Harry Shearer has put his stamp on such iconic roles as Spinal Tap bass player Derek Smalls and "The Simpsons" nosy neighbor Ned Flanders, but he's about to add record label owner to his resume.
Harry Shearer has put his stamp on such iconic roles as Spinal Tap bass player Derek Smalls and "The Simpsons" nosy neighbor Ned Flanders, but he's about to add record label owner to his resume. Along with his singer/pianist wife Judith Owen and her manager Bambi Moe, Shearer has founded Courgette Records, which will be distributed by Warner Music Group's Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA).
"It grew out of the fact that so many record executives had seen Judith, and had said, 'She's great, we know she's great, we love her, we don't know what to do with her,'" Shearer tells Billboard.com. Owen picks up the rest of the story: "It came from me already being on major [labels] and having less than a joyful experience. One of the situations where 'new prez' comes in, the whole thing falls apart. After a situation like that, when you've lost your main guy, and you spend your life jumping through hoops trying to please people, it leaves you with the sensation of, 'God, wouldn't it be amazing just to be an artist?' It was a sense of Harry and I both being 'outside of the box artists' in our own fields."
The first release from Courgette (which is an English term for zucchini -- a wink to the infamous airport scene from "This Is Spinal Tap"), is Owen's latest album, "Lost and Found." Two singles are performing well at different radio formats: "Train Out of Hollywood" featuring Keb' Mo' on adult contemporary and "Sky High" featuring Tom Scott at triple-A. Owen describes the album as "Piano and vocal based, but it is passionate and sultry. It was all recorded live, in front of a few people, so it feels like I'm doing a show."
Shearer says there will be no shortage of projects for the new label. "What we hope is to break Judith as a major artist," he says. "Secondly, I'm going to put my television stuff, both from 'Saturday Night Live' and HBO, on DVD for the first time, and package it with a CD of comedy material -- mainly from my radio show ['Le Show'] about the era of anchors who are leaving or have left: Brokaw, Rather, Koppel. And then to go down the line, Judith has a lot more material."
He continues: "Looking into next year and beyond that, there's a musical comedy that's on its way to the Broadway stage, called 'J. Edgar!', which stars Kelsey Grammer and John Goodman, and before it gets to Broadway, we're going to do the original cast recording of it, and release that. There are a couple of fairly interesting soundtrack situations that we can't yet announce, because we're still in negotiation. And beyond that, we'll start looking at other artists."
In addition to the aforementioned projects, Shearer has a few more on the horizon. "I'm in Christopher Guest's new film, 'For Your Consideration,' which starts shooting in October," he says. "It's co-written with Christopher and Eugene Levy. It's the usual cast that people recognize from 'A Mighty Wind.' It's a movie within a movie -- it's about the actors in that movie getting that whiff of something very intoxicating, when the buzz starts that they may be nominated for an Oscar. And I'm doing a pilot for TV Land, called 'I Did Not Know That.' It's co-produced by Paul Reiser -- the idea is to take the piss out of shows like 'Biography' -- all those kinds of shows that tell you what you didn't want to know about people you didn't care about."
"I have a book, my first comic novel, called 'Not Enough Indians,' and that comes out the fall of 2006," he says. "Season 17 of 'The Simpsons' premieres on Fox this month and my radio show is heard across the nation each week. Christopher, Michael [McKean] and I did a couple of music shows, just the three of us, doing music from 'Spinal Tap' and 'A Mighty Wind,' but not in costume. I think we may tour that next year."
But is there any chance of one more Spinal Tap reunion? "There's not a lot of talk," Shearer admits. "We kind of have felt that we may have done everything we wanted to do. Although, there's an offer on the table that we've not yet been able to do something about -- to do a show with a symphony orchestra. And that's the kind of pretentious twaddle that we think Spinal Tap should do."