| Issue #3 of Grand Royal magazine featuring a huge interview with Weird Al Yankovic, Russell Simins, Mike D and appearances by many others.
Text / Article Scans from yerdoingreat.wordpress.com.
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Large enough to claim the title of best selling novelty record artist of all time, Al is not simply some guy in loud clothes and fucked up hair who abuses puns. His retooled versions of smash hits and incessant polka medleys have earned him folklore hero status, yet he’s pretty humble about it. Instead he chooses to use his clout and circulation to spread a simple message to all earth people: don’t take yourself too seriously.
So the decision to do a the Grand Royal Interview with Al was easy and unanimous. Our primary concern: what worthy opponent could we send in to face off with a legend like Al? Enter 6-foot-plus-while-slouching Russell Simins, indie rock beat-keeper and certified Yankovic superfan. Russell’s extensive knowledge of all things Al—which includes a library of Weird Al documents, recordings and videos—not to mention an unparalelled enthusiasm for this project, lured Mike D into the foray as co-interviewer. Mike even went so far as purchase a new Radio Shack tape recorder and shoulder holster for the event. Originally scheduled in late 1995, the first interview attempt was a fucking disaster due to an email snafu that had Mike and Russell cooling down after a session on the court, oblivious to the fact that clear across town, Al was glued to a booth in a Hawaiian restaurant, boiling over after waiting an hour for his no-show inquisitors (a scene recreated here by famed courtroom illustrator Ben Pjorn).
It took nearly five months of coaxing before Al’s keepers relented with our numerous requests to reschedule, finally agreeing to an interview to coincide with the onslaught of publicity generated by the release of Al’s 16th record, Bad Hair Day. We waited until Russell was in town with the Yoko Ono IMA tour, booked the Tea Room in the posh Beverly Hills Hotel as ground zero and added the final ingredient into the mix: Spike Jonze, in deep cover as an obsessed and seriously injured Weird Al fanatic.
Russell: I just saw your new video (“Amish Paradise”) for the first time. It’s pretty cool. It’s the shit, of course, again.
Al: (giggles) Thanks.
Russell: But, you had no mustache, so it kinda threw me off. You had no mustache for the ‘Ricky’ video, too.
Al: Yeah, but that was like, ’83. We did the shots of me as myself early in the morning when I’m playing with my band, then I shaved it off and I did all the stuff as me as Ricky Ricardo. It was a big decision. My manager, actually, was pretty dead set against me shaving my mustache because…
Russell: Its your identity.
Al: Yeah, I’m kinda like this walking cartoon—I’m like this icon, in a way—and, ahh, it would throw everybody’s view of the world off-balance if I appeared in public without a mustache. I was pretty dedicated to making this a realistic video, and, ah, the Amish don’t have mustaches.
Russell: That’s the thing. You seem to go waaay out, and just, every detail. I mean, it’s pretty impressive.
[in the background] Mike: I’ll have aaah…chamomile tea.
Russell: I’m a, we’re all, both huge fans, yeah I’ll just have mineral water, actually.
AI: Yeah. same.
Mike: Yeah. I’ll have a mineral water as well, in addition. Yeah [coughs. Long pause as they look over menu]. You hungry Russell?
Russell: Mmmnot really.
Mike: You ate already? I gotta eat.
Mike: Wonder what the vegetable gazpacho, I’ll find out if that has no, ah, no funky business. But angel hair pompadoro, (laughs), I think I could have that.
Russell: That angel hair pompadoro here is amazing. I had that last night.
Mike: The pompadoro was working?
Russell: Yeahyeahyeahyeah. It’s really good.
Mike: The pimpo-doro?
Russell: Yeah, it came complete with a pompadour.
Al [to Mike]: You’re a vegetarian too. That’s (trails off…)
Russell: So yeah, you’re a vegetarian, so what’s up with the burger in “Like a Surgeon”?
Mike: Yeah, I was, see, I was wondering about that. Did you have to have a real burger?
Russell: You see burgers in a lot of things you do. There’s the—
Al: —Actually, I only went vegetarian like four or five years ago.
Russell: Okay, so it actually was a real burger…
Al: —Yeah, in fact, when I’m eating Twinkie-wiener sandwiches in my movie, UHF—
Russell: There you go—
Al: — those were actual, Twinkle-wieners there.
Russell: That’s a fine sandwich.
Russell: Anyway, what’s always fascinating to me, is how detailed and how meticulous you are with everything you do. The moves in the Michael Jackson stuff. And the moves in the James Brown stuff. And the clothes and the makeup, for like, the Nirvana stuff. I mean, how long did it take you to get those moves down, the Michael Jackson moves?
Al: I’m a total non-dancer, so it took a while to even approximate anything resembling the original moves. And for some of those videos, like for the Michael Jackson and James Brown videos, I did work with a choreographer. But I had storyboarded everything fairly tightly in advance. I said I want to copy this shot exactly and this shot exactly.
Russell: You sorta get it down, but you also, like, don’t have it down. Which kinda makes it cool.
Al: Well, some of the humor also comes from that. I mean, I’m really trying hard to copy the moves, but because I’m like this “awkward white guy” trying to be cool…I mean, that’s…
Russell: So, would you consider yourself to be obsequious? (dramatic pause)
Al: (inhales sharply) Heeheeheehee.
Russell (laughing): Like, like like….
Mike: That’s the new learned, the new word we’ve learned.
Russell: You know, obsequious?
Al: No. Kinda snooty?
Mike & Russell: No.
Mike: Kind of needy, pretentiously…nice.
Russell: A yes-man.
Mike: A yes-man is obsequious.
Russell: Like in The Compteat Al video, when you go to visit Michael Jackson…
Mike: That’s genius (Al laughs).
Russell: You go visit him, and you’re begging him. Do you do that with everybody?
Al: Beg and plead? I’m pretty good at groveling. But, ah, I don’t do that all the time. I mean. Most of the time when I approach an artist, or my manager approaches an artist, at this point, they usually take it as a compliment, like, as a sign that they’ve reached a certain level in the pop community.
Russell: Did you meet Michael Jackson before you did that, or did you just talk to him, or have someone talk to him?
Al: Not before, that was all done over the phone when we were getting permission. But I’ve met him a few times since then. And he’s been very nice, he, ah—
Russell: —He likes the videos?
Al: —He got the joke, yeah, and he likes the videos, and, ah, he’s been a fan, which has helped a lot.
Mike: Any plans to return to any of his material?
Al: I’ve kind of decided not to at this point. Just because, for one thing, I’ve done him twice already, and that’s becoming kind of an albatross around my neck that people think of me as the guy that does the Michael Jackson parody.
Al: Plus, I mean, it would be kind of difficult to do a Michael Jackson parody without making reference to, ahh, recent events in his life—
Al: —and I really don’t want to do that.
Russell: So you like all the stuff you parody? I mean…
Al: Well…you know. I wouldn’t say that. I tend to pick songs I like to parody because I know that I’m gonna to be living with them for a long period of time. I can’t say that I’m a big fan of Milli Vanilli, Tiffany, or New Kids On The Block, but, they just, I kinda just have to ride what’s currently popular.
Russell: Tiffany’s “I Think I’m a Clone Now”, right?
Mike: But, you’re a big fan of music. I’ve talked to people who have seen you at shows fairly often, in the area and all.
Mike: Like, someone mentioned to me you were at the REM show?
Al: Yeah. Big REM fan.
Mike: Cool. And then also, I have a friend who’s friends with Liz Phair.
Al: Uh huh—I got to meet her at the show!
Mike: Yeah. you got to meet her. So how was that?
Al: That was great. I love Liz Phair too. That was really…that was a kick.
Mike: So, no big Liz Phair plans in the future?
Al: I don’t know. I was considering using her in the—
Russell:—Yo, we’re talking about marriage. (Mike and Russell crack up)
Al: Oh, that kind of plans. I don’t know. Is she available? I heard she was actually married.
Mike: Oh yeah, she did get married.
Al: So that kinda killed it for me. ‘Cause, you know….but let me know if things aren’t working out and I’ll look into it.
Russell: What do you think of Debbie Gibson teaming up with the Circle Jerks?
Al (guffaws): I didn’t hear about that. What’s she doing?
Russell: She did some show at CBGB’s with them—
Al:—That’s very cool.
Mike (to waitress): Can we order some food? I’ll have the angel hair with tomato. Ali, pompadoro, as you might like to call it.
Russell: —She stage dove and was in the Post. The picture—
Mike: —Al, do you want to angel hair?
Al: Yeah, please.
Mike: That has no meat. right?
Al: Oh, that’s very cool. My opinion of her just…
Russell: Uhmm, I’m just gonna have…this is fine.
Mike: Do you have a small mixed salad?
Waitress: The musculin salad. It has balsamic vinaigrette on it.
Mike: Okay, yeah, I’ll have that as well.
Russell: We saw, I saw, the billboard for Bad Hair Day yesterday. You got the Coolio hair. Did you talk to Coolio at all?
Al: Well, let me tell you the whole story there. This has been a very controversial thing and I haven’t really talked about this yet with anybody.
Russell: Okay, great.
Al: But what happened was, I was under the impression Coolio was fine with the song. I went to my record company late last year and said, ‘I want to do a parody of “Gangsta’s Paradise” and so, do you guys have any kind of connections with Coolio? And so it turns out, a couple of people from the record company were going to a party that Coolio was going to be at. They told me after the party, they had talked to him about it and he was one with the whole idea. So based on that I started recording a song. In the middle of production, I hear that Coolio’s management is not thrilled with the whole idea. But my record company is saying, “Well, Coolio’s one with it, so we’ll iron things out.”
Russell: They’re not thrilled about the actual idea or the fact that you’re just doing a parody of it all?
Al: Both. Well, I think mostly that I was doing a parody. But I was told that Coolio was still fine with it and that my record company would still iron it out and not to worry about it. And then I did the American Music Awards with him, I co-presented with him, me with the Coolio-type hair. And Coolio was great, he was a terrific sport and we got along great. And I figured, you know, everything’s going to work out. And then, the night of the Grammy® Awards, Coolio wins for Best Rap album. And…
Russell: Good choice. (Mike and Russell laugh).
Al: …and backstage, a reporter asks him, you know, “So, what do you think of this new Weird Al parody, ‘Amish Paradise’?” and Coolio just kinda goes off on him, and says, “I didn’t approve it, didn’t sanction that. I didn’t appreciate him desecrating my song like that. He…
Russell: Went off.
AI: And that was the first that I had heard of it, ’cause I was completely under the impression that Coolio was fine with it. I don’t mind that managers don’t like it. Because, you know—
Russell: They’re managers.
Al: I’m used to managers getting in the way and being over-protective and not really representing their client. I’ve had more than one occasion where a manager says “Oh, my client would never be interested in this” and then I talk to the artist and they go “Oh, I’d love it!” I’ve since written Coolio a very humble and sincere letter of apology and explained everything from my perspective.
Russell: And, did he respond?
Al: No, no and don’t really expect him to. But I hope he cools down a little bit ’cause that’s really sad that that happened.
Russell: So, is your life at risk?
Mike: How about your relationship with LV, though? Now that’s a whole different matter. I heard you guys are pretty…
Al: I was trying to get him in the video but I guess that didn’t happen.
Russell: Anyway, so what are your fans like? What kinda people come to your shows?
AI: It’s mostly middle-aged, Japanese women. I don’t know what it is about that demographic (titters).
Russell: Is it really?
Mike: Like, no matter where you play.
Russell: Is it always middle-aged Japanese wo-
AT THIS INSTANT, SPIKE MAKES HIS ENTRANCE INTO THE OTHERWISE DESERTED TEA ROOM SECTION OF THE RESTAURANT. DRESSED IN A CONSERVATIVE SUIT, TIE, MATT SHARP “REM” SERIES EYEGLASSES AND A NECK BRACE, SPIKE APPEARS TO HAVE STEPPED RIGHT OUT OF A LARRY PARKER COMMERCIAL. HE TAKES THE GROUP OF MIKE, AL AND RUSSELL BY SURPRISE.
Spike: —Excuse me, Mr. Yankovich?
Spike: Oh HI! How are you?
Al: Good, how you doing?
Al: Very nice to meet you.
Spike: My name’s Tamara Yasoo. It’s, a, I just noticed you, I’m sorry to intrude.
Al: No, not at all.
Spike: I see you’re having drinks. Uhm, well, good, good work.
AI: Well thank you very much.
Spike: I appreciate all your work, you know. It’s really funny.
Al: Thank you.
Spike: It’s really really good.
Al: Thank you.
Spike: But, ah, (dramatic increase in volume) I’LL LET YOU GET BACK TO IT.
Al: Okay. Take care. (pause until Spike has left hearing range). That’s my core audience, right there (laughter).
Russell: Oh yeah, that’s your core audience? (laughing) Damn, what happened to him?
Mike: Most of your audience has neck braces or physical injuries?
Al (laughing delightedly): I don’t know why that is. From too much head banging.
Russell: Do you have a lot of people with neck braces at your shows?
Al: Yeah, there’s a lot of head banging at the shows. You know.
Russell: What kind of venues do you do, you know, how big? The Garden, Madison Square Garden?
Al (laughing): Well. Ohh.
AI: Actually, I was offered to open for Duran Duran at Madison Square Garden, like back in ’84, ’85—
Mike: No way.
Russell: Oh MAN.
Al: —and I turned it down. Because I had some other previous engagement.
Russell: See, those guys do have good taste. I’ve always loved Duran Duran.
Al: That would have been kind of, fun, except I would’ve been pelted by 12-year-old girls. That would’ve been too traumatic for me.
Mike: Has there been a lot of moshing at your shows lately? Has that been a problem?
Al: Actually, there is moshing sometimes when I do the Nirvana takeoff. Kinda bizarre.
Russell: When you do that, you don’t dress up…
Al: Actually, we do, yeah.
Russell: So you do the whole, full-on wardrobe change.
Al: The live shows are pretty theatrical, we do a lot of costume changes.
Russell: When’s your next show?
Al: We start touring the end of May. I don’t know when we play LA next, sometime this summer I guess.
Russell: Do you do “Living With A Hernia” live?
Al: We used to. We don’t do that any more.
Mike: Aww, you gotta bring that back. Come on!
Russell: Will you start doing it? You don’t know. James Brown is where it’s at now. His wife just died. I mean, that’s the ONE.
Mike: “Living With A Hernia,” honestly, that video, I’d have to say I’m a big fan.
Al: Oh thanks. I used to do it with the whole, the fake teeth and the wig and the cape, the whole bit.
Russell: Oh man. See. Now those moves, I mean…that’s hard shit to learn. (Al laughs)
Mike: Did you ever have any contact with, ah, James Brown?
Al: We’re on the same record label, actually, Scotti Brothers.
Russell: You did Wheel of Fortune with him.
Al: That’s right! Yeah.
Russell: Little Richard was on there too.
Mike: Okay, I need to hear about, slow down, ’cause I’m…so you’re on the same label with James. So you’re able, do actually have contact with him?
Al: I don’t see him that much, I’ve run into him a couple of times. The last time was Wheel of Fortune. I gotta tell the Wheel of Fortune story.
Russell: Go go go go! Just tell it!
Al: That was the main reason I decided to do Wheel of Fortune. ‘Cause I figured, aaah, I don’t want to be on a game show. But it was like, to be on Wheel of Fortune with James Brown and Little Richard, how surrealistic is that, you know?
Russell: How did they come up with the three of you? (long pause) Some genius…. (laughter)
Mike: Did they approach you like that? Did they ask, “How would you like to be on a game show with James Brown and Little Richard?”
Mike: They just came to you with it already thought out.
Al: Yeah. Actually. They were two of the people, actually they mentioned several people, and those were two of them, and it wound up we were all on the same show, which was great. During the taping of the show, I remember looking over and seeing James Brown buying a vowel, and thinking, “Wow, this is amazing!”
Russell: Of course.
Al: But, when James Brown first came on the set, he was late. Everybody else had kinda gone through the rehearsals and James came through with his whole entourage after we were already in the green room. And they said, “Well, James, we kinda wanna run you through the show a little bit, and make sure you’re familiar, and make sure you know how to play the game.” So they put him in front of the podium, and they spin the wheel, and James goes, “Ah, gimme aaaaa gimme…. aaaaaa…uhhhmnnm…” And they go, “You have to hurry James. this is a show.” (Russell begins laughing) “Gimme, a, Gimme a A!” And they go, “No James, when you spin the wheel, you have to pick a consonant.” And he goes, “Oh, okay. Europe!”
Russell: Europe, (laughing) yeah, yeah, he said that.
Mike: That was on the air?
Al: Yeah. I don’t think it was. It was in the rehearsal.
Mike: Oh my god.
Russell: Wasn’t he like… kept picking the same letters…
Al (laughing): Yeah. “No, you already said R, James.”
Russell: So wait, so he’s seen the “Living With a Hernia” video?
Al: I would have to assume so. Although…
Russell: You guys didn’t talk about it, though.
Al: No, I ran into him after the video was out and basically just said “Hi” to him. I didn’t want to go, “So what’d ya think? What’d ya think?”
Russell: Are they all, like the list of hernias instead of the states and cities…(laughs) that’s so genius, AI. I mean, I don’t wanna fawn, but that’s the shit. It’s a really really funny video. Really, really funny.
Al: Thank you.
Russell: Also, as far as James Brown goes. I read part of that in that Ben is Dead article.
Al: Oh, you read that story. Yeah.
Russell: Now, those girls…I mean…
Mike: Well, they’re nice girls. I don’t want to create…
Russell: All due credit to Ben is Dead, they’re friends of ours, but, I mean, you sung them “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo” for them and they didn’t think you were singing it right (Al explodes laughing)
Mike: I know. We couldn’t believe it. They didn’t know who Rick Derringer was.
Russell: And they actually said to you, “Are you singing it right?” (Al still laughing) So what’s up with that? You didn’t leave at that moment?
Al (winding down laughter): Ahh. I give ‘em the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they weren’t listening to the radio that summer or something.
Russell: I mean, come on. “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo.”
Mike: I mean, yeah.
Russell: So, have you ever met Dan Hartman?
Al: Yeah, did he die recently?
Russell: He died?
Al: No, I shouldn’t even say that, maybe I’m confusing him…
Mike: No, he did.
Russell: Dan Hartman died recently?
Mike [to waitress]: Yeah. Do you have any, oh, fresh pepper?
Russell: As far as I know, didn’t he…
Mike: Dan Hartman wrote “Living with, ah, -Living in America.”
Russell: Yeah, that’s the thing. He wrote “Living in America,” and he did “Instant Replay“. But didn’t he dress up a lot in women’s clothing and stuff…or should we not talk about that?
Al: I’m not sure if I ever met him or not and I certainly don’t know that about him.
Russell: Okay, okay. He’s always kind of an interesting figure in the pop music scene. (pause as Al’s salad is peppered) Do you watch MTV all the time?
Al: Yes I do (chuckles). It’s like wallpaper, yeah. It’s a little frustrating when they go through their hour stretches where they don’t play any videos at all.
Mike: I know. Haven’t you found that it’s weird that increasingly MTV is no longer about even about playing music videos? It’s about this (pause) programming they do.
Al: Some of the programming I actually like a lot, but I prefer to have a channel that plays music videos.
Russell: I hear they’re splitting off to like, MTV2 or something?
Al: Yeah, they’re having an alternative, kind of more alternative, kind of station.
Russell: Do you like Beavis and Butthead?
Al: (mouth full) Ohm, actually, I do. It’s kind of a guilty pleasure and I don’t like to admit that I like them, but I actually do.
Al: Well (laughs), because, I mean, it’s like one of those things, it’s so stupid, it’s funny…but, you know…
Russell: Well come on, isn’t that what you’re all about?
Al: It’s true. I was actually talking to Mike Judge about the possibility of having Beavis and Butthead…(swallows food)…on the album.
Russell: That’s what I was getting to.
Al: I was definitely considering having them do a prank phone call in the middle of my song “Phony Calls” and Mike was just too crazed. He’s in the middle of doing the Beavis and Butthead movie. Luckily we were about to get The Simpsons cleared, which, I never thought we would ’cause that’s another major franchise.
Russell: Did you, on the, is it “Alternative Polka,” is that the one you have on the new record?
Al: (quietly) Yeah.
Russell: You have one of those on every record, right?
Al: Just about.
Russell: But you have, now, “Loser” is on the “Alternative Polka”, right?
Al: (chewing) Mmm-hmm.
Russell: I mean, every record seems to have polka something. The original one was “Polkas on 45″.
Russell: Now it’s “Alternative Polka.” Then there was “The Rolling Stones Polka.”
Al: And, on the previous album, I did “Bohemian Polka” which was one song, in a polka style. Yeah, I really try and have a concept with the polkas, but I don’t know if it really even needs one.
Russell: Do you, ah, do people send you lots of suggestions?
Al: Well, they try to. But I really discourage that on a number of levels because I’ve got more than enough warped ideas on my own. Plus, there’s always the chance that somebody will send an idea that I already thought of, and they’ll think, “Hey, I gave Al that idea, he stole it from me.”
Russell: I heard yesterday for the first time that you did “Gump/Lump” and, ah, I thought of that idea.
Al (through a mouthful of food): You see! You see! And a lot of ideas are fairly obvious and there’s only so many parody concepts out there, so…
Russell: Now, Frankie Yankovic, I know is not your dad. It just so happens that your name is Yankovic, and, your father’s name was what? Nick? So, how did the accordion thing happen for you?
Al: I think, partly because of Frankie Yankovic. People associated our surname with polka music and my parents had a lot of his old 78 rpm records in the garage. And I guess they figured there should be at least one more accordion-playing Yankovic in the world…Hello!
Russell: This is my girlfriend Jenna, she’s—
Al: —Hey Jenna, how are you? Al—
Russell: —also a huge fan of yours.
Jenna: Good to meet you. That’s what I told him. When I was in the fourth or fifth grade.
Russell: She discovered you on the Doctor Demento show. She was a freaky little kid. (Al laughs)
Jenna: Yes I was…Sorry, was I… I’m curious.
Russell: She wants to listen in. Anyway, oh…
Al: And my parents wanted me to be really popular with the girls in high school so they thought I should take accordion lessons.
Russell: Okay, so what happened? Did you get the girls?
Al: Hasn’t worked yet.
Russell: Well, you gotta uses bigger accordion.
Al: That’s true. I wasn’t thinkin’.
Russell: You use a smaller accordion, you don’t use the big…
Al: No, because, you know, the real adult size accordions are pretty big.
Mike: They’re pretty difficult to play as well.
Al: Yeah. They’re hard to jump around with on stage, so I stay with the mid-sized. or children’s- version. Actually, I just got a MIDI-accordion, which I’ll be using on the road this year.
Mike: But now, if you use the MIDI-accordion, do you still rock the lederhosen?
Al: We haven’t used lederhosen on stage for a while. We actually wore it on stage during the “Polka Party” tour. But that stuff is…you know, not that comfortable.
Russell: But the band is actually a pretty great polka band. I mean, the band you have, you guys rock.
Mike: Also, the lederhosen are pretty great polka dress. You shouldn’t be abandoning it. I mean, I know it might be a little bit uncomfortable, but think of it in the long haul.
Russell: That’s the thing, you gotta bring back the lederhosen and you gotta bring back the James Brown. Please. Do you do the video on stage kinda thing? Do you do the thing in the classroom where you show all the different hemias and stuff?
Al: Ahh, we didn’t…was that…for James Brown, we…let’s see, the whole band was dressed in tuxedos. See, what we do on stage, when you have a production number like that, we’ll show a clip on the big screen for like a minute, minute and half, while we do a quick change. Then we come back out, then we’ll, we’ll have…hey!
THE CONVERSATION IS INTERRUPTED ONCE AGAIN BY SPIKE, WHO HAS RETURNED CLUTCHING A T4 “IDIOT” CAMERA. HE ARRANGES A GROUP POSE OF MIKE AND RUSSELL IN FRONT OF A BRIGHTLY LIT WINDOW.
Spike: Oh, sorry to bother you again. I just got my brother’s camera.
Al: Is it, okay.
Spike: I’m sorry to intrude, thank you very much. Can you move there? (Al bursts into laughter).
Russell: Is your neck okay? What happened to your neck, actually?
Spike: I, I…
Russell: What’s you’re name again?
Spike: My name’s Tamara, Yasoo. (Mike lets out a gasping sound)
Russell: Hey, what happened to you neck?
Spike: My dad’s boat. I fell off of it.
Al: Were you in the water at the time?
Mike: Starboard…or, the, ah, the other side?
Jenna: Port. (a group photo is organized)
Mike: Just look through the thing and take the picture, right?
Russell: Let me get in here, too…(camera focuses and clicks)…The flash didn’t go off.
Mike: Let’s get one of Mr Yasoo here.
Spike: Oh, great. Thank you.
Al: Thanks for being obsequious.
Al: Thanks for being obsequious.
Spike: Oh, thank you (Russell and Al laugh).
Mike: Could you take a picture of all of us?
Spike: Okay. Oh, wait, oh, it’s not working (several shots are fired off). Are you ready?
Al: Could you take a picture of me and Jenna?
Russell: Yeah, there you go (more chuckling).
Spike: I can get these processed. Are you guys staying here? I’ll drop them off.
Al: No, you guys aren’t here either, are you? Or are you?
Russell: I’m here.
Spike: Oh, Russell? I’ll drop them off at your front counter.
Russell: That’s great.
Spike: (pause) What’s your room number? (everyone balks, laughing)
Russell: I’m, my room’s at the pool.
Mike: You can just leave them. He’s got a tent by the pool.
Spike: Okay, okay. I’ll talk to you guys later.
Al: Forgot what I was talking about…
Jenna: Do you know him?
Al: We go way back.
Russell: Hold on. Is he taking more pictures? I hope he doesn’t hurt himself.
Russell: Alright, so tell us about the show. Because I’ve never seen a live Al show. You were saying…?
Al: So we show some kind of clip on a big screen, while we do a quick change. For example, when we do James Brown, the whole band would change into tuxedos. And I would change into the, the James Brown…
Russell: Do you do the hair thing too?
Al: Yeah, we do wigs, the whole bit.
Russell: So, those are all just wigs, even the ‘Ricky” thing?
Al: Ricky was a wig, yeah. I mean, sometimes it’s my real hair. Like, ah, “Bedrock Anthem” with the dreadlocks. That was my real hair. For the Crash Test Dummies…
Russell: We gotta get to “Bedrock Anthem” ’cause that’s another one that just blows me away.
Russell: So when we come to see the shows, you’re going to be doing ‘Fat” live, and you’re gong to be all fat?
Al: Mmm hmm.
Russell: Oh man, that’s the greatest show on earth!
Mike: See, you say that lederhosen are uncomfortable? (laughter) What about the fat suit!?
Russell: Lederhosen just don’t turn on the girls as much, I guess.
Mike: Do you ever rock the lederhosen just in a social setting? For a lunch or a date or something?
Mike: I’m telling you, this summer, ’96. Mark my words.
Al: I’m gonna rock the lederhosen.
Russell: So, what’s up with the Hawaiian shirts?
Al: Uhm, I’m not really sure how that started. I just happen to wear them a lot in my own personal life and then on one tour, that was on the contract rider. My manger asked for one gaudy-looking Hawaiian shirt for every show that I did. That was my version of no brown M&Ms. And I just wound up with a whole closet full of Hawaiian shirts.
Russell: Okay, so speaking of closets full of stuff, I saw the Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous episode that you were on with Robin Leach and it’s the only time I’ve…no one else has seen, except for her (Jenna). We saw it together.
Mike: Is that how you guys got together?
Russell: Yeah, we actually consummated over that show. Now, you got your Vans on right now.
Al: Mmm hmm.
Russell: There was a closet full of Vans.
Al: The shoe closet.
Russell: Now first, tell us a little bit about your encounter with Robin Leach. What was that like?
Al: Oh, it was a brief encounter. Most of the interview, well, actually it was with someone else. It was one of those things where somebody else does the interview and Robin shows up two weeks after the interview and says “We talked to Al…”
Russell: So, he’s not really there? He’s not as much on the scene as it seems?
Al: Not as much. No.
Russell: So, if I remember correctly, you were just going off about all your shoes. I wish I could see…could we get a copy of that? I would love to get a copy of that. Do you know anyone who has a copy of that?
AI: I, I…
Russell: You don’t care, but that’s like…
Al: No, I probably have a VHS copy somewhere. But. ah…
Russell: No, it was just really funny. I’m a very big fan of that show, anyway.
Mike: But, how was it hosting Robin Leach for the brief moment that you did?
Al: He seemed like a cool guy. We talked about Zsa Zsa Gabor because I was at Zsa Zsa Gabor’s house for the shoot and she was a bit upset because the camera crew was late or something and she had broken one of her own vases and she was trying to blame it on the camera crew. Some kind of insanity going on there.
Russell: Some kind of insanity going on at Zsa Zsa Gabor’s house?
Al: Imagine that.
Russell: Let’s finish with your wardrobe here, ’cause I know all the girls out there are crazy to know about this. Now, you always wear the pants.
Al (laughs): When I’m public, yeah.
Russell: No, (laughing) but these kind of pants. They’re sort of tight, a little bit tight. And then you always have the Vans on and the crazy socks.
Al: They’re just kind of generic pants. I mean, they’re just jeans.
Russell: Yeah, okay. Generic jeans.
Al: I’m wearing kinda the crazy socks today. These I got in Berkeley. The tie-dye vibe.
Russell: Can we get a picture of that? Where’s our photographer? (Mike laughs) He’s gone.
Jenna: I have one.
Russell: Can we get a picture of Al showing us his sock. Do you mind?
Russell: Yeah, she’s got a camera.
Jenne: Color. (pause as Jenna focuses on Al, contorting like a yoga master to show off his socks)
Russell: Hurry up!
Jenna: Hold on. It’s hard.
Russell: You ever wear any of the new Vans?
Al: Well, every couple of years I just go down to the warehouse and say “Hey Steve (Van Doren), I need some more shoes,” and get the wheelbarrow and like (laughs) get a couple more.
Mike: Do you use their fabric or do you get them custom made?
Al: No. I know you can do that but every pair of Vans I have is off the rack. We made some sequin versions of them for The Compleat Al a few years ago. They had some kind of gag shot where they show the shoes…
Al: Yeah. But yeah, most of them are just straight off the rack.
Russell: What’s…what do you think of Billy Corgan… (long pause as Al bites into a piece of bread) now that he’s bald?
Al (laughing): I think Billy’s pretty cool, actually.
Russell: Did you ever want to do anything of his?
Al: Well, actually that’s a good example of—
Russell: —Oh oh.
SPIKE INTERRUPTS AGAIN, THIS TIME FOR AN AUTOGRAPH AND MORE EXTREMELY NERVOUS CONVERSATION, WHICH HE IS UNABLE TO COMPLETE
Spike: My brother said I should get your autograph while you’re here.
Al: Okay. For your brother?
Spike: No, for me, actually.
Al: Do you do everything your brother tells you to do?
Spike: Oh, no. I just didn’t want you to think I did it on my own.
Al: Ah. Wouldn’t wanna think that. How do you spell your name again?
Spike: Tamra, T-A-M-R-A.
Spike: Yeah. Yasoo. Y-A-S-O.
Spike: Yeah. That’s nice handwriting.
Spike: Did you do that in school, too?
Al: Uhhmm, what? Write your name? (Russell cracks up)
Russell: Write your name? Go Al…
Spike: I meant, in that handwriting?
Al: Yes. This is how I write everything. Is that correct?
Spike: It’s pretty.
Al (sarcastically): Thank you.
Spike: I was just gonna ask you a quick question. I’ve watched all your videos and… (Spike starts to laugh)
Al: Yes, Tamara? (Spike is trying to catch his breath, laughing harder)
Russell (laughing): It’s outta control now.
Spike (laughing so hard now he’s moaning): Oh…
Russell (laughing): What?! Spit it out, Tamara. (Spike runs away from the table with tears in his eyes)
Jenna: It’s so mean to laugh at him.
Mike: That was the funniest thing I’ve seen in… (laughing)
Al: Now, what were we talking about?
Russell: Billy Corgan. You never wanted to do any of their new songs, the ‘Zero”, or…
Al: I was thinking about doing “Bullet”. I was gonna do “Despite my old age, I am still making minimum wage.” (everyone laughs)
Russell: See, you know what? I came up with that one too (laughs). I’m gonna get my lawyer on the phone…
Mike: No, actually, those were the original words that Billy wrote and he changed the lyric. (laughs)
Russell: What’s your take on rap and hip-hop? Do you like all that stuff? I know you did Coolio. That’s kind of a very commercial record.
Al: Yeah. I like it but I don’t know if I could…I mean, I like to mix it up with other kinds of music.
Russell: Are you into East coast or West coast rap?
Al: Hey, I don’t take sides, man. We’re all one community here.
Russell: Alright, Al.
Mike: What about Wu Tang Clan? Have you ever thought of, ah, collaborating?
Russell: ‘Cause if Coolio’s after you and you fuck around with the Wu Tang Clan, that’ll get really serious (laughter).
Mike: Wu Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with.
Russell: Wu Tang Clan would do more than threaten you.
Al: Thanks for the warning.
Russell: We’ve already asked you if you’re obsequious, right?
Russell: And you said…
Al: I…I…did I give you an answer to that one? Am I obsequious? I am rarely obsequious.
Al: That was a high point in my life, too.
Russell: So did you ever hang out with Joan Jett, or was that also just like, business?
Al: I’ve never really hung out with her. I’ve met her like once or twice, briefly, at some award show.
Russell: Just ’cause I met her and I jammed with her once, and she was great. She’s great. She’s really funny. She smoked a lot of pot (AI laughs) which we probably shouldn’t talk about, but it is Grand Royal, after all. We incriminate everybody in this magazine. Let’s talk about some old stuff. We wanna talk about Wendy Carlos.
Mike: Yeah. “Peter And The Wolf’. ‘Cause we’re also doing a thing in this issue on the Moog and on some of the great Moog players and we’re interested to know how that collaboration came to be, and…
Al: That was ’87 or ’88, something like that. It was awhile ago. That was basically CBS Masterworks, which is the classical division at CBS. They put us together. They wanted me to do “Peter And The Wolf” and they thought Wendy would be a good match. They wanted to do really all sorts of far out things that they thought a more standard, traditional kind of conductor-slash-composer wouldn’t be interested in. Wendy was great. She had a terrific sense of humor and obviously, ah, was just an amazing synthesizer player.
Russell: Did you talk at all about her life?
Al: Not too much. I mean, it was just…I didn’t want to go there, you know?
Russell: I understand.
Mike: Yeah but he’s played on so many great records too, as a session player.
Mike: Did you ask her about that?
Al: Mmmm. We didn’t talk much about that. I was a fan of hers back when she was Walter. In fact I think she had all her old gold records changed. She had the plaques changed from Walter to Wendy.
Al: Did she do Clockwork Orange? I think she worked with Kubrick a lot.
Russell: Yeah, she worked with Kubrick—
(UNBEKNOWNST TO AL, RUSSELL HAS ARRANGED FOR YOKO ONO AND SEAN LENNON TO PASS BY THE TABLE AT THE EXACT MOMENT THAT AL EXPLAINS HIS ATTEMPTS TO PARODY THE BEATLES. THE PLAN WAS TO SEE HOW COOLY AL REACTED WHEN THINGS REALLY GOT WEIRD. THE INSTANT AFTER THE SUBJECT OF KUBRICK COMES UP, RUSSELL SIGHTS SEAN LENNON MAKING HIS WAY TOWARD THEM AND KNOWS YOKO CAN’T BE FAR BEHIND. RUSSELL GIVES SEAN THE SUBTLE NOD WHILE NOT-SO-SUBTLY STEERING THE CONVERSATION TO THE BEATLES. KEEP IN MIND ALL OF THIS HAPPENS IN AN INSTANT)
Russell: —Oh! “Free As A Bird”, actually. Did you want to do “Free As A Bird”?
Al: Yes I did. (astounded pause) Did anybody tell you about this? You’re just guessing?
Russell: What happened?
Al: I figured we’d have a good shot at it because I knew that Paul McCartney actually liked me. Like, 1984, I met Paul McCartney and he was, “So when you gonna do one of my songs?” So I kept that in the back of my mind and years later when Guns n’ Roses had a hit with “Live And Let Die”, I called Paul and said I wanted to do a parody called “Chicken Pot Pie”. And Paul said, “Well, if there’s anything else, I’d love for you to do it, but Linda and I are such vegetarians that we don’t want to condone the eating of animal flesh.”
Mike: Is this before…
Russell (casually): Hey, isn’t that Yoko Ono over there? Speaking of “Free As A Bird.”
ACROSS THE ROOM, YOKO ONO GLIDES BY LOOKING MAJESTIC AND ALOOF. AT FIRST AL MERELY GLANCES IN THAT DIRECTION, ASSUMING IT’S MERELY A WOMAN WHO BEARS A PASSING RESEMBLANCE TO THE LEGENDARY SINGER. AFTER A MARTY FELDMAN-ESQE EYE-POPPING DOUBLETAKE, AL REALIZES IT IS YOKO. YOU CAN HEAR THE SOUND OF BOTH OF AL’S KNEES BANGING THE TABLE AS HE LEAPS UP TO OFFER HIS HAND TO HER AND INTRODUCES HIMSELF IN A VOICE THAT HAS RISEN BY SEVERAL OCTAVES…
Yoko: How are you?
Russell: Yoko, hey.
Al: Pleasuretomeetyou. Al Yankovic. (something muttered)
(Yoko keeps moving toward the pool outside)
Al (astonished): Did you know that when you were asking me that question? (laughing, trying to compose himself) Okay, okay, okay…
Russell: Hey look, it’s Sean Lennon! (laughter)
Al: (laughing in disbelief, offers his hand) Sean, how are you?
Sean: Good. Good to see you.
Sean: What’s up?
Al: We’re just—
Sean: —I was going to the Crystal Ball room.
Mike: Have a good time over there.
Russell: Alright, see you guys later. (laughter) I feel sort of…l freaked out Al Yankovic. I can die now. (laughter) Uhm, should we spill the beans?
Mike: About how you knew about “Free As A Bird?”
Russell: Yeah. Well, actually. I’m touring with Yoko Ono.
Al: Oh, really.
Russell: Yeah, I’m playing drums with them.
Al: Oh, I didn’t know that. So tell me what she said.
Russell: I liked the way you go like this (does something which starts them laughing again).
Al: So what did she say? What did she say?
Russell: Nothing, I just was guessing. No really, they just mentioned that you wanted to do “Free As A Bird”.
Al: Yeah, “Gee I’m A Nerd” or whatever.
Russell: Yeah, but they didn’t want to do it (laughing). He’s still coming down from that one.
Al (laughing): I was thinking, yeah she does kinda look like…IT IS HER! (Russell. laughing and clapping) Ahhh, that was too…yeah, you definitely freaked me out there.
Russell: So, ah.
Al: That one didn’t make it to the album.
Russell: That was a great idea. So go ahead, keep telling us the story.
Al: Well, there’s not that much more to it. I mean—
Russell: —Now wait, isn’t that John Lennon? (everyone bursts into laughter. Al laughs so long and hard, he starts choking)
Mike: Does anyone here know how to practice the Heimlich maneuver?
Russell: There’s a thing, on, we can talk about Doctor Demento and he was one of your heroes and you sent him old tapes and stuff. Was the “My Bologna” first version of that, was that actually done in a bathroom?
Russell: Which is where you got the name, right?
Al: Yeah. It was done over the summer, on the college campus and we ran lines from the production room, across the hall, into the bathroom of the graphic arts building. Because they had very nice, warm, reverb sound in there. And, ah, put up a microphone, sat down in a chair with my accordion and did “My Bologna”. That was what started it all.
Russell: There you go. There you go. Do you still, is Doctor Demento still alive?
Al (defensive and embarrassed): Oh jeez! Yeah (laughs). He’s still on the air every week. I don’t know how many markets he’s in…
Russell: No, I know I know I know…I was just kidding.
Russell: So, now, there’s also something that really got me. It was seeing Steve Cropper….I want to talk about your band a little. There’s that kinda joke audition thing in your video and then all of a sudden Steve Cropper tums up. I mean, did you hang with Steve?
Al: Not too much before—
Russell: —Cause those guys are some of my heroes.
Al: I forget the connection, there. I think he’s either friends with Jay Levy, my manager, or more likely, Rob Weiss, who co-directed The Compleat Al and he’s like a major Hollywood producer. Actually, I think that was it. Was Steve Cropper in The Blues Brothers? ‘Cause Bob produced The Blues Brothers.
Russell: Okay, so you’re not friends with him or anything?
Al: Well, not close. But I’ve hung with him a little bit.
Mike: And what about Rick Derringer? (Derringer produced and played guitar on Al’s first six records, which is why the earlier “Rock n Roll Hootchie Koo” reference was….somethin’. -YDG ed.)
Russell: Isn’t he like, slowly shrinking? (laughter)
Al: I haven’t talked Rick for a couple years.
Al: He was an executive at CBS Records. CBS used to distribute all of Scotti Bros. products. He was one of our friends at the label.
Russell: You just got him to do it because he was some executive?
Al: He was a friend of ours at the label. I mean, I forget why exactly we wanted him to do it. We just thought it would be funny to have him singing “State of Shock”. The gag was Michael Jackson wasn’t going to a video for “State Of Shock”, so it was somebody at the label doing it for him. It was just basically him singing it with a cheesy drum track and some really cheesy lighting.
Russell: It’s amazingly funny. It seems like he’s reading the whole thing.
MAKING HIS FOURTH ENTRANCE IN TWENTY MINUTES, SPIKE HAS RECOVERED FROM HIS LAUGHING FIT AND IS READY TO DO BUSINESS. “THERE WAS SUCH A WEIRD ENERGY IN THE AIR AT THAT TABLE…I FELT LIKE I WAS THAT GUY, TAMARA. I HAD BECOME A DIFFERENT PERSON ALTOGETHER….” SPIKE SAID LATER.
Mike: Yasoo, you’re back.
Spike: I got a little freaked out.
Al: Oh. that’s okay. You see Yoko Ono walk by?
Spike: I did. That was really her?
Spike: (pause) Wow. (Al giggles) I was going to tell you, when I went upstairs I thought of a few ideas for you.
Al: You did?
Al: —Oh. this is great! (Russell and Mike laugh)
Spike: I’m, don’t…you’re probably going to think this Is dumb.
Al: Should we work you the deal before you tell me? Because I don’t want to hear a great idea and then we can’t come to a business arrangement.
Spike: Ohh, you’re teasing.
Al: Okay, you can tell me the idea first.
Spike: Okay. Well, you know that new song?
Al: Yeah! Oh. I (makes slapping sounds), what, what what is that? Shoot. No. Wait.
Spike: “Dead Man Walking”?
Al: Uh huh.
Spike: I was gonna do…say you (Spike begins breathing funny) you could one (breathing harder) called….(on the verge of losing it)…it might be too silly. (laughter)
Russell: That’s a good one—”It Might Be Too Silly.”
Spike: No no no. “Bread Man Walking?”
Al: “Bread Man Walking”?
Spike: Yeah and it’s a guy…
Al: He’s made out of bread?
Spike: No, he’s, he’s, yeah. Well, he’s either the Pillsbury dough guy? Or he’s a loaf of bread? (Al begins giggling) And they start it out like “Bread man walk-in’…” (Al starts cracking up, everyone follows)
Al: Yeah, “Bread Man Walking”? Are you kidding me? That’s entertainment there.
Spike: And I was gonna say then you’re handcuffed in shackles and bread suit—
Al: —In bread soup? What?
Spike: In a bread suit.
Al: In a bread suit. Oh, sorry. That makes more sense. In a bread suit.
Russell: I like bread soup.
Spike: And they’re gonna execute you. They’re gonna execute the bread.
Al: They’re gonna execute the bread.
Mike: Like burnt toast?
AI: Uh huh.
Spike: Yeah, that could be funny. (laughter) Uhm, then I had another one too.
Al: Oh, okay, alright.
Spike: Then I’ll let you get back to it. These are probably too silly for you. I don’t know. How silly is too silly for you?
Al: I don’t think there’s such a thing.
Spike: Really? Then this could be good. “Truth Or Dare” you know, the new song by Hootie and the Blowfish. It’s on TV?
Al: Uh huh. You a big Hootie fan?
Spike: You like Hootie?
Al: Oh, me and Hootie. Like this.
Spike: Have you met ‘em?
Al: Met them?
Al: I’m an honorary Blowfish!
Spike: Oh no. (pause) Whoa…okay. so their new song is “Truth Or Dare” and this would be really funny ’cause you could do the song. They’re in a bus station playing their acoustic guitars. You could do the one called “Shoe Repair”, where you’re in the bus station…
Al: Repairing shoes?
Spike: Yeah. You like it? (long pause, then Al responds in almost spooky, wacky tone of voice)
Al: Love it!
Al: Shoe. Repair. That’s amazing. What do you do for a living?
Spike: I’m actually doing, riding with a bike team. I’m on a bike team.
Al: I think you’re wasting your talents.
Spike: Really, nooo, nooo. You can have those. Those are yours, for keeps.
Al: For free?
Al: For nothing?
Spike: No, no problem.
Russell: Is your lawyer F. Lee Bailey?
Spike: Uhm. No.
Mike: F. Lee Jaily?
Spike: Will you sign my bread?
Al: I’d love to.
Spike: Okay, this is, if you ever do the “Bread Man Walking” I’ll have the piece of bread that started the whole thing.
Russell: That’s kind of a hard thing to sign, there. (Al carves into the bread with a pen)
Spike: You’re a machine. (pause) What nationality is Yankovic?
Spike: Is that true? ‘Cause my father’s Chinese.
Al: Here you go.
Spike: Thank you.
Al: You’re welcome.
Russell: Right, now we gotta let Al eat his food.
Spike: Oh, sorry.
Russell: Sorry, yeah.
Mike: You’ll just be over in that area. (Jenna laughs)
Spike: I’m, I’m gonna go back to…oh…to my room. But hopefully I will see you guys later. If you need anything. I’m listed—Yasoo.
Al: Okay. Thanks Yasoo.
Russell: We’ll be sure to call you.
Spike: I have those photos of you, too. Can I please take another photo of you guys?
Al: Suuuure. (laughter and focusing noises) Mmmm.
Russell: Anyway (laughter)….
Mike: I have a question, Al. This might be personal, but, as we’re coming off this disturbance, so it might be good. Now, with your hair, you’re talking about all these different outfits on tour. Have you ever considered going with the process, like Barry White? You know, ’cause right now, I’d have to say it’s kinda jehri curl lite in appearance.
Al: I’m for the natural look. A lot of people think this is a bad perm but it’s actually just bad hair.
Al: It’s the way it really is. I was dating a girl for awhile who wanted me to cut the sides of my hair really short and then, luckily for me, I read your last issue and I realized she wanted to mulletize me and (Jenna gasps) I cut that in the bud, nipped that in the bud.
Russell: What do you put in your hair?
Al: Water, usually (laughter). Water helps. Actually, I use a little macadamia nut oil now. That’s supposed to be good for it.
Mike: That’s good, that’s natural.
Russell: I use coconut oil, just a little bit.
Mike: Russell also uses coconut lotion.
Russell: Yeah, but that’s personal. (pause) Well, what else? You know those Yoda pillowcases? (Jenna moans)
Russell: Are those yours? Where’d you get those?
Al (disinterested): Where was that? Was that an album cover?
Russell: No. It’s in a video. It’s in “Midnight Star”.
Al: Oh, that. I don’t know where they got those. They just went crazy with the set design and just found all the tacky stuff they could.
Russell: Okay ’cause that’s pretty fresh stuff.
Russell: Especially your videos. Those props…those will be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame one day. Let’s hope so.
Mike: Speaking of videos. We’re friends with this guy Spike Jonze—
Al: —Oh! Love Spike Jonze. Yeah. (and the other one. -YDG ed.)
Mike: …and he just wanted to forward to you that he’s a big fan of your work.
Al: Are you serious?
Al: Oh man, that is so cool.
Russell: He’s a huge fan.
Mike: He just wanted to tell you that…’cause we work on our ideas with him.
Al: He’s brilliant. He’s doing a feature now?
Al: What’s that about?
Mike: It’s called Harold and the Purple Crayon. It’s based on, have you ever heard of that children’s book? I don’t know if you’re familiar with that…but anyway, it’s part animation, part real action.
Al: Oh. Looking forward to that.
Russell: Also, if you’ve ever wanted to do a Blues Explosion video…have you heard the Blues Explosion album? Alight, well, someday you might.
Mike: We can send you the Blues Explosion stuff.
Russell: Yeah, we’ll send you the Blues Explosion stuff. That’s the main band I’m in.
Al: (slyly) I know, you got the flavor.
Mike and Russell: Ahhhhhh. (Mike appears in the JSBX “Flavor” vid -YDG ed.)
Russell: He’s on it.
Mike: Why wasn’t there a Weird Al in the “Flavor” video?
Russell: Well, I wanted to. What we originally wanted to do… do you direct videos? Are you directing all these videos you’re doing?
Russell: Well, I was hitting up Chris Lombardi—
Mike: President of Matador (Records)—
Russell: …to get you to direct one of our videos and he was all into It but we just never got around to it.
Al: Oh, god. I’d love that. I’m trying to get that…’cause you know, I’ve directed most of my own videos. I’ve been directing videos for Jeff Foxworthy, which is cool. I mean, he sold a lot of records.
Russell: That’s the guy…
Al: “You know you’re a redneck…” Yeah. But yeah, I’d love to break into the more alternative/120 Minutes kinda genre and prove myself there.
Russell: Well, there’s this band called Butter coming out soon, which is a band that I’m in with the girls from Cibo Matto. You ever heard of that band? Anyway, we’re gonna come out on Grand Royal so maybe we’ll hit you up to direct our video.
Al: Oh, I’d love that.
Russell: WOW. (pause) But you have to be in it…(laughter)…dressed as James Brown. It’s good to know you’re available and that you’re into it. That’s pretty exciting.
Al: I probably wouldn’t be available until after I got off the road. though…
Russell: No no no. I know. I know.
Mike: Yeah. Russell, we don’t need to make any concrete plans (laughter).
Russell: I know it’s a limited agreement.
Mike: Russell doesn’t want to mean any disrespect to James Brown but I have to say, Russell is the hardest working man in show business right now. Playing with Yoko Ono and the Blues Explosion and Butter…. doing interviews for Grand Royal…
Russell: This is not work though. This is pure pleasure. (pause) Do you like Sting?
Al: Yeah. His album actually came out of the same day as mine, on Tuesday. So we’re battling it out on the charts.
Russell: How do your records do, generally?
Al: Thin. (hesitantly) They average between 500,000 and a million, usually. Some sell more, some sell less. (pause)
Mike: That’s good.
Russell: That’s all you need. So you’ve been on Letterman, right?
Al (sadly): Actually, no. Letterman and Saturday Night Live are two of my favorite shows and I have not been on either one.
Russell: Have you been asked, or…?
Al: I don’t think I’m Letterman’s cup of tea. I think he thinks I’m too silly, juvenile or something.
Russell: That word comes up a lot in this interview.
Al: Wacky! And zany, too.
Russell: Did you ever play CB’s?
Al: No (laughter). Are they still doing punk rock there?
Russell: Yeah, all the time. But it seems like bands who used to play CBGB’s can now fill up bigger clubs, just because the music is…whatever. More mainstream.
7:45pm With NO IDEA WHATSOEVER that in 15 minutes, they’re scheduled to conduct the interview of the century, Mike and Russell hit the courts.
Russell: What about Kurt? Did you ever talk to Kurt Cobain?
Al: Yeah, yeah I did. I talked to him, actually on the set of Saturday Night Live. ‘Cause Victoria Jackson is a friend of mine. I did UHF with her and I knew that Nirvana was gonna be performing that night, so I said, “Look if you ever get Kurt alone somewhere, put him on the phone with me ’cause I wanna ask him about a parody,”which she did. She called me up later in the day and said, “Uhhh, here’s Kurt Cobain,” and gave the phone to him. And I just said, “Hey, Kurt. Hi. It’s Al Yankovic. I just wanted to say I love your new album and I was wondering if I could do a parody of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’?” And he said something to effect of, “Well, is it gonna be about food or something?” “Well, no, it’s gonna be about how nobody can understand your lyrics.” And he said, “Oh. Well, that’s funny.” He was extremely cool.
Russell: That video’s pretty funny. That guy with the donut—is it a donut or a bagel?
Al: Ahh, I think it’s a donut.
Russell: It’s soo…fresh. (pause) So now, what about the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Do you like them?
Al: Yeah, I do.
Mike: How were they about the whole…did you ever talk to them personally?
Russell: Now that stuff came out before the Flintstones movie.
Russell: Which, whenever I show people my video library, I sit ‘em down, I always make sure I say, “You gotta remember, this stuff came out before the Flintstones movie. Just givin’ you props.”
Al: Thanks. In fact, when MTV started playing the video, they said “Well, this is from the upcoming Flintstones soundtrack…”
Russell: See, see…
Al: Which, actually it wound up being on the Flintstones soundtrack, but that was…
Mike: Really? Oh, I didn’t know that. So after it was already out and you’d done the video, they came to you.
Al: Yeah, like months later they said, “Hey, can we use this song in the soundtrack?” I’m like, sure…
Russell: So anyway, Red Hot Chili Peppers?
Al: Yeah. I was at the MTV awards and Anthony Keidis was sitting two chairs away from me so I leaned over to him and said, “Anthony, what do you think? Can I do a parody?” and he said, “Well, I gotta run it by the band, but ahhh, I guess so.”
Russell: That’s a pretty genius video.
Al: Thanks. Yeah, I had to go through hundreds of hours of Flintstones footage to get just the right little bits to use. And we found the exact same patch of nowhere that they shot their video on.
Russell: You found the same patch?
Al: We drove two and half hours out to Palmdale or wherever it was, and said, “I think that’s the bush they had…yeah.” (laughs)
Russell: How did you know even to go in that which direction? Did they tell you?
Mike: Location scouts.
Al: We talked to the original location scout.
Russell: That’s really really funny. So, I saw the “Amish Paradise” video today on MTV. Is it getting a lot of airplay?
Al: It seems to. It’s on like three or four times a day.
Russell: Florence Henderson, that’s pretty genius. How was it working with her?
Al: Oh, it was great. I mean, she was very professional, a great sense of humor. She showed up on the set and she said she was watching the “Gangster’s Paradise” video and she was getting the Michele Pfeiffer look down. She’s such a machine (laughs).
Al: She looks, you know…kinda like Michelle Pfeiffer, in her own Brady-like way.
Russell: Before we go, tell us some of your old favorite TV shows.
Al: Old favorites. Police Squad is my all time favorite.
Mike and Russell: Alright.
Al: Twilight Zone. Monty Python, SCTV…nothing much else comes immediately to mind. Any others that you wanna…
Russell: No, no. (pause) When’s the tour gonna start?
Al: Right now it’s tentatively scheduled for May 24th. We have our first gig already at Hershey Park, Pennsylvania.
Al: We’re talkin’ Amish Country. We’ll get the Amish contingency going in…
Russell: You gonna be wearing the full-on Amish outfit this tour?
Al: Oh yeah. sure.
Russell: What are you gonna do about the no mustache, though?
AI: Well, (weakly) I, I don’t know yet. We’ll probably just have to be an Amish with a mustache for that song.
Russell: That’s a great place to do a gig.
Al: Yeah, we wind up doing a lot of amusement parks, ’cause it’s kind of a family oriented show.
Russell: So that’s your audience?
Mike: Do you think there’ll be a lot of neck braces there? (laughter) It’s safe to assume…you figure it’s an amusement park—there could be.
AFTER GETTING JENNA TO TAKE PHOTOS OF AL GOOFING ON THE HOTEL TENNIS COURTS, MIKE AND RUSSELL RECONNOITER BACK TO RUSSELL’S ROOM TO DEBRIEF, WHERE THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE WAS WAITING ON THE HOTEL VOICE MAIL SYSTEM…
MESSAGE CENTER: …one fifteen, PM.
Wesley: How you doin’ Russell? This is, ah, Wesley Dalson from Game Records. Uhm, I’m not sure if you remember me or not, Russell, but I brought you a few things down to the Four Seasons. Ahhh, my artists rap on, uhhm, uh, a lot of Southeast Cartel albums, the Havoc and Prodigy albums. Ahh, I have a artist right now that’s rappin’ on one of the songs coming out on, uh, Ice-T’s new album. They, uh, created the concept and everything and they’re thinking about going with that one for the second single. And basically, I did a D.O. promo for 92.3 The Beat, with South Central Cartel featuring two of my artists. And that’s on the front of the tape as well as six songs off the album Mobile Nobel featuring Mr. West Side. I know you’re gonna like it. You can give me a call back, the number’s on there. Alright, Russell.
MESSAGE CENTER: End of message. To save message, press…
Weird Al is the archetypal great karaoke artist, in that he pushes the disciplined art of karaoke one step further: providing his own backing track and parodic lyrics while retaining the original melody. Beck has his own karaoke fixation, as manifested in both his talkin’-blues talk-over mic style and the numerous lyrical karaoke references that appear his Odelay DGC release. In the following exclusive, two worlds collide.
HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEW WEIRD AL ALBUM WHERE HE DOES A RENDITION OF “LOSER”?
No. He was gonna do a full-blown “Loser” and I was sort of not down with it at the time cos he asked me like two years ago. If he asked me now I’d say go for it, but at the time I felt like I wanted that song to die, like, a quiet death. He wrote back a letter saying, “If anyone can kill a song I can kill it.” So he ended up using it in the polka. Russell Blues Explosion is a huge Yankovic fan and we watched the videos at his house. I don’t think Russell will ever forgive me for not telling him do the full blown “I’m A Schmoozer”. I think the song is already a parody of itself. It’s got inherent parody.
THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT WHEN WEIRD AL DOES A SONG, IT VALIDATES THE SONG-WRITING ASPECT. LIKE IF AL CAN DO THIS TO DO, AND THE SONG STILL STANDS UP, THAT’S TESTAMENT TO A CERTAIN COMPETENCE IN THE ORIGINAL TUNESMITH.
I ALSO THINK OF WEIRD AL AS BEING THE ULTIMATE KARAOKE ARTIST, TAKING SONGS AND DOING HIS OWN LYRICAL INTERPRETATIONS OVER THE TRACKS. WHAT’S UP WITH YOUR KARAOKE FIXATION?
It all started from this Filipino family I used to live next door to who used to have these karaoke orgies every night where everyone in their extended family, which seemed to be half the street, would gather there and go all out on Burt Bacharach and Mariah Carey songs. Then when “Loser” was out and the album came out and we were touring, I was walking down Bourbon Street in New Orleans and there was a bunch of frat boys doing karaoke to “Loser” and now I have this little Radio Shack karaoke machine which has a built-in microphone with tape player, speaker and reverb. Reverb is essential for karaoke, really wet drench reverb. There’s a little grunge karaoke tape now. They’ve done a pretty good replication of the music.
ARE YOU HEIR TO THE HANSEN FRUIT JUICEFORTUNE?
Unsolved Mysteries: Russell Disses Dick
TUESDAY: Grand Royal‘s Corporate Activites Coordinator Fritz has painstakingly located Van Patten’s manager, who immediately asks “Will there be any compensation fee for Dick?” Fritz says no. The manager sounds doubtful that he’ll be available on such short notice but says he’ll “run it by Dick.”
WEDNESDAY: Amazingly, Dick Van Patten personally calls Grand Royal to explain he has prior conmitments for Thursday afternoon. Russell tells him to cancel them. After an exhaustive discussion, Dick offers to do a telephone interview on Friday at 5:00, the day AFTER the Al interview. Faced with no other choice, Russell agrees.
FRIDAY 5:00pm: Dick Van Patten waits for Russell’s phone call but Russell is locked in the Grand Royal conference room for a crucial Butter meeting. 5:32pm: Dick never receives the call.