JACK McDOWELL CHIN MUSIC INTERVIEW

When I first started Rookie Card in 2001, I was excited to finally be playing my own songs and would busk outside of shows for fun sometimes.  Once I went to play near the exit door of Solana Beach’s Belly Up at an Old 97’s show. A tall, bearded man came out to have a smoke while the band was still on, so I started playing.  He nodded and after awhile said, “I like your songs.  You remind me of Scott McCaughey.” He was testing me.  “I love the Young Fresh Fellows!” I replied and we bonded on all things Replacementsy.  After playing for the departing concertgoers, I went inside to say hi to the band. Rhett took me aside and said, “Do you know who that is?”  I hadn’t followed baseball since my early childhood obsession so I’d never heard of Jack McDowell.  He probably appreciated that.

jackm1Besides being the winningest American League pitcher of the 90’s, Jack is an unabashed music fan. He’d started his own band, Stickfigure, and we played together a time or two. I’d just fallen in love with Kevin Chanel’s baseball/punk magazine Chin Music!  I’d been wanting to do more musicwriting and both Jack and Kevin agreed to an interview. I went up to his house in Del Mar and we talked a long while about baseball and music.  It was good and lengthy enough to be a two part article, so I focused on baseball in part one.  Before we could publish part two, Kevin stopped doing the magazine. RIP

Some of the old articles, including a GREAT one with Johnny Ramone and A’s owner Billy Beane and Apollo 9 from RFTC talking about meat prep, are archived on the magazine’s website but my interview never was.  You can buy back issues from their site. Do it. Writing about the Old 97’s for the ABC’s of Rock on the YDG Facebook page made me want to dig up a photo of Jack and I from when I had him play acoustically at M-Theory Music.  I came up empty, so I thought I’d at least put the article up online.  Someday, I’ll come across the cassette again and put up part two of the interview….

START SPREADIN’ THE BOOS!
Recently, ChinMusic! was lucky enough to sit with real-life ex-Yankee & rock star-in-waiting “Black” Jack McDowell. He’s one of the few baseball players to ever take being a musician seriously, first fronting the band V.I.E.W. in the early 90’s which eventually turned into his new band, Stickfigure. In the first of our two-part interview, McDowell focuses mainly on his time pitching in the Big Apple. The winningest American League pitcher of the 1990’s spent the 1995 season with the Yanks, posting an impressive 15-10 record, leading the league in complete games and pick-off throws, while finishing top 10 in strikeouts and shutouts. Though only in New York for one season, he made quite an impression, pitching the team into the playoffs AND making the best use of a middle finger since Billy Martin’s 1972 baseball card. To many, including this magazine’s editor; whose band dressed in ChiSox uniforms onstage in tribute, McDowell was the perfect marriage of rock and baseball. It’s not surprising that he loved being in NYC. Correspondent Adam Gimbel visited him at his home in Del Mar, California.

jack sportingChinMusic!: You were in New York for a year. Did you live there?
Jack McDowell: Yeah, on the upper west side. We’d just had our first kid, Lucas, in February of that year. We were living in Chicago and coming out of the strike. I didn’t know where I was going to be. I got traded by the White Sox during the strike so no one knew whether it was valid or not. I was supposed to be a free agent that year but I was 13 days short because they weren’t counting the time that I was on strike. Kenny Rogers and I were the only two players that didn’t get our free agency that year. So, I had to play seven seasons to become a free agent. It was screwed but it turned out being fun. New York was probably the most fun year I had in baseball.
CM: Really?
JM: Yeah, because the team was great. The guys were great.They hadn’t been to the playoffs in 13 years and we got to the playoffs and Mattingly got to be in the playoffs before he got out of there.
CM: You had a pretty good year.
JM: I was 15-10 and it was a shortened season. I ended up missing my last few starts of the season before the playoffs because I had a torn lat (latisimus dorsi) muscle. No one ever knew. We couldn’t say anything because we were going into the playoffs and they knew I wouldn’t be able to heal but I said,”Screw it. I’m just gonna roll with it.” I had this golf ball sticking out of the back of my lat. So I missed the last two starts of the season but still ended up, like, third in the league in innings.
jackm2CM: It looked like you had a good year but what everyone remembers is you flipping off the crowd at Yankee Stadium. Was that just you having a bad day?
JM: I went in there as their number two starter. Jimmy Key was our number one and past me were basically fill in starters. Jimmy made two starts and then he was done.When Jimmy went down, (manager) Buck told me, “You’re an innings guy. I know you don’t care what your ERA is. You’re going to have to suck it up this year. You’re gonna have to take the ball and if you’re getting beat up, you’re going to have to stay out there.” Before I missed my last starts of the season, I was leading the league in innings by, like, 20 innings. It was ridiculous. But, I wasn’t giving up four runs in three innings, I was giving up seven runs in seven innings and stayed out there to get pounded on, if I was having a bad day. I had a couple of those starts in a row and I was getting booed and then the White Sox came into town. My old team beat the crap out of me, hit three home runs. I gave up about seven runs but I ended up sticking out there. Just kept going and I was getting booed. I said, “You know what? That is enough!” New York guys are supposed to be smart. They’re supposed to get it.That this was admirable what I was doing and I just snapped. Rather than bitching about it in the media, I just covered it in one fell swoop.They got it. though.They did understand. People on the outside were like “Oh, he hates it in New York. He’s cracking under the New York pressure.” The assumption is that I hated it there and I had a horrible year but it wasn’t that way at all. I had fun. It was a great team. It was a great year. There was that incident but after that I was like a folk hero. (years later, Scott McCaughey’s band the Baseball Project paid homage to the incident in “The Yankee Flipper”) 
CM: How did it feel to know that you were going to be a Yankee? There’s such a legacy. Were you into that when you were a kid?
JM: I grew up in Van Nuys, so I was a huge Dodgers fan but if you’re a baseball fan, you know about that legacy. It was great to be a Yankee, at least for that one year.The strangest thing was changing teams in general. After spending six years with one team, you hate everyone that isn’t in your clubhouse and all of a sudden they hate you! I go into a new clubhouse and they’re thinking one thing about me and they don’t know anything about me.
CM: You were a Dodgers fan but you ended up with all American League teams.
JM: I know, I know and I was a good hitter too! I never understood why a National League team never picked me up.
CM: Could you actually try to get picked up by a National League team?
JM:Well, my only chance was when I was a free agent one year and we only had two offers. One was from the Marlins, who’d just started, and the other one was the Indians. No one was getting free agents.
CM: Did you try to call the Dodgers? I’d assume you’d want to be a Dodger.
jack rcJM: We tried to get the Dodgers to pick me. They were a few picks after the White Sox when I was drafted out of college. We were trying to sneak by, telling the White Sox I didn’t want to sign with them but they picked me anyways and you pretty much have to go where you’re picked. It ended up being great. We had a great team and it’s a super city.
CM: So when you grew up, were most of your early baseball heroes Dodgers?
JM: Oh yeah.
CM: Such as?
JM: You know. The Garvey, Cey, Lopes, Russell years. Dusty Baker and that whole thing.Those were my guys. When I was a kid, I had a Steve Garvey t-shirt that my brother painted for me. He was the only player that I sent away for his autograph and I got it back. I remember when I was 9, I had a 12 year old kid I was hanging out with and we all had baseball card collections. I traded all my dad and brothers’ 1920’s cards for that year’s Dodgers. Like,”Yeah, here’s Babe Ruth’s rookie card for Billy Grabarkewitz. You know? Bill Singer!
CM: Did you get to see Drysdale or any of those guys?
JM: No, but he was my first announcer for the White Sox when I was there. It was crazy because as a rookie, I came in and Jerry Reuss was there and (Tom) Paciorek was doing the TV and Drysdale was there. A couple of years later, they traded for Charlie Hough. CM: Were you wanting to be a pitcher when you were younger?
JM:I always was. I played pitcher and shortstop when I was younger. I went into college as a shortstop AND as a pitcher but I ended up just pitching. I was a big Bob Welch fan.That was my guy. I ended up pitching against him. I also pitched against Tommy John when he was at the end of his career with the Yankees. Both of my brothers played at USC and they used to play the Dodgers every spring. I have a picture of me getting Tommy John’s autograph when I was, like, 7 years old. I always wanted to pull that out and show him.  (note: in Feb 2014, McDowell was named manager of the Dodgers’ Ogden farm team)
CM: What do you remember about your first trip to New York?
JM: I remember room service being crazy expensive as much as anything. I mean, it was cool. I don’t remember being in awe of the stadium or anything. I just remember how very cool it was to be there and check it out and then ordering a couple of beers and a shrimp cocktail and having it be about a hundred bucks.
CM: So you’d already been to Yankee Stadium before you were a Yankee. What were your first memories of going there?
JM: It’s crazy going to EVERY big league park for the first time. First of all, you get to see all these places you’ve only seen on TV and, secondly, you’re pitching against a team where you know everybody in the lineup. Like, “Oh my god, I know all of these guys!” When you first get to the big leagues, you don’t know who your “outs” are and who the dangerous guys are. I tell rookies that you know you’ve made it when you know these guys are the “outs” and these are the guys I have to worry about.
CM: How was it having a newborn kid in New York? Were you walking him in Central Park and all that?
JM: Oh yeah, we were right by the park. We’d take those walks. It was a new team and a new city. Like I said, I didn’t know what team I was going to be playing for. I get a call from the Yankees when the strike broke,”Okay, we’ll see you at spring training in 48 hours.” Spring training was in Ft. Lauderdale and I was in California at the time. So I was on the phone with the (players) union saying”Is this real? Is that where I’m going?” I had to fly out there and then fly up to New York and get a place for us to live for the season while the season was starting. It was crazy. It was a crazy, crazy year.jack-mcdowell
CM: You were living in town. Were you able to go out at night?
JM: Not really. We had a new kid, so we were just trying to figure out parenting as much as anything. I had a couple of fun nights. I had one great night where we went to the R.E.M. concert at Madison Square Garden and we went out with all those guys afterwards, the Smithereens and Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows) who’d just started playing with R.E.M.. I was late for stretching the next day. Let’s put it that way. It was a Saturday night and there was a Sunday day game and I was late the next day.
CM: Was there anyone on the Yankees that could relate?
JM:Yeah, there were a few guys that were into it. They knew I was a huge R.E.M. fan. They understood that I could be late that one day to check in with my heroes. (check out Instream’s recent Jack interview where they talk a whole lotta R.E.M. -ed.)
CM: Had you already known the Smithereens?
JM:Yeah. we had already done a tour with them around ’91. It was the winter of ’91 when V.I.E.W. opened a tour for them.
CM: What other New York bands are some of your favorites? Stickfigure covers the Velvets (“Rock and Roll”).
JM:Yeah, I like all the stuff that was considered punk back then. But that’s not what people consider punk now. It was just basically straightforward rock from guys who weren’t into studio slick.There was some serious songs but some of it was funny and tongue-in-cheek. I like all that stuff from that era.
CM: Did you get to go to any of the smaller clubs?
JM: It’s tough during the season because someone will come through town when you’re not there. I wasn’t hanging out at clubs. In baseball, its tough because you get home at 12:30, you know? It’s different on the road because you’re just sitting there wasting time.You go out more on the road because your wife and kids aren’t there.You can get out of there and go to a club on the way back to the hotel.
CM: So you were just there for the one season?
JM: Just one year and I was a free agent after that year. Me & Coney (David Cone) were free agents. They fired Buck Showalter and they hadn’t hired Joe Torre yet and I had to make a decision. So I decided to sign with Cleveland. They were in the Series two years later.
CM: So, you got an apartment and you were only there for a year?
JM: Really just six months. As soon as the season was done, we moved back to Chicago and I ended up signing with Cleveland. Later, we moved to Cleveland and bought a house, had another kid, played that one season and had surgery the next season.That was pretty much it. I played two more years with the Angels, starting the season seeing if I could pitch without that muscle in my arm and it didn’t happen.
CM: What do you remember about 9/11?
JM:We were in Chicago.We were supposed to play a gig there on the 12th.The first I heard of it was our drummer waking me up in the morning from the airport saying there was something wrong with his flight. So I’m awake and on hold with United and I turn the TV on. I’m trying to focus on it I don’t know what it is, a burning building or whatever and then BOOM! The second plane goes in right as I’m watching. So I hang up the phone and turn it up to find out what’s going on. We were in downtown Chicago, so I’m on my balcony thinking “If they drop that Sears Tower, which you KNOW is next, we’re right here.” So, I’m FREAKING out. Mike (Mesaros, Stickfigure/Smithereens bass player) knew people that were in the building that got out. I knew friends of friends there but no one immediate.
CM: Did you actually use the phrase “chin music”?
JM: I’m trying to think of what we’d say. We’d probably say “knock ‘em down” more than -chin music”.
CM: Because, you were known for throwing high and tight.
jackm5JM: It’s so funny because I was known for that and it’s a crackup because I never hit more than, like, four guys in a particular season. Greg Maddux will hit 15 a year. I actually had veterans come over to our team and say, “You need to hit more people.You’ve got that reputation. You should just hit someone randomly, just to keep it in the back of their minds.” But I didn’t even have to. I’ve got this image that I do that anyways and it came from when I first got called up from college. I was primarily a two-pitch pitcher. I didn’t have a really good curveball. I had a fastball and a split-finger fast-ball. I didn’t have the normal split where they’d throw it in the ground and guys would swing at it. I had to throw mine for a strike. Over time, it became a great pitch for me. I was really basically a one and a half pitch pitcher, so I had to use my fastball a lot. Carlton Fisk was king on using the fastball, just moving it in and out in the right place. There were times in the first couple years where I’m throwing to Pudge (Fisk) where I would go into the windup and he’d move over to where he’s going and I can’t see him because he’s set up BEHIND the batter. (Adam laughs) You know? He’s set up and you can JUST see his glove sticking out behind the guy’s thigh. (thinking out loud) “So I’m throwing inside, man.” So, I got pegged as not being afraid to throw inside. But, I always threw inside to try to throw strikes to try to get people out.Very rarely did I waste a pitch just to get someone off the plate. I hated wasting pitches.
CM: Was it more up to the catcher to do that? I know there’s a signal for coming in tight, but, is there an actual signal for “knock ‘em down”?
JM: There’s a signal for “knock ‘em down”. Everyone’s got one but you can’t use it so much these days because you’ve got cameras. If a fight starts, they’re going to go back and see that the catcher gave the sign. Usually, when you see fights, it’s because someone got hit and then you’re in the dugout (and see it on a monitor), so everyone sort of gives the high sign that we’ve got one coming to us.
CM: Did you ever have a theme song like “Hell’s Bells” or something?
JM: The only time I had something on when I came out on the mound that they didn’t pick was one year in Cleveland, I had them play Pearl Jam’s “Present Tense”. I’d started seeing a sports psychologist, sort of a mental coach and his whole thing was to just stay in the present tense. It’s so easy to say and so hard to do. In baseball, if you throw a pitch and give up a home run, who gives a crap? You’ve gotta throw the next pitch. If you’re gonna trip about it, then your next pitch is going to be terrible. It’s all about “Next pitch, next pitch.” If you stay in the present, you’re going to look back and you won’t know what happened but you’re going to be good.That song came out almost exactly the time when I started seeing that guy. It was like (to Eddie Vedder), “You’re thinking along the same lines.” So I had them play that. It was a little knee-jerk. They played it as I ran out and warmed up for the game. It’s kind of a mellow song but it was good. It wasn’t like I was trying to trip anyone out. I was just trying to get in my own zone.

jack stickIn the next issue of ChinMusic!, McDowell discusses what it’s like to be into “weird” music in a locker room full of jocks and being an ex-athlete trying to make it in the music world.
Check out Stickfigure’s website at http://www.stickfigure.com (link to archived version). Their new album, Ape of Kings, is out now on What Are Records? It’s available through their website at http://www.war.com (link to archived site, War.com now belongs to the band War).

A HARD DAY’S NIGHT POSTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of A Hard Day’s Night opening in America today, I found a plethora of posters for the film from around the world.  If you know of any others, please let us know!  Check out our other AHDN collections below….

USA,  via Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.
ahdn us

A Hard Day’s Night at the California Theater, downtown San Diego 1964 via San Diego Reader ahdn sd

British via CineMasterpieces
ahdn ukUK#2 via Movie Poster Shop
ahdn uk2UK premiere via Beatles Blogger
ahdn premiere uk
Australian via Movie Poster Shop
ahdn australia
Belgium via Endless Movie Posters
ahdn foreign posterBelgium via Beatlebilia
Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 11.22.55 PM
Czechoslovakia
 via Movie Poster Shop
ahdn unknown
Frenchahdn french poster
French via Fine Art Americaahdn french
Two German posters via Endless Posters
ahdn german2ahdn german
German via Art.comahdn german3 Italian via Movie Poster Shop
ahdn italian
Italian via Movie Poster Shopahdn italian3
Italian via SRS Collectables
ahdn italian4Japanese via Endless Posters

ahdn japaneseJapanese (reissue?) via Movie Poster Shop
ahdn jap2New Zealand via BeatlebiliaScreen Shot 2014-08-10 at 11.24.25 PMPolish via Polish Posters
ahdn polish

Spanish via Movie Poster Shop

ahdn spanish

Spain via BeatlebiliaScreen Shot 2014-08-10 at 11.25.37 PMSpanish via Peach LobsterScreen Shot 2014-08-10 at 11.40.52 PMSpain via Fantomas38000ahdn spain4Sweden via BeatlebiliaScreen Shot 2014-08-10 at 11.26.46 PMSweden via Beatlebilia
Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 11.28.04 PM
Unknown (fake USA?) via Imp Awards
ahdn unknown2
Gum via Bid AMIahdn bubble gumCOLOUR PHOTOS FROM THE SET OF AHDN
AHDN ALBUM COVER OUTTAKES
BEATLES GALLERY ON FACEBOOK
FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK!

WEIRD AL/GRAND ROYAL INTERVIEW (PART 5 of 5)

Thanks to Vincenzo Ravina for posting about this interview on Reddit, we’re having one of our biggest days ever (4000 views so far). Thanks!  A little last bit of interview and some other fun related stories in the final pages of the big report….

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 S
aturday 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?
AI: Briefly.
Russell: Now that stuff came out before the Flintstones movie.
Al: Yes.al9full
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.

From the Glen E. Friedman archive; backstage. Madonna tour. circa1985.

From the Glen E. Friedman archive; backstage. Madonna tour. circa1985.

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).
Russell: She does the Michelle Pfeiffer…(laughter)…she looks pretty good.
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.al10full
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.
Russell: Alright.
Mike: Alright.
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.
end.

al-tennisAFTER 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…
(see last issue’s Russels Simins/Simmons identity controversy for context)(***I dug up issue two to read Simins’ hilarious tales of being mistaken for Def Jam Records’ head honho, I’ll post it here someday….PROMISE. -YDG ed.):
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…

beck-logo 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.
Yeah.
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?
Damn, I wish. I’d retire. I have nothing to do with the beer either.
HANSEN’S BEER?
No, Beck’s Beer.

(seven years later, “Wanna B Ur Lovr” from 2003’s Poodle Hat is pretty much a straight-up Midnight Vultures/“Peaches and Cream” homage)

al-dick
MONDAY: Months after the first Weird Al interview attempt, Russell and Mike are rescheduled with Al.  With just four days to go, Russell has a stroke of genius and decides it’s essential for Dick Van Patten to make a cameo during the Weird Al interview. He tells Mike D, who simply nods in agreement.
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 avallable on such short notice but says he’ll “run it by Dick.” al-dick2WEDNESDAY: 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.al-dick3

EPILOGUE
Grand Royal Magazine only lasted for a few more glorious issues. The Butter album came out that year and is one of the greatest things ever made by human hands.  Al didn’t direct their stylee “Butter of 69″ video (done by BBoy name-checked Evan Bernard) but made good on his intent by directing the Blues Explosion’s “Wail” video a year later, in 1997.  Russell put out the sexy ass Public Places solo album on Grand Royal in 2001.  Mike D played drums on the song “Stay”.  Three years after the interview, Al put “Intergalactic” in the “Polka Power” polka medley. You know the rest.

BONUS MATERIALS
Al’s 1988 Licensed To Ill homage, “Twister”.

What do you get when you cross Beastie Boys, Blues Explosion, Weird Al and a music page run by a Jewish guy named Adam?  Enjoy. RGJX RIP 2001-2002.  I handed Russell a VHS of this at a NYE show here in San Diego, which made him grin. He and Judah were both outed as Jews in a book called Jews Who Rock but it turns out that it was false information on Judah’s roots.  Geezer still plays this one year-round.

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WEIRD AL/GRAND ROYAL INTERVIEW (PART 4 of 5)

In part four, more hilarity ensues and we see the backstory behind the first failed attempt at an Al interview, as visualized by “famed court reporter Ben Pjorn”…

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.

(14 years later, Al played tambourine in Hanson’s amazing Blues Brothers homage “Thinkin’ Bout Something” -YDG ed.)
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.
Russell: What’s up with “State of Shock”‘s Harvey Leads. I mean, there’s actually something in the video that’s funnier than what you do and he’s doing it. Who is he?
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.

Al: Hello.
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?
Al: Yeah.
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?
Spike: Yaaa.
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.
al7fullSpike: “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)
Spike: You think it’s funny?
AI: 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?
Spike: Yeah.
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 AI responds in almost spooky, wacky tone of voice)
Al: Love it!
Spike: Really?
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?
Spike: Yeahyeahyeah.
AI: 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?
AI: 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?
Al: Japanese.
Spike: Is that true? ‘Cause my father’s Chinese.
AI: 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)….
bad hair dayMike: 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.
Mike: Yeah.mullet
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)
Al: Yeah.
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.
Al: I should keep better track, you know. When you do a video, the props just kinda disappear afterwards.
Mike: Yeah.
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?
Mike: Yeah.
AI: 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?
Mike: Yeah.
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?
Al: Yeah.
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.
AI: 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. (Al went on to direct video by Hanson (the Titanic sequences in “River“), The Black Crowes (“Only a Fool“), Ben Folds (“Rockin’ the Suburbs“), The Presidents of the United States of America (“Mixed Up S.O.B“) and, hot damn, the Blues Explosion’s “Wail”, where he makes a cameo. -YDG ed.)
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.Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 2.48.10 PM 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.

al-drawings1

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.
8:10pm MEANWHILE, ACROSS TOWN Al has arrived at the upscale Trader Vic’s and orders a fruity (nonalcoholic) drink.
8:22pm D AND RUSSELL TOWEL off to avoid sweating on the leather seats.
8:32pm AL PONDERS while nibbling (vegan) appetizers.
8:41pm RUFUS (Mike’s dog) greets Mike and Russell on the lawn of Club D.

al-drawings28:43pm AL IS ANNOYED and noticeably checks his watch, in case onlookers wonder why Weird Al is sitting alone in a Hawaiian restaurant on a Saturday nignt.
8:45pm RUSSELL CHILLS  in the lounge while Mike mixes up the carrot-beet-ginger smoothies.
8:56pm AL STORMS OUT, speed-dialing his manager on the cellular.
9:01pm TRANSFIXED by America’s Castles on A&E. Mike and Russell are oblivious to the fact they have just dissed Al Yankovic.

Thought for sure that Russell was gonna say that he thought Al would love Cibo because of their food-centric stuff.  Besides Butter, he played quite a few shows with Cibo, which is enough of an excuse to post one of my favorite clips of all-time, with none other than Sean Lennon on bass.

ON TO THE PART FIVE FINALE!

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WEIRD AL/GRAND ROYAL INTERVIEW (PART 3 of 5)

Thanks to the Beastie Boys Collectors Convention Tradeshow for sending some Beastie heads our way. If you missed part one, click. On to part three…..

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?
AI: 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.
Al: Even when we do the “Fat” video, when I have the whole latex makeup and a chin piece and the whole fat suit. We try to make the live shows as theatrical as we can. Sometimes we have the videos playing in synch with the band playing.
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.
Mike: Wow.
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?
Al: No. I haven’t. But, that’s actually, you know, polka wear, I think is gonna really come back as a look this year.
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?
Russiell: 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.
AI: 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.
al5fullJenna: I have one.
Russell: Can we get a picture of Al showing us his sock. Do you mind?
AI: No.
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…
Russell: Tinfoil.
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.
AI: Ah. Wouldn’t wanna think that. How do you spell your name again?
Spike: Tamra, T-A-M-R-A.
AI: T-A-M-A-R-A?
Spike: Yeah. Yasoo. Y-A-S-O.
Al: Y-A-S-O?
al-autogSpike: Yeah. That’s nice handwriting.
Al: Thanks.
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?
Al: Yes.
Russell: And you said…
Al: I…I…did I give you an answer to that one? Am I obsequious? I am rarely obsequious.
Russell: Okay. You were just very obsequious in the Michael Jackson…that moment. That was cool, I understand. If I was in front of Michael Jackson…I really love when the monkey hits you in the face.
Al: That was a high point in my life, too.joanx3 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.
Al: Yeah.
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.
Mike: Really?
Al: Did she do Clockwork Orange? I think she worked with Kubrick a lot.
Russell: Yeah, she worked with Kubrick—

al6full(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…

al-yokoJenna: Hi.
Yoko: How are you?
Mike: Yoko.
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)
Sean: Hey!
Al: (laughing in disbelief, offers his hand) Sean, how are you?
Sean: Good. Good to see you.
Al: Pleasure.
Sean: What’s up?
Al: We’re just—
Sean: —I was going to the Crystal Ball room.
Al: Okay.
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.

Yoko's 75th birthday party. Yuka Honda (keyboards), Emi (dancing), Yoko Ono (vocal), Sean Lennon (bass), Russell Simins (drums), Harper Simon (guitar)

Yoko’s 75th birthday party. Yuka Honda (keyboards), Emi (dancing), Yoko Ono (vocal), Sean Lennon (bass), Russell Simins (drums), Harper Simon (guitar)

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?
Al: Yeah, the very first version of that was done across the hall from my campus radio station. I did the Weird Show on KCPR (San Luis Obispo’s radio station -ed.).
Russell: Which is where you got the name, right?
AI: 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.

ON TO PART FOUR!
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Editor’s note: I laughed so hard that I was crying at “That’s nice handwriting.”  As you were.

WEIRD AL/GRAND ROYAL INTERVIEW (2 of 5)

Thanks to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and KQED in SF for the NPR cred.  If you know anyone else linking here, please let us know.  If you missed part one, click. On to part two where things start getting good…..

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?

Al: Yeah.

Spike: Oh HI! How are you?

Al: Good, how you doing?al-foto1

Spike: Good, good. I just walked by and noticed you here. Good to meet you.

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.

AI: 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.

al3fullRussell: What kind of venues do you do, you know, how big? The Garden, Madison Square Garden?

Al (laughing): Well. Ohh.

Mike: Astrodome?

AI: Actually, I was offered to open for Duran Duran at Madison Square Garden, like back in ’84, ’85—

Russell—you WERE?

Mike: No way.

Al: —yeah,

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.

Mike: Wow.

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?”

Al: Yeah.

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.

AI: 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.

ben isRussell: 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?alfoto2

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.

Russell: Why?

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″.

Al: Right.

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!

Jenna: Hi.

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.al4full

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.gr moog

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-foto3

Spike: What?

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.

ON TO PART THREE!
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THE GREATEST INTERVIEW OF ALL-TIME: GRAND ROYAL TALKS TO WEIRD AL YANKOVIC (PART 1 of 5)

al banner1aThree months ago, I was looking for Moog Cookbook things to share for our long-running ABC’s of Rock series on Facebook.  I remembered that there was something on them in the third issue of Grand Royal Magazine circa 1996, known as the Moog issue.  I’ve gotten rid of just about every music magazine I’ve ever touched but I can’t part with my Grand Royals, even though I haven’t touched them in at least 15 years.  Each issue of the short-lived Beastie Boy family-centric publication was an absolutely incredible piece of pop-culture curating. This edition came with a free iron-on and it was still in tact, so I had it put on a shirt, likely making me the only person to do so in this century.

Thumbing through the pages, I saw that it also had my favorite interview of all-time.  Not only is Weird Al interviewed by members of two of my favorite bands (Michael Diamond from Beastie Boys and Russell Simins from Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) but there’s a backstory and some major league shenanigans going on throughout the ten(!) page article.   It really has to be read to be believed.  It’s so amazing that I assumed that it had to already be online somewhere but I couldn’t find it anywhere (except for a Weird Al messageboard mentioning that it’s maybe the longest, best interview he’s ever done).  I kept the magazine near the stacks of things to scan and someday share until tonight when I found it in a now-aborted attempt at organization.

As many of you know, Al is having the week of his career.  Thanks to the internet, “White and Nerdy” became the biggest hit of his career in 2006 and, since then, he’s mostly focused on the internet to release new songs while the songs he’s parodying are still popular.  For the release of his new album, Mandatory Fun, he’s releasing one video a day for eight days and, so far, they’ve all been brilliant.  Eight years after his unreal second wind, social media is pushing these videos around the world like never before. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen so much attention paid to a new record and it’s only three days in.

Despite a busy week (thanks to a friend’s wedding and my “grandpa’s” band, Geezer) and having to work early tomorrow, I’m staying up late to scan in the article and post it in parts over the next few days.  Thanks to OnlineOCR.net, you don’t have to strain your eyes reading the small font and I didn’t have to retype it (phew).  It took awhile to format and proofread it (talk about word crimes) but I’ll try to get it up online by the end of the eight day video week.  Check our Facebook page to see when updates get added.  Enjoy.al-banner2

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.

al1-1fullRussell: 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.

AI: 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.

Russell: Kinda.

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.

gr moogMike: The pimpo-doro?

Russell: Yeah, it came complete with a pompadour.

Al [to Mike]: You’re a vegetarian too. That’s (trails off…)

Mike: Yeah.

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.

Al: (giggles).

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.

Al: (laughing)

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?

AI: 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?

AI: —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.

Mike: Exactly.

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—

Mike: Yyy…(laughs)

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?

AI: 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.

Al: Sure.

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?

Waitress: No.

Al: Oh, that’s very cool. My opinion of her just…

Mike: Russell?

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.

al2fullRussell: We saw, I saw, the billboard for Bad Hair Day yesterday. You got the Coolio hair. Did you talk to Coolio at all?

l: 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.

Mike: (coughs).

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.

AI: 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?

Al: (laughs)

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.

CLICK TO READ PART TWO WITH SPIKE JONZE !