"Weird Al" Yankovic interview

This interview was done by Wade Sherfick & Jeff Morris at 3:40 PM EST on November 15, 1992. It was intended for WQAX 100.3 cable FM, Bloomington, IN, but was never aired. WQAX ceased operations March 31, 1993.

Wade: Anyway, we're backstage with Al - "Weird Al" Yankovic - he's going to play the concert here at the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis, and you might want to mention where you're going next on tour. What's you next tour dates?
Al: Well, next I'm goin' home. This is the last stop on the tour.
Wade: This is an extra extension to the tour, isn't it? You weren't planning on coming here?
Al: Uh, heh heh. I wouldn't say that. But, we were on the road all summer long - we did the three month tour over the summer - and this is kind of like the addenda to the tour. This is just a one week little quick hop. We did four dates, and this is the fourth one, and now we're going home.
Wade: Well, I guess it's back to rest, or new material coming out soon?
Al: After Thanksgiving we're going back in the studio and start recording the next album.
Wade: Great! Any highlights, any preview of what that might be in detail? Any songs you're looking at?
Al: Well, I shouldn't really say right now. We're not doing the parodies yet. We're gonna go in and record all the originals first, and probably record the parodies sometime after the beginning of the year.
Wade: One thing I wanted to talk about is your college radio experience. We're a college radio station, Indiana University. I was wondering...some experiences you might have had with college radio. Any stories you might tell that we don't know about?
Jeff: Of course, there's the bathroom sessions!
Al: Um, yeah, the bathroom sessions where I recorded "My Bologna", across the hall from my campus radio station. That was my first record ever.
Jeff: What happened to your contract with Capitol?
Al: Well, I think they pretty much looked at me as like a one-joke wonder. They bought the rights to "My Bologna" for 500 bucks, and I basically had to pay them $1000 for the right to re-record it on my first album. So they really kind of put the screws in. But anyway, hey what else? Yeah, college radio's where I first got the name "Weird Al". The name "Weird Al" seemed appropriate because it was kind of like a Dr. Demento-inspired show, and it just kind of stuck.
Wade: You named yourself or did someone name you?
Al: You know, I'm not really sure. I think probably somebody was calling me "Weird Al" before I took it on professionally, but I couldn't swear to that. One thing that happened in college radio was, like the fourth time I was on the air, which almost made me give up radio forever: I was doing the midnight to three in the morning shift and it was raining really heavily that night, and somebody called up and said they were from the housing office and said that school was cancelled the next day because of the torrential rains. And, because I was so gullible, I announced it on the radio, and attendance was down, oh, 70% the next day. And of course it was a prank phone call, and it was all my fault, and the campus police came and tried to arrest me, and it was...at the time it wasn't so funny; I'm just starting to laugh about it now.
Wade: What were the call letters - what station were you at?
Al: It was KCPR, San Luis Obispo.
Wade: Are they still around now?
Al: Yeah they are. They're much more like a college radio station now than they were back when I was there. Then they were trying to be like a real radio station and play the hits, you know, follow format, and all the things that are anathema to real hard core college radio stations.
Wade: You ever visited back there, your alma mater, and make an appearance?
Al: Yeah, well, a couple times. I've dropped by to see how they were doing, and it was fun, it was like a little homecoming.
Wade: That's great. What about, let's see...One question I'm gonna ask, now, Rick Derringer, what happened to him? He didn't have anything to do with your last album, I was wondering did you beat him up or something?
Al: No, no, no, we didn't have a falling out or anything, no creative differences. It just got to the point where, you know, Rick produced my first six albums, and did a wonderful job, and I just got to the point where I felt like I could capably produce on my own, and now Rick's doing his own thing and I'm doing my own thing. I'd love to work with him at some point in the future, but for the time being, I think we're doing okay.
Wade: And another thing, I've heard that you wanted to do a parody of "Black or White" by Michael Jackson, but he wouldn't let you do it this time, is that true? What I heard was you were waiting for the Michael Jackson album to come out just so you could pick one of the songs and then...is that what happened?
Al: Yeah, well, yes and no, I mean, I was, at one point, waiting for the Michael Jackson album to come out, and it just kept getting postponed and postponed, and by the time it came out, you know, I wasn't sure if that was the right thing to do or not. Michael was having second thoughts about it, and I was having second thoughts about it. Part of me didn't want to do Michael for a third time and go back to the "Well, once again..." And shortly thereafter, Nirvana came out, and that seemed just a lot more hip and different and a whole different direction. It just seemed fresher, so I decided to go that way.
Jeff: Did you actually write the parody of "Black or White", and then he turned it down, or...?
Al: Um, yeah, yeah I did.
Wade: Can you tell us what it was going to be?
Al: Oh, I could, but I'd rather not.
Jeff: Oh, okay. And I heard that Prince turned you down, too. Have you written several songs, or was that just one time and you just...?
Al: Well we keep calling him back every couple years to ask if he has a sense of humor yet, and he hasn't so far.
Jeff: So have you written several Prince songs?
Al: Well, I wrote one a long time ago, and since then I've come up with ideas. I learned long ago that you...
Jeff: ...check first.
Al: Yeah, you check first. You don't go through all the trouble of writing a song if they don't have a sense of humor in the first place.
Jeff: Well, "Buckingham Blues", is that supposed to be a parody of "Jack and Diane"?
Al: You know, you're really digging deep on this, uh...
Wade: Feel free not to...
Al: No no no, that's refreshing because...
Wade: We're trying to give you questions you haven't been asked before.
Al: Very good, I'm impressed. That actually used to be a parody of "Jack and Diane", and I changed it substantially to make it into an original. But, yeah, the original incarnation of that was a parody of "Jack and Diane". And at the time, John Cougar Mellencamp told me that they were making a movie out of "Jack and Diane", and he thought there'd be some kind of legal complications if he let me do a parody of it, and I said, well, okay. And of course the "Jack and Diane" movie went on to be a big box office hit, and, you know... But yeah, it wound up being an original, and it was one of my favorite originals back at the time. I don't do it anymore in concert because obviously it's a bit dated at this point.
Wade: One question I had: You have like a small cult following now because of the type of music you do and things like that. You're either a really big "Weird Al" Yankovic fan, you have every album, you listen to them over and over again, and when it comes to a concert, how do you decide what songs you think your public wants to hear, and how do you deal with the amazing gender gap, I mean, not gender gap, age gap, because you have guys like me who listened to you when I was ten, and are now still listening to you, and then you've got...so you got twenty year olds in the audience, eight year olds in the audience, how do you, how do you pick songs that you want to play and how do you, do you rely on old stuff quite a bit, or what's your target audience?
Al: Could you repeat the question? No, no I got it.
Wade: What's your theory of doing a show?
Al: Well, you know, a lot of people ask me how I decide what to play in concert, and basically what I do is I look at the set list. It is kind of difficult because at this point I've got seven or eight albums of material out there, and there's a lot of songs that I just can't play because we don't have enough time. I mean, I'd love to do an all-day all-night concert like the Grateful Dead or something, but I'd get a little tired. Basically I try to do all the hits, or as many of them as I can, and sprinkle in a few of my own personal favorites, and a few obscure things, and we also do a few things in concert that aren't on any records. Just little snippets, you know, just for the hard core fans who have something new to listen to.
Wade: Do you do the same show every night, or try to change it around?
Al: It's pretty similar. It'll change very slightly, in subtle ways, but it's basically the same show, except, you know, we change it every tour, obviosuly, but if you saw us last night, tonight's show is not going to be that much different. And as far as appealing to a bunch of different age groups, that's not something I consciously try to do. I basically do what I think is funny, and it appeals to whoever it appeals to. I don't know how to answer that other than that, I mean it's...
Wade: Well, it seems that you must have a diverse crowd in your concerts, because, like I say, you got me, you got eight-year olds, then you got your parents with them, you know. So you really gotta, it seems, try to cater to almost all of that, and I just wondered how you do it.
Al: Yeah, it's everybody from embryos to dead people, pretty much. I mean, I don't consciously try to cater to anybody, I mean, I just do what I think works.
Jeff: (pointing to man bringing in food) That's his job, catering.
Al: Yeah, that's right.
Jeff: Are you gonna do anything from the Peter and the Wolf album?
Al: No. Ha ha. That, that was a fun side project, but, no, we don't do that in concert. I don't know that I'll be doing anything like that again. It was fun for, you know, for what it was.
Wade: Any new movies you're kicking around, or...?
Al: Um, no. I would like to do more movies, it's just more of a crapshot when you're doing movies, because I could spend half a year and write another script, but there's no guarantee it would ever get made, and I'm just not really motivated to do it at this point. I mean, if a movie fell into my lap, and they said, "Hey! We want you to be in this movie," and it was funny and it made sense and all that, I'd love to do it. I mean, I feel like doing the records and the videos and the tours is more of a sure thing, and it's more like instant gratification, and I know that if I record an album, it's going to come out, so that's what I'm putting all my energy into right now.
Jeff: Well, speaking of that, are there any tracks that you have, like, beforehand that have never been released, in the studio or anything?
Al: Ah, not at this point, no. I'm not one of those artists like Bruce Springsteen or Guns n' Roses who will record like forty cuts and then put ten on the album, and they have these thirty unreleased songs that they're like juggling around. So, no, not really. I'll basically put everything on album that I've got in the vaults.
Jeff: Well, I heard that some of the stuff on UHF had previously not been released, like "Fun Zone", and something else, but I don't remember what.
Al: Well, those weren't things that had previously been unreleased, that was a matter of, we wanted to put out a soundtrack to the movie, but there weren't enough songs in the movie for a whole album. So, basically half the album was just new material that I came up with.
Jeff: There wasn't any, like, older stuff on there?
Al: Well, the "Fun Zone" thing, it was an older song, but it had never been recorded before. I was in a special that my manager produced back in, I think, '84, called "Welcome to the Fun Zone".
Jeff: I've just heard of it.
Al: Yeah. And he asked me to write a theme song for the show. And I did, and then he decided, "Naah, I don't like it. I'm gonna use this other one instead." So I said, "Okay...All right..."
Jeff: Were there ever any words to it, or was it...
Al: No. Just a instrumental. So I figured, well, you know, I wrote it, and I'm gonna put it on a record. So, it came out five years later.
Wade: Well, we better let you go. Thanks a lot, and, uh, by the way, could you loan me five dollars?
Al: Ah, no. Thanks a lot.
Jeff: Okay.

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