Most know Harry Shearer for his work on The Simpsons, voicing Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders and countless other characters, or as his alter ego, the lovably lukewarm Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap. But those who have followed his career more closely also know the real Harry Shearer as an unflinching political satirist. That side of him will come to the fore this October when he releases The Many Moods Of Donald Trump, a collection of satirical songs timed to coincide with the U.S. presidential election.
Shearer is offering a preview of the album with the track “Son In Law,” a jab at White House advisor Jared Kushner, and based on the R&B classic “Mother In Law” by New Orleans fixture Ernie K. Doe. The Big Easy has been Shearer’s second home for many years, so it’s not surprising that he was able to get famed local musicians such as George Porter Jr. of the The Meters, Raymond Weber of Dumpstaphunk, and trombonist Jon Ramm to play on the track.
“Son In Law” is accompanied by a groundbreaking motion-capture animation video produced by The Electric Lens Company of Sydney, Australia. Using Unreal Engine and motion capture technology to the record the body, hands and face, they turned Harry into an all-singing, all-dancing, virtual Donald Trump.
The process further encompassed creating a virtual Oval Office and a photo realistic face. One of the directors, Matt Hermans explains, “For the first time, a CGI face was replaced by a machine-learning AI face that was trained for weeks on footage of Trump speeches. This algorithm learns the subtle movements of Trump’s face and recalls these details based on the motion capture input, and it was the key to getting the performance translated from Harry to Trump.”
Shearer has been using his syndicated public radio program (and now a podcast) Le Show to do political satire since 1983, which led to creation of several albums, the most recent being 2012’s Can’t Take A Hint and 2010’s Greed And Fear. Shearer’s overall career in Hollywood dates back to his childhood when he was cast as the original Eddie Haskell in Leave It To Beaver. After earning a degree in political science at UCLA, Shearer briefly worked as a journalist before joining the political satire group The Credibility Gap, which also featured his future Spinal Tap collaborator Michael McKean. He continued to work on cutting edge comedic projects throughout the 1970s, eventually becoming a Saturday Night Live cast member for two separate stints.
The Many Moods Of Donald Trump will be released through Twanky Records, the label Shearer founded with his wife, singer/songwriter Judith Owen.