'Wierd Al' Yankovic at Falls Festival 2016 in Byron Bay at the Byron Bay Parklands. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star
'Wierd Al' Yankovic at Falls Festival 2016 in Byron Bay at the Byron Bay Parklands. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star Marc Stapelberg

Still Weird after four decades in music

ALFRED Matthew 'Weird Al' Yankovic is an American singer, songwriter, parodist, record producer, satirist, actor, music video director, film producer, and author.

He is one of three artists to have a one number 1 in the Bilboard music list in every decade since the 1980s, record he shares with Michael Jackson and Madonna.

By parodying pop hits, Weird Al has leveraged on the tunes to offer his own social commentary, with words such as Eat It (1984, parody of the Michael Jackson hit Beat It), Perform This Way (2011, parody of Lady Gaga's Born This Way), Amish Paradise (the 1996 version of Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio) and recently White and Nerdy, a parody of the 2006 Ridin' by Chamillionaire featuring Krayzie Bone.

In some cases, Weird Al's versions have become more popular than the originals.

We sat for a chat with the man at the beginning of his 40th year in showbusiness, minutes before his Falls Byron Bay show on New Year's Eve.

Where were you in life in 1976 when you had your first break in Dr Demento's radio program?

It has been a big journey. In 1976 I was in High School, I was 16 years old. After I was in Dr Demento's program I went to college for four years and got my degree in architecture, thinking that I was going to be an architect.

By the time I graduated I was 20 and I had a couple of bona fide hits on the show and that makes me think I should give music and comedy a shot.

So I thought I'd take a year or two and see if I could do anything with it.

How does it feel to still be in this business 40 years later?

It feels amazing that my career has lasted for as long as it has because when I was first trying to get a record deal, pretty much everyone was 'oh, well, you are very funny and clever, and this is brilliant stuff but this is not the kind of act that has a long career.' (laughs)

Why are you an independent musician?

I fulfilled my record contract so I am not under any obligation to record. I was under a contract for 32 years. I signed a deal in 1982 and didn't fulfilled it until 2014. It was originally a ten-album deal, which even then was ridiculous, but it got extended and renegotiated and ended up being a 14-album deal.

It took me 32 years to fulfil that contract.

You were one of the first musicians to offer your music online back in 2008. Why did you do that?

I initially did it protect myself from a number of people posting racist and defamatory music under my name, but then I realised I enjoyed social media and it ended up opening a lot of new doors for me. It is a lot of fun and it ended up being very good for my career.

What's next this year?

I've got a number for TV projects, but can't tell you much about it.



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