Billy Sherwood & William Shattner – Ponder the Mystery (en)
„The Captain of sci-fi is back“. For his new album William Shatner has teamed up with progressive rock veteran Billy Sherwood (Yes, Circa, Prog Collective) to create a momentous concept album focusing on such rich and timeless themes as aging, depression, love and beauty! Mr Shatner himself said that „Ponder the Mystery“ is „quite possibly the most creative thing I have ever done.“ We have talked to multiinstrumentalist and song writing mastermind, Billy Sherwood, about this unusual collaboration.
How was it to work with „Captain Kirk“?
William Shatner has an amazing spirit and vibrance. He is an inspiring person to be around. From the moment we met there seem to be a symbiotic thing going on as far as our mutual desire to create something artistic and unique. It was very comfortable and easy to work together. Now with the record completed and being released tomorrow (Oct 8th) we’ve moved it from a record production to the live stage performance, we have gigs coming at the end of the month. My band CIRCA: (with Tony Kaye, Scott Connor & Rick Teirney) will be performing the entire new record along with William Shatner. We’ve already been rehearsing for it and Bill’s been working with us to bring it all to life, he’s very much into the team spirit of it all. The live production is sounding really cool !!
How did the collaboration came about? Was he actively looking out for a prog partner?
The label president of Cleopatra Records (Brian Perera) called me and suggested I met with Bill and discuss making a new original record with him… of course I said „yes“ !! So we all met at Bill’s office and spoke about what type of record we could make, I come from the prog genre and so that was the obvious musical road to go for. We agreed Bill would write all the words while I would write the music. We worked closely on the development of the project from tip to tail. Brian and Bill knew they wanted to make another record for Cleopatra as the last record did quite well (Seeking Major Tom). The difference would be the that this was to be an original record, no covers, we’d be writing all new material and concepts for this new record and so we discussed direction and the prog elements we could apply. I don’t think Bill was specifically looking for a „prog producer“, it kind of just so happened as I entered the picture.
Could you describe the song-writing process?
The 1st conceptual drafts were done in the 1st meeting we had, we discussed the concept, Bill had an idea of a man looking inward at 1st and coming to terms that perhaps life was not what he thought it was to be, the song „where It’s Gone… I Don’t know“ is the expression of that lost feeling, As the story line advances he discovers the beauty, joy, love and wonder of life itself and finds ultimate peace with his own circumstance. This is expressed in the final track called „Alive“ which has a very uplifting feeling to it. The writing of the material was carefully crafted by both of us, Bill’s got an amazing sense of poetry and motion of words so his lyrics really gave me inspiration to compose music that supported the content of each song. He gave me the lyrics and I went to work recording the music, I took certain phrases he’d written and turned them into vocal hooks. Bill did his thing, provided great reads for the verses and other areas within the tracks, we created a balancing act between spoken word and melodic content. Once the entire record was framed and we were looking at it together we began reaching out o the guest Artists and filled in the blanks so to speak, having features for the guests, solos etc…
William Shatner uses the spoken word style with great success. What were the challenges to set the stage for this kind of lyrical presentation?
The atmosphere of each track was musically married to the content Bill had written, this is what I did, so that Bill’s words had the perfect backdrop to enhance where he was coming from, using tempo, chord structure and instrumentation. Each track was designed to work for his reads or spoken word performances. I didn’t find it a daunting task because Bill’s lyrics were so good, they inspired me to create the compositions, it came fairly easy and quick which is something I believe in, the moment of inspiration is to be captured, before it gets worked to death and loses all the vibe. I like to work that way and so does Bill.
What was your own fanboy question to William Shattner?
I have not gone there yet as much as I would like too lol. I kind of figured those are the last things he’d like to talk about, one day perhaps but for now… I keep it all in the moment and the moment is „Ponder The Mystery“.
Did you dare to tell him, that you are in fact a nasty sith lord? (your Knights of the Old Republic game addiction)
Hah !!! Not yet… Star Wars is a huge part of my being, I’m such a fan of it, I actually think Jar Jar is cool lol. I enjoy sci-fI, all of it, I’m a sci-fi junkie what can I say.
You had some massive output recently (Shatner, Prog Collective, Steve Miller tribute). What’s next?
You forgot 2 bands I did as well, prog bands, very good ones worth looking into… „XNA“ and „Days Between Stations“. I love making music, own my own studio where I can work all the time, so I tend to have a lot of output in that regard. I just finished mixing a Doors Tribute that is loaded with great guest artists… discussing producing other projects as we speak. Anyone interested in following along with my world can do so by following at facebook or my twitter. I do work with artists who reach out to me via those sources, I encourage anyone wanting to take their music to another level to not be shy and say hello, from there anything is possible… I always have time for more music making !
Interview: Markus Brixius picture: Michi Sherwood