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10 Quick Ones with CORKY LAING – March 2018

| 20 March 2018 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Known as “The Supergroup That Never Was,” Corky Laing’s POMPEII recorded The Secret Sessions between 1976 and 1978 after a re-introduction to old friend Ian Hunter via Steve Wax of Elektra / Asylum. Laing recalls, “The late 70s was a turbulent time as the musical taste went through a generational change. Punk was just beginning to surface in the rock landscape. It replaced the increasingly complacent era of glam and classic rock with a new confrontational and rebellious attitude. Bands like Mountain and Mott the Hoople were becoming oldsters. In this environment, my record company Elektra/Asylum was preparing to bail on me, but before doing so, they asked if I wanted to form a so called “supergroup”. I had no choice, and so began the journey into The Secret Sessions.” We get legendary drummer Corky Laing to discuss new music, influences, and more in our 10 Quick Ones…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release The Secret Sessions.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Everything, but the timing was right when, in the late 1970’s, I was offered to put together a “super band” with Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople). We had the best musicians and writers, the best studios and the best producer. Unfortunately, these were turbulent times as Punk was overtaking the music scene and we “classic rockers” suddenly became old-timers. Consequently, the super band never came, but the music was created and you can now here it on this vinyl. I think there is something truly special in the combination of two North Americans, Felix Pappalardi and me, providing the powerful rhythm section and the more subtle and ornate input of the two Englishmen, Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson. As a special nugget, I would recommend you to listen to the digital bonus track, “Knock Me Over” which, to me, carries the legacy of the Secret Sessions in the sense of being true to your art and always trying to write the best possible materials. Never being blaze about one’s career and always aiming to “knock over” and being “knocked over”.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

My mother loved Cuban music and there was always music in the house. I was the youngest of five siblings, so getting attention was always on my agenda. Banging on things seemed like a good way of getting noticed. I started with bongos and moved on to drums later. I was mesmerized by music of all kinds. The Latin rhythms, Elvis, The Everly Brothers, Del Shannon, and the great jazz drummers, Gene Krupa and Art Blakey to mention a few. And there was a radio station in Buffalo that introduced me to the heavier R&B sounds. Canadian winters are long and cold, and there wasn’t that much for a kid to do, but for those of us into music, listening, writing and playing music was a great way to spend time indoors. My childhood friend, George Gardos shared my passion and we put a succession of bands together. We started with cover songs, but gradually moved towards our own material. I’ve always loved writing songs. We had a great deal of luck in that our manager ran the Montreal Forum (the main venue in Montreal) and because of the Canadian by-laws whenever an international act played there, there had to be a Canadian opener. So, we ended up opening for the Who, Hendrix and quite a few other bands. I’ve wanted to play music and perform for as long as I can remember. For a long time though, I didn’t think that I would become a full-time musician. With my local bands, we played the weekends and the summers, but I was still going to, first school and then university. My plan was to become a teacher. I figured that teaching would provide a regular income, and yet I would be able to continue playing as before. When, in September 1969, Mountain happened, I think I was only a few credits away from my Bachelor’s degree. I never really decided to become a full-time musician, it was just when Mountain took off, followed then by the success of West, Bruce and Laing that decision was made for me.

3. Who would be your main five musical influences?

I’m influenced by all things musical. I still love music of all kinds and find it really difficult to mention just five. I suppose that when it comes to drumming, I’ve always had a great admiration for all the great jazz drummers, but in terms of my own style, I would like to think that I’ve been influenced the most by the exceptional British rock drummers starting with Mick Avory from the Kinks, and then John Bonham, Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, B.J. Wilson, and Cozy Powell. Then there is Levon Helm who was a great inspiration, not only as a drummer, but also as a friend.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be?

Elvis Presley.

5. Out of all of the Legendary artists you have played with, Who did you enjoy playing with the most?

That’s a tough one. I enjoy playing with anyone, legendary or not, as long as they enjoy playing and we connect musically. I’ve been lucky to play with so many greats and couldn’t possibly pick just one, so let me mention three. With all our ups and downs, I must say that playing with a guitar virtuoso (and an excellent singer) like Leslie West was truly something. At his best, no one can make their guitar sing like Leslie can. As far as bass players go, Felix Pappalardi and Jack Bruce were in leagues of their own. Both were totally versatile in everything musical and I can just count my blessings for having had the opportunity to work with both of these geniuses.

6. What’s the best thing about being a musician?

You get to do what you love. You get to express yourself through writing, playing and performing. And in front of a responsive live audience is where it all comes together. There’s nothing more rewarding than giving your all on stage followed by an enthusiastic response from the audience. Live is where it all happens; it’s the give and take of energy and feel. It’s all real and happens there and then.

7. What is your most outrageous tour story from the road?

Life on the road is outrageous. It’s “hurry up and wait” for close to 23 hours a day just to play for those 80 minutes. Then again, it’s those 80 minutes that really matter, so, ultimately, outrageous or not, it’s worth it.

8. If you weren’t a musician, what would be your dream job?

I would want to be an architect. I would like to design and build.

9. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”?

Looking back, of course there were missteps, but I don’t believe in what-if’s. I’m 70 years old enjoying playing as much as I ever did – and lucky to play with two guys who are among the best musicians I’ve ever played with, Chris Shutters and Mark Mikel. Had I taken any other choices on my musical career, I wouldn’t be here now.

10. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I wouldn’t want to re-visit any of the recording sessions of the records that mean a great deal to me. Even with their imperfections, they are perfect. There’s a certain magic that sometimes happens in a recording studio that is a combination of everything that is there from the material to the interpretation, from the musicians to the assistants, and from the positioning of the instruments to the water bottles in the corner. Change anything and you risk losing that magic. I wouldn’t want to take that change.

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Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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