|Crazed Fanboy Presents...|
y first recollection of "comedy music" was in the mid 1960s. The song was "They're Coming To Take Me Away" by Napoleon the 14th. Every now and then a funny song would work it's way onto the charts. Ray Steven's "The Streak," Benny Bell's "Shaving Cream," Larry Groce's "Junkfood Junkie" and Dickie Goodman's "Mr. Jaws." Can you name the only #`1 hit that Chuck Berry had? If your answer is "My Ding-a-Ling," give yourself a hand. In the summer of 1977, I was introduced to a syndicated radio program hosted by a man who called himself "Dr. Demento." Every weekend was spent with friends, listening to and laughing with the good Doctor. It was a great time. Except for the night I fell asleep on the couch and my friend Scott Gilbert thought it would be a hoot to fill my pants pockets with ketchup!
It wasn't until the end of the 70's that an artist who went by the name of "Weird" Al Yankovic brought the comedy/parody record to the forefront. Yankovic inspired many people to try their hand at funny music. Most fell by the wayside. One who didn't was Luke Sienkowski. I first heard Luke on the Dr. Demento show in late 1996. That next summer I attended a local science fiction/fantasy convention and happened across a manic young man jumping around on stage. At the end of his performance, he was introduced as "the great Luke Ski."
Luke has released several comedy CD's. At the time this interview was conducted, his most recent CD was "Uber Geek." His most professional CD released to date, it included the song "Peter Parker," which was recognized as the #1 most requested song of 2002 on the Dr. Demento show. So far this year, his newest song, "Stealing Like a Hobbit," (a parody of Eminems' "Cleaning Out My Closet") has appeared in the weekly Demento 'funny five' a record (for Luke) 8 consecutive weeks, and is currently the most requested song of 2003. Due to the success of "Hobbit," and wanting to give his fans what they wanted, Sienkowski pushed the release date of his new CD, "Worse Album Ever," from next February to this past July. Early sales show the decision was a wise one.
Mike Smith: What made you want to write parody songs?
Luke Ski: I grew up listening to two things: comedy and rap. By the time I got to college and was able to listen to "the Dr. Demento Show" for the first time, I realized that nobody was doing high-quality parodies of rap music hits (except the occasional one from Weird Al). So I took it upon myself to start writing them. Jump Around, What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock?), Insane In The Brain, Fantastic Voyage, etc.. So my initial influence to make parodies was to fill that void in the comedy/music world. I do half rap / half other genres nowadays, but I consider rap to be a top priority. Also, as a geek, I got tired of hearing the same Classic Star Trek comedy songs & sketches over and over again. The same cliched jokes for 30 plus years. I wanted songs about the new Treks, Star Wars, and the rest of the fandom universe that was untouched in the mid-nineties.
MS: You also write original comedy songs. Is it easier or harder to come up with both lyrics and music?
LS: Lately, I'm discovering it's easier for me to write originals rather than parodies, because in an original, I can do whatever I want without having to follow someone else's structure. Writing parodies all those years helped my hone my lyrical skills. Now that I consider myself a rhyme technician of a relatively high caliber, I can start coming up with whatever melodies I want to match my lyrics, which is very freeing. Plus, I have a lot of very talented musicians around me that help translate my ideas into the actual music. My brother DJ Skrabble, and his partner Paul Fresh (They often work with Madison area music group "The Crest") come up with some kick-ass beats, melodies, and basslines for me. I also got help from Sci-Fi TV & Movie Theme Rock Cover Band "The Nick Atoms" from Minneapolis, and we see ourselves working together a lot in the future (www.thenickatoms.com). Another great original collaboration I did recently is a tune called "Fangirls, Shake That Booty!" with Chris Waffle of the Long Beach comedy band "The Hot Waffles" (www.hotwaffles.com). He had the initial idea, we tossed some lyrics back and forth, I came up with the structure, he came up with the music, sent me the music and his vocal take, I added my vocals and some added flava from DJ Skrabble & Paul Fresh, and WHAMMO!!! An instant convention classic for the ages. You should have seen the fine ladies at GenCon rockin out on stage, their sultry hips undulating to my bass... ...uh, what were we talking about again?
MS: How do you decide what song you want to parody?
LS: Basically, I keep a mental list of songs that I might want to parody, and a mental list of subject matters I want to do a song about, and I just let them simmer in my brain until two of them connect in a way that makes sense to me. Most of the songs I parody are songs I actually like, but I feel the need to give it my own fanboy-esque spin to it. They usually come out very well. However, I think on future albums, I will be concentrating more on originals rather than parodies.
MS: Is it easier to hear a song and put your lyrics to it or do you have a topic in mind that you want to write about and look for an appropriate tune?
LS: Sometimes it comes more from one side than it does the other, it's just a matter of what feels right, funny, and/or clever to me at the time. My target audience is myself, so it has to be funny or cool to me first.
MS: Congratulations on "Peter Parker" being #1 last year on Dr. Demento. I know I'm giving away my age by saying I listened to Dr. D when I was in high school. Then and now, he comes off as someone very likable. Can you tell me about the first time you heard him?
LS: I had always bought his compilation albums as I was growing up, but I was never able to hear his show in southern Wisconsin. I probably saw him for the first time on the TV Show "Real People", and later in "The Compleat Al" mockumentary. A friend gave me a tape of his show from 1982, and I was envious of not being able to listen. Finally, in 1995, somebody in Kansas City (where I was going to college) tipped me off that you could hear him in KY102 every Sunday night. The first show I ever listened to was April 2nd, 1995 (http://php.indiana.edu/~jbmorris/FAQ/drd95.0402.html). It changed my life forever. Everything good that has happened in my life since then would not have happened if it weren't for "the Dr. Demento Show". I met my wife because of it, I've released 5 albums, I've even performed for "Weird Al" himself. That's just the beginning.
MS: How did you first get your songs on Dr. D's show?
LS: It's a simple process. You send Dr. Demento your music. If he likes it, he plays it. That's it. As Tim Cavanaugh once said, it's the fairest thing in radio history. You don't always make it on in the first try. I'm pretty sure it was my fourth try before he played one of my songs on his show, on October 20th, 1996, "What's Up Spock?".
MS: How did you react when you first met him?
LS: If I remember correctly, it was at a show he did at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL, sometime in early 1996. Obviously, I was star-struck, but he was and is a very nice guy. He'll sign autographs and talk with anybody at length about any type of music, funny or otherwise.
MS: Tell me about your most recent CD, "Uber Geek." It is, in my opinion, your best work to date.
LS: As well as being a collection of 'anthem songs' for all the nerds in this great land of ours, it was made as kind of a concept album, paying tribute to all the best albums I ever got growing up. I thought long and hard about what in my opinion made a great album when I was a kid, focusing mainly on the rap genre, and I put elements of each of them on the "Uber Geek" CD. The most obvious of them are the 'skit tracks' that appear in-between the songs as a running gag for the length of the CD, where you hear me discussing the creation of the album with my engineer Daniel, and other miscellaneous wackiness. Also, thanks to my good friend Devo Spice of "Sudden Death" (www.suddendeath.org), I was able to include a parody of the "Fat Boys", which is my favorite rap group of al time. Buff Love, R.I.P.
MS: What impressed me most, besides the songs, was the production quality. Was this due to any one thing?
LS: On Uber Geek, I'd have to say my engineer Daniel gets 90% of the credit on that. He does great work with the parody music, and making sure the album sounds the way I want it to. On "Peter Parker", my brother J.T. did the engineering, as well as on "Sign Of A True D-Fan" with some help from Tony Goldmark's production crew (http://www.dqydj.com/tony/homepage.htm), but like I said before, I'm very lucky to be working with a lot of very talented people who understand and support comedy music.
MS: Let's talk about "Weird" Al for a moment. Has he been supportive of your work?
LS: Yes, he's always been supportive of me. I got a chance to perform for him at ALCON III (the Weird Al fan convention) on April 27th, 2002, the weekend that "Uber Geek" was first released. He told me he really enjoyed my performance, and I gave him a copy of the album. I've only seen him once since then, we had a few minutes to talk, but he did mention he had heard "Stealing Like A Hobbit", and thought it was very well done. By the way, if any of you reading this interview out there don't already own a copy of his newest CD "Poodle Hat", y'all need to go out and get it right now, it's the bomb-diggity.
MS: Has he ever called you and told you you've taken a song he wanted to parody?
LS: No. He's the one that's sold 13,000,000 albums, I'm the one that outside of the Demento fan universe and Midwest convention circuit that nobody has heard of. He's the all time king of comedy music, and we up-and-coming funny musicians all work around what he does to the best of our ability. By a coincidence, my 3rd and 4th CDs ended up with a few song parody and thematic similarities, but they were nothing so significant as to cause any sort of bru-ha-ha. The biggest coincidence I ever had with Al was back in 1996 when I was first starting out making demo cassettes to sell, I did a parody of "Lump" called "Gump", just like Al did. Different lyrics, same song & idea. I got one chance to perform it live, before I found out on the following day when Al premiered his song on Dr. Demento. So, I just went out and did a song about the other big movie that year, "Pulp Fiction". I like to chalk it all up as "Great minds think alike".
MS: What's ahead for you this year?
LS: I've submitted an original song to VH-1 for a pilot they are working on. I don't want to say anymore until I find out the fate of the pilot, but keep checking www.LukeSki.com for details in the weeks to come.
MS: Due to the demand for "Stealing Like A Hobbit," you pushed up the release of your new CD, "Worst Album Ever," and introduced it at the recent GENCON in Indianapolis. Was the reaction positive?
LS: Oh, my, yes! They all went nuts for my new songs, especially my new Eminem-does-Lord-of-the-Rings parody song "Stealing Like A Hobbit". That song by the way is neck and neck with Weird Al's "Couch Potato" for the position of Most Requested Song of 2003 on "the Dr. Demento Show", so please go REQUEST for him to play it again! (http://www.clamhead.com/drdrequest.html) Another song they went nuts for was the afore mentioned "Fangirls, Shake That Booty!" I had my good friend and fellow funny music maker Tony Goldmark there with me, and he covered Chris Waffle's part since he was unable to fly in from L.A. for it. I had about a dozen lovely ladies in various fandom costumes on stage with us shaking their groove things for the crowd as we rapped our anthem song for all the Fangirls of the world. Hopefully, I will get a chance to perform it live with Chris at GenCon SoCal this December. All in all, the preliminary reviews are saying that "Worst Album Ever" despite it's title, is actually a very good and funny album.
MS: It sure is! And I thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
LS: It was my pleasure.