Tapping into Harry Shearer

Last month I interviewed Harry Shearer for MSN Music, and then lost track of the feature. It went up in September, just in time for the 25th anniversary of Spinal Tap and the DVD release of his latest musical adventure: an acoustic tour with Michael McKean and Christopher Guest playing the music made famous by Spinal Tap, The Folksman and other fictional legends of music history.

Harry Shearer and friends
Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer

Here are some highlights from the piece:

MSN Music: Did you ever expect heavy metal to have such resilience 25 years after “This Is Spinal Tap”?

Harry Shearer: Well, I think the idea of Spinal Tap was to prevent it from having that kind of resilience, so I’m as amazed as the next guy. I think everybody’s surprised that various musical genres tend to outlive their moment for one reason or another. Heavy metal has been as resilient in its own way, if not more so, than neo-punk or neo-soul or any of the neo revivals of earlier genres, but it speaks to something deep within the adolescent boy, I guess. Like Howard Stern.

And somehow those adolescent boys keep their adolescence well into middle age.

Yes, and I think that’s why women are so bewildered by men.

How hard was it to write a song that is both parody and a legitimate song in a genre that is defined by theatricality and excess, where many of the songs already border on parody?

Strictly speaking, parody is what “Weird” Al [Yankovic] does — and does very well — where you take an existing song and redo it. These are original songs, but they are satirical in the sense that we’re not serious about it. We’re making fun, as you say, of a genre that is known for its bombast and its pomposity. Very often people think you have to exaggerate something to make fun of it, and so they end up doing something that’s sort of ludicrous, and I don’t mean the hip-hop artist. We weren’t trying to exaggerate so much as distill what we perceived to be the funny parts of that style of music and then place it in the context of this band that you found funny, which made it OK to laugh at it. And we’re trying to be inside that line: Yes, you really could believe these guys would get up and perform a song called “Sex Farm.” It didn’t stretch credulity.

Read the complete interview at MSN here.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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