William Shatner Talks "Seeking Major Tom" and "Myouterspace"
Mon, 14 Nov 2011 06:38:32
Now, the only other spaceman as ubiquitous as William Shatner is "Major Tom".
Everybody knows Major Tom from David Bowie, but his appearance in numerous songs by other artists intrigued Captain Shatner. So, what did he do?
He covered a bevy of classics and made an entire album about Major Tom, enlisting the musical help of everyone from Sheryl Crow and Peter Frampton to Zakk Wylde and Mike Inez of Alice in Chains. Shatner equally on the psychedelic metal lounge of "Iron Man" as well as on the collection's original jam, "Struggle". It's a sonic space trip of epic proportions piloted by science fiction's ultimate hero.
If Shatner weren't busy enough, he also recently launched his very own social network for all things sci-fi, Myouterspace.com. It's a vast hub for science fiction junkies worldwide, and recently the groundbreaking site hosted a contest for up-and-coming composers to provide a new theme for animated series, The Zenoids. Maybe, Major Tom will need to make an appearance? Voting will begin here soon!
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino, William Shatner spoke about Seeking Major Tom, creating My Outerspace, Captain Kirk, and so much more.
Did you have one vision for Seeking Major Tom from start to finish?
Absolutely! What happened to Major Tom when he exited the capsule? Well, he has success to begin with. He walks on the moon. He's the "Space Cowboy". He thinks about his wife and we get "Rocket Man" and "She Blinded Me with Science". Then, things darken a little and it goes to "The Twilight Zone". He begins to hallucinate on "Learning to Fly", and the background is "Bohemian Rhapsody". Next, he queries God as he begins to die. He asks, "Well, how could God allow this?" Ultimately, he ends up in Hell during "Iron Man" and the rocket breaks apart. This is my fantasy of what happened to Major Tom.
Was that fantasy your foundation?
Well, I found that there were six songs written about Major Tom, and I thought, "Well, that's strange". David Bowie said, "Major Tom" and everybody got into it. I don't know why, but I'd love to hear some musicologists talk about why everybody responded to the character of Major Tom. Sheryl Crow actually sings "Mrs. Major Tom", which has the hook, "You didn't burn up Major Tom. You burned out". How did they come to that? I don't know, but it's suggested that Major Tom evoked something in everybody's psyche as it did mine. I'll ask again, "What happened to Major Tom?"
Do you feel like you make these songs personal?
That's because I'm an actor. I think each good song has a character to it. Name a song, and it's about something and it's being said by someone. That's been my perception and my criticism as well.
People live with songs for a lifetime because they can assume those respective characters.
That's exactly right. To me, "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" were drug songs. The Transformed Man didn't have as much pre-meditation as it should have, but I was younger and I didn't understand my power. In that album, I should've explained more clearly that Transformed Man was a concept album. It took literature, put it to music, and segued to a song that had either the opposite or same philosophy as the piece of literature. It was all one piece. It was a six-minute cut. They wouldn't let me do six minutes so I did three. I did the song not realizing that it needed the context. By that time, it was too late.
Now, Seeking Major Tom is a fully fleshed-out listening experience.
Well, I'm delighted you feel that way. It's meant as a rock opera.
What's the story behind "Struggle"?
That's the only song on the album that I wrote the lyrics to. Adam Hamilton wrote the music. It's born out of the request of the head of the label—Brian Perera—to write a song. I thought the only spot I could place a song would be when the guy is dying. If "Bohemian Rhapsody" is his background, then he's been struggling to do this all his life. He's dying, and he's struggling not to die. That's where it fits.
It's a poignant moment.
It brought me to tears. It's the dying man whose last gasp is, "I've got to struggle. I've got to live. I've got to go home" and he can't.
How did "Iron Man" come together?
To me, those chords in "Iron Man" are like Beethoven. Christ, it's like knocking on the door of fate. Those chords are Hell, and that's what I responded to. I laid down my lyrics first and I went to Zakk Wylde's studio and watched him in his virtuosity do the guitar solo. I realized what I had done was nonsense. I had to go back days later and get into the energy flow, if you will, of heavy metal. I had no idea of the raucous, pure, and raw energy of heavy metal. It's an extraordinary thing.
Do you remember your first encounter with the song?
I remember hearing it and saying, "I suppose that's something you might want to listen to once, but I'd rather hear some crooner". It assails your ears. However, the very fact you're being assailed is the experience of heavy metal. You're being inundated by sound and energy. It can be very invigorating. If you've got the speakers all around you, you can go out into the street, have your ears ring, and dance.
How did Myouterspace and The Zenoids contest come about?
A friend of mine and I combined to do this web site called Myouterspace. We thought it could be something. In order to make it interactive, we started a series of contests both in animation and song. Very soon, we're going to have a new game up there on the site as well as on Facebook. It joins all like-minded science fiction people to come aboard and share the science fiction experience. We're engaging them to create music for The Zenoids. We're going to make an interactive movie whereby the audience gets to vote what they would like to see in this movie. It's a whole new idea for a movie.
Are you going to bring this album to the stage?
I have a fantasy that would lend itself to a laser and light show and some other novel technology that I'm dreaming of and I need to get somebody to make work. I'm on that track right now.
What do you think of now when you think of Captain Kirk and your time on Star Trek?
I recognize it with the great benefit it has always been. I have a book out called Shatner Rules. It doesn't deal with Star Trek specifically, but it deals with saying "yes" to opportunity. The book is funny and it has a point of view. Apropos of Star Trek, there is a DVD I did called The Captains, which is me examining the human beings that are the actors who played the captains in Star Trek. It received great notices when it was playing here. Now, it's coming out on DVD.
Have you heard Seeking Major Tom yet?