For more than 25 years, “Weird Al” Yankovic has been making a living from his offbeat parodies of some of pop culture’s biggest hits. “Weird Al” has recorded 11 albums, two greatest hits albums, two compilation discs inspired by food and television, a soundtrack to his very own full-length film UHF, and with the commercial success of his newest album, “Weird Al” shows no signs of slowing down. But, perhaps the most ironic thing about Al’s novelty act is that his success has outlasted most of the artists he parodies, which may explain why some artists wear it as a badge of honor – Nirvana considered it a sign that they had finally made it in pop culture – while other artists, notably Prince, and some labels have adamantly refused.
The “Weird Al” Yankovic tour bus will be stopping at the Assembly Hall Friday, September. 28. Before he hits CU, buzz had the opportunity to chat with Al:
buzz: You’ve been touring regularly now for over 20 years, and I’m always amazed at how much energy you still bring to your live performances. What’s your secret?
Weird Al Yankovic: Well, for the 21 and 1/2 hours that I’m not on stage, I make sure that I’m kept in a vacuum-sealed hyperbaric chamber.
buzz: Amazing. Do you have a pre-show ritual?
Weird Al: Yeah, I stretch my legs and I warm up my voice, and time permitting, I sacrifice a goat.
buzz: Your newest album, Straight Outta Lynwood, is great, but specifically, the album art is hilarious. How gangster are you in real life and what was your inspiration for this?
Weird Al: Well, I am in fact straight out of Lynwood, and Lynwood is directly adjacent to Compton where a lot of famous rappers come from. Lynwood doesn’t get the props that Compton usually gets, and I just wanted to represent for my homies. I am, pretty much, an old school G and I just wanted to re-establish my street cred. I think I may have lost some of my street cred over the years, somehow.
buzz: Were you ever in any gangs?
Weird Al: I was in the AV Club.
buzz: Your last album, Poodle Hat, only had one video released while on Straight Outta Lynwood, 10 of your 12 songs have been made into videos. What is the reason for the increased promotion for Lynwood?
Weird Al: I wanted to make up for the lack of videos last time around, and also, when Poodle Hat came out, it was kind of a weird point in pop culture. I was really wondering whether or not it made sense to make music videos. Music videos are very expensive, and MTV virtually doesn’t play them anymore. I just didn’t know if it justified spending all that money to make a music video. But then, of course, Myspace and YouTube really took off, and the internet became like the new MTV and all of a sudden, even if MTV didn’t want to return your phone calls, you could get millions and millions off people to see your stuff on the Internet. On top of that, I decided to do a Dual Disc for this album so there’d be video content along with the music. I’ve always been a big fan of animation, and I thought, well, maybe I could get some of my animator friends to do videos for some of my original songs. I was able to get [some animators from Robot Chicken], and all of a sudden, I had a bunch of pretty cool videos for the album. It just seemed like now that there are portals to showcase these videos, it made more sense to go through the time, effort, and expense of making them.
buzz: Your first single off the album is “Don’t Download This Song.” Do you really not want people to download your songs?
Weird Al: [laughs] Well, obviously I’m being a little bit ironic. My own views on illegal music downloading are a little bit muddled. I do think peer-to-peer suppliers have taken a huge bite out of the record industry’s profits . and my profits as well. But at the same time, I think the RIAA has been very heavy-handed in their reaction to it. I think everybody’s got to find a happy medium so that the industry can still continue and yet people can shift to this new paradigm without being prosecuted the way they have been in the past.
buzz: You even drop some names of file sharing clients as well, so it did seem a little ironic.
Weird Al: It’s kind of funny. When we submitted the video to MTV and VH1, they actually forced them to bleep the names. Not the profanities – they had to bleep Kazaa and LimeWire like they were dirty words.
buzz: Were there any tracks that didn’t make the final cut of the album?
Weird Al: As you probably know, “You’re Pitiful” was originally intended to be on the album – the James Blunt parody – but because of my highly publicized dispute with Atlantic Records, it wound up being a free download instead of actually being on an album. But, that was the only thing that was left off.
buzz: You have three stops in Illinois, the second-most stops of any state. Do you like Illinois or do you love Illinois?
Weird Al: [laughs] I LOVE Illinois! But I really have very little-to-no say as to where I am, actually. I have a booking agent that books the tour, so I can’t take any credit for where I play. But I do love Illinois, some of my biggest fans are from there.
Don’t miss “Weird Al” Yankovic on Friday, Sept. 28 at the University of Illinois Assembly Hall. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets range from $32.50 to $27.50. UIUC student ticket price is $18.50 for all seats.