Ray Wall first caught many people’s attention when he release “The Fantastic Four Song” in back in 2005. It sold well, even outranking the official movie soundtrack music on iTunes. In his pursuit of creating a “comic book rock” genre, he’s gone on to write and record songs about the X-Men, the Watchmen, the Joker, and a string of other characters. His latest effort is an animated music video for his Spider-Man song (embedded below). We caught up with Wall to get some background on the song itself, as well as hints of what else he’s got in the works.
FreakSugar: Now, the “Spider-Man Song” is one of your earlier superhero rock songs, isn’t it? What can you tell me about the song’s origin?
Ray Wall: Yes, this was almost the first tune I wrote after “The FF Song.” The melody, first verse, and chords came into my head one morning after just thinking about it. When I went to bed that night I dreamed the chorus to the song. I really don’t know why, but almost half of my songs originate while I sleep or are flashes in my head where I hear chunks of the music and lyrics. But that doesn’t matter. Writing a Spider-Man song was going to be inevitable for me anyway because he’s my favorite character. My band and I recorded the track at my undergraduate school Ithaca College.
FS: We’ve talked before about how you’re frequently aiming to create iconic songs for some of these great characters, but Spidey’s already got argueably the most iconic theme song of any superhero this side of Batman. What are you musically trying to do differently and distinctly from that version?
RW: In the case of this song, it’s possibly like the analogy of comparing Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man. What is different or more distinct there? I try not to argue about that. Job one is to understand and be true to the character and they both do this well. In other words, there’s room for interpretation and it’s the same in music. But we did not want to re-invent the wheel here. All of the great super-hero theme songs are simple and to the point, and above all, fun and memorable. This particular song is trying to work like that in a retro-pop way which is a bit like the musical style when Spidey debuted in 1962. Since the original is so iconic, there’s a tip of the hat lyrically when we sing “he can do what a spider can” but also a little more personalization with “he might just save your life.” Mostly though we name what it is that Spidey actually does, “wall-crawling, web-shooting, roof-jumping, thread-swinging”, all the things you wanted to do when you were a kid, lol.
FS: The big development on the song now is the release of an animated video for it. It’s not your first music video, but it’s your first animated one. Why did you opt for that route this time?
RW: When you’re talking super-heroes and comics, animation is at some point an expectation. I think the simplicity of the tune would not be very interesting as a live band video but could be fascinating if we actually saw what Spider-Man can do when set to music. My animation partner Shawn Sheehan is not only a master of his craft to do this, but has brought an amazing quality of surprise and humor to portraying both the music and Spider-Man. Also, I have been thinking for a while about a concept I call “musical comic books” and this project is a small step in that direction. So you will see other animations from us in the future.
FS: The character designs and overall visuals are distinct, but they make several references to the 1967 cartoon. But the inclusion of characters that weren’t even around back then show a more contemporary edge. How do you strike your balance between the older work that might be unfamiliar to newer fans, and the newer material that older fans might not care for?
RW: I guess we basically do that by ignoring it, lol. The personal event that spun my head around was when I had to explain in detail to a younger fan who Gwen Stacy was. He, of course, grew up with Mary Jane. Will it be the case that kids today won’t recognize Mary Jane later because of the current Spider-Man movies? I hear what you’re saying but at the end of the day Spider-Man is not rocket science. As a former President might say, “It’s the web-shooter, stupid!” Both Marvel and DC have tried to bridge the legacy vs. contemporary gap by creating new universes but we only have about three minutes in a song to get it all out.
FS: Beyond the “Spider-Man Song”, you’re working on other superhero rock pieces. What else do you have in the works?
RW: Right now we are kind of just working in the Batcave making demos of many of the songs I have written in preparation for a full CD. Most of our friends and contacts for the band are in the comics world but that will be moving hopefully more into the music industry soon. The aim for the CD is to represent a full spread of DC and Marvel characters with both short and longer form works. Mostly rock, but you may see an unexpected style or two from us. And yes, there will be at least one super-hero love song, lol.
Further updates for the Ray Wall Band can be found at their Facebook page. And , for the rest of the summer, everybody who joins can get a free download of the song. More information on animator Shawn Sheehan can be found on his website.