"Weird Al" Talks Grammy Noms

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He's already won three Grammys, but when geek poster boy "Weird Al" Yankovic's 2006 disc Straight Outta Lynwood was nominated (for Best Comedy Album and Best Surround Sound Album), it still felt like a victory for white and nerdy dudes everywhere. Here, he chats with our Andy Greene about the distinction.

Where were you when you found out you were nominated?
I was sitting on the couch downstairs in front of my laptop, refreshing the main page at grammy.com every 10 seconds until the link to the nominations showed up. Yes, I'm fully aware of how pathetic that sounds — I just get very excited about the whole Grammy thing.

You've already won three. Is it still as exciting?
Well, it's hard to compete with the first time you win a Grammy because after that, you can legally affix the phrase "Grammy Award-winning" to the front of your name. And when I won my last Grammy in 2004, it was my first Grammy win in fifteen years, so that was a pretty big deal for me too. But trust me, it never gets old. I promise to be extremely excited every single time I ever win a Grammy.

Were you surprised by the surround sound nomination?
That did come a little out of left field — I would have thought that outside of the Comedy category, I might have had my best shot with Best Short Form Video (for "White & Nerdy") or Best Pop Collaboration (for my duet with Kate Winslet). But I'm thrilled to be recognized for my work on the surround sound mixes, because I'm very proud of the way they turned out. It's also the first time my engineer Tony Papa has been nominated (I've been working with him since 1982) so I'm very happy he's getting props from the Academy as well.

What lengths did you go to insure that the surround sound was extra good?
After we finished the stereo mix for each song on the album, Tony and I would formulate a plan on how to give dimensionality to the 5.1 mix. When the mix was extremely dense and complicated (as it was for my Brian Wilson homage "Pancreas") it allowed for parts to breathe more, because tracks could be isolated or featured more than in the stereo mix. We found that we could also have fun moving instruments on more than one axis at once, which meant that we could have footsteps or bird calls or weird sound effects flying diagonally across the room. I'm so happy with the way that the 5.1 mix for "Pancreas" turned out that I really consider that the definitive version of the song.

Do you have a surround sound stereo at home?
I had a home theatre system, but after I finished "Straight Outta Lynwood," I decided to upgrade and got myself a dedicated surround sound system with 5 identical high-end speakers, just for listening to music mixed in 5.1. I'm not sure how much of a selling point the whole "surround sound" thing was for my last album, but I sure got a kick out of doing it, and I look forward to continue working with that format in the future.

You're up against Alan Parsons, who engineered Abbey Road. Think you can take him?
Well, Alan's amazing, of course, and the rest of the nominees in the category are no slouches either. Really, I'm just very happy to have been nominated at all, because comedy albums rarely get any kind of real respect from the recording community. But you know, even though the context was comedy, it was very challenging because we were working with a dozen different musical genres on this album — everything from gangsta rap to polka, so it was very gratifying to me that the voters were able to appreciate the underlying craft of what we were doing.

Are you going to the ceremony?
Wouldn't miss it. I guess it's "cool" to be jaded about this kind of stuff, but I still get a huge kick out of going to the Grammys. Along with everything else, it's just a great hang — and it's always fun to meet the people that I've been parodying.

Are you blown away by the fact that 2006 has turned out to be pretty much the best year of your career?
Yeah, it's pretty Bizarro World. Conventional wisdom would suggest that my career would have ended, oh, about 22 years ago. But I've been able to hang in there — actually a lot longer than most of the people I've parodied — and now after all this time I'm a Top 10 artist as well. It's crazy.

How much credit do you give YouTube for the success of the album?
YouTube was huge for me on this album — MySpace and Google Video too. "White & Nerdy" was a true viral sensation — it's gotten 20 million hits or something ridiculous like that. VH1 has been extremely supportive as well, but I believe this is the first time that the Internet has played such a crucial role in the promotion of my album.

Where do you keep your Grammys?
Well, I used to have them attached to my forehead with wood screws, but they were getting a little heavy. Actually, they're on display on a cabinet in my living room, next to the TV.

I've seen UHF at least fifty times. Any chance for another movie?
Thanks. Unfortunately, I don't have time to devote several months of my life to developing a script for a movie that, in all likelihood, will never actually get made — I prefer to focus my efforts on things which are pretty much guaranteed to bear fruit, like my albums or concert tours. But of course, if the right role or project came along, I'd be thrilled to take it on. Actually, it's looking like I may be cast as voice talent for a major role in an animated feature that's going into production next year, so I'm very excited about that one.