Like a fiendish villain from a comic book, Barenaked Ladies keyboardist Kevin Hearn plotted and schemed a devilishly cunning plan the last few years. But the end result is a purely enjoyable experience for a very good cause on a special day in the music industry.
This Saturday (April 13) Hearn will issue on vinyl a special EP entitled Kevin Hearn and Friends Present: The Superhero Suite. The 12-inch vinyl effort contains a rollicking medley of famous theme songs to superhero television shows of the past including Spiderman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Transformers to name a few. Added to that is a special 10-page illustrated comic book created by Hearn, actor Harland Williams and Lauchie Reid.
For Hearn, the idea goes back to his childhood when a certain theme won him over.
“It’s a bit of a long story but the long and the short of it is I fell in love with The Incredible Hulk theme when I was a kid,” Hearn says. “I started playing it onstage sometimes with my band Thin Buckle and it became a fun moment in the show where the drummer transformed into The Hulk behind the kit. We started adding to it and it turned into a medley.”
From there the idea blossomed into reality with a bevy of artists hopping on board when Hearn approached them. Ron Sexsmith, Alan Doyle, Mary Margaret O’Hara and Men At Work vocalist Colin Hay are just some of the contributors to the roughly 16-minute romp. Meanwhile, actor Kiefer Sutherland and Barenaked Ladies created a promotional video for the release.
“I started dreaming and fantasizing about different people singing the different tunes and sections,” Hearn says. “Once I started that I said to myself instead of just thinking about this for fun why don’t I actually do it? It was a cool way to collaborate and do something for fun. They (the contributors) said they love it when a project like this comes along. For me, it reminded me that you can get so caught up in your career and the industry and this and that that sometimes you can just do something just for the fun of it.”
Hearn says the medley took some time but after going through it and recording it himself once he began breaking it down into sections. After getting a list of people and waiting for “schedules aligned and the stars aligned” he began seeing the medley take shape.
He also says he has a particular favourite part which is at the tail end of the medley.
“We had Michael Ray from Sun Ra Arkestra on the medley and there’s a moment right at the end of the medley where it sounds like you’re taking off into outer space,” he says. “You hear Michael Ray’s horn playing it, that’s my favourite part. That part could go on for an hour and I still couldn’t get enough of it.”
Perhaps the best-kept secret was how Hearn only approached MusiCounts when the project was completed. All proceeds from the release, sold for $15 each, go to the national charity assisting youth music programs and education across the country.
“I didn’t want to go into their office and try to describe it to them,” Hearn says. “I set up a meeting with them and then I played it for them. They were kind of flabbergasted and they asked what I wanted. I said, ‘Well I wanted to put it out as part of Record Store Day with all of the proceeds going to MusiCounts. But I don’t know how to make that happen.’ They said, ‘Well we have a direct link to Record Store Day.’”
Soon thereafter everything was arranged and saw Hearn holding in his hands the vinyl test pressing of the EP in his hands.
“It’s like a really amazing meal,” he says in describing holding the finished product. “You plan it and you prepare it and when it finally comes out of the oven it’s just perfect and it’s just right and delicious. I’m very proud of it and I’m very grateful for everyone helping out with it.”
Hearn says there might be a sequel to this effort down the road but nothing right now is confirmed. Much of it will depend on how well this EP/comic book is received before possibly venturing into a second part. However, he does admit that a certain four-legged “superhero” from ‘80s Canadian television could be included: The Littlest Hobo.
“I think we’re on the same page,” Hearn says.
Finally, Hearn’s love of The Incredible Hulk theme has continued over the years as his career bloomed, including working for years with the late rock icon Lou Reed. So did Hearn ever perform the theme for Reed, a musician known for a rather mercurial disposition at the best of times?
“Ah, no!” Hearn says after laughing at the notion, pausing briefly, replying, then laughing again.
Toronto residents can pick up a copy at Pop Music (581 Gerrard St. East) two Dead Dog Records locations (1209 Bloor St. West and 568 Church St.) and at Press Books, Coffee and Vinyl (2442 Danforth Ave.). A complete list nationally is available at www.recordstoredaycanada.ca