9 Questions With Stephen Lynch a.k.a. Yusuf Mohammed

Rocks Off was recently able to conduct an e-mail interview with comedian / musician Stephen Lynch, who plays tomorrow night (Saturday, April 4) at the Verizon Wireless Theater.

Rocks Off: We'll get the dry, technical question out of the way first: what comes first, the music or the lyrics? Do they arrive together? Stephen Lynch: It's different every time. Sometimes the music will come to me, and bounce around in my head for a year or two before I figure out the lyrics. Other times I'll have a lyrical snippet or turn of phrase that I will then try to build a whole song around. It doesn't always work, however. I spent a year trying to finish one song before I realized it was "You Decorated My Life," by Kenny Rogers.

RO: Houston is a long way from New York City and Opie & Anthony's home base, but do you still get people shouting out for you to play "Almighty Malachi, Bowling God" when you're down here?

SL: I get it everywhere I go, even Sweden and Germany. I think people generally recognize it as one of the worst songs ever written, and thereby feel the need to punish me for writing it by requesting it over and over again. It's like a bad dream, or what I imagine hell will be like when I inevitably end up there.

RO: You started out with a studio album, then went to live albums, and now with your most recent album you've gone back to the studio (this is exposition for the readers; I'm aware you know all this). What are some of the advantages and drawbacks of both methods?

SL: Live albums are a lot easier and quicker and less expensive. They also have a certain energy that comes with live performance. But a studio album, if you do it right, can be much more nuanced and layered and interesting musically. It allows you to experiment with different instruments and tempos and styles. Plus, studio engineers have the best coke.

RO: Ever felt threatened by an audience member? What's your "I-pissed-off-this-one-guy/chick-so-bad-that..." story?

SL: I had a kid at a college give me a dressing down about my "anti-immigrant" views as expressed in my song "Superhero." If I could be a Superhero, I'd be Immigration Dude. I'd send all the foreigners back to their homes for eating up all of our food And taking our welfare, and best jobs to boot Like landscaping, dish washing, picking our fruit I'd pass a lot of laws to get rid of their brood 'Cause I'd be Immigration Dude I calmly explained to this nitwit the definition of "irony" and "satire" and sent him on his way. That sort of thing is a rarity, though. Most people are bright enough to get the jokes.

RO: Your run on the musical version of The Wedding Singer was successful; any more plans for Broadway?

SL: I'll be doing "Happy Gilmore" and "Punch-Drunk Love" next. Wish me luck!

RO: Any temptation to put out a "serious" album, perhaps under a pseudonym?

SL: Yes. I am going to change my name like Cat Stevens did, to Yusuf Mohammed, put on a disguise, perhaps a propeller hat and those Groucho Marx glasses/moustache/nose thing and hit the coffeehouses of America, playing my "serious" songs. I will rediscover my passion for songwriting and have a brand new career. Or maybe I'll just lie in bed and watch Rock of Love Bus.

RO: Any plans/requests to appear on other musicians' (or comedians') albums?

SL: No, but I did have the idea of doing an album of songs with other musicians/comedians. Sort of what Frank Sinatra did with "Duets," but funnier and not funded by the mob.

RO: In the "Diary" series on the new album, there are 4 "entries". Were there more? If so, how many didn't make it, and whose entries were they?

SL: I can now add Diaries to my show whenever tragedy strikes, which is fantastic. Rihanna was the subject of a recent one, as was Eliot Spitzer a year ago. The one I really wanted to put on the album was about how great it was to be champion of the pinball table, but it's very difficult to rhyme anything with "Jodie Foster in 'The Accused.'"

RO: Do certain songs not go over well in certain regions? What about overseas?

SL: Amazingly, I have never had to change or delete a song from a setlist because of geography. People in the south laugh at the same things people in New York or L.A. do. At least at my shows. And most Europeans speak English better than we do. They may not get a certain cultural reference, but I guess my themes are universal. I will be curious to see if Yusef Mohammed enjoys the same success.

Stephen's new album, "3 Balloons", was released on March 24. And once more for good measure: he'll be playing tomorrow night (Saturday, April 4) at the Verizon Wireless Theater.

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John Seaborn Gray