Bang the Drum Weirdly: An Interview with Weird Al’s Drummer, Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz

Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz

On February 27, 2018, “Weird” Al Yankovic kicked off The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.  On that tour, Jon Schwartz, known as “Bermuda” to fans, will be playing the drums, as he has for over 35 years.  I got to sit down and talk with Bermuda about his life, his career, and the new tour.

For the uninitiated, I’m interviewing Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz, who is best known for being the drummer for musical legend “Weird Al” Yankovic. So, I guess that would make you legendary drummer John “Bermuda” Schwartz. Thanks for sitting down with me.

You are very welcome and thank you for the compliments.

Absolutely. So let’s start by going back to the beginning. I read on your bio that you started drum lessons at age nine, is that correct?

Yeah, I had started taking drum lessons just after I turned nine. I took accordion lessons prior to that and my older brother had a drum set and had taken drum lessons. About the time I gave the accordion up he gave up the drums for the guitar and I inherited the drums and started taking drum lessons so that was right after my ninth birthday, which was 1965. That was the era for the Beatles and other pop music and rock and bubblegum and I still had some influences from my parents’ record collection, which had Latin orchestras and all sorts of comedy records; they had Allan Sherman records. So, I got a little bit of an introduction to comedy and accordions early on, not knowing that it would ever play any kind of role later in my life but that’s how the drum thing came about, they were basically drums in the house and that’s why I started taking drum lessons.

I can’t speak for you, but I know if I told my parents at the age of 9, 10, 11, “Hey, mom and dad, I want to play the drums.”  I don’t think that would be met with, “Hey, great, drums!” Were they supportive or were they like, “Hey, maybe the flute, violin, stick with the accordion?”

They were supportive. My dad played accordion, which is probably why I was forced to take accordion lessons. He didn’t play professionally, but he owned an accordion and could play an accordion. My mother played piano and also was a singer. Again, not professionally but as a child, she was on the radio in Chicago; she was kind of a child prodigy, so there was music in the family. My brother went on with his guitar playing and did very well and I think by the time I announced it when I was age 12 or so that I wanted to be a professional drummer I don’t think it was any large surprise or an affront to them or anything, it was like, “Well, that makes sense, it’s a musical family so sure why not?”

So, there was never any doubt?  You said you made this decision at 12. Was there ever any doubt anywhere along the lines that it was like, “You know what?  I’m kind of losing interest in drums.” Or was it from 12 on pretty much single focus?

I don’t think I ever lost interest.  I didn’t really know what it meant to be a professional musician. I just knew that it sounded like something I wanted to do and so that was always in my head. Fortunately, I got some good opportunities at a young age. I was doing demos and playing with some other bands and stuff in my teens. And by the time I was 20, I was playing full-time. So, I had some direction. I never really thought, “Oh, this isn’t going to work out,” or, “I’m going to give it up or whatever.”  It’s just always been there. And then, of course, meeting Al, which was one of those “right place, right time” kind of experiences. It was the next step and, even at the time, I had no idea that there was a future. I didn’t just step into this working act and think, “Great, there’s a lot of work ahead.” He was just an accordion-playing guy whose songs got played on the Dr. Demento show. But it seemed like a lot of fun.

And that’s a perfect transition to the next question. 1980…that’s when you and Al crossed paths?  That was on the Dr. Demento show?

Yeah, back in those days, in the early 70s, everybody listened to the Dr. Demento show. I don’t know that he was on nationally at that point, but in Los Angeles, he was on live every Sunday night. And that was the wacky, funny, sometimes a little bit risqué stuff that the kids could listen to on the radio. And me and all my friends listened to it. In fact, Al was a big fan in those early days. And I had sent in some recordings that my friends and I had just recorded. One was for a contest that Demento ran. And another was just a song about Woodsy Owl. And we sent in a song about that and that got played on the radio. And then, a year later, we sent in a song called, Mr. Ghost Goes to Town. And that got played on the radio on his show. And this was by ’75. The Dr. Demento show evolved from being a lot of jazz and novelty and rare records to…they really started catering to a lot of independent artists that were recording stuff at home. I was invited to do an interview on the show. I was one of the first people to have homemade music on his show. I was never very big, but he thought that that would make sense to talk to one of the early people. And so, September 14, 1980, I came down to the studio and Al was there. By this point, he was already well-known on the show and had some hits. In fact, at that point, Capital Records had issued My Bologna as a single.

Okay.

So he was well-known. He was one of those guys that recorded stuff at home and got played on the radio. Except, he was the most requested one of all. Anyway, he had been out camping with Dr. Demento and some other “Dementites” that weekend. And they all got together that Sunday night for the show. And he had written a song over the weekend called, Another One Rides the Bus, a parody of Queen’s, Another One Bites the Dust.

Absolutely.

All the cast members in the studio, SuLu, Damaskas, and Musical Mike and the rest, were all there because Al was going to play it live on the air that night. And everyone was recruited, including me, to beat on his accordion case. Hand claps and squeaks and squawks and horns, just wacky stuff. It wasn’t really serious. But Dr. Demento ran a tape, like a reel tape of us doing the song and that actually became a single.

Yeah. That’s a pretty amazing song. Before music was produced…even the actual song on the CD has that made-at-home kind of sound.

Well, yeah. It was it was like a couple of mics in the studio. I think it was stereo. It wasn’t really meant to be anything. It’s lucky he made that recording. It became a single a few months later. It was also on the first album, which came out in May of ’83. The other thing is, and sort of what got the ball rolling, that was kind of a pivotal song, even more so than My Bologna. Now, at this point, the Dr. Demento show was syndicated on 180, 190 stations across the country. And since it was a Sunday night show that ran in most markets, they would take elements from the live show in Los Angeles and couple together a syndicated version that ran basically two, three, weeks later. And what the morning disc jockeys, would do is they would listen to funny stuff on the Dr. Demento show and pull stuff off and play it on their morning show. And they pulled, Another One Rides the Bus off of that show. So now we’re getting played in major markets in drivetime, which is huge, which is when people are sitting on their cars, captive audience, that’s gold. I mean, that’s just incredible. And that’s what really got the ball rolling. Al called me about three, four, weeks later and says, “Remember that thing we did?” He says that it’s been played in morning drive. It’s huge. He says, “I’ve got a manager. I’m going to be back home [from Cal Poly]. I want to get together and record a couple of things. So, we’ll put out an EP and we’ll sort of get things going,” which we did. That was a real turning point because it broke him beyond the Dr. Demento show. That’s really what got the ball rolling.

Okay. You knew Al was big on the show. Then you get to meet the man in person and you actually get to work with him. First impressions of him as a musician, a lyricist, and a person after that performance?

Well, it’s hard to say. I mean obviously, I thought he was funny. I wanted to say in the back of my head, “There’s a future in this, I better jump on the bandwagon,” but I had no such thought. It just seems like something fun. And I had a regular job at the time. And I was in another band or two at the time. And I thought, “Well, this is another opportunity to play and it’s fun. He seems like a good guy. He’s already popular on the show.” So, I said something like, “You need to have a band. I’ll be your drummer.” And it just kind of went from there.

I always like to ask people, if I were able to time travel back and walk up to you that day on the Dr. Demento show and say, “Hey, Jon. That guy you just performed with?  You’ll be performing with him for over 35 years in a world-traveling, Grammy-winning band.”  What would you have said to me?  Was there any thought in the back of your head like, “Maybe, this guy could go all the way”?

Probably not. Or if I did, it would have been like, “Well, maybe he’ll have a couple of things that’ll be big on the Demento show and that’ll sort of be the extent of that.”  I mean, there was no indication that it would go any further. And even with each album, even with each gold record and platinum record, it’s like, “Well, are we still going to be doing this in five years from now?” And every time, the answer was, “yes.” It just kept going and it still keeps going. I mean, there’s no end in sight.

And I’ll tell you what, I’ve been there for the ride since Even Worse came out in 1988. Through my life, I commuted to college; I’ve commuted to work for the last 10 years. He’s always been there. I feel as though I’ve been along with you guys. When I finally got to do a VIP meet-and-greet with him, I was saying in my mind, “Please don’t be a jerk. Please don’t be a jerk.”  And he was a super-nice guy.  So, it was really great to see a good guy that’s done well. I’ve also met you at one concert and I asked for a picture and you were super cool about it. And Steve asked for a picture. It’s cool to see cool people do well.

Everyone in this band is a good guy, including particularly the star himself. He’s never copped an attitude. He knows where he’s at in the scheme of things, but it doesn’t get to him in an egotistical way. He’s very down to earth and he’s very accommodating. He’s very aware that everybody out there that buys a record or used to buy records, everyone out there that pays to come see us play, supports his career. And he wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing without them. He’s very grateful for that and very aware of that and if someone wants to take a picture or shake his hand, it’s no problem. It’s never a problem for him which is great. He still appreciates it. We all do. It’s very cool. I mean we don’t get quite the adulation that Al does, but in our own way…I’ve certainly got a lot more notoriety than I ever would have gotten with any of the groups I played with. And I still play with a bunch of bands but unfortunately, not one of them has achieved anywhere near what Al has. There’s just not enough room for everyone to be huge.

So, playing in a band with a guy named Weird Al definitely requires you to do a little more…weird stuff. Like if you’re the drummer of Bon Jovi, you’re not dressing up like a giant squid for the Lady Gaga parody. Was doing all the odd stuff something you were on board right from the get-go or did it take you some time to ease into being a “weird” drummer?

Well, the drumming part isn’t weird (Laughs). The costumes were sort of foisted upon us gradually. I don’t think it was any kind of master plan. I think it just sort of evolved and we evolved with it. I don’t want to say it’s a relief, but it’s refreshing to just go out on this tour and just do a show…just walk out and be us; no costumes, no nothing. This is primarily originals that we’re doing on this tour, but even in some of the originals, we’ve done before Al had a costume of some sort. For this tour, he’s just out there wearing whatever he’s wearing. I mean jeans and a t-shirt perhaps.  Who knows?

I know one of the big selling points for hardcore Weird Al fans is that he’s shooting to do a different lineup every concert.

Yeah. We’re pulling out 50, 52 of the originals and there’s enough of those where I think we can make every show different. The idea is that no two shows are exactly alike and I think it’s possible to do it.

Excellent. So, you’ve been performing with Al for 35 years, 14 albums. You’ve done hundreds of songs by now. As a drummer, which have been some of your favorites to play

That’s the hardest question of all. I enjoy playing all of them. And it doesn’t depend on the drum part necessarily, or whether I like one song more than another necessarily. I just enjoy playing drums. So I mean, I’m perfectly happy playing every song. There’s not a point in the show where I’m like, “Oh boy!  Two more songs until I get to play Jurassic Park,” or something like that (Laughs). There was never that kind of a feeling. So I don’t know that there’s a favorite song. They’re all my favorites. Honestly. There’s nothing that I hate playing, where it’s like, “Oh two more songs and I got to play this, but then it’s all over!  I can be happy again!”

Right. Thank goodness for that. So as far as parodies go, do you ever interact with the drummer for the original song? Do you get in touch with them beforehand and ask questions, or do they ever get back with you?  For example, did you get in touch with Chad Smith for the Red Hot Chili Peppers when you did Bedrock Anthem?  Do they ever get back and say, “Hey, I heard your parody. I thought it was pretty good,” or is there never any of that?

I’ve met a lot of the guys. There’s only been one occasion where I went to someone beforehand, and I’ll tell you why in a sec, but I had met the drummer from Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. I’ve met Chad Smith, out of the context of Al, just sort of being– well, partly because we play the same cymbals. So, when Sabian has an artist party, Chad and I are both there, along with a bunch of other guys. So, I’ve met more than a few of the drummers I’ve parodied, sometimes well after the fact. And in one case, I did actually contact– it’s the only time I’ve ever contacted anyone, and I wanted a little direction. Actually, I needed more than direction. This was the drummer from Imagine Dragons [Daniel Platzman]. This was a few years ago. I was having trouble with the snare sound on that sound. I was really having trouble with the snare, and I thought, “Well, I’m just going to take a chance and just sort of bare my soul.” And I wrote to him and explained, “I’ve never done this before, but I really wanted to get this right. Is there anyway?”  And I knew that he didn’t probably program the sound. It was probably the producer or the writer of the song that did it. But I thought I’d start with him. And I said, “Is there any way I can get that snare sound from you? I just really would like…I want that to be right. It’s important.” And I didn’t hear back from him right away. And we were getting down to where we needed to move forward and record the song, and I literally got up one morning and thought, “Well, I better go really work on this sound some more. It’ll just be whatever it is. That’s fine.” And so I checked my email, and I got an email from him, and he says, “[Wayne Sermon] is sending you the sample of that.” And he did. He sent me more than I needed. I mean, it was great.

So, since you’ve been in Al’s band you’ve won Grammys; you’ve toured the world; you’ve been Simpson-ized; you’ve met Dick Van Patten; you’ve been in music videos. What’s the most fun thing you’ve gotten to do as a result of being in Al’s band?

Well, traveling the country. Going to Europe, and throughout Canada, and Australia. I’ve been to places on Al’s nickel that I never would’ve gone on my own. Actually, we’ve played in every state except Hawaii, so I’ve been to every state– although I’ve been to Hawaii on my own, so I’ve actually been to all 50 states. I’ve been to most of the provinces in Canada. We’ve been all over Australia. Did a fairly comprehensive tour of Europe in the English-speaking cities, and that part of it, seeing the world really, is very cool. A living room, and hallways, and an office full of gold and platinum records is pretty cool.

(Laughs) Yeah. I gotta’ admit that’s pretty nice.

I mean there’s a lot of–they’re not really perks. They’re just sort of hallmarks of what you do. I’ve got a pretty cool legacy. I’m very privileged as a musician to be able to make a career of it because not everybody gets to do that. That’s the one thing, I think, everybody that plays an instrument would love, to be able to play full time, and maybe achieve some success, some notoriety. But to be able to just play full time and not have a regular job is sort of the goal of so many musicians and artists and stuff and who have been able to do that, although I did have a day job concurrent with Al for several years, and that’s another story. I mean that’s a chapter in a book one of these days. There was just a time that it was right to leave and I did, and that was over 20 years ago and I haven’t looked back. And, fortunately, the Al thing just keeps getting better. We’ve lasted this long and we continue to stay relevant, thanks to Al’s parodies that are relevant songs and themes, and now we have a young audience and we keep our old audience, and so it just keeps moving forward. If we relied on the people that loved us 30 years ago, it would’ve dwindled off a fair bit at this point.

Right. Yeah. Well, you can get to a bigger audience now.

Well, yeah. We’ve just been at it. We’ve just kept going. I mean it hasn’t dipped. It’s been on a constant growth, small, but in its way, huge. Who 35 years into their career has a number one album?

I was just about to mention the number one album. I mean, that’s his last “official” album, and number one, I mean a heck of a way to go out.

Yeah. Very few artists have the same band, the same lineup for their entire career basically, and that’s what it’s been with us in terms of the entire recording and touring career. It’s been me and Steve and Jim and Al, and technically that’s the band, and we have a touring keyboardist [Ruben Valtierra] who currently has been with us since 1991, so he’s pretty permanent, too. But how many bands do that, are together that long with the same members and are putting out hit albums?

Guys like Bob Rivers and Cledus T. Judd have fallen by the wayside, and the time I mean they were pretty big acts, but…

Yeah, yeah. Well, Cledus was sort of national, and I guess if you look for Bob Rivers stuff, he was kind of national. But Al is truly, genuinely national. I mean Al truly went through the whole MTV thing, and of course, that obviously was huge.

Right.

I mean, the timing was right. They were hungry for videos. Al was doing imaginative videos like Ricky and I Love Rocky Road and looking back they were so elementary, they were so goofy, but some of the videos very quickly got really good. And that kept it going, that added some legitimacy and the fact that Al has kept up. And the quality writing and quality recording, has kept it going. I mean it’s all due to Al. It’s not an accident. He’s that good and he’s remained that good. If he wasn’t, the audience would go away.

Right. What’s amazing now is people would compare Al to acts now like Lonely Island and Tenacious D and to sit here today and think in 30 years will people even know who Tenacious D or Lonely Island is?

No, no.

I mean that’s what makes your success…yours and Al’s…success absolutely amazing.

Yeah. And it’s amazing. It’s a blessing, I guess. We’re very privileged to be able to do this at the level we do for as long we’ve been doing it. I mean it’s really cool. Not everybody gets to do this. And it’s very cool.

So, I read in your bio that you’re the band’s “historian.”  Was that something you chose to do?  Or were they like, “Hey, Bermuda?  Want to be the band’s historian?”

No. I always collected stuff. I always archived stuff for everything I did, whether it was for bands or for school or anything I did. I always kept any kind of artifacts or photos. Once I got into taking pictures in the very early 70s, I took pictures of everything. And I always just kept that stuff. And when I met Al, it just was natural to continue to do that.

Coolest piece of memorabilia you have?

I have a lot of one-of-a-kind things or impossibly rare things. I mean probably the coolest thing I have…and technically it belongs to Al…but I’ve held it for the last 38 years or whatever, is I have his original Accordion case, which was the case that used on the Tomorrow Show and I think it went on the first tour with us. And it’s pretty beat up, but it’s cool enough to be in a museum. And that’s probably the coolest thing that I have. He still has his original accordion. So, one of these days it will end up back in that case, in the Smithsonian or somewhere else. Actually, that’s not a bad idea.

I would go make a pilgrimage to that. So you know at least one person will see it…that’s for sure!  So, on to the tour…you have a new one coming up and I’ve already purchased my ticket for your April 14 show in Augusta, GA. I’ve been to about a dozen or so Weird Al shows and every time I look at your tour schedule to buy tickets, your tour schedule looks brutal. I’m a person who doesn’t travel much for work, so I’m curious, what is the hardest part about touring?

Well, the traveling itself and the logistics of it all. It’s not the vacation that everyone thinks it is. Typically, we’re on a bus after the show every night, sleeping on the bus. It’s a comfy bus; we have no problem sleeping and it’s restful, but that’s part of the deal. And then we’re up in the morning and get dropped off in a hotel. And, with any luck, and if we’re somewhere cool we get to go out and look around. And that’s neat, but we’re on a schedule. It’s only on the days off, and those are often travel days. So, we spend a portion of the day on the bus just getting to the next place so we can have a night off. The other hard part is being away from home life. Whether it’s family or just the routine, or if you have pets, whatever it is. In our case, the most economical way to tour is to do it all at once. A lot of bands will go out, and they call them, ”Weekend Warrior,” bands. Every couple of weeks they go out for four days over a weekend and they’ll fly, and they’ll do that and come back and just go back to their lives. They don’t try and do it all at once. But they’re not traveling around with a semi full of stuff; they can sort of rent the stuff on the other end. They don’t have props. They’re not doing what we were doing. In Al’s case, once you book a truck, you book a couple of busses, you get a bunch of people to commit to work with you. You give it to them all at once. It’s really kind of unfair for anyone to say, ”Well, we’re going to do eight weeks and we’re going to take four weeks off, then we’re going to do another six weeks.”  You’re tying me up for 20 weeks or whatever, what do you expect me to do during those four weeks off?  Al’s not paying them. We don’t get paid when we’re off. So the economical way, and to make sure that we can get deals on any rental gear that we need to bring along for a lengthy period. We can offer that to someone, ”Hey, we’re going out for four months,” and it’s guaranteed. People know with Al that when he says he’s doing 16 weeks or whatever it is, that it’s 16 weeks, it doesn’t get cut short. It doesn’t go longer. It’s when a tour is scheduled, it’s scheduled and that’s it. And the crew gets the same message. It’s like, ”You guys are getting four months’ worth of work.”

Okay, so back to this specific tour. We talked about it a little bit earlier, but let’s get back into it now. It’s advertised as the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour. I saw Al recently at a convention in Orlando and he talked about it there. I’ve also read some interviews and he’s pretty consistent in his message. It’s no costumes and you guys are going to sit there and play music, and focus on the originals and more obscure stuff. Let’s talk first about the birth of this tour. Where did it come from?  Was it him to you guy just sitting around talking? You to him? How did that come about?

Well, each tour I guess the theme is all [Al]. It’s all his concept from the pace of the show and the order of the songs and what songs we’re doing, what video segments, if any, will be used. All of that stuff originates with him. There is some discussion on a given tour where we have tracks and things like that what I need to hear because I’m the one that ties everyone together with the video, but there’s always been that discussion beforehand, but it basically originates with him as did this. What this is, basically, is without a new album and a new kind of a theme on which to base a tour and on which to play some new songs, this is really sort of a tip of that hat to the long-time fans, to the hardcore fans, but really their common thread is, “Hey, you never play enough originals. We really like the originals. We don’t get to hear enough originals.”  And the reason for that is with every new album there’s some parodies that obviously have to be played and the show eventually got lengthier to accommodate more music. But there was also a point where the show was long enough and we weren’t going to make it longer even though we had new songs to play. So, songs got moved around. Songs got pushed out. They got shortened and put into a medley. I mean, ultimately the original songs took a back seat. And this is kind of the opposite. Well, it’s exactly the opposite. It’ll be different originals every night. I mean, we’re circulating about 50, 52 songs. In theory, no one night will be like any other. Every show will be completely unique technically.

What are the chances of getting any “original” originals during this tour?

You mean for something new to be introduced?

Yes.

Actual writing a new song…I don’t know. It’s completely possible. And I can say that because I know that during touring time Al has written originals that have been on the albums. And we haven’t started doing them during the tour, but we have begun to work on them during a tour so that when we’re done with a tour we can go record them. So, I know that there are songs that are born during a tour. They just don’t necessarily show up during that tour. And the reason being, again, Al could do it; he could work it in but it means reworking the video and audio and lighting and settings. And the pace of the show changes as soon as that happens. There may be costumes that need to be cooked up that isn’t easily done on the road.

Very good point.

Or, it’s expensive to have somebody come out or fly us back to do costumes and then have those shipped out. And all of a sudden it becomes very disruptive. So, although there are new songs cooked up during a tour from time to time they don’t show up during the tour. Now, on this tour, there are no costumes. There’s no video or audio to worry about. It’s just us playing in our t-shirts and jeans or whatever. So, it’s completely conceivable if he thinks there’s an original song that pops into his head that’s important enough to play for the fans…I don’t see why not.

How much have you or are you going to practice for this tour? I imagine that if you’re doing Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung you probably haven’t done that song in a long time. Or Gotta’ Boogie or something from one of the first few albums. Do you practice those songs, or…?

Yes. We actually have, for us, it’s a fairly rigorous practice schedule. When we go out on a typical tour we usually are fresh off an album. So we’ve been working on something, we know certain new songs, and we don’t need a lot of time to learn those or anything. And we rarely pull anything out of the past, or if we do, it’s something that we’ve put back in the show several times, like Dare to be Stupid. It comes and goes…it’s a fan favorite. That’s why it does that. So, we don’t need to really get together separately and work on that. We’ll do that in the course of rehearsals immediately before the tour. We’ll get together for four, maybe five days before the start of a tour, and that’s rehearsal for a tour for a new show. That’s the extent of the rehearsal. That’s pretty quick. There are bands that get together for weeks or months and probably still don’t do as well as we do. But again, a lot of the material we play, we’ve been playing for years. So, we’re not trying to learn two hours’ worth of new material in four days, five days. We’re just trying to refresh, and sort of pin down, and work on specific parts, and work on vocals, and things like that. And we get that information prior to rehearsal. We have a chance to work on it before we walk in. He doesn’t hit us cold a week before the tour with what we’re doing. But as far as actually getting together four or five days. And honestly, within those four or five days, it’s rare that we even run the entire show. The very first show of the tour is typically the dress rehearsal.

Wow.

Seriously. But we’re that good (Laughs). I mean, we’ve got it down. Now, in contrast, because we’re learning and relearning, and in some cases playing songs we’ve never played as a band. We’re not just learning 15 songs we’re going to do night after night; we’re learning a ton of songs. The rehearsal schedule has been expanded to 10 days, which is, “Ooh, wow, 10 days.”  And we’ve already begun that. We’ve started back in November. We’ll do a few more rehearsals this month, and some more in February immediately before we leave. And we know beforehand exactly what we’re working on at each rehearsal, and what Al expects us to be doing, and if there’s any special vocal things. We have all of that in advance so we can prep for that, and basically, we have two days to work on 12 songs each time we get together. Some of the things we get right through. It’s like, “Oh. Okay. Next.” And then there’s other things we end up playing for a few hours because it just takes some time to massage the parts, and again, these are sometimes songs that we’ve never played as a band. And most people assume that we recorded the album, that we certainly must have played these songs, or rehearsed them. Well, yeah, we’ve rehearsed most of them as a band, but this was 20, 30 years ago. There’s a lot that we haven’t played live. We worked on them. We recorded them. That’s the last time we ever played them. Now, we’re dredging these things up and having to relearn them, and in a lot of cases, cook up endings. If a song faded, we can’t do that live, so we cook up a clever ending. We have to work on vocals. Al is playing; he’s got a mini accordion from Roland that’s got a bunch of internal sounds, like really good strings, and horns, and piano sounds as well as real accordion sounds. And he’s playing for most of the show. He didn’t used to do that. I mean, he would be in a costume, singing, and dancing. Doing choreography. I hate to say it, but it was rare that Al actually played during one of our concerts. I mean, he’d play the accordion during polkas; he’d play maybe accordion during another song or two. He’d play accordion during Yoda, of course, and that was it. He really didn’t play very much. But it’s a four-piece band behind him, and with a server with audio and video on it, that filled in a lot of the gaps. Well, we’re not doing that. So, now he’s got to actually learn songs that he never played on. So, it’s really very hard work for him, and learning a ton of lyrics– we don’t have to really think about that many lyrics. He’s up front singing everything, so he’s working hardest of all, but it’s a 10-day regimen split up in five sessions, basically, and we’ll be fine. Everything has gone really, really well so far, and we all work at home on the stuff, again, knowing, “Okay, we’re going to rehearse these two days. These are the dozen songs we’re doing.”  And we know what we’re doing.

So, the important question…when does this tour begin?

The first date is in Poughkeepsie, New York on February 27th. The unofficial name of the tour, which is, I think, going to be on the t-shirts, is the Weird Al Yankovic 2018 North American Small Venues, Back To Basics, Stripped Down, Nothing Fancy, Theatrics-Free, No Videos, No Costumes, No Props, No Frills Whatsoever, Non-Extravaganza, Sort Of Kind Of Unplugged-ish, Cut-Rate Production, Taking It Down A Notch, Super Casual, Low Energy, Old Guys Sitting On Stools, Just Hanging Out On Stage, Pulling Out None Of The Stops, Trying Not To Work Up A Sweat, Fun For Us Maybe Not So Much For You, None Of The Songs You Really Want To Hear, All Of The Songs You Usually Skip Over, Obscure Original Tunes, Deep Cuts And B Sides, No Hits, All Filler, Lowered Expectations, Let’s Just See What Happens, This Might Really Suck, Crowd-Disappointing, Audience-Baffling, Limited Commercial Appeal, Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour. Sorry, no refunds.

And the shirts that that’s on are only available in 3XL or larger, because how could you fit that…

Yeah, we’ve got some big fans that would be very happy to wear that. (Laughs). That’s one of the proposed shirts. That’s sort of the official…that’s the long name of the tour.

That’s hysterical.

I mean, we just sort of refer to it as the No Frills Tour.

Yeah, I was going to say, you don’t want to put that on business cards or letterhead.

Well, if you drive it home too much then people just aren’t going to go.

Right.

I mean, you’ve got to say some of it because everyone’s expecting this show again, and it’s like, “No. This is absolutely not the show, and you need to know that and be advised this is not the show this year. Next year we’ll come back and we’ll do the show again.”

Excellent. So, if folks would like to learn more about the tour, or you, or your career, or even the gear you use, or the band, where can they go?  Plug away, Bermuda, plug away.

Well, they can start at weirdal.com. And being an old web guy with some savvy, we got the domain name spelled both ways. The common way that people think – I before E except after C – so if you go to W-I-E-R-D-A-L.com you’ll get there. Or the proper spelling W-E-I-R-D-A-L. And you can remember it– there’s a little mnemonic that they don’t really teach in school as far as I know but it’s a good thing, and it goes, “E before I?  That’s weird.”

Excellent.

Anyway, that’s a good place to start. I have a feeling that all of our personal websites are listed in there, but just in case not, I think stephenjay.com is Steve’s site, Jim “Kimo” West’s site is mokumaluhia.com, Ruben Valtierra’s site is rubenvaltierra.net, and then there’s bermudaschwartz.com. Those are all of our sites and we have all of our personal junk on there. And if there’s a link to a Facebook page on there, I think we all have links to our social media from there, as well.

Okay, so last question. Impart your wisdom. Anybody who is nine years old right now and has drums, or is 10-years-old and they want to do something with their lives, what wisdom?  It doesn’t even have to be about entertainment. One thing you tell them to do and one thing you tell them not to do.

Well, I guess follow their dream. Follow their dream. Don’t give up. Keep at it. That’s what they have to do, and not what they shouldn’t do. (Laughs). What they shouldn’t do?  Let’s see. Don’t give up. Don’t stop keeping at it. (Laughs).

That’s cheating.

And don’t not follow your dream. (Laughs) Avoid not following your dream. Yeah, that’s it. I wish I could tell you, especially in the arts, it’s so difficult. You want to say, “If you really want it, and you’ve got the passion, and you work hard, you’ll get somewhere.”  And you do need the passion and you do need to work hard. And young people, old people, anybody who plays an instrument, or they write, or they draw, or they act or whatever, of course, they really want to do it. They would love to make a living at it. It’s just there’s not a career path. I can’t say anything that would be like, “Here’s the secret to making it.” Because there’s not a secret to making it. There’s a lot of luck involved. And that’s why you can never give up. That’s why when a drummer or guitar player or whatever says to me, “I’m going to really pursue music. And if I’m not in a band and working full-time by the time I’m 25, I’m going to quit. I’ll go get a regular job.”  Don’t do that. You don’t know when success is going to happen, if it is. I mean, it could happen when you’re 40. It might happen when you’re 20. It may not happen at all, but you’d never know it. But if you give up, if you set a limit, you could be sure it’s not going to happen. You can be sure that you’ve killed that off. So, you got to stick with it. You got to want to do it. You got to love it. Don’t try to be in a band or be an actor or whatever because you think there’s a lot of money in it because, very often, there’s not. But it’s important to have the passion. It’s important to want to do something just because you love doing it. And with any luck or if you’re in the right place at the right time, it happens all the time. You can get to the next level and then perhaps to the next level and then to a level after that. You just never know, but you got to stick with it. I think that’s the most important thing. Stick with it. Well, I mean ultimately, it’s, “Follow your dreams,” and whatever it is. And I guess secondary would be, “Don’t quit your day job.”  But I can say that because I’ve done both. And I run into people that say, “I’d rather be a starving musician than go get a day job and kill my dreams.” I said, “Well, having a day job isn’t going to kill your dreams. You like to eat, don’t you?  You like to have lights on in your apartment or your house, don’t you?  Put gas in your car?”

Starving will kill your dreams pretty quickly…

Starving for your art is highly overrated. Trust me. And I said I did both. And I eventually did get out of the day job thing when the time was right and because I could and not because I hated my day job. If I’d hated it, I would have done something else. But there are people that don’t get it and I try and explain it to them. And it’s like, well, fine. Then starve. Then be in debt and starve and you be a big rock star some day and good luck to you. And it never works out. Well, not never, but I always try and encourage people whether it’s a day job or go to school. You can do both. I mean, it’s possible to pursue the arts and work a 9-to-5. And there’s a point maybe where you need to leave that, but in the meantime, have some income. Don’t starve for your art. That’s just terrible. That just makes people bitter because then the less progress they make, the farther away they are from their goal, the more miserable they become because the world is stepping all over them and the world is unfair and all this other stuff. Well, go get a job. And pursue your art. Do both. That’s a lot of advice…hang on to your dreams and don’t quit your day job.

Well, hey. 38 years…if anyone’s going to give advice, you’re in a pretty good position to do so.

Well, I had a full-on career, a nine-to-five job, while I was touring and recording, and having gold albums and platinum albums sent to my office and stuff like that. I had a full-on job, a management position. I mean this was the real deal, a real company, but they were very nice to me and let me come and go and do those things. I can’t promise that you go get a job and somebody’s going to let you go pursue your dreams for three months and then waltz back in. I had a day job and played music, and did very well with it thanks to Al, and thanks to my ability to keep up with him. The day job didn’t get in my way at all. I try and tell people that and nobody wants to believe it even though I did it. They don’t see it. they want to do it their way and that’s fine, and some will. Most won’t.

Right.

And good luck to all of them, but just having the passion, and just wanting it, and just being good, unfortunately, are not enough. There’s a lot of luck involved, a lot of being in the right place at the right time. Was I not at the radio station that night with Weird Al there, there’s probably no way I would’ve otherwise run into him, and I don’t know. Hard to say what I’d be doing now. I mean I’d still be playing drums. I always loved playing drums, but would I have connected with a national, touring and recording act?  I don’t know.

Well, that’s about all I have. I really do appreciate you taking the time. I wish you much success. Good luck on the tour!

Well, thank you, Scott. It was my pleasure.

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