Catching Up With…

Corky Laing

by Bob Girouard

During classic rock’s golden era, Corky Laing found great success with guitarist Leslie West and bassist Felix Pappalardi in the proto-metal band Mountain (“Mississippi Queen”), which he’s played with on and off for decades, and with West, Bruce & Laing, featuring Cream’s Jack Bruce on bass. The turn of this century found the drummer leading the group Cork, featuring Spin Doctors guitarist Eric Schenkman and Jimi Hendrix Experience bassist Noel Redding. And more recently Laing has worked with the bands Memory Thieves and K2. Now he’s at the center of what could be the most ambitious undertaking of his career, an international production of the rock opera Playing God, which sees its stateside debut this April.

While touring his stand-up show Best Seat in the House/Under the Rock, Laing met a couple of philosophy professors in Helsinki, Finland, Tuija Takala and Matti Häyry. “They asked me if I would compose music for a rock opera they were writing,” Laing says, “that [dealt with the themes of] bioethical research and genetic manipulation—which, of course, was way over my head.” [laughs]

On the soundtrack, billed to Corky Laing and the Perfct Child [sic], the drummer’s famed muscular kicks and tom-driven sound are ever-present, but so are sensitive rolls and cymbal work, reminding the world that the man is a complete player, not just the heavy rocker responsible for one of the most famous cowbell parts of all time. Playing God is an ideal showcase for Laing’s many talents—though, as usual, he’s quick to share credit. “All the way around it was a collaborative effort,” Corky says, “with some wonderful Finnish musicians. We also got help from Eric Schenkman on guitar, and Jack Bruce’s son Malcolm assisted me with composition. Incidentally, I consider myself lucky to have played with three of the finest bassists in the world of rock in Jack, Felix, and Noel. These guys were not just musicians—they were brilliant, creative personalities. Luck is a four-letter word, and I am a very grateful recipient.”