Music News

Weird Al-right

At first glance, Little Fyodor is a total fucking wack job. On second glance, he's still pretty much a wack job. On third glance, however, you might start to discern a certain complexity, eloquence and even sanity at the core of his spastic and mangled songcraft. Sitting down with his new release, The Very Best of Little Fyodor's Greatest Hits, will seal the deal: For twenty years, Fyodor and his companion, Babushka, have made disc after disc of geeky art-punk all but ignored by the Denver rock scene. Wallowing in their creators' self-professed "depression, alienation, nervous anxiety and shameful lack of social skills," disjointed tunes like "Too Many People," "Doomed" and "Fuck It" draw more from Pere Ubu and the Modern Lovers than they do from Weird Al (to whom Fyodor often and erroneously gets compared). This isn't novelty music, and it isn't outsider art. Little Fyodor screeches, scratches, beeps and howls in answer to the sick, hyper-aware misfit inside us all.

Westword: You're almost a Denver institution. Did you grow up here?

Little Fyodor: No, I'm from the suburbs of New Jersey. I moved to Colorado in 1981 with a friend, and he actually came up with the idea of me being Little Fyodor, though I think it was meant to be more of a joke. I had turned him on to Dostoyevsky, so he started calling me Little Fyodor.

You can hear hints of Notes From the Underground in some of your songs.

Absolutely. I think that was probably the work of art that's had the greatest influence on me. Just those opening lines: "I am a sick man. I am an angry man. I am an ugly man." It was like a thunderbolt for me. I really related to that.

The word "misanthropic" could be applied to that book as well as your music.

But it's more than just "Fuck everyone." There's a cartoonish aspect to it, but being cartoonish helps you address things that might be too morose to address in a more serious manner. It helps you sugarcoat things. It's kind of like a football player shooting up drugs so that he can play harder; you assuage the pain so that you can go deeper into the pain. I was very influenced by Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche and was always examining the painful aspects of my life through the prism of these philosophers. Maybe that's why I'm not as prolific now as I used to be. I don't see pain in philosophical terms as much as I used to. That was part of my youthful idealism, to make sense out of life. Now I don't even bother trying to make sense out of life.

Have you gotten bitter about your level of success in Denver over the past 25 years?

I'm almost embarrassed to admit, I've gotten less and less bitter. I'm not into whining. Reality is the way that it is. Maybe that's another reason I'm not as prolific as I once was. I've become more accepting of life as it is, which is not always good for artistic expression. As far as my place in the music industry, whatever happens happens. If I could quit my job and do this full-time, that would be great. On the other hand, people go through a lot of shit to do that. The music industry is pretty fucking ugly. As long as I can have some fun and feel like I'm communicating with people, maybe I'm just as well off not making it.

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Jason Heller
Contact: Jason Heller