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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 4:38 pm | Fair 62º


Jeff Moehlis: ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Bringing ‘Extravaganza’ to Chumash Casino

He talks with Noozhawk about his music and career, and Thursday's multimedia event

When “Weird Al” Yankovic was 16 years old, he gave a home-recorded tape of original and parody songs to Dr. Demento, who broadcast them on his radio show. It was the beginning of Yankovic’s career in comedic music, which really took off in 1984 with his hit song “Eat It,” a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” with a hilarious video that spoofed Jackson’s own.

Yankovic has released many other popular parodies, including another song by Jackson (“Fat”) and songs by Madonna (“Like a Surgeon”), Queen (“Another One Rides the Bus”), Nirvana (“Smells Like Nirvana”), Coolio (“Amish Paradise”) and Chamillionaire (“White & Nerdy”). He also writes a number of original comedy songs. His new album, ALpocalypse, is being released this month.

In anticipation of Yankovic’s concert on Thursday at the Chumash Casino Resort, he took the time to chat on the phone from his home in Los Angeles. Here are some highlights. Click here for the full interview.

Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your upcoming concert at the Chumash Casino?

“Weird Al” Yankovic: Well, if you’ve never had the “Weird Al” live experience before, I guess I would describe it as a rock and comedy multimedia extravaganza. It’s me on the stage with the same band that I’ve had since my very first album. There are a lot of costume changes, there are a lot of film clips on a big screen. It’s a highly produced, theatrical, high-energy rock show. It’s a good time, and we try to give people their money’s worth.

JM: One of the songs on your new album, ALpocalypse, is “Perform This Way” (which parodies Lady Gaga’s song “Born This Way”), Could you comment on how it went when you tried to obtain permission for that one?

WAY: I detail the entire process pretty exhaustively in a couple of blog posts (click here or click here), but in a nutshell, basically Lady Gaga’s manager had turned down the parody without ever approaching Lady Gaga about it, and then after I had uploaded the song to YouTube to give it away for free, Lady Gaga was made aware of it and immediately approved it. Now it’s getting an official release, and in fact it’s the first single and video from the new album.

JM: I think one of your most brilliant parodies is “Smells Like Nirvana.” How did it go when you tried to get permission from Kurt Cobain to do that song?

WAY: Kurt was great about it. We were having a problem actually with their management. My manager couldn’t get a phone call from their manager, so basically I was told, “If you want to do this parody, you’re gonna have to figure out a way to talk to the guys in the band directly.” So I tracked them down. I talked to Kurt backstage when he was getting ready to do his first performance on Saturday Night Live, and I basically introduced myself over the phone, and told him what I wanted to do. And he agreed to it immediately. He was a terrific sport. He had a wonderful sense of humor, and he was totally into it. In fact, one of my favorite quotes of all time was Kurt Cobain saying that he didn’t realize he had made it until he heard the “Weird Al” parody.

JM: Your most popular YouTube video is “White & Nerdy” (a parody of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’”). I have to confess that I can personally relate to a lot of the lyrics from that. Where did your inspiration come from? Was it personal?

WAY: Yeah, it’s probably my most personal song to date. I mean, I didn’t have to do a whole lot of research for that particular song. I drew from a lot of personal life experience. I wouldn’t say that the song describes me 100 percent accurately, but enough that I didn’t have to exaggerate a whole lot.

JM: Your Jackson parodies, “Eat It” and “Fat,” did he ever give you feedback on these?

WAY: Yeah, he liked them. I talked to Michael on two separate occasions, and he always was a big fan of the parodies. As you may have heard, we actually shot the “Fat” video on Michael Jackson’s subway set. He was nice enough to allow us to use that. So he was very supportive, very appreciative of the parodies.

JM: I read that “Like a Surgeon” was actually a suggestion from Madonna herself. Is that correct?

WAY: It was. I mean, it wasn’t like she called me up and said, “I know what you ought to do,” but what happened was she was having a conversation with a friend of hers in New York one day, and she kind of wondered aloud, “Hmm, I wonder when ‘Weird Al’ is gonna do ‘Like a Surgeon’?” And her friend happened to know my manager, and so of course word got back to me and my immediate thought was, “Hmm, that’s not a bad idea.”

JM: You’re best known for your parodies, but you also write a number of original songs yourself. What are some of your favorite original songs?

WAY: Oh, it’s hard to pick. Some of my favorites are the ones that I spent the most time on, like the big production numbers like “Pancreas” or “Genius in France,” or “Don’t Download This Song.” Or, there’s a song on the new album called “Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me”, which is sort of a Jim Steinman/MeatLoaf kind of big production number, bombastic ballad kind of vibe. That was a lot of fun to do. I feel very close to all the original songs, but the ones that I spent the most time on, obviously, I feel the most close to. “Hardware Store” is another one.

JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about your music, career or life?

WAY: [laughs] That’s a pretty broad question. I mean, there’s a lot of misconceptions about me and what I do, and it would take all day to systematically refute all the errors on the Internet. You know, there are a lot of songs that are attributed to me that are not by me. It’s hard for me to even go into that. You can’t really police the Internet — I figured that out a long time ago. So you just hope that people can kind of wade through the misinformation and figure out the stuff that’s real and the stuff that isn’t.

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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