Interview with Weird Al Yankovic

Normally a career doing music parodies can be pretty short lived under normal circumstances. However nothing in Al's career has been that normal. He has managed to sustain himself now for close to two decades, largely though the help of video music channels, as radio rarely plays his material. Al recently got married and is doing quite well. During his stop here in 1999, I had the rare chance to interview him in his hotel room, the Penthouse Suite of the Hilton Hotel in Saint John, New Brunswick. After the interview, myself and the TV crew even gave him a ride to his gig at the Imperial Theatre. It was kind of like the Clapton/BBKing album" Riding with the King," as Al really is and always will be, the King of music Parodies.

GB - It's been four years since you last were in the province . What brings you back to New Brunswick?

WA - I think it was my booking agent who said "Al your playing New Brunswick". I'm just a puppet! (laughs) No I had great fun last time and im really glad to be back.

GB - Have you had a chance to sample some of the fine gourmet food in the province?

WA - Yes I went to the Subway and had a foot long veggie sandwich, it was good.

GB - You recently underwent laser eye surgery. Were you nervous about that?

WA- I wasn't nervous about it really. The most nervous I got was signing the papers before hand. They make you sign this huge legal document and there is stuff like "well nobody's gone blind from this operation YET... but if you do, you won't be MAD will you.... ok sign here" It was just a little creepy.

GB - Why did you call you latest album Running with Scissors?

WA - Well because all the good titles were taken really. The new album maybe is a little edger than some of the stuff i've done in the past. I kind of like the title and the visual gag on the album cover. It just seemed to work this time anyway.

GB- In you latest video "It's All About the Pentium's" there is a clip of a guy who looks somewhat like Bill Gates. I assume that is a look-a-like?

WA - Yes we put in a call to Bill and I guess he was busy that weekend. He was making a few billion dollars that day and didn't have time to do a little music video.

GB- How do you pick what songs you do as parodies?

WA - There is really no set rules. I actually pick songs that are very popular and have an identifiable musical or lyrical hook to them, and something that is just getting over played on the music video channels or the radio. Just something that is crying out for the Weird Al treatment.

GB - I read once that Prince, or what ever he is called now, has said no to you parodying any of his music, is that so?

WA -He's like the one guy who is constantly turning me down. It's pretty rare these days an artist will say no because a lot of artists really look at my parodies as a badge of honor. A sign they have actually made it in the music world. So actually the artists are usually flattered with I do a parody.

GB- I understand Coolio was not impressed with your "Amish Paradise" video?

WA -Well Coolio was the one unfortunate exception to the rule. There was just some kind of miss- communication going on and still to this day I'm not sure what happened. With that one exception every artist has been flattered and liked the parody and has gotten a kick out of it.

GB - Have you even met Michael Jackson and what was his reaction to your spoofs of his material?

WA - Yea I've met Michael a couple of times. He is really a nice guy, very sweet and he let me do two parodies "Eat It" and "Fat". He was great! He said he is a fan of my movie UHF and said he likes the videos.

GB - Have you been given any support from radio or has it been mostly music video channels?

WA - It's a little rare my songs will be added into normal rotation on radio. But certainly morning radio shows will play my material a lot. It does get played on the radio. It just doesn't get added next to Britney Spears and The Back Street Boys that often.

GB- If you were to make a movie based on your life who would you want to play you?

WA - Kenny G probably (laughs) I don't think my life story is quite that fascinating, it's a little quirky. I would like to do more features but im certain it wouldn't be autobiographical.

GB- I know you play a lot of smaller venues as well as the larger ones. Do you like the intimacy performing in smaller venues?

WA - I like doing both. The smaller venues have their charm. It's more intimate obviously. In a way the smaller venues are a little easier to do comedy and when you get to the Woodstock size crowds it's a little harder to go "hey how are you doing, where are you from."

GB-Has there ever been any times when you just didn't feel like going up on stage and being funny?

WA -The only time I can think of when it was difficult was a couple of years ago. I was in Victoria or Vancouver and I had a 104 degree temperature and the doctor actually told me not to go out on stage, and I went out anyway because I hate to disappoint a paying audience. They are out there in the seats already and I couldn't go out and say in not feeling very well, but I got through it. It was very difficult. It's tough for me not to do a show.

GB - I understand at one point into the show you do an East Indian chant type thing. Where did you learn to do that?

WA - Part of it is an East Indian kind of a chant which we throw in a lot of other odd things into it. I'm not sure what it means really. I guess it's some Indian progressive sounds, some tablo oriented stuff. A friend of mine was doing it once and I thought "Wow that's really cool, teach me how to do that". So I learned this little chant and added a few things to it. We do it as part of the live show and it always kind of impresses people because it's so bizarre as it comes out of no where.

GB - US Music station VH-1 recently did one of their famous "Behind the Music" shows on you. I was surprised how clean it was, as for most of those shows, they pick artists who have faced some terrible crisis?

WA - Yea. it was one of the first ones were there wasn't like this horrible downward spiral kind of life story. I guess it was a whole new direction for them. I tried as hard as I could to get addicted to drugs or like kill all my friends. I just didn't have time. I had a busy schedule.(laughs)

GB- What's coming up in the future for Weird Al?

WA - Were touring for the foreseeable future, well into the next millennium. Some time aside from that I'm doing some cable specials. There's a ninety minute one that's running on Much Music currently. And in the states VH-1 has been very supportive. They've done five specials with me. Two of which are going to air later next month and we have a home video coming out November twenty third called Weird Al Yankovic live, which ironically enough is a live concert with the new videos from the album attached to it, so that is my next release.

Interview conducted in Saint John, NB, Canada. October,1999

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