"Weird Al" Yankovic on Totalitarianism and 'Mandatory Fun' Being His Final Album
Published Jul 22, 2014The latest album by "Weird Al" Yankovic is called Mandatory Fun, and its album art and pre-release promo clips all possess a military vibe that recalls Cold War-era Soviet Union and Chinese muscle flexing. It seems serious for a comedy record.
"The cover is mostly Soviet flavoured, but if you look at the full art package, there's all sorts of propaganda art," he tells Exclaim! "There's Chinese propaganda images, there's a Che Guevara image in there, so it's all sorts of propaganda art and references to totalitarian regimes. I've always been fascinated with that and I thought it was a funny visual to go along with the oxymoron, 'mandatory fun.'
"It's also been suggested — and this certainly wasn't my intention — by some fans reading into it that, 'Oh, this is the last album on your contract so this was 'mandatory,' right?' I'm like, 'Oh, okay, there's another interpretation, sure.'"
There has been a slight hubbub because Mandatory Fun fulfills Yankovic's contract with Sony, whom he sued for royalty payments in 2012, and given his rebellious, anti-authority and hilarious artistic output, the album art does seem like a broadside against corporate overlords who might well put the dick in dictator.
For Yankovic, it's not as black and white as all that. The record label landscape is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and he's simply considering his options in the modern age.
"There's a very real possibility that this is my final conventional album," he explains. "I'm not sure and, again, I'm not drawing a hard line in the sand because some people have taken me out of context. But yeah, I really don't know what I'm going to be doing after this, but I'm thinking it's probably going to be moving more towards releasing singles as opposed to albums."
Part of Yankovic's hang-ups about the album release cycle stem from his having to wait to get his parodies of hit singles out, and as a result, they might not be as current or fresh as he'd like them to be. Having said that, his creative instinct does rest on occasion.
"There's always fodder for parody, but I'm not constantly thinking about what to do," he says. "I'm sure there are things happening right now that are great to make fun of, but I've shut off that part of my brain because the album's coming out and I doubt I'd have time to even consider it even if there was a great candidate out there.
"It'll probably all change going forward, but in the past, after the tour, I wouldn't even listen to Top 40 radio. I wouldn't even be thinking about the parodies; I would work on all of the originals first, because they don't age as quickly as the parodies, so I could record and mix them and put them in the can and then I'd do the parodies very last because that way they're more topical and timely."
While Yankovic is concentrating on the release of Mandatory Fun, an upcoming as-yet-unannounced tour and everything else that stuff entails, he is open to new ventures. Yankovic was contemplating a new movie project and he's also authored two bestselling books for children, 2011's When I Grow Up and 2013's My New Teacher and Me!
"I loved doing those books and I'd love to do more," he says when asked to contemplate his future. "I'd like to continue doing the music and touring. There's been interest in me writing a Broadway musical, which is something I've never done and that would be a lot of fun for me. I love doing voiceover work. I mean, there's a lot of things out there and I don't have any firm plans other than a vague notion that I'll be doing the Mandatory tour some time next year."
Read a chronicle of Yankovic's extensive career here.
You can also read our recent Questionnaire with "Weird Al" Yankovic here.