Corky Laing: Climb Every Mountain

Corky Laing

Though he left his deepest imprint on the rock and roll world some 30 years ago with the indelible edge of Mountain, Corky Laing has far from descended out of view. While Mountain’s ’70s mega hit “Mississippi Queen” still pops into all-time classic Top 50 charts, Laing revels as much in his latest venture, Cork. Cork fuses the 51-year-old Laing with guitarist Eric Schenkman of Spin Doctors fame and bassist Noel Redding who once grooved with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The band’s moniker is a take on both Corky’s nickname as well as the town in Ireland where Redding makes his home.

Cork’s basic three-pronged setup mirrors the core trio of Mountain, where Laing hooked up with guitarist Leslie West and bassist Felix Pappalardi. But for this Montreal native, the two bands sport more differences than similarities. “Leslie plays lyrically on the guitar and has tremendous rhythm, but he’s not a rhythm player, so I had to supply the rhythm parts in Mountain,” Laing explains. But in Cork, Schenkman takes care of the rhythm on guitar. “I’m actually able to take off into a percussive mode, meaning I don’t necessarily have to continue the specific beat. I’m able to color a lot more.”

Consequently, Laing has changed his gear from the Mountain days. “I’ve stopped using the double bass drums, and I use the double pedal now. I really concentrate a lot more on the hands. I used to be all feet. I’ve gone to a very percussive thing, and I’ve simplified my bass drum playing.”

Aside from creating his own music, Laing, who lives in Toronto with his 12-year-old son, works as a supervisor of the American Federation Of Musicians, which helps performers negotiate contracts and agreements. Being involved inside the industry, Laing has no preconceptions about his own project. “I worked in A&R in Polygram for six or seven years developing new bands. That was the thing: ’Why don’t you step aside and let some new bands come in?’ I consider Cork to be a new band. We’re not playing classic rock.”