We sat down with the charming, lustrous-locked Alfred Yankovic, a.k.a. Weird Al, 57, for a chat about growing up show-biz adjacent, his favorite vegan restaurants and his career-spanning box set due out later this year.
You recently announced the release of Squeeze Box, your 15-album box set. Why now?
Frankly, I think it would have been better to release it after I’m dead, but apparently Legacy Records was getting impatient, so they’re putting it out now. It’s always a bummer when an artist puts out a "complete" box set and then messes it up by continuing to be productive and putting out more music. Which, by the way, is still my plan.
What was it like growing up in L.A.?
I lived in Lynwood, so I didn’t exactly grow up in the show-biz community—but I was show-biz adjacent. I was close enough to Hollywood that I could drive to Sunset Boulevard and knock on some doors. If I’d been born in Nebraska I probably wouldn’t have my current career because it wouldn’t have been geographically convenient for me to put myself out there.
What’s your favorite place to perform here?
In the early days, I would busk on the sidewalk in Westwood Village. This year I had the opportunity to play the Hollywood Bowl, and there’s really nothing that compares to that. It’s a large venue and it’s so iconic, but there’s something about it that feels intimate. Maybe it’s because the people up in front are eating dinner while you’re playing, so it’s easy enough to just pretend you’re playing at a dinner theater somewhere in South Dakota.
You're vegan; what's your favorite vegan restaurant in L.A.? And do you run into Moby like, all the time?
There are a ton of great vegetarian restaurants in L.A.—Crossroads, Sage, Real Food Daily, Bulan Thai, Native Foods Café... but I can find great vegetarian food in virtually any restaurant. I love Indian food (like Bombay Palace) as well as Mexican (Gardens of Taxco) and Italian (Trattoria Amici). And I do bump into Moby from time to time, but the last time I saw him at a restaurant was in New York City, at his tea café TeaNy.
Many comedic performers have been showcasing new, rather opinionated material in this shifting political climate. Are you working on anything new and, ahem, topical?
Well, nothing political. I've always tried to avoid doing that kind of humor. It's divisive. No matter how mild or innocuous your humor is, in this day and age, people will get upset—really upset. I'm very reluctant to make a joke if I think it will infuriate millions of people, and I wouldn't be too keen on losing half of my fan base. But I've never gotten a death threat for singing a song about Amish people or Star Wars.
Are you ever going to cut your hair? You could donate it... or sell it.
Nah, I like it long—I'm just going to wait for it to fall out. And as far as donating or selling that kind of stuff—here's the thing. I'm in the process if trying to sift through and thin out several decades of personal memorabilia. I know that some of the items winding up in the trash would be absolute treasures for certain fans. But I can't allow myself to focus on that, because then I wouldn't be able to throw anything out, ever. Once I donated a Ziploc bag full of my drier lint to a charity auction, and somebody paid $600 for it. Hey, if I signed a moldy piece of driftwood, I guess it would have value for somebody... but that doesn't mean I should be hoarding moldy driftwood.
Is there anywhere in L.A. you can go without being recognized?
The corner of 75th and 8th in Hyde Park. I can stand there all day long, and people won’t even make eye contact with me.
Squeeze Box: The Complete Works of "Weird Al" Yankovic will be released this Fall, and is available for pre-order now at weirdal.com.
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