"Weird Al" Yankovich, March 18, 2004

 

Written by: Jason Perlman

 

Jason: So, Grammy Award winning yet again.
Al: How bout that?

 

Jason: How bout that? Does it ever get old? This is your third right?
Al: Yeah, but it’s my first since 1988 so, it was a huge thrill. I probably, it’s hard to say whether I enjoyed it more than winning my first Grammy, but I mean I certainly don’t take it for granted. I was extremely happy to win that one.

Jason: What inspires you today? Is there anything different that inspires you today to keep doing this for so long than when you first listened to Dr. Dimento and had your first crack at a spoof song?
Al: It’s a cliche. It’s the fans. I get such a kick by performing the songs live and getting the reaction from fans and it’s nice to have, it’s very gratifying to have that kind of reaction from people. If nobody appreciated what I was doing I wouldn’t feel compelled to keep doing it but I enjoy having my work enjoyed (laughing).

 

Jason: I remember growing up just outside Washington D.C. and listening to Dr. Dimento late at night on my radio when I was supposed to be in bed. You obviously have taken that kind of comedic music to a level that nobody else has. Do you have a reason for that?
Al: For taking it to that level?

 

Jason: Yeah. What have you done that nobody else can seem to do?
Al: It was an accident. I don’t know, it’s kinda hard to say. I mean, I don’t know how I wound up in this unique niche but I don’t know why. I know a lot of people are doing the kind of music that I’m doing but I’m the only one over the last couple of decades that had the kind of visibility that I’ve enjoyed. I guess part of that is because the quality of the work and part of it is just plain old dumb luck. I’m the kind of guy that gets associated with funny music and parodies. If you do a search for my name on one of those file sharing Web sites, you’ll find a lot of songs that aren’t by me because people think, 'It’s a comedy or it’s a parody, it must be Weird Al.' Well no, not every single parody is ever written by me.

 

Jason: I remember one of my best friends in high school was an accordion player and...
Al: I’m so sorry.

 

Jason: His mom put him through it. I remember we had a high school talent show and between every act he had to go out on stage by himself and play the accordion for all the bands and it scarred him a bit.
Al: I bet, poor guy.

Jason: Growing up with that instrument, there’s obviously a mystique and aurora around it that isn’t always positive. What was childhood like for Weird Al to get to where your at today? Obviously had to be somewhat humorous at times.
Al: Yeah, we’re not going into the whole Behind the Music...(laughing)...bad story. I mean just playing the accordion did not make me the most popular kid in high school, which I think my mom was thinking when she gave me lessons. 'Oh, we’ll give him accordion lessons, everybody will love him.'


On the contrary. I found it very difficult to assimilate to my friends in band. I wanted to play rock music like the other kids my age when I was like thirteen years old and for some reason nobody found the need to have an accordion player in the mix. So, there were a lot of lonely nights playing by myself and I picked up a lot of songs and I played by ear mostly. I had lessons for about three years and then I decided to kind of learn on my own because they weren’t teaching rock songs in accordion schools, they were teaching classical music and folk, basically. So I learned to play by ear and I played along with songs on the radio and my friends thought I was really funny playing Blue Oyster Cult on the accordion, ya know..whew..what an idiot. But I learned back then that people think it’s funny to hear rock and roll music on the accordion so maybe I’ll work that angle.

 

Jason: You mentioned a little bit ago that you can search for ‘Weird Al’ on a file sharing site and get all these parody’s that are not yours. I think a lot of people think that all you do is parodies. How much more gratifying is it to make your own song versus a parody of a song or is it the same gratification just a bit different?
Al: It is different. I enjoy both. Writing the parody’s is actually a lot easier than the originals. There’s a lot more work that is put into the original compositions. It’s ironic because the parodies are the ones that tend to become the hits and get the recognition. I think a lot of the hardcore fans like the originals as much, if not more so, than the parodies. A lot of the parodies are based on the style of an artist. We call them style parodies. They’re not actually parodies of a recognizable composition but they sound like they might have been written by a particular artist. That requires a lot of energy and research and a real love of that artist to kind of pick apart their style and define their little idiosyncrasies and quirks and their musical signatures and incorporate that into a new composition without being overly plagiarizing.

Jason: You have a new CD out and you also have a DVD coming out. From the time you started in the business till now obviously technology has just gone through the roof. It seems everyday there is something new that you can do. How have you been able to keep up pace with that?
Al: That’s what everybody in the industry has to do that. The advent of DVDs, people need to step up and release their product in a format that people are going to welcome. With the advent now of downloading, actual CDs are getting a little harder to sell. I think everybody in the industry has been hit pretty hard by the free downloading thing over the last couple of years and one way artists, including myself, try to combat that is to give added value to the CD. Like on 'Poodle Hat' not only do you get the songs but you get a 10-minute pseudo-documentary of me showing actual home movie clips and there’s a photo gallery. There’s a lot of added value for actually buying the CD. I think the movie industry is sort of starting to become like the music industry in that a lot of people will go into the store to buy a DVD and will look at it and go, 'Oh...it’s just a movie.' Who wants that? People are looking for what else comes with it.