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?
Spike: Oh HI! How are you?
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.
Al (laughing): Well. Ohh.
AI: Actually, I was offered to open for Duran Duran at Madison Square Garden, like back in ’84, ’85—
Mike: No way.
Russell: Oh MAN.
Al: —and I turned it down. Because I had some other previous engagement.
Russell: See, those guys do have good taste. I’ve always loved Duran Duran.
Al: That would have been kind of, fun, except I would’ve been pelted by 12-year-old girls. That would’ve been too traumatic for me.
Mike: Has there been a lot of moshing at your shows lately? Has that been a problem?
Al: Actually, there is moshing sometimes when I do the Nirvana takeoff. Kinda bizarre.
Russell: When you do that, you don’t dress up…
Al: Actually, we do, yeah.
Russell: So you do the whole, full-on wardrobe change.
Al: The live shows are pretty theatrical, we do a lot of costume changes.
Russell: When’s your next show?
Al: We start touring the end of May. I don’t know when we play LA next, sometime this summer I guess.
Russell: Do you do “Living With A Hernia” live?
Al: We used to. We don’t do that any more.
Mike: Aww, you gotta bring that back. Come on!
Russell: Will you start doing it? You don’t know. James Brown is where it’s at now. His wife just died. I mean, that’s the ONE.
Mike: “Living With A Hernia,” honestly, that video, I’d have to say I’m a big fan.
Al: Oh thanks. I used to do it with the whole, the fake teeth and the wig and the cape, the whole bit.
Russell: Oh man. See. Now those moves, I mean…that’s hard shit to learn. (Al laughs)
Mike: Did you ever have any contact with, ah, James Brown?
Al: We’re on the same record label, actually, Scotti Brothers.
Russell: You did Wheel of Fortune with him.
Al: That’s right! Yeah.
Russell: Little Richard was on there too.
Mike: Okay, I need to hear about, slow down, ’cause I’m…so you’re on the same label with James. So you’re able, do actually have contact with him?
Al: I don’t see him that much, I’ve run into him a couple of times. The last time was Wheel of Fortune. I gotta tell the Wheel of Fortune story.
Russell: Go go go go! Just tell it!
Al: That was the main reason I decided to do Wheel of Fortune. ‘Cause I figured, aaah, I don’t want to be on a game show. But it was like, to be on Wheel of Fortune with James Brown and Little Richard, how surrealistic is that, you know?
Russell: How did they come up with the three of you? (long pause) Some genius…. (laughter)
Mike: Did they approach you like that? Did they ask, “How would you like to be on a game show with James Brown and Little Richard?”
Mike: They just came to you with it already thought out.
Al: Yeah. Actually. They were two of the people, actually they mentioned several people, and those were two of them, and it wound up we were all on the same show, which was great. During the taping of the show, I remember looking over and seeing James Brown buying a vowel, and thinking, “Wow, this is amazing!”
Russell: Of course.
Al: But, when James Brown first came on the set, he was late. Everybody else had kinda gone through the rehearsals and James came through with his whole entourage after we were already in the green room. And they said, “Well, James, we kinda wanna run you through the show a little bit, and make sure you’re familiar, and make sure you know how to play the game.” So they put him in front of the podium, and they spin the wheel, and James goes, “Ah, gimme aaaaa gimme…. aaaaaa…uhhhmnnm…” And they go, “You have to hurry James. this is a show.” (Russell begins laughing) “Gimme, a, Gimme a A!” And they go, “No James, when you spin the wheel, you have to pick a consonant.” And he goes, “Oh, okay. Europe!”
Russell: Europe, (laughing) yeah, yeah, he said that.
Mike: That was on the air?
Al: Yeah. I don’t think it was. It was in the rehearsal.
Mike: Oh my god.
Russell: Wasn’t he like… kept picking the same letters…
Al (laughing): Yeah. “No, you already said R, James.”
Russell: So wait, so he’s seen the “Living With a Hernia” video?
Al: I would have to assume so. Although…
Russell: You guys didn’t talk about it, though.
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.
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?
Russell: As far as I know, didn’t he…
Mike: Dan Hartman wrote “Living with, ah, -Living in America.”
Russell: Yeah, that’s the thing. He wrote “Living in America,” and he did “Instant Replay“. But didn’t he dress up a lot in women’s clothing and stuff…or should we not talk about that?
Al: I’m not sure if I ever met him or not and I certainly don’t know that about him.
Russell: Okay, okay. He’s always kind of an interesting figure in the pop music scene. (pause as Al’s salad is peppered) Do you watch MTV all the time?
Al: Yes I do (chuckles). It’s like wallpaper, yeah. It’s a little frustrating when they go through their hour stretches where they don’t play any videos at all.
Mike: I know. Haven’t you found that it’s weird that increasingly MTV is no longer about even about playing music videos? It’s about this (pause) programming they do.
Al: Some of the programming I actually like a lot, but I prefer to have a channel that plays music videos.
Russell: I hear they’re splitting off to like, MTV2 or something?
Al: Yeah, they’re having an alternative, kind of more alternative, kind of station.
Russell: Do you like Beavis and Butthead?
Al: (mouth full) Ohm, actually, I do. It’s kind of a guilty pleasure and I don’t like to admit that I like them, but I actually do.
Al: Well (laughs), because, I mean, it’s like one of those things, it’s so stupid, it’s funny…but, you know…
Russell: Well come on, isn’t that what you’re all about?
Al: It’s true. I was actually talking to Mike Judge about the possibility of having Beavis and Butthead…(swallows food)…on the album.
Russell: That’s what I was getting to.
Al: I was definitely considering having them do a prank phone call in the middle of my song “Phony Calls” and Mike was just too crazed. He’s in the middle of doing the Beavis and Butthead movie. Luckily we were about to get The Simpsons cleared, which, I never thought we would ’cause that’s another major franchise.
Russell: Did you, on the, is it “Alternative Polka,” is that the one you have on the new record?
Al: (quietly) Yeah.
Russell: You have one of those on every record, right?
Al: Just about.
Russell: But you have, now, “Loser” is on the “Alternative Polka”, right?
Al: (chewing) Mmm-hmm.
Russell: I mean, every record seems to have polka something. The original one was “Polkas on 45″.
Russell: Now it’s “Alternative Polka.” Then there was “The Rolling Stones Polka.”
Al: And, on the previous album, I did “Bohemian Polka” which was one song, in a polka style. Yeah, I really try and have a concept with the polkas, but I don’t know if it really even needs one.
Russell: Do you, ah, do people send you lots of suggestions?
Al: Well, they try to. But I really discourage that on a number of levels because I’ve got more than enough warped ideas on my own. Plus, there’s always the chance that somebody will send an idea that I already thought of, and they’ll think, “Hey, I gave Al that idea, he stole it from me.”
Russell: I heard yesterday for the first time that you did “Gump/Lump” and, ah, I thought of that idea.
Al (through a mouthful of food): You see! You see! And a lot of ideas are fairly obvious and there’s only so many parody concepts out there, so…
Russell: Now, Frankie Yankovic, I know is not your dad. It just so happens that your name is Yankovic, and, your father’s name was what? Nick? So, how did the accordion thing happen for you?
Al: I think, partly because of Frankie Yankovic. People associated our surname with polka music and my parents had a lot of his old 78 rpm records in the garage. And I guess they figured there should be at least one more accordion-playing Yankovic in the world…Hello!
Russell: This is my girlfriend Jenna, she’s—
Al: —Hey Jenna, how are you? Al—
Russell: —also a huge fan of yours.
Jenna: Good to meet you. That’s what I told him. When I was in the fourth or fifth grade.
Russell: She discovered you on the Doctor Demento show. She was a freaky little kid. (Al laughs)
Jenna: Yes I was…Sorry, was I… I’m curious.
Russell: She wants to listen in. Anyway, oh…
Al: And my parents wanted me to be really popular with the girls in high school so they thought I should take accordion lessons.
Russell: Okay, so what happened? Did you get the girls?
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.
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.
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.