Monday, 31 December 2012

CORKY LAING: The ongoing saga of the drummer, the academics, the opera and the ethics of genetics (osa kaksi)

Corky Laing (pictured on the left with Gonzo grande fromage Rob Ayling) is a legendary drummer. He joined Mountain just after Woodstock, and has been playing with the seminal Canadian hard rock band on and off ever since. But he has also had a rich and varied  solo career, and - in a pattern which is beginning to seem familiar - is now involved in one of the most peculiar, demanding, challenging and certainly interesting projects of his career..

Now, this is very difficult to explain, so forgive me if - over the next few days - I give you a series of glimpses into this remarkable project. If you missed it, you can read Part One Here.

JON: How did you get involved with the project in the first place?

CORKY: They came to the shows.  Mountain did some shows in Manchester  and the professors came – they are big Mountain fans. And they came and we got to be friendly and then we went back to play in Sweden on Rock the Boat, where they have these boats that rock bands go out from Copenhagen and all the way to Helsinki – you know out in the ocean, 5,000 of these kids, drink themselves to death for three days and they go on the boat and you play.  It’s a huge ocean liner.  It’s quite fun actually, so these professors came on and at the time I was doing some lecturing at the University of Western Ontario – I put a course together for … I guest lectured at Mcgill  University, the University of Montreal – my brother helped me with that. There was a great deal of interest and it wasn’t all about – it wasn’t a celebrity thing, it was kind of a survival thing. 

The University of Western Ontario is like the Yale or Harvard of Canada, a very serious college, with a serious and conventional cause, they have a huge business administration department, and they have a huge music facility so my job was to go in and create a course where they were able to take the music and the business knowledge and put it together and make a freaking living in this business, in the industry.   So they felt that as I had spent 40 odd years doing just that, doing the music and the business, because I was VP of A & R for Polygram for 7/8 years in Canada, so I knew both sides of the desk, it’s not like I was just running around getting high and drinking, and falling down for 40 years, I was curious about the business aspect so I went into publishing for Chapel Music and I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to do it, because it’s not easy when they don’t  look at general music people in the business arena – they frown upon musicians doing any kind of responsible position, but they believed in me and I had a great time – it was a great time being on the other side of the desk in A & R. I was the one they went to when they wanted to get signed to Polygram Canada – it was quite an ego trip, that was a bigger ego trip than playing Carnegie Hall.

It didn’t necessarily come from drumming, it came from when I saw these people on the boat – they had seen on line where I had been teaching at when I was teaching at the University, I had a little background there, and they said we would like you to be our guest lecturer at Helsinki and from Helsinki I went to …. I guess there’s some sort of circuit there for guest lecturing, I mean there’s a lot of rockers that are doing it, I think the drummer from … well there are a lot of musicians doing it. 

Who is the band who has a lot of masks,  the haunting Friday 13th masks? 

JON:  Slipknot?

CORKY: Yeah, Slipknot that’s it.  They were  friends on the bus. The drummer from them was lecturing – his lecture was on don’t have dreams. He went to Oxford I think over in England, I think in the music department, and he was telling them that dreams are ridiculous – they’re unrealistic, you don’t have dreams you go out and you just do it. And I thought wow how basic. The whole idea in both art and music is to have dreams.  I mean I just thought it was a strange approach. 

JON: It is a very odd approach.

CORKY: I was curious about it when I saw he was doing it and wanted to see what he was talking about.  And of course there’s people in films, there’s actors doing it – they have New York Times conversations with mostly celebrity types where you can ask them questions.  I guess it’s sort of like the artist studio/actor studio type of thing where you have the audience participation, Q & As, but in my case as you can see, I don’t like to talk a lot so I keep quiet. So that’s it, that’s how I got to meet the professors – it was on Rock the Boat and they invited me.  And of course they had this skeleton idea of writing a rock opera. And to me an opera is like huge, you know.  Over there in Finland I would look at it as more of a musical but they call it an opera. I think why they call it an opera is because the government when you say you need a grant for an artistic programme event and you say opera, they say ooh well yes this is a cultural thing – I think it draws more cultural vibes. That’s what they called it, but basically it’s a musical.

How much have you heard?

JON: I’ve only heard the one song which Rob sent. 

CORKY: The College Girls?

JON: Yes.  Which is absolutely fantastic.

CORKY: Thank you so much.  Well that’s sort of the energy that we are trying to create with the opera – I would say it’s heavy metal, but heavy. The two girls in the band that I play with – Denny and Bonny – they’re in the play, they act the female parts and it’s fun.  That’s where the challenge comes.  To take the opera and put it on stage, and turn people on – it’s a conceptual idea and we’re trying to keep the concept very sharp and very vital, like College Girls.  I love it too.  

But the idea of the perfect child is the .. this is Tony, you know, the parents have made him the perfect child and they expect the very best from him. And here he comes back saying fuck it, I’m partying. But Tony goes through a lot of changes because he doesn’t like being perfect, he doesn’t like that kind of pressure and he and his twin brother, who is perfect but doesn’t have the same responsibilities, he’s not quite as perfect, so there’s a sibling rivalry there. And then they are fighting for the same girl who is deaf. It just goes on, it’s kind of funny.  But these things are real and I don’t know if there’s a Tony in real life. I don’t know if they’ve actually made a clone, I know they have animal clones – I think it is against the law of the world to make a person. 

To be continued tomorrow...

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