“Weird Al” Yankovic Interview
“Weird Al” Yankovic has a new box set, that spans his career. The box set features his fourteen studio albums, all remastered, plus an album of bonus tracks. It is currently available via a PledgeMusic drive until the end of February. The Washington Post recently conducted a very comprehensive interview with the parody singer. Here are some highlights:
During an interview in his living room, Yankovic has a confession. He’s in the process of re-ripping his entire CD collection because he’s read that FLAC files sound better than MP3s.
“My wife sometimes will question the sanity of it,” he says, laughing. “Like, ‘Are you sure this is worth your time?’ Hmm. Maybe.”
Suzanne Yankovic acknowledges that even she was caught by surprise. When a mutual friend suggested in 1999 that they go on a date, she declined at first.
“My immediate thought was that maybe he was going to be a little bit on and a little bit wacky, and I wasn’t sure if that would be a good fit,” she says now. “Then I thought about it and said, ‘How shallow of me.’?”
Did he ever do drugs?
No. Because his parents told him not to.
Did he ever consider ditching an instrument that only Lawrence Welk’s mother could love?
“It’s not like, ‘If I only got rid of the accordion, things would be perfect,’?” Yankovic says. “I was two years younger than everybody in my school. I didn’t go through puberty at the same time. I didn’t learn to drive at the same time. I was a straight-A student, a high school valedictorian. I was always the nerdy kid.”
To get permission, Yankovic called Kurt Cobain on the set of “Saturday Night Live,” where Nirvana was set to perform.
“One of the first things he said is, ‘Oh, is it going to be a song about food?’ Because at that point, I was sort of known as the guy that did food parodies,” Yankovic remembers. “I said, ‘Actually, it’s going to be a song about nobody can understand your lyrics.’ There was a brief pause on the line. Then he said, ‘Oh, that’s funny.’?”
In his video for “Smells Like Nirvana,” Yankovic donned a stringy wig and sang unintelligible lyrics as marbles spilled out of his mouth.
“‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was a powerful jam that changed the face of music,” says actor Jack Black, who considers Yankovic an inspiration for his work in his comedy rock duo Tenacious D. “It created this new genre and sort of destroyed hair metal. It was a big cultural moment, and he comes in and marble-mouths it. There’s something really important about laughing at things that take themselves too seriously.”
Coolio – “Amish Paradise”
Coolio hated Yankovic’s spoof on his song, “Gangsta’s Paradise”. “Okay, damn, if you’re going to make a parody of my song, can’t you do a better job?” Coolio says. “He killed ‘Beat It’ when he did ‘Eat It.’?”
Greg Kihn – “I Lost on Jeopardy”
“It was a vote of confidence,” says Greg Kihn, whose top-10 1983 hit, “Jeopardy,” was turned into “I Lost on Jeopardy” by Yankovic. “If you’re not well-enough known to be parodied, well, you’re just not well-enough known.”
Yankovic doesn’t have to get permission from artists. Parody is protected by the First Amendment. But Yankovic has built his reputation on respecting artists’ wishes.
“I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings,” Yankovic says. “I don’t want to be embroiled in any nastiness. That’s not how I live my life. I like everybody to be in on the joke and be happy for my success. I take pains not to burn bridges.”
Paul McCartney – “Chicken Pot Pie”
Paul McCartney dissuaded Yankovic from turning “Live and Let Die” into “Chicken Pot Pie.” The former Beatle, a vegetarian and animal rights activist, suggested “Tofu Pot Pie.” Somehow, that didn’t have the same ring to it.
In 2014, Yankovic decided that “Mandatory Fun” needed one more killer parody, and he focused on the Australian rapper’s hit “Fancy.” But he couldn’t get a response from Azalea’s manager.
So Yankovic flew from Los Angeles to Colorado and worked his way backstage for an Azalea concert. The singer’s road manager told him it wasn’t going to work. Azalea was too busy to chat. Perhaps he could try to see her in London when she played there in a few months. A few months? Yankovic could see his release deadline drifting away.
“Then I thought: ‘I’ve got to be proactive about this. Do something,’?” he says. “This is my one chance. And this is not like me, but basically as she was walking offstage I kind of jumped in front of her and said: ‘Iggy, hi. I’m “Weird Al” Yankovic and I’d love to do a parody of your song.’ She looked at me like a deer in headlights, as was befitting the occasion, and she said, ‘Oh, well, I would need to see the lyrics.’ And I said, ‘I happen to have them right here.’ I pulled them out of my pocket. She glanced at them for several seconds and then said, ‘Looks fine with me.’?”
Read the rest of this interview at this location.