Weird Al & Brad Roberts: The Untold Story

by Stephen Hubbard

During a break in the chaotic action at MuchMusic's Canadian Music Awards in October, Network caught up with Brad Roberts, of the Crash Test Dummies and Weird Al Yankovic, who were performing Yankovic's new single, "Headline News," a parody of the Dummies' hit "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm."

N Why did you decide to cover "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm?"
WA: "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" stands out as probably the most unique song that became a hit in 1994. My record company was pressuring me for a boxed set and they wanted a new single, so I came up with the idea of using the big news stories of the year as the vignettes in the song, and had my manager approach their manager.

N Brad, what was your reaction when you heard about it?
BR: It's definitely a kind of milestone. A lot of people don't realize that Al, for example, does not have to ask us if he wants to cover our song -- there are no laws saying that someone can't cover you, the laws simply are that the artist be involved in the payment of royalties -- so Al is taking a tack which I think, to his credit, which is to actually work with the artists and talk to them about what he is doing. In Europe there are all kinds of hilariously cheesy disco versions of "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm," and they don't really need permission to put these things together, as long as we get the royalties.
WA: (laughing) With the same words and everything?
BR: Oh yeah. But actually, the most successful re-workings of lyrics I find are the ones that preserve the original rhyme scheme, because it's a more immediate play, and I think that's why Al's videos are so funny -- I probably sound like I'm kissing your butt or something -- because he does every video to a T, every fucking detail is taken care of.

N Do you have any tips on dressing for success?
WA: I always try to make my socks match my underwear.

N Brad, what about the rumors that you're about to change your image and start dressing heavy metal, in leather and chains?
BR: Well you know, I've got an allergy to leather, so it's always been a problem for me to go in that direction, but I have yearned for that for some time.

N Karl Marx was concerned with the economic dynamics of capitalist societies. He thought the working class would eventually seize the state and establish a dictatorship of proletariat so class differences would disappear. Have these ideas affected your videos?
WA: Personally I subscribe more to the philosophy of Harpo Marx who said, "Honk."
BR: Well, of course, the dictatorship of the proletariat has never been far from my mind when we've been putting together our videos, but so far we've avoided any overt or heavy-handed Marxist references.

N Do you have any advice for the kids out there searching for direction?
WA: Yeah. Get a job, and cut your hair.

N But some of them have shaved heads?
WA: Well, wear a wig and then cut it.