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Cory Wong


“I knew right from the start, music can change the way people feel. Like my emotion, my emotional state, the angst, the calmness, the energy when I need to get hyped up, all those things I could associate with music and I knew that music was a powerful tool for that.”

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Dude, the pancakes thing is not false. These late night things they got these little pancakes and they're like small pancakes. It's like this little pancakes with strawberry and cream, for a couple thousand people that are there. The pancake thing is real. I dig it, man.

I knew right from the start, music can change the way people feel. Like my emotion, my emotional state, the angst, the calmness, the energy when I need to get hyped up, all those things I could associate with music, and I knew that music was a powerful tool for that.

I've been a huge music fan since I was a kid. I got into a lot of punk rock and ska music, and I saw people playing guitar and I saw things that looked like, Oh, I could probably do that, and then eventually work up to doing stuff that's a little bit more technical. I just got hooked on bands like Green Day, Blink 182. I went to Warped Tour as a kid. I can't believe that my parents dropped me off at Warped Tour, as a little kid and we're just like, we'll see over there, on the other side of downtown, at some point tonight.

Oh my gosh, this festival is insane. I feel so great. I feel so at home, which is kind of funny, because my vibe now is not really Warped Tour vibe, but I come from that, that energy and that, kind of, drive in the music and that passion for just finding your community, is something that I'm still very active and passionate about, but that's, kind of, how I really got started and what got me hooked, was finding that home base with the skateboarder, punk rock, alternative rock thing, and guitar was just kind of wrapped around in that.

There was a bunch of musicians at my school. We actually had a really great music program. I think also, amongst a lot of my friends, we were all into the same thing and we all saw the same thing. We were watching MTV, watching how cool it was at Warped Tour to see all these people playing guitar, going to all these different concerts.

There was a ska band and then I had a punk band, and we just played in my friend's basement. We literally practiced every weekend. I would take the bus home, Friday after school, to my friend's house and on Sunday evening, my dad would come pick me up or something. Again, I don't know how his parents let us all stay over there the entire weekend. Probably for a year and a half, we went over there every weekend. We spent the entire weekend hanging out watching videos of Foo Fighters and Green Day and all these live VHS tapes that we had or if something was taped on MTV or something, we watched it back.

We weren't really great at first, and then we practiced a ton and we got pretty good. We played some little shows around town at some clubs that would let 14 year old kids play gigs or whatever.

I've always been somebody who's thought, music is so much about the emotion, about the energy, how it helps make somebody else feel, how it makes you feel, but also there's a craft involved and there's a respect for the craft and even though we were kids, we really wanted to make sure if we're going to do this, let's try to do it right and getting those things from the beginning is kind of what's helped informed my career and the way that I approach my music, still to this day. It's very much attention to detail, but also wide open to interpretation.

The first time I ever heard of Ernie Ball was at the Warped Tour. I thought it was so cool that there was a guitar string company at this event that I felt at home, and then I went to Guitar Center, bought a guitar and the guy said, you're going to need some extra strings. I said, all right, what do you got? He said, You're going to need a set of Slinkies. I said, Okay, great.

I played Slinkies for years and then I went on this journey of... Like we all do. I went on the Hero's journey, the classic story of all the gear, every type of guitar, every type of string, and then a couple years ago I was just kind of rifling back through things, taking the journey again, taking another lap, and when I put on a set of Slinkies, It feels like guitar. I don't know what it is. When I put on a set of Slinkies, it just feels like a guitar should feel. The regular Slinkies to me are that.

Honestly, my favorite sound is the M-Steels, but they feel a little bit different. It's not bad, it's just, they feel different to me. When I play Slinkies, I feel just completely at home. My hands just feel like, Oh, this is guitar. But for my tone, I feel like the M-Steel kind of captures it a little bit more immediately. I tweak things less when I use the M-Steel, but there's something about the regular Slinky 10s that just, I know it as home base, anytime they're on a guitar.

I went to college for science, because I didn't really have any role models who were professional musicians. Was really into a lot of jazz and jazz fusion at the time. Basically wanted to be Pat Metheny for a couple years, wanted to be John Scofield for a while. Started playing a little bit professionally around town in the RnB scene, because I grew up in Minneapolis and around here there's a lot of funk and RnB, as you can imagine. The Minneapolis sound thing with Prince, Morris Day and The Time, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. There's a lot of funk and RnB music that's come out of the scene here.

I kind of got involved with a lot of the people that were part of that. They took me under their wing and I kind of learned all of that language, that feel and did hundreds of gigs around Minneapolis, where nobody cared who I was, and I did hundreds of gigs touring around the world where it was just the guitar player for somebody else.

It was at a club called Bunkers here in town, in Minneapolis, and Prince used to come out and watch the band that I was playing with, at the time. You'd always know Prince is coming, because there'd be just kind of a push of people away and they cleared out the back corner and there's a couple security guards that looked pretty tough, but they're dressed really dope.

Within 15 minutes or something, Prince would just show up and there was one time in particular where I was playing, we knew that he was coming and I had studied all of his playing and I was basically the only one who wasn't Prince alumni on the stage, and I started playing with his feels, voicings, tone, style and all that, and the drummer's just playing. He's like, hey, knock it off. I was like, what? He's like, if Prince is coming down here, he doesn't want to hear somebody try to sound like Prince. If he wants to hear somebody sound like Prince on guitar, he's going to get up here and play. You got to start sounding like you. It's like, oh, okay. Did you just give me permission to be me?

That night, I just finally fell into, all right, I'm going to do this the way that I do it. I'm going to use all the right hand attack and all the right hand energy that I learned from the punk rock. I'm going to take all the chord voicings and interesting harmonic concepts, that I've learned from all the jazz training, and I'm going to take all the feel that I've learned from the RnB and funk playing and I'm going to combine it all together and all of those things together are going to make up...