Queen Kwong
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Queen Kwong

Los Angeles, California, United States | INDIE

Los Angeles, California, United States | INDIE
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From Trent Reznor apprentice to a fully-fledged solo artist, Toby Rogers welcomes back Queen Kwong after her 5-year hiatus.

Carre Callaway aka Queen Kwong may well be the saviour of rock ’n’ roll. Discovered at seventeen in a New Orleans recording studio by Trent Reznor, she’s certainly got the credentials. Opening for Nine Inch Nails on their 2005 arena tour, Callaway was burned by the hyper-critical LA scene, a case of too much too soon for the young singer-songwriter. But with a handful of recent London gigs sending tastemakers into a frenzy, Callaway is back, and on her own terms.
“Too much too soon can apply to my whole life !” Callaway explains, when asked about her early career. “I wasn’t ready to open for a band like Nine Inch Nails. I wasn’t ready for a lot of the opportunities Trent gave me. But, that doesn’t mean I regret it. Far from that. It was a learning experience and I grew a lot from being thrown to the wolves so soon. Mainly, I learned that I wasn’t ready for it.”
Unsure of the direction her music was heading in, the experience led Callaway to give up on writing songs for a while.
“The realisation that I have no other options is what brought me back to playing music,” she explains. “There was nothing else I wanted to do. I was a sad, hopeless person without it. I became less concerned about what everyone else wanted me to do and what people wanted me to sound like. I became more motivated and focused to write and play songs I actually liked and would listen to. “
With a power and ferocity that’s unexpected for a modern singer-songwriter, Callaway is rewriting the rules of what it means to be a 21st century solo artist. Heavily influenced by The Stooges, her visceral one-woman proto-punk bears more than a passing resemblance to a youthful Polly Harvey. “I don’t know if I really have any influences,” she continues. “ I like a lot of music but I don’t know how much of it influences me as an artist or my music. I love everything from Wu Tang Clan to Nick Cave and Radiohead.”
Eschewing the pristine recording techniques that have made much modern music sound clinical, Callaway is heading back to the raw, lo-fi roots off rock ’n’ roll. Like early Elvis, Wanda Jackson and Gene Vincent, her stripped back holler is nothing short of explosive. “Everything I write about is personal on some level,” she concludes. “ I can’t write about things I don’t have some sort of emotional attachment to. I was a pretty miserable kid but when I picked up a guitar and started writing songs, that part of me felt more at ease. “

ARTROCKER MAGAZINE - Issue 117 January / February 2012
- Artrocker magazine (issue 117, January / February 2012)


p.34

Kid Genius Carre Callaway was already supporting NIN at the age of 17. Now, under the alias Queen Kwong, she's knocking out songs so grungy they could tear Courtney a new Hole. 'Long Gone' co-written with the fella from The Icarus Line, is out this month.
- The Fly


Queen Kwong’s “London Invasion” started in earnest tonight in London’s legendary Bull and Gate venue (where the likes of PJ Harvey cut her teeth back in the day and bands such as the Libertines played, early on in their careers, more recently.) Queen Kwong began as a bedroom project for Carre’ Callaway, who was discovered aged 17 by Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor who had her support his band on the “With Teeth” tour. Following a brief stint being managed by Jane’s Addiction’s guitarist, Dave Navarro, Carre’ signed to a new management company (who manage both the Raveonettes and the Dum Dum girls) and recorded a debut album with Joe Cardamone of Icarus Line fame. While it’s yet to surface, singles such as “Pet” have got tongues wagging and the hype was more than justified tonight. Playing third on a bill of four (the other notable band being the Terminal Gods who reanimated the corpse of the Sisters of Mercy behind a wall of dry ice, Queen Kwong filled the room and got the good people of London dancing.

What made her performance more remarkable, was the fact that Carre’ had arrived in London only two days previously, was ill and had only one full day of rehearsals with Paulie, her drummer, yet they managed to play hard and tight. Musically, Queen Kwong is like the love child of Stooges-era Iggy and the shoutier end of Kristin Hersh’s Throwing Muses with an added dollop of darkness (well she does love Nick Cave+the Bad Seeds). The band’s set mainly drew on the songs that have surfaced already, such as the bassy rumbling menace of “Pet”, the driving riffola of “Eddie the Kid” and the almost poppy (in a kind of Nirvana way) “Bitter Lips”. There were some newer numbers played which bode well for the forthcoming album. If she plays that hard while ill, jetlagged and with a scratch band, you have to wonder what she could do on a good day.

If you want bold, if you want sassy, if you want to see the saviour of rock, get along to one of the remaining gigs on this invasion. Carre’ and Queen Kwong are around for another couple of weeks, playing 4 or 5 more London shows and a date in Paris. - Louder Than War


Discovered by Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, Queen Kwong aka Carre Callaway releases her self directed video for this single which was released earlier this month. - NME


Discography

Bitter Lips (Single) - 11.15.2011 / Smoky Carrots Records
Long Gone ( Single) - 01.16.2012 / Smoky Carrots Records

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Bio

When you’re as naturally talented and driven as Carre Callaway is, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. As a young girl growing up in Denver Colorado, it was always clear that she was going places, and getting there fast. Carre (pronounced “Car-ray”) taught herself to play guitar at the age of 13 and began performing in the local folk scene almost immediately afterwards. She had the kind of book smarts to gain so much extra credit at high school that she ended up graduating two years before everyone else her age did. And by the time she was 17, she was opening for Nine Inch Nails at their arena-sized shows for their 2005 With Teeth tour- at Trent Reznor’s personal behest. “When I told him I play music and he asked to hear some of it, I think it was a joke,” she remembers of the chance meeting at Reznor’s New Orleans studio that sparked his interest. “The songs I had written at the time weren’t the kind of thing you would expect he would be into. I think he expected me to suck and he’d get a laugh out of it. But he immediately said that I should record something.”

But the problem with being so precocious is that it can get you into trouble and while Reznor saw Carre had raw ability in abundance, it takes more than musical talent to survive the music business. “Trent really took me under his wing and taught me a lot but deep down, I didn’t even know what kind of music I wanted to do back then,” she remembers. “For a while, I was a part of that LA scene and people either just wanted to tell me how much I suck or what I should be doing. It was a rude awakening. I shut down for a while after that. I spent a couple of years in bed and stopped writing too. I was in the right place at the wrong time.”

It’s the sort of experience that would leave most aspiring artists defeated and desperate to return to a life of normality. But Carre has regrouped, refocused and realized who she wants to be when she performs- and that person is Queen Kwong. It might be a stage name but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s some kind of elaborate façade or a fictitious character. In person, she’s polite, pleasant and mild-mannered Carre Callaway but on stage, the wild, uncontrollable Queen Kwong emerges and those two contrasting sides of her personality have always been in place since she was young. “I was an angry, angry child,” she smiles. “I was out of control from a really young age. I used to have screaming fits that were so loud that the cops would have to come to my house. But there was also that part of me that was the shy, quiet kid who did well at school. Music was a way for both of those aspects of my personality to be reconciled.”

It’s a duality that you can instantly spot in Queen Kwong’s music. Her guitar isn’t merely an instrument she plays with her hands, it’s something she inhabits with her soul and the resulting shifts between beauty and brutality feel all the more intense because of it. Similarly, her voice has an elastic ability to go straight from a seductive purr to an enraged howl and it’s because she sings from the pit of her stomach rather than the back of her throat. What results is dangerously unpredictable blast of rock ‘n’ roll that sits in the lineage of such primal and visceral acts as The Stooges, Nirvana, early Hole, and even Queens Of The Stone Age. Of course, there are plenty of people who simply buy a couple of fuzz-pedals and use that as justification to name drop these acts as sonic influences, but Queen Kwong uses them as physical ones too. “I always associated with rock ‘n’ roll with not being square and wimpy but it seem like nobody wants to make noise or be loud or be aggressive right now,” continues Carre, as that angry side begins to gently simmer under her surface. “I’d rather sound like shit and put on a great show than sound perfect but wimpy. There needs to be something more in your face and more aggressive.”

It only takes a quick look and listen around to understand exactly what she means. Technology is a wonderful thing but it’s made it too easy to sound pristine- and rock ‘n’ roll is often at it’s best when it’s anything but. It’s a modern schism that Queen Kwong reacts to with her own recordings. Anyone expecting to be dazzled by flawless singing, technical wizardry and consummate production will be disappointed. Queen Kwong’s music is about power and volatility rather than panache and virtuosity and it’s exactly that which she is desperate to restore to the often-sterile world of modern guitar music. “I’m not sure when rock ‘n’ roll became this way, but it seems to me that everyone just wants to pussyfoot around when they play. I don’t want to go to a show and be yawning or listen to a record that fades into the background. I want to hear and see someone go at it, and really feel what they’re doing.”

Evidently, Carre’s period of convalescence has helped her redefine her musical goals but just as important is the manner in which she is going to achieve them, and it