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My Grammys: Weird Al, David Sedaris and More Remember the Big Night

Margaret Cho, Nate Ruess, Mastodon and Giorgio Moroder share stories from backstage

Grammy Awards

Grammy Awards

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With the 57th annual Grammy Awards just days away, Rolling Stone asked a handful of past winners and nominees about their favorite memories of Grammys past. Our group of comedians, authors and musicians responded with tales of getting dressed down by Pink, wearing the nomination medallion to the dinner table and possibly eskimo-kissing Paul McCartney.

David Sedaris

NBC

David Sedaris

Three Nominations: Best Spoken Word Album (2005, 2009, 2014)

I never went to it. I never thought I would win and I thought it would be even worse to be there and not win. A book on tape not the kind of thing people even list when they're listing who won. I had to write my publisher two days after and say, "Whatever happened with that Grammy Award?" 

One year, I feel like I got a ballot from [the Grammys]. I don't understand why I got it, and it was just before the deadline. They invited me to vote on certain things. I don't remember if it was everything or just certain things. I thought it was just ridiculous because I listen to books on tape — I listen to them quite often — but there'd be no way in the amount of time they were giving me to listen to five books on tape and make a judgment on them. That's when I realized, "Oh, I don't think anyone listens to them."

It's a popularity contest. I think people just get the ballot and say, "Oh right, Nelson Mandela, I've heard of him." If it was a serious award, then they would have given [last year's award] to George Saunders' Tenth of December. Just for the writing and the delivery, that was perfection. I didn't even see it as a nominee. It's the sort of thing where you look at the nominees and think, "My book must be as shitty as theirs." If George Saunders isn't on the list, this is just bullshit. 

By [2005, the first year I was nominated,] I had figured it was a popularity contest, and I thought, "Oh, I won't win that." I wasn't really disappointed with the Grammys because I didn't think I was popular enough to win. Everybody knows who Bill Clinton is. Even if Toni Morrison read her own audiobook and if she was up against Amy Poehler, Amy Poehler would win. That's just how the Grammys go. It's the kind of thing where even if they said to me, "Look, we have spies, and you won. You definitely won." I think I would just send an Indian from India to pick it up for me.

I have a friend who was nominated for liner notes, and you don't even see stars at [the early ceremony]. It's just a really long, dull ceremony. To lose is one thing. To lose in all your finery is something else. And to lose in all your finery while the sun is shining is even worse. You come out of that level of the Grammy Awards and it's like lunchtime. My publisher offered to buy me a free business class flight to Los Angeles, and I didn't even take them up on it. . .When you don't win they send you a medallion the size of a coaster. It comes in a Tiffany box, and it's on a ribbon. One night I wore it to the dinner table. I thought, "What do you do with it?" It just gets in your plate, you know? It gets gravy on it, and then it gets gravy on your shirt.

I used to clean an apartment for somebody who had won Grammy Awards. I remember thinking, "These can't be the real Grammy Awards." In real life, they were so cheap looking and they weren't heavy like I expected them to be. Maybe if you win for best song or something it's different. When it's liner notes or music criticism, they just go with the cheaper versions.

Nate Ruess

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Singer Nate Ruess performs onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Kevork Djansezian/Gett

fun.’s Nate Ruess

Two Wins: Song of the Year (2013), Best New Artist (2013)

It's the Super Bowl because it's the Super Bowl of performing. [Pink and I] were supposed to do the song ["Just Give Me a Reason"], we go out there to rehearse, and she's twirling around up there, she's not singing because her voice is messed up and she wants to make sure she's great for the show. But she's up in the air, twirling around like a motherfucker; and I get up there onstage, and I'm singing, and I'm like, "All right, well, if she's not singing, I'm going to take some liberties with the notes." So I was trying notes I'd never tried before, and she's spinning her ass off, telling the people there exactly how she wants everything. Exactly. She's very meticulous. She's upset about the way things are unfolding, and I'm just, like, happy to be there, being like, "It will work when we get onstage!"

 So the next day, I get there early, and I get a note, like, "Alecia wants to talk to you." So I go into her dressing room, and it's just her, and she's like, "Did you see this?" She's sitting next to a laptop and she pulls up this video, and it's our rehearsal video. And she's like, "Did you see this?" And I'm like, "No, why the fuck would I watch our rehearsal video?" So she goes right to one of my bent notes, pauses it, and is like, "You're not going to do that, are you?" And it was amazing. Not only is she dead serious when she's rehearsing, she's watching footage afterwards! And that's what makes her great, and makes the Grammys great.

Mastodon

Bill Kelliher, Brann Dailor, Brent Hinds and Troy Sanders of Mastodon, nominees Best Metal Performance for "Colony of Birchmen" (Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage)

Jesse Grant/Getty

Mastodon’s Brann Dailor

Three Nominations: Best Metal Performance (2007, 2015); Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance (2012)

When we got nominated in 2007, we were on tour in Europe with Tool. I had to do an interview with Rolling Stone after we found out. I had the flu, so I was super sick. I was in my bunk and they handed me the phone. So it was like, "How do you feel about being nominated?" And I felt like shit. That first one was the biggest shocker for us. We thought it was totally outside the realm of possibility for a band like us. It was confusing because we're not in that world. We thought they made a mistake. 

We've gone to the ceremony every time. I bring my wife with me. Everybody brings their wives or girlfriends. I like parties. We never expect to win.

That first year, I think we were on tour. We had to fly in and I remember getting changed into a suit. They said I looked like a narc or something. I remember changing in the bathroom in a stall at LAX. Then we got into the limo early in the morning. My wife had been up all night with her band the night before. It was kind of a whirlwind. There was a big gift basket from Jada Pinkett Smith with a note of congratulations waiting for us. 

The red carpet was really bizarre. Chris Isaak interviewed us for the Today Show or something. I don't think most people knew who the hell we were. We had a publicist with us saying, "This is Mastodon." And people would be like, "Who?" "They're a heavy metal band." "Oh yeah, I guess we'll talk to you." We got there early before any of the real stars got there. We were kinda shadowing Peter Frampton, so that was cool.

I have some friends who are like, "I won't go to that bullshit." Why not? It's different and weird and bizarre. It's some of the best people-watching you can do. We went to some party and probably stayed too late. Then it goes back to reality of playing in the middle of nowhere in some club.

The second one [in 2012], I think we were coming from Europe. We missed the red carpet, but the Warner Bros. party was cool. I remember Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney came into the room where everybody was, and they were dancing together. [Vocalist and guitarist Brent Hinds] had taken all of the flowers out of some big vase and put them up through his shirt so that they were coming out around his neck. He looked like a total crazy person and went over there and started dancing with them. I swear I looked over and saw him and Paul McCartney Eskimo kissing. All of a sudden Paul and Elvis were whisked away. My wife and I were like, "It's probably not going to get any better than that, so we might as well leave."

Margaret Cho

Dan MacMedan/Getty

Margaret Cho

One Nomination: Best Comedy Album (2011)

It was really exciting, you know? It's always really thrilling to be in any — I love that kind of big music show because you can see these performers up close. That one was really good because Dylan performed with Mumford and this array of Americana guys and that was really incredible. Jennifer Lopez was standing in this silver dress — I can't even do the facial expression, it was so stupid. Why are you giving Bob Dylan a fuck face? It was this crazy weird fuck face, and I'm like, don't give Bob Dylan. . .He wrote "Blood on the Tracks." You need to just love him.

I sat in between Kathy Griffin and Arcade Fire; and Arcade Fire were so elated, they had won album of the year. It was so thrilling because I love them, but it was like, oh, finally an indie band! They were so excited to win. Kathy and I were pissed for not winning. She tried so hard to break the gender gap, to win the Grammy for that category. 

Basement Jaxx

Frank Micelotta/Getty

Basement Jaxx’s Felix Buxton

One Win: Best Electronic/Dance Album (2005)

I thought, "If we're getting a Grammy, we definitely want to be there." We were trying to find out before if we were going to get it, but they didn't let us know. So we had to go there and wait for hours while they gave Best Polka award, best whatever and whatever. But for us, it was great. You see all the cartoon characters, and Beyoncé and Snoop Dogg all rubbing shoulders with each other. It's quite entertaining, and to see what a business it is, particularly the big American acts, to see how much their PR agents were involved.

It's a circus, and it's great to kind of witness it. I remember afterwards Usher had some party, an afterparty that everyone wanted to go to, which it took me absolutely ages to plug into. There were hundreds of people outside all going, really stressed and wanting to get in there. Then I eventually managed to get us in, and it was just everyone pointing their phones, videoing Usher and Tarantino, and it was a rubbish party. [Laughs.] I thought, "How ridiculous?" It was really amazing to see the whole hype machine and the big bullshit factor — the people waiting outside and then getting in there to see that this is all there is. I feel like that was the same thing as the Grammys. You're seeing the whole red carpet thing and people beating themselves up and working out that it's a real industry. We came from a point of doing our music where it was like a scene. It was not to do with this big, corporate pop industry. For us, it was one of the first times seeing that.

Weird Al Yankovic

Al Yankovic arrives at the Staples Center for the 54th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California, February 12, 2012. AFP PHOTO Joe KLAMAR (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Jason Merritt/Getty

“Weird Al” Yankovic

Three Wins: Best Comedy Recording (1985), Best Concept Music Video (1989), Best Comedy Album (2004)

It was surrealistic the first time [I was nominated]. I was just a couple years out of college — with a degree in architecture, no less — and all of a sudden, there I was in a rented tux at the Grammy awards! And I have to say, as mind-blowing as it was 30 years ago, it doesn't feel any less mind-blowing now. Being a Grammy nominee never gets old — I'm not jaded about it in the slightest.

The very first time I was nominated, I was up against Rodney Dangerfield and Richard Pryor, so, no, I wasn't expecting to win. When they called my name, I thought somebody had made a mistake! 

[In 2007] I remember Chamillionaire came up to me on the red carpet to tell me that "White & Nerdy" clinched his Grammy win because my parody made it "undeniable" that "Ridin'" was the Rap Song of the Year. 

[All of the ceremonies I've attended have] all been great and memorable, but my favorite was probably last time — three years ago — because I got to bring my 8-year-old daughter with me to the Grammys. She even got interviewed on the red carpet, and totally nailed it!

 

Giorgio Moroder

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Producer Paul Williams, recording artist Pharrell Williams, and musician Giorgio Moroder attend the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage)

Michael Kovac/Getty

Giorgio Moroder

I remember I was sitting next to my wife and Pharrell and of course the [Daft Punk] guys when they said "And the winner is…"; and I see Taylor Swift jumping up because she had an album and I didn't really hear what they said. They didn't say Daft Punk, they said the name of the album. I was like "Oh!" And I was sitting and I saw them get up and I asked my wife, "Did we win?" And she said, "Yeah! Didn't you listen?" [Chuckles.] It was nice.

Slipknot Clown

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Slipknot Clown attends the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

Steve Granitz/Getty

Slipknot’s Clown

I just sat there and smoked cigarettes outside, and was like, "You guys will figure it out." [Security] were just so fucking freaked out. Finally, they come up to me, and I'm like, "Here's the deal, I've won a fucking Grammy. It's so heartbreaking that it's so hard for you fucks to figure it out." After about 25 minutes at every door, they let me in everywhere. It's great walking down the red carpet, and having people go, "What is this thing?"

We've done this before. It's so funny listening to them talk. I like to ruin everyone's day. When they walk the red carpet, all of a sudden there's a clown in a $2,000 suit. We just want to let everyone know, "I don't know what you think of Slipknot. I don't really fucking care. But we aren't going anywhere. I'm right here, right now in your face, and you didn't think so. You're not safe."

When I was rolling through security, first you have these idiot punk fucks — moronic, scared, non-competent people. They were assholes. The kids and the lower security — people taking your ticket or whatever — everyone knew who I am and think it's badass. They're real fans and the real workers of the night. They're not getting awards, they're giving out Cokes. The high-up security people and the cops too. The real cops with the real guns would be like, "Aw, can't wait for the new album, man." As the enemy is all around, the secret society is right next to them.

The Grammys are nothing but achievement for me, man. It's hard to ignore the work of this little band from Iowa called Slipknot. You can't fuck with our work — you just can't. Who's doing it bigger and better? Sure, pop bands have millions of dollars in production, we don't need all that. We're a war onstage. I have gentlemen in tuxedos that are 70 years old coming to say congratulations. I have no idea who they are, but they're watching.

It's kind of a ridiculous thing. Best metal performance? Whatever that means. It's so funny, you got all these shitheels that play on tape there. Got their panties up their ass, and all these fucking fruitcakes doing whatever. Best metal performance? Whatever. It should be best band in the fucking solar system for us. I'm pretty sure that it's our time again this year. On our third record when we won it was the same thing. We worked our asses off. Whoever does win deserves it.

When we won in 2006, I lost my father three or four months prior. I was just in a zone. I feel like he had something to do with it. It was a nice way of ending any sort of ceremony. I pulled it in. It was just what I needed. My wife bought me a piano, and I keep my Grammy there. I'd like to think of a long line of great songwriters that achieved what their dream is, their art. I use that as an inspiration. It reminds me of hard work and digging in.

In This Article: Grammy Awards, Grammys2015

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