Weird Al Yankovic: Outtakes from the Interview

Aug 8, 2008 at 9:00 am
In this week's paper, Ryan Wasoba spoke to "Weird Al" Yankovic, who is appearing at Family Arena tonight. Come back later for our top 5 countdown of Yankovic vids, and stay tuned for a review of the show this weekend. In the meantime, story outtakes!

(Michael Blackwell)

How do you approach, when you’re recording, the orginals vs. the parodies? The original songs require a whole lot more work. For the parodies, there are no demos to be made, I just buy the original album and give it to the guys in the band and say, “Here, learn this.” A lot of times they record the tracks without even knowing what I’m going to do with the parody; they find out what it’s about when the album is done.

With the originals, we’re basically starting from nothing. In fact, a lot of my originals are based on the styles of other artists so there’s a lot of research that goes into finding the nuances of what everybody’s original styles are. But then there’s the traditional process where I come up with a rough demo and then work with the band and we come up with a band demo and then go into the studio and make tweaks and changes so it’s more of a developmental process. So, with the originals it takes a lot more time than just simply writing a song because I’m trying to write in another artist’s style without being plagiaristic.

Do you consider most of your originals to be written as style parodies? It kind of evolved that way. On the first couple albums it wasn’t that way, but at this point most of the originals are written as if I’m another artist or from a certain style, be it zydeco or blues or country or whatever.

I like the idea of the “time capsule” on a Weird Al record because it seems like, with what you do, it’s not so much about traditional album-style continuity as a lot of other artists. There’s no continuity whatsoever on my albums, in fact it’s the complete opposite. I like to do really jarring segues from, like, polka music to hip hop and have each song as different as possible.

Have you considered putting out music in a non-album format? I’m certainly considering releasing music digitally. We have the technology now that, if I had an idea, I could record it and have it available online later the same week. I definitely like the idea of having the option, I just need to work out things to make sure it’s a viable option personally, but the technology is definitely in place.

It makes sense that with what you do, it could be a struggle to not wear on people. Making an album, you have to make 40 minutes of funny music and I could see there being obstacles in that process. It’s always a juggling act to do a whole album when a lot of it is topical material, some of the stuff is going to become not so topical because you have to write 5 or 6 parodies at once. Sometimes things will age and you can’t do anything about it.