Weird Al Yankovic is nearing 60, but he shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, he’s mounting perhaps his most adventurous trek dubbed the “Strings Attached Tour,” performing songs with a large orchestra. Montana Press caught up with the parody guru to chat about the tour, being part of “Stranger Things” and how he plans to celebrate his birthday.
Montana Press: Were you kicking around this idea for a symphony tour for a while?
Weird Al Yankovic: It didn’t occur to me until a couple of years ago. I did two nights at the Hollywood Bowl with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, which was something that I never thought I’d be able to claim. It was such an amazing experience to bring my band there and to perform with an 85-piece orchestra. I’ve been saying that it was sort of like a religious experience. It was so amazing that I talked to my manager and said, ‘Can we possibly put together a whole tour like this?’ I didn’t know if it was going to be feasible. But it probably was, because we’re doing it this year.
MP: What might be the biggest challenge about this tour?
WAY: Well, there’s just a lot of logistics, but thankfully there are other people who are involved in it. I’m not doing the heavy lifting in terms of putting together the orchestras. As soon as I announced it. I was getting people on my Twitter feed saying, ‘Hey, I play the viola!’ (laughs) Or wanting to be on the tour. We are not touring with the same orchestra, it’s all local musicians. So there’s a lot of work just putting the whole thing together. But it’s all happening, the orchestras have been great and the shows have been amazing.
MP: What was the music scene like growing up in Lynwood, California?
WAY: I don’t think Lynwood had its own music scene. When I was growing up you listened to the local AM station KHJ and then there were the album-oriented rock FM stations like KLOS. So it was basically whatever happened to be popular or cool at the time.
MP: How have you evolved as an artist from when you first started to where you are now?
WAY: I would like to think I’ve gotten better. I think my basic sensibility hasn’t changed that much. But since the early 1980s, I would like to think that I’m a better songwriter, a better singer and a better performer. It’s the whole Malcolm Gladwell thing, you spend 10,000 hours doing something and you’re liable to get better at it.
MP: How have the shows gone so far?
WAY: The shows have been great. We’re selling out pretty much everywhere, the audiences are really enjoying the show, and I’m really enjoying the show. This is a 41-piece orchestra and backup singers, props and costumes and LED screens. It’s the biggest show we’ve ever done and likely the biggest show we’ll ever do. We’re pulling out all the stops.
MP: What can fans expect at the upcoming show in Billings?
WAY: We’re playing the hits; we’re playing the deep cuts. The orchestra is obviously the focal point of this tour so we’re featuring them as much as possible and playing songs where they can really shine.
MP: Do you have any fond memories or funny anecdotes about performing in Montana?
WAY: One time I remember I was performing somewhere in Montana and backstage the cheese was cut in a perfect Isosceles triangle. I thought that was pretty cool.
MP: Were you surprised that “Stranger Things” used your song and included an old t-shirt of yours?
WAY: I was surprised that they asked. I wasn’t surprised when I saw it because they had already cleared the use of the t-shirt and “My Bologna” from me, which I was more than happy to do. But I was thrilled because my family and I are huge “Stranger Things” fans. I’ve met most of those cast members at various functions, and it’s nice to be part of their canon now.
MP: I recently saw you tweet about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Would you like to be inducted or at least in the hunt for possible induction?
WAY: That was sort of a goof. Obviously, I’m in the running, I think I’m number 10 on the wish list when I was there, which was very flattering. Obviously, I’m not going to hold my breath. Of course, I would be thrilled even to be considered. But I don’t think I’ll ever be on their short list.
MP: What are the plans for the rest of the year after touring?
WAY: There are virtually no plans. Everything that may happen is something that I’m not at liberty to talk about. So next year could either be a very busy year, or time to reconnect with my family. So we’ll see. Hopefully a bit of both.
MP: How will you be celebrating your 60th birthday?
WAY: I’ll probably be alone in a closet, naked. And shivering.