In early 2000, I did a massive in-depth interview with Dave Thomas, of SCTVand Bob & Doug McKenzie fame (which you can read HERE). During that conversation, I mentioned to Dave that I had attempted to arrange an interview with Rick Moranis earlier in the year, and encountered one of the most intimidating yet courteous declines I’d ever had when Rick answered my query with a phone call in which I essentially had to pitch him why the interview was necessary. I also had to explain the internet and the emerging field of online journalism.
Yes, I was utterly intimidated.
Nothing in Rick’s performances would have prepared me for the deep (deep!) voiced, utterly serious, level-headed, and most of all inquisitive person that rang me up that day, who finished our brief chat with a polite decline of the interview, as he felt he had nothing to talk about or promote.
Now, I’ve never wanted to do an interview just to pimp a product. I’ve always tried (when not doing favors or assignments) to chat with people I genuinely have an interest in conversing with, as I don’t believe in prepared, iron-clad questions. I want to have a conversation with someone. I think that’s far more interesting to them, to me, and to whoever might be reading the interview in the future. So I knew that Rick’s belief that he had nothing to offer in an interview was wrongheaded. Convincing him, however, would be an uphill battle.
It was during that aforementioned interview with Dave Thomas that I tried again, asking Dave if he would make my case to Rick.
Rick wouldn’t budge.
A couple of years later, I tried again, and contacted Rick’s agent about setting up an interview.
I got my second phone call from Rick, in which he again declined to be interviewed - very nicely - but for pretty much the same reasons.
I had to admire a man that, when most people would simply let a request go unanswered or have their representative deliver the news, actually picked up a phone and said, “I’m really sorry, but I just don’t feel like doing this.”
Towards the end of 2005, though, there were rumblings that Rick was going to be releasing a country music album through an independent online label. Sensing that this might finally provide the ostensible rationale for Rick to finally do an interview, I contacted the label to see if he might be interested in having a chat to promote the album.
And he was interested.
And I was delighted.
Even though the interview was set up to discuss the album, I’ve never let something like that hinder me. I always do an interview with the idea that, once I’m on the phone, a natural conversation has the potential to go anywhere.
And my conversation with Rick did touch on many things.
Since then, I’ve kept in touch with Rick, and still find him to be nice, warm, intelligent, and utterly intimidating. Just less so than before.
Anyway, here’s my interview with Rick, which you’ll find below the original introduction…
I’d be surprised to encounter anyone who’s turned on a TV or watched a film in the past 20 years, but didn’t know actor/writer/comedian Rick Moranis. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ll know Rick from SCTV (where he co-created the legendary McKenzie Brothers with Dave Thomas), Ghostbusters, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, and many more flicks through the years (including a guilty fave of mine, My Blue Heaven).
I got a chance to chat with Rick about his career, including his Grammy nominated album, The Agoraphobic Cowboy.
Before you go thinking it’s some comedy album - it’s not. Yes, many of the songs are funny and the wordplay definitely comes from a brilliant comic mind, but it’s more in the vein of Randy Newman or Harry Nilsson - and trust me, that’s strong praise. With a country flair and a solid backing band, Moranis has recorded an album that never becomes kitsch or a novelty, but stands on its own two feet as a legitimately enjoyable listen. For more information, check out his official website at www.RickMoranis.com.
KEN PLUME: Anybody who goes to your website can read the background on why you decided to do the album. You’ve spent the past 15 years raising your kids and have managed to take work when you wanted to take work. What made the timing right to do a project like this?
RICK MORANIS: I don’t know that I would even guess whether the timing was right or not. I didn’t go into it thinking like that. I just decided to do it because I’d written the songs and got the kind of feedback on it that led me to meet and play the stuff for some musicians, particularly Tony Sherr, who wanted to record it, so I did it. I wasn’t even thinking about the endgame on it, so I didn’t have any kind of career plan in mind. But then again I never approach career like that. I just took opportunities as they came up and decided whether to do things based on the merits of the individual project.
PLUME: Would you say there was a certain amount of serendipity in how this project came together?
MORANIS: I think my whole career has been serendipitous.
PLUME: Have you at any point ever had a plan or direction for yourself?
MORANIS: I don’t think I’ve ever had a plan or direction for myself. I’ve actually made decisions based more on what I didn’t want to do than what I wanted to do.
PLUME: What would be one of the first decisions you made based on something you didn’t want to do?
MORANIS: Based on something I didn’t want to do? I was offered… when was that? Hang on, hang on… I can’t remember exactly when it was, after which radio job, but after a radio job, a deejay job at a Toronto radio station that I left. And again, I can’t remember which one it was so I’m not sure whether I was terminated or I quit, but I was offered another job that paid well and was in Toronto and was a morning show and high profile, and I decided to not do it. Because I knew that it was time to move on.
PLUME: What would be the reason you were terminated?
MORANIS: When I was at CFTR doing the all-night show at the tender age of 19, there was a management change. And what’s often the case with radio is, when a management change comes in, they change personnel. That’s not limited to radio, of course. There’s many companies that change personnel when managers change.
PLUME: What was the initial appeal of radio for you?
MORANIS: Well, I got a job spinning records for deejays when I was in high school, so the appeal was the fact that it was paying $3.00 an hour and it was an unusual and very exciting and fun job.
PLUME: When you became professional, you would change your playlist according to what the station was playing at the time. But what would you say your musical tastes as a teenager were at that period, when you went into radio? Your own personal musical taste?
MORANIS: At that time my personal musical taste was a variety of contemporary music. Obviously the dominance of what was called rock at that time, having been exposed to all the music of the 60’s from the British Invasion, Motown and the California sound of the Beach Boys. That led to discovering some of the more interesting bands that were coming out of England and the States that were doing what became known as album-oriented rock. The AOR format. Be it Led Zeppelin or Genesis or American bands like Spirit, or the early Steve Miller Band. Jethro Tull. I guess that’s back in the British category, Jethro Tull, right?
MORANIS: But I also had been exposed to middle-of-the-road music as a young kid because my mother always had a middle-of-the-road radio station on in the house. So I was aware of Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett. I recognized a lot of the standards. Some showtunes. I also had an uncle who listened to a lot of classical and opera when I was a little kid, and whenever I visited their house, he had records on of various symphonies and also some Broadway musicals. So I had a lot of exposure. But being a teenager who had an electric guitar and had a pretty lousy rock band I could call my own, I was for the most part into rock and roll.
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