Q&A

‘ALLOW FOR SHRINKAGE’

Corky Laing reflects on 40 hard-lived years in rock ’n’ roll

CORKY LAING August 1 2005
Q&A

‘ALLOW FOR SHRINKAGE’

Corky Laing reflects on 40 hard-lived years in rock ’n’ roll

CORKY LAING August 1 2005

‘ALLOW FOR SHRINKAGE’

Q&A

Corky Laing reflects on 40 hard-lived years in rock ’n’ roll

CORKY LAING

THIS YEAR, MONTREAL-BORN drummer Corky Laing is celebrating 40 years in the music business. It’s also 35 years since his band, Mountain, arrived on the scene with its debut album featuring the now classic Mississippi Queen. Laing and guitarist Leslie West (the other surviving original member) have been busy touring with Deep Purple and working on a new album of old Dylan songs made a whole lot louder. Laing shares his thoughts on the music industry and the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.

Mountain is releasing a collection of Dylan covers. Not an obvious choice for a notoriously loud band-how did that come about?

Alien vs. Predator was the first time I’d heard of people taking two big movie brands and putting them together. Mountain’s also a brand, and we just had to find someone else to get connected to brand-wise. Dylan’s got the best words ever written and he has the simplest melodies ever written. The thing that he doesn’t have is a lot of percussion. Bingo! I thought, wait a minute,

I can get creative with that, but it’s a very ambitious project.

You and Leslie West have written a book about rock ’n’ roll life in the early 70s. The cast of characters includes John Lennon, Keith Moon and Salvador Dali. Does anyone stand out most in your mind?

Everybody’s got something. I was lucky in my 150 years on the road to meet people who were going through a good time. Like I met John Lennon during his lost week-

end. As a drummer, timing is everything— and I’ve been very lucky.

Some of your stories of life in Mountain sound kind of grim-drug abuse, violence, you name it. Was it worth it?

I’d have to say yeah, everything’s worth it. Everything counts. I don’t think anybody in this business can have any regrets. You’re getting paid for something I don’t think you have the right to get paid for.

As someone with both “rock star” and “record exec” on his resumé, you seem uniquely qualified to comment on the impact of file sharing on the music industry. What are your thoughts?

The impact on artists is that it’s the very best thing you can have. You can’t have a better set-up than to have everything based on how good you are. Sharing is always good. If somebody’s stealing Mississippi Queen, let him steal it.

The Beastie Boys sampled Mississippi Queen in one of their songs. How did you feel about that?

That’s a very, very, very sensitive issue. They won’t even talk to me. That’s what bothers me: they never return my calls because they know it’s going to cost them. That’s not file-sharing, that’s stealing. That’s stealing your copyright.

So you don’t have a problem with sampling as long as people go through proper channels?

Yeah, that’s exactly right. In the words of Levon Helm [the Band’s drummer], my favourite of all people in the world: “You can do anything to music, the music don’t care.”

What’s excited you musically of late?

I listen to everything. I really believe that there’s something in everything. I’m not saying it’s good, but it’s interesting.

What are your long-term plans?

Long term for me is waking up tomorrow morning and not being in the obituaries. I’m not a young buck anymore, but I’m having fun.

Do you have any pearls of wisdom for aspiring rock stars?

Yeah. Allow for shrinkage. That’s a motto for life. ROBANNANDALE