10 questions for Queen Kwong: “What you’re playing isn’t nearly as important as how you’re playing it”

(Image credit: Ollie Millington/Redferns via Getty Images)

Queen Kwong (aka Carré Callaway) has had a tumultuous journey to new album Love Me To Death.

After being discovered by Trent Reznor, a teenage Callaway ended up supporting Nine Inch Nails as a solo artist on their 2005 With Teeth tour. Several years away from music followed, before the release of the songwriter’s gritty full-band debut Get A Witness in 2015 as Queen Kwong (also featuring Callaway’s now-husband, Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland).

Earlier this month, Callaway was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, leading doctors to suggest she “tone it down” and cut back on travelling. As she points out, "this should make you really want to buy my record and make the extra effort to come to my shows" - as if any were needed, given new full-length Love Me To Death's winning formula of dreamy vocals, woozy synths and blasts of delay-heavy guitar.

Ahead of the release, we quizzed Callaway on her choice gear picks and why that NIN support slot wasn’t entirely plain sailing…

1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?

“My grandpa gave me a cheap Fender Squier when I was 12.”

2. The building’s burning down - what one guitar do you save?

Nearly every song I write requires a wah pedal in some way

“My Gibson ES-135 with custom Lollar pickups.”

3. What's the one effects pedal you couldn't do without, and why?

“Wah pedal, just because nearly every song I write requires one in some way.”

4. Is there a guitar, or piece of gear, that you regret letting go?

“An acoustic Larrivée that I sold on Craigslist 11 years ago, when I was desperate for money for rent.”

5. And what's the next piece of gear you’d like to acquire?

“A Vox AC30.”

6. What’s your favourite chord, and why?

“I’m not sure what the name of it is. Teaching myself guitar has made me find chords I like, just by ear and experimentation. But I’ve never learned all of their names.”

7. What’s the greatest guitar tone you’ve ever heard?

“Jack White and Jamie Hince always have unique, experimental tones that I’ve appreciated and been inspired by.”

8. If you could have a guitar lesson from one guitarist, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

After getting off timing from a programmed drum track when I was opening for NIN by myself, I never used drum tracks again

“Ron Asheton in the late '60s/early '70s - because he is king of simple yet ferocious and innovative.”

9. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you onstage?

“Getting off timing from a programmed drum track when I was opening for NIN by myself, when I was a teenager. I finished the song without singing the entire second half of it because I was so lost. I never used drum tracks again.”

10. What advice would you give your younger self about playing the guitar?

“What you’re playing isn’t nearly as important as how you’re playing it.”

Love Me To Death is out now via Edison Sound.

Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as a decade-and-a-half performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.