Quint chats with Weird Al Yankovic about his newest album!!!
Published at: Oct. 2, 2006, 2:02 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. There have been many moments during my time here at AICN where I have had to take a step back and go, "Do you know where you are? Do you know who you just talked to?" This is one of those times. And that moment came during the coding of the below interview. Due to my recent travels abroad, I couldn't do this interview with Weird Al Yankovic over the phone, but he graciously agreed to answer some questions via email.
So, even through my first read-through of the answers it didn't hit me. I grew up with this guy's music. I don't know if I remember a time before Weird Al was making me laugh. UHF is one of my favorite movies... I worship this guy. As I was coding the below I was just like, "Holy Crap! This is Weird Al Yankovic! Answering my questions! Bizarre!"
His new work is just as strong as his best '80s and '90s stuff as well. How about that? Still going strong after all these years. Anyway, enjoy the chat we had about his newest release, STRAIGHT OUTTA LYNWOOD!
QUINT: Are you finding it easier or harder to spoof music today than you did in the '80s and '90s? Why is it easier or harder?
WEIRD AL: Really, the hardest part these days is just figuring out which songs are the hits. The music industry has gotten so segmented and compartmentalized over the last few decades that there are fewer and fewer crossover hits, and I think fewer real superstars as well.
QUINT: I'm quite a fan of your original work and loved WEASEL STOMPING DAY on the new album. Is the process for an original song radically different from working off of an established song?
WEIRD AL: Well, obviously, when I’m doing an original song I have to write the music as well as the lyrics, so there’s a lot more work involved. I have to research the style of music I’ve chosen, write the song, make a demo, chart everything out, rehearse with the band, make more demos, and make a thousand other creative decisions in the studio. When I’m doing a parody, it’s a little different - I write some lyrics and then just hand CDs out to the guys in the band and say, “Here, learn this!”
QUINT: What catches your ear about a song that makes you want to play with it?
WEIRD AL: There’s nothing really tangible or definable that I can point to – but if a song has a strong musical or lyrical hook… especially one that starts to get annoying after the 100th time you hear it… then I think it’s a pretty strong candidate.
QUINT: Was there a particular song you went after for the new album that you couldn't get okayed by the artists, labels or legal teams?
WEIRD AL: I did a parody of “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt called “You’re Pitiful” – it was originally supposed to be the lead single on Straight Outta Lynwood. James had given it his blessing and we had a release date set, and then his label (Atlantic Records) found out about it and told me that I couldn’t release the parody on my album under any circumstances. Now, I always respect the wishes of artists, but since it was just a bunch of suits – who were going against their own artist’s wishes, mind you – I had no problem offering the song as a free download on weirdal.com. It was a viral worldwide hit within a few days.
QUINT: I know TRAPPED IN A CLOSET is a rather easy target, but I loved what you did with TRAPPED IN A DRIVE-THRU. Did you want to play with the song for any particular reason?
WEIRD AL: I knew it would be a real challenge because “Trapped In The Closet” was so convoluted and ridiculous already – it seemed like R. Kelly was doing an R&B version of one of my songs – but I also knew I could have a lot of fun it. I decided to do a song about… well, the most mundane, trivial stuff I could think of, and just elevate it to the level of high drama. I could have easily gone on for 12 chapters, but really… I think an 11-minute parody is plenty long enough.
QUINT: I think many readers of this site will be able to relate to WHITE AND NERDY. I personally really dig when you take a hard rap song and make it about the safest white cliches you can find. Is that particular switch around something you love to do with your music?
WEIRD AL: Yeah, I guess I’ve done that a couple times already… “It’s All About The Pentiums” and “Amish Paradise” come to mind. Whenever I do gangsta rap songs, I tend to pick subject matter that’s diametrically opposed to the original intent of the song.
QUINT: Being a movie geek, I particularly love your movie themed songs, like YODA, JURASSIC PARK and SPIDER-MAN. Can we expect more movie geek music in the future?
WEIRD AL: I would think so. I didn’t do a movie-themed parody on the new album just because I wanted to give it a rest. I don’t want to become too predictable.
QUINT: Speaking of movies, UHF is one of my all time favorites. I have a one-sheet for the flick, the DVD and a couple of battered, well-run VHS copies. Any chance to see you return to movies again? We'd love to see another flick in the vain of UHF...
WEIRD AL: Thanks. I’d certainly love to do more movies, but I haven’t had the time (or the inclination, really) to sit down and write another script. And I’d be more than happy to appear in other people’s movies, but the scripts that have filtered down to me are… well, I’ll just be nice and say they “aren’t a good creative match.” Maybe I’m just too set in my ways, but I’d rather not work at all than be in something crappy.
Pretty cool, eh? I ended begging him to come out to the Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin to do a combo UHF screening/CD signing. He said he'd definitely look into it as he loves Austin. How cool would that be? UHF with the man himself? Anyway, hope you guys dug the interview. These email interviews are a lot less spontaneous and don't have the energy of a one on one, but I'm happy to have spoken with Weird Al and thank him and Sony for taking the time to speak with us.