WILLIAM SHATNER (STAR TREK): “It Was Such A Big Compliment When RITCHIE BLACKMORE Said That He’d Like To Play On My Album”

William Shatner

He is known to millions across the generations as Captain Kirk in Star Trek and as the cop, TJ Hooker but how many knew that William Shatner has a musical career going back to the 60s? Mick Burgess called him up to talk about his latest album, The Blues, where he covers Blues classics with an impressive array of guests including Ritchie Blackmore, Pat Travers and Steve Cropper.

We’re living in rather strange times at the moment. How are you coping with Covid 19 and all of the restrictions in place?

Well I hate to say this, as millions of people are suffering, getting evicted and losing their jobs, but one of the few positives is that you have time to concentrate on areas that you would not have been able to follow if you were living your busy life. I’ve tried to take advantage of the time that I have to focus on activities and interests that require that kind of time.

In a few weeks you’ll be releasing your latest album, The Blues. Are you excited now that it’s out?

In show business when you create something that’s part of the fun and the joy of life and then you have this moment in time when you present it and you hope that people will like it. I’m at that point now and although I’m not in front of an audience, I am in front of an audience of one like yourself. The people I’ve been talking to are giving me their reviews and I’m reading reviews of the album and they have really been successful. I hope you like it? When I see those very pleasant reviews, it makes me very happy. As I finally present this to the public, the public seems to be enjoying it.

There’s 14 tracks of Blues classics on the album. Did you choose the songs to record?

Making this album is a story in itself. I was successful with my Christmas album, it was well reviewed and sold a lot of copies so the label, Cleopatra, asked me to do another album and they suggested a Blues album. I thought it was a great idea. I didn’t know much about the Blues so I studied with people who gave me books and talked to me about it and I uncovered the joy of the Blues. I sought opinions on what songs I should sing and arrived at those that made it onto the album. I used a lot of people whose life’s work was the Blues. People like Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top and Henry Rollins, who are great musicians and great musicologists, gave me advice on the songs to choose. That’s how the album came about.

There’s an incredible array of guests on the album including former Deep Purple guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore, Jeff Skunk Baxter of Steely Dan and Steve Cropper, the writer of some of the great Soul classics. How did you get these musicians involved?

Some I asked, others asked me to be part of the album. Ritchie Blackmore had played on one of my previous albums so when we approached him to play on this one, he jumped at the chance which was a big a compliment to me, as he’s such a great musician and so in demand so I was very happy that he wanted to be on another album of mine. Some of the people on the album sought me out and others we sought them out and got in touch with them and asked them if they would like to be on it. People like Brad Paisley said that they’d love to be on the album and it’s just worked beautifully. These world class musicians make the album and enhance the album to such a degree.

Did you get the chance to work in the studio with them?

Unfortunately, I’ve not met many of them in person to work with but I’d like to rectify that in the near future. Most of them played their music to a track that I laid down. We set a tempo, I sang the lyrics the way I thought they should go and they took it from there and used their great talents to enhance what it was that I was doing.

Canned Heat’s “Let’s Work Together” seems to be a very appropriate song to cover during these difficult times of civil unrest and economic strife. Is that why you chose that one?

Yes and in fact I ad libbed a couple of lines about Red and Blue, let’s get together. It was released a single a while ago and it made a nice splash.

It’s great to see you not only using well-seasoned musical veterans but bringing in rising new talent like Tyler Bryant too. How did he get involved in the project?

What we did, was that we approached him, I can’t remember if it was with my track or just the concept, but he was very enthusiastic and he’s a great musician. I was delighted that he wanted to be a part of my album.

Vocally you have a very unique approach where you have the depth of Leonard Cohen and the delivery of Lou Reed with your own twist on things. Who are the singers that have influenced you over the years?

How wonderful, I’ll take that comparison. Leonard Cohen came from Montreal as well so it spawned the two of us. I did admire him as a singer but I didn’t listen to him enough when he was alive and if I knew then what I know now I would have sought him out.

If Covid was all done and dusted and you had the opportunity, would you like to put a band together and play a few shows with some special guests making an appearance here and there?

I’ve thought about it a great deal. I’ve been on tour a lot over the years and I ended up on tour in London in March just as the Prime Minister was saying herd immunity didn’t work and that they were going to restrict crowds to no more than 10 or 15 people at a time. I was on my way to the Apollo Theatre with a sold-out audience and I didn’t know if the people would stay or leave but when I arrived there were 3500 people there. I think that was one of the last shows before the lockdown. I left for home the next day and not long after that they closed Heathrow.

You’ve released a very diverse range of music over the years including the Heavy Metal approach to Seeking Major Tom, a Christmas album, Shatner Claus and now a Blues album. What genre do you have your eye on next? Could we see a Punk album or maybe a Reggae or Hip-Hop album from you next?

My next album is going to be very unusual. It’s going to be autobiographical with songs that a team, myself included, will have written about events that are unusual and I think really super. I think you’re going to enjoy my next album.

William Shatner’s latest album, The Blues, is out on 2nd October on Cleopatra Records. See williamshatner.com for more information.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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