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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Weird Al Yankovic interviews posted here for archival purposes

For a brief time before I started freelancing for professional outlets, I covered music for examiner.com. The site is closing down this week, so here I'm copying the text of my two interview posts with Weird Al Yankovic so they do not get lost.

This interview took place in May 2011 just before he released the Alpocalypse album.

“Weird Al” Yankovic has been recording hit parodies for more than 30 years now, becoming the highest-selling musical comedy artist in history. He’s about to release his 13th album, “Alpocalypse,” which features the Lady Gaga spoof “Perform This Way.”
Yankovic will be performing in Waukegan, Illinois this Saturday at the Genesee Theatre and in St. Charles, Illinois on May 31 at the Arcada Theatre. His live show is a multimedia extravaganza with enough costume changes to rival Cher.
I spoke with “Weird Al” earlier this week. On Wednesday, I posted part 1 of the chat. Now for the rest of the discussion …
Hi, Al. I know you’ve started your new tour. How have the first few shows gone?
The first few shows are going really well. We had some server difficulties. We have a computer server that runs the films and the track for our drummer to keep everything in sync, so if that goes awry, it’s a real big problem for the show. But today we’re starting with a brand new server, so we should be pretty bulletproof from here on out.
Are you playing a lot of new material from your new album?
We are. It’s not the full-on Alpocalypse Tour quite yet, because I want to save some surprises for when the album’s actually released. We’re obviously playing “Perform This Way” and we’re playing several of the “Internet Leaks” tracks like “CNR,” “Craigslist” and “Skipper Dan.” And the polka medley, “Polka Face.”
“Perform This Way” is electropop, which is kind of a different genre for you. Did you record that song with your band, or was it all done electronically?
Well, my band did it, but here’s the thing, there’s no “real instruments” (laughs). My drummer had presequenced all his stuff in his home studio. My guitar player did all the synth tracks at home, so they walked in the first day of recording and both presented me with a DVD with digital files on it and said, “Here you go!” And then I just sang for a couple days.
It’s getting to the point where a lot of pop music … you don’t put up a drum set, you don’t tweak your guitar amp. It’s all done with keyboards and computers.
When might we expect to see the “Perform This Way” music video?
It’s going to be out about the same time as the album. We shot it last weekend. I just finished doing the offline edits and now it’s in post. I don’t want to give away what we’re doing, but it is a fairly post-heavy video. We’re gonna be working on post for about four weeks. The record label will have it in their hands on June 15 -- that’s the deadline we were given.
We know the story behind the Lady Gaga mix-up. I’m curious: How often do you actually reach the original performer for consent, versus going through their people?
More often than not, it is going through their people because I don’t happen to have Lady Gaga’s phone number, for example. And usually that’s not an issue. If we ever have a problem, then I will make every effort to contact the artist directly, but that’s not always possible.
You tweeted about the Lonely Island recently. What do you think of those guys and does their success sort of help you and the whole genre in general?
I think they’re extremely funny and they’re great at what they do. Their videos are amazing. I think that their success only makes comedy in music more accepted on the radio and in the zeitgeist, and I look at it all as a very positive thing, so I wish those guys all the best.
You had to cut short your vacation to record the Gaga parody. Do you find it a challenge to balance family and work?
It always is. I’m certainly not unique in this. Thankfully now, with Skype, I can look at them every night and talk to them over the computer, which I understand is not the same thing as being there in person, but we do what we can to stay close.
My wife and I have a deal where we try not to go more than two weeks without seeing each other. She’ll pick spots on the road to fly out with our daughter and have a little bit of quality time. It’s not ideal, but touring is an important part of what I do and we try to adjust where we can.
Your daughter is 8 now. Is it time for her to put out a single, like Willow and Jaden?
(Laughs) She’d better get on that! She’s slacking!
Your last album gave you your first Top 10 album & single of your career. Do you have any specific milestones left you’d like to achieve?
Oh, I’m sure I could make up some (laughs). I’ve done pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I guess there’s a few things I haven’t gotten around to yet. Maybe at some point I’ll do something on Broadway. I did my own movie a couple decades ago (“UHF”) and it was a cult favorite but it wasn’t what you’d call a blockbuster hit, so I’d like to have another shot at that and do it right.
I think my dream job would be to be a voice in a Pixar movie. That would be a personal achievement for me. Other than that, I’ve had a pretty blessed life and career so far and I’m very happy.
“Weird Al” Yankovic will be performing in Waukegan, Illinois on May 28 at the Genesee Theatre and in St. Charles, Illinois on May 31 at the Arcada Theatre.

PART 1, posted a few days earlier:
Weird Al" Yankovic will be performing in Waukegan, Illinois this Saturday at the Genesee Theatre and in St. Charles, Illinois on May 31 at the Arcada Theatre. I spoke with Al by phone to discuss these shows and his current concert tour. I'll be posting that interview in the next day or two (Click the Subscribe button above to receive an email when the interview publishes!) In the meantime, here are some excerpts regarding his new album.
"Weird Al" Yankovic has a new album coming out in June called "Alpocalypse," featuring the much-discussed Lady Gaga parody "Perform This Way." Now, he's opening up about some of the other parodies on the record, which include spoofs of Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus.
Though the 51-year-old prince of pop parody generally prefers to keep a lid on his songs until they're released, he did open up (a little) about some of the new tracks.
"Weird Al" Takes On Taylor Swift
I asked Al if "TMZ," a parody of Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me," is an attack on the paparazzi culture.
"Well, it’s certainly about TMZ, the website and the tv show," he said. "I don’t want to give away too much... Like a lot of my songs, it’s a gray area in terms of its viewpoint. I think once you listen to the song, you won’t really be able to tell if I’m siding more with the paparazzi or siding more with the celebrities.
"It’s a little like 'Don’t Download This Song.' People listened to that and weren’t sure whether I was on the side of the RIAA or the downloaders, so it’s up to you to make up your own mind on that."
"Weird Al" Yankovic's Miley Cyrus Parody
"Alpocalypse" also features a track called "Party in the CIA," a send-up of the insanely-catchy Miley Cyrus hit "Party in the USA." Yankovic parodied Miley's dad Billy Ray back in 1993, with "Achy Breaky Song," a takeoff on the country smash "Achy Breaky Heart."
Does this mark the first time "Weird Al" has parodied both a father and his daughter?
"That may very well be," he says with a laugh. "That particular song ('Party in the USA') was extremely popular and the video got something like 150 million hits on YouTube. And that song’s having a bit of a resurgence now with recent events, so I guess the song is a bit topical, although that was nothing that I anticipated."
Don't expect to hear Al yelping his parody in Miley's high register.
"My vocal range isn’t as high as Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus. So we have had to change the key of some of these songs just so I can sing in a comfortable range, which is something I prefer not to do, because I try to make my recording sound as close to the original as possible."
Taylor Hanson Helps Al Sound Like Hanson
"Weird Al" fans are familiar with the singer's "style parodies," which are original compositions done in the style of a particular artist. Yankovic said he invited Taylor Hanson to play on one track because it's a Hanson style parody:
"He plays keyboards on a song called 'If That Isn’t Love.' It’s an original song, but when I wrote the song, I was trying to give it a Hanson vibe. So when it came time to record it, I thought, who better to play keyboards on it than Taylor Hanson?"
Stay tuned for more of the "Weird Al" Yankovic Interview
Yankovic also talked about when you can expect to see the music video for "Perform This Way," whether he sees himself in competition with artists like The Lonely Island, and his remaining career goals (another UHF movie?) Those details will be posted in the full interview, coming in a few days

Friday, May 15, 2015

Latest summer concert and personal updates

The 2015 Three Rivers Arts Fest is now only a month away, and I'm super excited that I'll be in Pittsburgh for part of it to catch some of the great music. Here's who I'm most looking forward to seeing:

Hurray for the Riff Raff (right): I love, love, love this band! I published a feature on them on AXS last summer. They had one of last year's best albums with their folky debut and they perform on June 9.

Benjamin Booker: This guy opened for Jack White last year and was every bit as loud and raucous and intense as the headliner. He's one of rock music's fastest-rising guitarists. Don't miss the boat - check out his Arts Fest performance on June 14.

Neko Case: See Neko on June 13 to check out her solo performance, which will hopefully include a lot of great tracks from last year's acclaimed album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.

As for me personally, I'm still hanging out in Chicago, and this summer might be my most exciting concert lineup yet. I've already secured tickets to see U2, Billy Joel, and the Rolling Stones! Also on the slate are a Weird Al concert and a free Weezer gig in the park. Good times.

I'm still adding websites to my online empire. Right now we're at about a dozen sites, including a brand new one focusing on pet toys called Doggie Fetch. I still have my Chicago Camping resource, plus my Chicago freelance writer site and my yoga products site, which just added a page on the best yoga blocks and another on yoga towels.

I hope to see you at the 2015 Arts Fest!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Concert and personal updates

The 2014 Pittsburgh 3 Rivers Arts Fest lineup looks pretty solid. You can't go wrong with Jeff Tweedy, Amos Lee, and the Kaiser Chiefs. I’m especially excited about the weekend of June 14-15, when Lucinda Williams and Jake Bugg play on consecutive nights. I’ll be back in the Burgh that weekend and hope to check out both shows.

I've been a big Bugg fan since last year, when I discovered his Buddy Holly soundalike "Lightning Bolt." This kid has potential. And I've always wanted to see Lucinda but haven't had the chance yet.

And the personal update for anyone interested - my online empire continues to expand, as I’ve now created websites for Chicago Skiing and Boston Camping. In addition, I started a yoga mat buyers guide called Yogauthority and a site that details the photography policies of museums across the country titled Is Photography Allowed? (click here to visit).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summery concert stuff and latest updates

A few updates for the summer...

I'll be attending Lollapalooza once again. This year I'm most excited to see Tegan & Sara, the Postal Service, Band of Horses, Emeli Sande, Lianne La Havas, Cat Power and Matt & Kim. I'm a little disappointed by how many retreads are on the lineup, bands coming back for a third or fourth Lolla appearance. Also disappointed by how many unknown bands are at the bottom of the lineup, but I suppose that means I have some research to do.

I'm also shocked at how poorly Lolla did in terms of snagging buzzy indie acts. Look at Bumbershoot in Seattle. That's a much smaller festival, but they have much cooler acts, like Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, Icona Pop, MGMT, Deerhunter, the Breeders, and !!!,  not to mention the '80s awesomeness of Heart.

My favorite albums from 2013 so far are: Kveikur by Sigur Ros; We the Common by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down; and Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, which is pure genius. The electronic wizards threw everyone for a loop by recording an album with live musicians and few computerized effects.

It looks as though I'll also be attending the Dawson City Music Festival, a remote music festival way out in the Yukon, Canada. I'm heading to the Yukon as a guest of their tourism board for my travel site Quirky Travel Guy, so I'll get to experience a festival hundreds of miles from anywhere. I don't recognize any of the names on the lineup aside from Bonnie Prince Billy, but I'm sure it will be a great time.

Friday, December 14, 2012

More music updates from around the web

I'm popping in again to point to some music news and info on my other projects around the web.

My new site Total Music Awards is starting to step into high gear with predictions for the 2013 Grammy Awards, as well as a Grammy Awards winners archive that, very soon, will list every winner and nominee in the 54-year history of the Grammys. It's an epic undertaking and it's going to be amazing. Head over there and follow TMA on Facebook and Twitter!

My Top 10 albums of 2012 are almost exclusively indie rock this year, topped by Leonard Cohen's Old Ideas, Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, and my #1 pick, Bat for Lashes' The Haunted Man. See my full Top 10 alongside the lists of the other writers on Diffuser.

My favorite songs of 2012, which I haven't yet published anywhere, include Of Monsters and Men's "Little Talks," Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars with "Safe & Sound," Bat for Lashes' "Laura," Frank Ocean's "Thinkin Bout You," Ed Sheeran's "The A Team," and Chiddy Bang's "Mind Your Manners."

Oh, and completely randomly, I've created a new website about campgrounds near Chicago. By the spring, it will be the #1 resource for finding a place to go tent camping around the greater Chicago area, which can be difficult since there's not a lot of forest in the area. Here's to diversifying my online portfolio!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pittsburgh's 3 Rivers Arts Fest Lineup for 2012 is Solid!

I just caught the lineup for the 2012 3 Rivers Arts Fest in Pittsburgh, and it's a very good one. Kathleen Edwards, the Wailers, and Bruce Hornsby are solid scores.

There's not as much indie rock as I'd prefer, but Dawes on June 5 is a nice addition. And there's a bluegrass day! Bluegrass is perhaps the most underrated genre of music.

Of course, all the shows are free, so you can't go wrong. Here's the lineup so far courtesy of the PG, with additional acts to come:

June 1: The Wailers
June 2: Kathleen Edwards
June 3: The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
June 5: Dawes
June 8: Carolina Chocolate Drops
June 9: Bluegrass Day with the Del McCoury Band, Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band and Greensky Bluegrass
June 10: Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers

In other unrelated news, I'm continuing to build up my new site Total Music Awards, which is currently focusing on the Billboard Music Awards. I've also started a site dedicated to Chicago camping, which could come in handy for those heading to Lollapalooza!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Grammy news and predictions for 2012

It's time to drop back in with an update on the 2012 Grammy Awards. The Dance categories at the Grammys will look a whole different from now on, because Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Kesha and other dance-pop artists have been banned from the Dance awards.

As I noted over at Examiner, the Grammys have changed their policy on dance music so that only DJs and electronic artists like Skrillex, David Guetta and Afrojack are eligible. The change is good for those guys, but not so good for Gaga, Spears and Rihanna, who have all been shifted to the Pop field. That means fewer nominations for all of them.

You can also check out my predictions for who the five Best New Artist nominees will be. Nicki Minaj and the Band Perry are locks, while Bon Iver and Il Volo are likely picks as well.

In other news, I'm currently working on my rankings of the Top 10 albums of 2011. That will be unveiled soon, but rest assured that Cults, Lykke Li and Bon Iver will be on it. I'm also in the process of ranking all 106 bands I saw live in 2011. So far, legends Aretha Franklin and Paul McCartney are topping the list.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What I've been up to: Travel blogs & concert reviews

Just thought I'd pop in with another update on what I've been up to lately.

As promised in the last post, I've started a new travel blog called Quirky Travel Guy. It provides photos and stories about interesting travel attractions across the country. Check it out, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

I'm no longer freelancing for AOL Radio Blog, but I've moved on to popcrush.com, where I post about the latest pop music news of the day. I'm also still writing for Examiner. I was fortunate enough to see Aretha Franklin in concert the other day - check out my review!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Unrescuable Schizo: It's the End of the World As We Know It...

Greetings, yinz. The time has come to announce that Unrescuable Schizo is going on hiatus.

I'm suspending the blog for two reasons. First, some of you may know that I moved away from Pittsburgh a while back. While I love the city and its music scene, at this point it no longer makes sense to write about shows and venues I cannot attend.

Second, I've turned my attention to writing as a career and there just isn't time to keep this site going. Check out the end of this post to see where you can read my stuff now.

Looking back...
I enjoyed all the perks that came with being a music blogger. By far my favorite aspect of the blog was getting a chance to interview national acts. When I sent my first interview request ever (to Nicole Atkins - a major-label artist, no less) I wasn't expecting to hear back from the publicists at Sony. But to my shock they replied, "She's available tomorrow. Can you do a phoner at 3 pm?"

I knew very little about Nicole's music at the time. So as soon as I got out of work, I raced to the nearest Record Exchange, found a copy of her album, and stayed up til 3 am listening to it and coming up with a list of questions.

Doing the interview was an interesting challenge. I had to take a tape recorder to work and sneak into a meeting room on my break. I put the phone on speaker and recorded the conversation. Nicole couldn't have been nicer, and the chat reminded me how much fun it is to be an actual journalist. I was thrilled to be interviewing someone who'd been on David Letterman just two weeks earlier.

Other interviews
My most exciting moment was interviewing Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls. Amanda was my favorite singer for some time. "Unrescuable Schizo" is a lyric from her song "Delilah." Never in a million years did I think I could score an interview with her. I chatted with her on the phone in 2009 before she played Mr. Small's. It wasn't my best interview (thank goodness for editing). My tape recorder crapped out just before I was scheduled to call, so I was running around like a madman looking for batteries and got really nervous while we chatted. But interviewing my favorite artist was a thrill.

Talking to Taylor Hanson was also strangely fun, because I flashed back to that moment years earlier when I self-consciously walked into Circuit City and purchased the Hanson CD Middle of Nowhere, trying to bury it under a pile of other, more respectable CDs. At that moment I wouldn't have imagined that ten years later I'd be speaking with a Hanson on the phone.

Pittsburgh music...
I wish I'd gotten to meet more of the people in the Pittsburgh music scene, though I am grateful for my interactions with people like Scott Tady of the Beaver County Times and some of the folks at WYEP. I should also mention Steve Juffe at The Concert Manager - he was my entry point into the Pittsburgh concert world, as I worked for him as an assistant for about a year.

Finally, a note to the other Pittsburgh music bloggers. When I started, there were only two others that I know of, and now there might be more than a dozen. I've communicated most often with Brian and Hugh since they were around when I started. It's cool to see all the other people who have joined the club. And thanks to Deena for coming onboard with the blog - our joint coverage of Lolla '08 (experienced together in a cramped air conditioning-less Chicago hostel) was a lot of fun.

So now I'm off to other things. I may pop back in here from time to time if something in the music world compels me to express my opinion. Or perhaps I'll just leave long-winded comments on some of yinz' blogs.

Here's where you can keep up with me online:
AOL Radio Blog
I regularly contribute Top 10 lists and New Song posts for the AOL Radio Blog. Good times! Occasionally, I conduct interviews for their sister site Spinner - this one with Ozomatli was fun.

Grammy Awards Examiner
I know way more about the stuffy Grammy Awards than any human being should, so I became the Grammy guy for examiner.com. The 2011 nominees were announced in early December. Subscribe to me there for more Grammy news than you could ever possibly want.

9000 Miles
I've been operating a travel blog for two years, starting when I took a four-month cross-country van trip through 46 states in April 2009. If you haven't checked it out yet, give it a look. I'm in the process of starting another travel blog; stay tuned to 9000 Miles for the announcement about that in the next couple months.