Sitting an a small restauant last month William Shartner instroduced us to his new iPhone app by blindlight: Shatoetry! Once you download it you'll say to yourself, "Of course! This app is brilliant!" Who doesn't love Shatner's voice, some could listen to him read the phone book. WIth this app he does much more than read the phone book and has given you the power to talk like him.
"It is awesome because it's totally different; there's nothing else like it. We will perfect it as we go along, but right now it's awesome. What's the next word above awesome that we can record? Monumental. We're going to make it monumental. It doesn't take any genius. Everybody has a great idea, it's the execution that came together here." -William Shatner about Shatoetry
Q. How did this project come up?
Shatner: I love the musicality of words; I wish I could sing, I can't. But what I can do is seek out of the poetry of word,s the onomatopoeia of the word. So the musicality of the word, the rhythm of the world, the meaning of the word all in it's context appeal to me and I love to explore that. And if you have a melodic background to sustain the word then even the national anthem works. So somewhere along the line [Blindlight] heard me do that so it must have occurred in a creative moment, "Why don't we try that as an app! That idea conveys such a power, let's see if you speaking the word will define the number of words that you lay down on a record player. Let's see if that will lend itself to an application."
They spent a year on it, refining it and refining it. Every so often I'd call and say, "Hey, what happened?" They'd say, "It's happening." It's like one of those many things in show business where somebody approaches you with an idea, a concept and that's going to work, and you work on it and then it dies because it lacks the ability to sustain itself or it lacks a force behind it. None of that happened here. The force was here the idea is great. It just resonated; when I heard the idea it resonated in my mind like other things have in the past. Like Star Trek did. When I was asked to come and see a pilot that they had made of Star Trek and I watched this pilot that NBC didn't buy, but wanted to recast it. I loved it, wow! It's great. That kind of thing. Some of the really good things that I've done over the years a chord is played… the magical Mozart chord is played and this is one of them.
Q: What is your favorite word and your favorite way to say it?
Shatner: My favorite word is "I". I… I… I! And my second favorite word is "Me". No no… [laughing]. Words are the means of communications that offer a subtlety especially the way they're spoken. Since this is spoken word and you can't see the nonverbal cues– as you know doing interviews you're involved not only in the spoken word but he nonverbal ques as well: the eyes, the attitude. So here we've attempted to offer some variation on the way a word is spoken given levels of meaning. So any word in the English language can communicate all kinds of meaning.
There are words like magical, or the word cloud or love that has a variety of shades, multiple shade depending on the listener not the person who speaks it. So the word love conjures up an image in your mind that I have no idea of which. So if I say "love" to you, already you're shading it through your filters. I don't have a favorite word, I just love the idea that words communicate and to be totally aware that the communication is not entirely unbroken because I don't know how you're affecting by the words that I'm speaking.
Q. What's your least favorite word? Was there a word that you were like "Uh uh, I'm not going to say in this app."?
Shatner: The company, Blindlight, was anxious to promote this in the best way possible so they would veer towards Star Trek a lot, the Captain Kirk thing, and the Shatner character of some kind. I kept throttling them back saying, this is so good it doesn't need a lot of herbs in the recipe. The quality of that we're doing will stand on it's own and I sill more emphatically believe that.
Q. Can you talk about the production process of recording each word?
Shatner: I'm going to do a character in an animated film in a few days. I go to a studio and perform to painted figures or some of them aren't even ready. The director or the producer of the animated film will say, "at this point the character falls off a bridge" and [i go] "Ahhhh" [and he says] "no no, we don't think it's that." And you're doing it in a variety of way to satisfy the picture in a guys mind and you're trying to find out how best to perform for something that's totally unknown. So I'm not unaccustomed to doing a variety and trying to vary a word in ways that will be satisfactory. I had no problem trying to think of ways to do the words but getting this app to work and flexibility and it's ease of operation is terrific.
Q. You have this reputation of using a lot of dramatic pauses in your delivery, but if you go back and look at the old Star Trek episodes you're not really pausing dramatically more than anyone else. So do you blame Kevin Pollock or the guys who implicated you for that and did you decide at one point just to embrace it and own it.
Shatner: Well, I directed Kevin Pollock in a half hour comedy at once point and we had a contest on who could do the best impression of me. I lost. [laughing] No, I recognize that there is a sort of emphasise that I must have globed onto a long time ago that I excuse by saying that it's me trying to remember what the next word is. "[inaudible]…what do I say next? Oh ya!" and go on. But as an actor, people- like I am right now- pause for a moment to assemble their thoughts intuitively. You're not saying, "What do I say next" but there's a moment where you're brain is forming the words. Actually the older you get the longer the pauses. [laughing] So yes, I embrace Kevin Pollock both figuratively and literally and have fun with everybody else.
One of the things [we] talked about was the possibility of using it to make fun of me and that happens all the time and I just go along with it. but why would I want to be a part of a mocking procedure. So we addressed ourselves as carefully as we could. Now it'll be used to make fun of me I'm sure, but we've done our best to throttle back some of the stuff that could be used to seek a level where it's fun but not mockery and hopefully I've gotten someplace with that. We'll find out.
Q. How many word in total are in the app?
Shatner: There's about 410, they wiped out 90. But we'll add to that, we'll make it more flexible.
Q. You spent a lot of years putting Gene Roddenberry's vision into place and that has kinda of lead us to where we are today with all this technology. Can you speak to how we've gotten to where we are?
Shatner: That's a nice compliment but of course it has nothing to do with fact. In fiction there were a lot of things in Star Trek that the designers imagined, that communication phone and all that, that Motorola absolutely imitated when it first came out. In fact I was at an airport– cause Motorola had given me their first flip open phone– the idea that the Motorola phone and the communicator on Star Trek were related… I knew about it but it wasn't present in my mind as I flipped this thing open to make a phone call in a crowded airport and there was a crowd around pointing and laughing. That's a moment I won't forget for a while. But the technology of Star Trek and the technology of today, a lot has been written about it. The ergonomics of what we did was certainly designed into it, in fact the story goes that the Navy sent some men– on the Star Trek iteration I was part of– to look over the bridge to see how we had placed some of the insterments, and the angle of the bridge, and the way the banister curved and all that kind of thing. I don't know what they took from it, but the Navy was there.
Over the years a lot of the things that were imagined– I've written science fiction books and I've imagined things. I wrote one piece where I had two people touching a communicator device. Never in the wildest imagination think it would ever come to pass, but I got on a Delta flight 3 or 4 days ago with my iPhone. Have you all done that? It's the first time I've done that, where you present your telephone and it's got the ticket in the telephone. I'd never done that. So it's coming fast.
Find out more about the app and download it over at shatoetry.com.