by Iron Butterfly as the first metal songs. Corky was such a gentleman and he’s sharing with us what is in store for 2019. Fans can find Corky Laing at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: How are you going to celebrate 2019? What is in store for you this year?
Corky: Without sounding like a promo slut, there’s a bunch of things going on with me and the guys in my situation. We have a new record coming out, a solo record, I hate calling it solo because these guys I’m working with out of Toledo, Ohio, Chris Shutters and Mark Mikel, two guys that I’ve been working with on and off making this last record, and I believe it’s called “The Toledo Sessions”. That’s a record we’ve been working on, in the meantime, the record company that we are with, which by the way I think you’ll remember Jack White putting together the 9th Man Records, and he added Detroit, and he built this entire mini-industry in Detroit, where they have a pressing plant and very aggressive promotional material, but the material is vinyl. I was excited about that because they re-released on vinyl “The Secret Sessions”, and the changed the name to “Pompeii”, and Sony, who distributes, states that if we can sell 200 or 300, that would be fine, and somebody there says, “why don’t we press 1,500 because we’re getting a lot of calls”, so they pressed 1,500 or 1,600, and they sold out immediately on Record Store Day, and it was very exciting that they sold everything out, and they’re re-pressing another 1,000, and I think it’s available online, and it’s on Ruse Records, and it’s called “Pompeii”, and the record consists of quite a few compilations and quite a few recordings I did with Eric Clapton, Mick Ronson, and Ian Hunter, Leslie West, and myself. It was a fine record, but they way it was done back in the 80’s was pretty f***** up because the punk rock thing was happening, so the record company Elektra didn’t know what to do with it, so we called it “The Secret Sessions” because it was kept as a very big secret. Ruse Records came in, and said, “let’s release this”, and they did, and it sold out right out of the chute. We were in pretty good shape. We’ve been over to Europe twice, we’ve been to the U.K. twice, we’re going back again in the fall. If you go to www.corkylaingworks.com, it has all the goings on’s with the gigs, interviews, etc. Please do that because otherwise I sound like a promo slut, I’m not that shy, but I feel awkward just boasting, f*** it, I’m boasting! *laughs*
Madness To Creation: In your comeback, you performed in London this past fall, how was that and how did the fans respond to your music?
Corky: It was amazing! I’m very surprised, I’ve been doing this for over 50 years now, I’ve always been very lucky to be out in the fall with some great musicians, and that’s where it’s all that, the promo stuff over the years is wonderful, but it’s about the music, I’ll say it over and over, it’s a four letter word and that four letter word is luck, you gotta have a lot of luck, and I was very lucky to have the health to do it and just hanging in, well actually more than hanging in, I feel like I’ve been tagged to do better and better, and to do as much as I can and to do it the best that I can, to just tweak everything up a bit, there’s a song I wrote for the album called “Knock Me Over”.
The basic meaning of the song over the years through all the music and all the recordings, it’s that a lot of guys who have been there and have done that, I hate that expression and you talk to some son of a bitch, and they say, “ahh, I’ve been there and I’ve done that”, so I wrote this song called “Knock Me Over”, and basically the substance is, “hey, f*** just doing it, you gotta do something that is really going to knock your ass over”, and that’s what you gotta go for these days, it’s not just about putting a record out, you’ll get a release these days, it’s like having a baby, you gotta take care of it, it’s a very special thing, and one of the special things about music is that it comes up when you’re ready to release, and people listen to it, and it’s a wonderful agenda, in terms of all the other shit that is going on in the world, people are still able to enjoy some new fresh form of art, hopefully people will enjoy the recordings. But I have to tell you, first things first, any musician will tell you that it’s about turning yourself on, you’ve gotta turn yourself on before anything gets released, you’ll feel like you’ll knock them over.
Madness To Creation: Who are a few artists or bands from today that knock you over?
Corky: Elvis Presley! *laughs* I’ve been looking to play with the very best and to jam with them, but I loved Elvis Presley and what he was getting into with the martial arts moves on stage. I remember watching him and saying, “geez, where did they get all the accents and crazy things on the drums”, it would’ve been a great thing to do, in terms of musicians that I would love to play with today, a lot of them are not around anymore. There are many great players out there, I’ve always wanted to play with Van Morrison, and I played on a lot of shows with him.
But as a rock/heavy metal drummer, you would think that I would want to play with heavy rockers, but down deep I’m a folky, you could say I’m all folked up! *laughs*, you could say that I love Gordon Lightfoot, I like to meditate on writing, I’ve been writing longer than I’ve been playing drums, I remember writing songs from way back. I don’t look for just the artist in terms of recording, but more of the content, I mean I was lucky enough to work with Leonard Cohen on some things, I’ve worked with Eric Clapton and being on the road with Jack Bruce, those are moments, they feel like moments when you’ve been on the road for a year, and that’s how quickly it went. It went that fast because you’re not counting time when you’re in those moments, it’s a happening and I think it’s the only way you can look at it as a musician. There’s no retirement, there’s nothing like that going on, you just go and you play and you try to make it into an event out of our show, even if you’re playing at a Bar Mitzvah or a Sweet 16, you want to have an event for those people you’re playing for, number one, you want to make it for yourself. I’m going on a bit cause I’ve already had four coffees.
Madness To Creation: I really like Neil Young from the folk era. What is missing from today’s music in your opinion?
Corky: The discussion a friend and I had at his house in Woodstock was with drum programming and drum programs, and he said, “Corky, there’s a very special thing about music, you can do anything to music, music don’t care”. And I remember hearing that line “music don’t care”, because I had written a song about writing a song for my girlfriend and getting a hit record and running on the road and coming back from the success of this tour from that one song and my best friend was in bed with my girlfriend and they’re listening to the song that I wrote so it crossed my mind and I thought, “the music don’t care, it doesn’t care about who is making love to who”, and I just thought that it covered a lot of territory when it came to the idea of music being passion, music being violent, it can be anything, music itself does not care, if you want a metaphor on that, so all along the way, I tried to play with that idea, in terms of times and signatures and participating in a good deal of the writing of some of the songs and being lucky enough to have the success of some of the songs, its a financial pleasure on a publishing level to participate in these songs, but I don’t write for publishing or to make money.
When I wrote “Mississippi Queen”, I wasn’t even in the band at the time, it was just a song I had in my head, and I’m using that as an example only because there was no music when I wrote it, it was just the lyric almost like a rap thing, but I played drums to the rap, I did this kind of drum rhythm, I did it because it was a lot of fun, I had a lot of fun playing with the different dynamics of writing, I play a little guitar but I wouldn’t call myself a guitar player, I make love here and there, but I wouldn’t call myself a lover, you go picking in the garden of life, and you pick out different things and see what flies, if it smells or looks good, that’s great, it is what it is, you’re feeling the whole thing come together.
On the “Masters of War”, the last album that Leslie and I did, there’s a song called “Like A Rolling Stone”, which was a Bob Dylan song, and if you listen to it, that actually instigated the idea of no actual notes, so I spoke in word, the song and played drums to it, you may want to look it up because I didn’t even know what I was doing, I was in the studio checking out microphones and I started banging away these drum fills, and I was waiting for them to put the guitar on the track, and he said, “Corky, what was that”, and I said, “I don’t know”, and he said, “what song were you playing to” and I said, “well, in my head I was playing Like A Rolling Stone”, he said, “you gotta be f****** kidding, you hear Like A Rolling Stone in that drum fill”, and I said, “well I guess I do”, and as it turned out, I figured that it wouldn’t see the light of day anyways, but Leslie came in the studio and said, “what the f*** was that”, and he loved it, but it’s on the record and it’s become a favorite and that’s why I’m rambling about it, it’s become a favorite at the shows, and I love doing it, it’s basically a drum solo, it’s a f****** drum solo, and I’m ramping over it, it’s fun and it’s indulgent, and all the other drummers will tell you one thing that they have in common, they’re indulgent, but I’m not sure if I answered your question.
Madness To Creation: Anything else you would like to add about “The Toledo Sessions”?
Corky: It will be released beginning of February. The players are Chris Shutters on guitars, vocals, and flute, and Mark Mikel on bass and piano. These guys are brilliant. I can’t believe that I crossed paths and managed to get into a studio with these guys, it’s coming out February, March at the latest, it’s about nine songs that were co-written with the three of us, the collaborations were a lot of fun, it was just a gas, we didn’t live together, we were hanging in Toledo, they go back and forth to New York, we just got along famously, it’s hard because we want to give it a band name. The record company wants to use my name on a commercial level, and I said, well, I’m not sure if that’s going to help, but for right now it’s Corky Laing’s “Toledo Sessions”.
Thank you Corky for your time! Here are a few dates so far in 2019 for Corky Laing! Check them out!
Sat. 2/9- Guests On Stage at Gloria in Helsinki, Finland
Fri. 5/17- The Falcon in Marlboro, New York
Sun. 8/11- Woodstock Experience in West Jefferson, North Carolina
Sun. 8/18- Woodstock Experience in Palm Bay, Florida
Sun. 10/6- Harmonie in Bonn, Germany
For tickets and further information on the dates listed above, go to www.corkylaingworks.com
- Photo Credit: RSR Photography