The Search for Geek continues! Our second installment features the great Luke Ski who we
stalked “met” on Twitter! Interviewing him was a great excuse to spend a whole lot of time with his music and needless to say, there was lots of laughing involved.
Band Name: the great Luke Ski
Members: Luke Sienkowski, Carrie Dahlby & Other FuMP.com musicians (guest vocalists)
Location: Chicagoland, USA
Formed: 1993 (first real attempt at writing/recording), 1994 (first live public performance), 1996 (first studio produced album)
Genre: Dementia (comedy music). Half hip-hop, half every other musical genre imaginable
Favourite Fandom: Dementia (comedy music), as in, “The Dr. Demento Show”, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Tenacious D, Flight Of The Conchords, The Lonely Island, etc.
What is your geek origin story?
Born in 1974, my parents named me Luke. Three years later, “Star Wars” was released. So being a geek was never really a choice, more of a destiny that the Force had forseen. I spent my youth being inspired to create by such idols as Jim Henson, Walt Disney, and Charles Schulz, with the complete encouragement of my mother, an art & photography teacher. Later I discovered the comedy albums of Steve Martin, George Carlin, the compilations by “Dr. Demento” and his padawan “Weird Al” Yankovic, which along with many pay-cable comedy specials pointed me towards the path of comedy. I spent my formative years dabbling in every form and combination of art & comedy, including creating comic books, animated films, stage plays, stand-up, improv, and more. I went to a fine arts college in the hopes to become an animator, and it was there that I was first able to listen to “The Dr. Demento Show” weekly on the radio, at which point my scattered attention span suddenly laser-focused on creating comedy songs that Dr. D. would want to play on his show. During those years, I also started attending comic book and sci-fi conventions, and upon realizing that those events are in need of fannish entertainment, I began looking for opportunities to get in front of audiences at these conventions to perform my pop song parodies about pop-culture topics, many of which had a much nerdier slant than most mainstream acts, making it perfect for those crowds.
You have released 10 albums of original songs and parodies. How did you get started writing music?
Like most modern comedy musicians, it was exposure to Dr. Demento and “Weird Al” that made me want to start writing my own parody lyrics to the songs I liked. In my specific case, I grew up during the heyday of what is now called ‘old school hip hop’ (“The Fat Boys” and “Digital Underground” being two of my favorites). I also grew up in the far-post-classic-“Star-Trek” world, being more interested in the new shows & movies of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Upon repeated listening to “The Dr. Demento Show” in the mid 90’s, I kept asking myself two questions. (1.) How come nobody ever does good, authentic sounding parodies of hip-hop songs? And (2.) why are all the sci-fi comedy songs about classic “Star Trek” instead of the new shows like “Next Generation”, “Deep Space Nine”, and other new non-Trek stuff? So I set out to be the comedy musician who did good, authentic sounding parodies of hip-hop songs about new sci-fi movies & shows like “Deep Space Nine” and such. As the years went on and I grew as a writer/performer, I began dabbling in writing original comedy songs, which became a larger percentage of my album’s content as the years went on. My 9th album “Too Much Stuff” is 90% original songs with only a couple of parodies.
What do you think the challenges are for geek and/or parody artists as opposed to artists whose genres are more “mainstream”?
Raymond & Scum have a great song called “(Nobody Loves The) Comedy Band”, which really sums up the problems inherent in being an act who self-identifies as being a comedy based music act. “Just because our lyrics refer to bathroom sights and smells does not mean our songs are not thought out.” (Seek out this song, everyone. I prefer the original hard rock version.) The fact is, comedy music is its own reward to its creator. If that creator is lucky, they’ll find an audience out there on the internet’s thousands of small ponds who will also be enthusiastic about their work. But even among so-called nerd communities, there is often an elitist attitude permeating that puts forth the supposition that if you’re trying to be funny in your musical endeavors, then you aren’t as good as or as important as other ‘serious’ musicians, who are also doing songs about 8-bit Nintendo games, TV shows, and the internet-meme-of-the-week. You’ve just got to put that out of your mind so you can concentrate on creating the kind of music you want to just because you love making it.
We tend to get this question a lot. Do you write or have you ever written non-geeky songs?
That depends on your definition of “non-geeky”. I have done songs about “Hamlet”, “24”, Black Friday, being a pack rat, KFC, “Married With Children”, Pamela Anderson, “Pulp Fiction”, “Seinfeld”, Stephen Colbert, Steve Buscemi, “The Office”, “Titanic”, TiVo, the Wisconsin Dells, and pro wrestling. I also wrote a song about bacon in 2007, years before any of the hipsters were talking about it.
You are one of the co-founders of The Funny Music Project. Can you tell us a little about it and how it got started?
It was inspired by Jonathan Coulton’s Thing-A-Week project. Rob Balder asked Jonathan of we could copy his business model, and Jonathan was happy to give us his blessing (he later posted a couple of songs there). The FuMP started with 6 core comedy music acts who all knew each other from “The Dr. Demento Show” and performing at conventions, one of which was me. The idea was that the website would post 2 new comedy songs a week for free download under Creative Commons licensing, with each of us posting one song a month, with the other slots filled in by auxiliary guest members. Soon the core group grew to 8 members, and over the past 5 years the auxiliary has grown to over 3 dozen acts. Since we launched in 2007, we’ve posted nearly 700 songs, all of which can be heard for free in our archive, and can be purchased for 99 cents. We’ve also released 36 compilation CDs, each of which contains bonus material. The first 3 years of the FuMP I posted one song a month, the following 2 years I posted one song every 2 months. The past year I took some time off from song production to concentrate on other creative efforts, but in November I posted my fan-and-Demento demanded ‘Disney buys Lucasfilm’ piece, “When You Wish Upon A Death Star“, which made a huge splash.
You collaborate with a lot of artists. Can you tell us about your collaboration process?
Email from ShoEbox of Worm Quartet: Hey Luke! You wanna appear in a thing?!
Reply from Luke Ski: Sure!
That’s about it.
The FuMP is rife with people appearing in other people’s songs. With file sharing over the internet being so simple, all any of us needs to do is email a set of lyrics and a backing track to another one of us, and that person can record their part, and send that new part back to the first person, and voila! Cameo! Our 500th song at the FuMP, “We Are The FuMP”, which I wrote and coordinated, has appearances by 45 different acts from the site.
Most of the time it’s one artist who has written something and is looking for others to appear in that piece. Sometimes writing collaborations occur with 2 or more acts, sometimes culminating in a new act forming, like Insane Ian and TV’s Kyle’s side project “Scooter Picnic”. Myself, Devo Spice, ShoEboX, and Chris Mezzolesta teamed up to form the sketch comedy group ‘Cirque du So What?’. We’ve recorded 3 albums, and it has been one of the most artistically satisfying projects of my life.
What is your most memorable artist encounter?
I’ve been fortunate enough to hang out with “Weird Al” on a handful of occasions. My favorite was a large group of us at the home of one of Al’s longtime friends in the Midwest, all of us watching the newest episode of “the Simpsons” (the episode was “Kill the Alligator and Run”).
You’ve performed at tons of cons over the years like Dragon*Con, San Diego Comic-Con and Star Wars Celebration. What is your most memorable encounter with a fan?
On a couple of occasions, a female fan has Cosplayed as me. One was my friend Angie who surprised me at MarsCon (she’s one of the cheerleaders on the cover of my DVD), and the other was Cat from the group Ridikulus at Dragon*Con.
You were recently nominated for the Logan awards. Can you tell us about that?
I was very honored to have won the award for Outstanding Parody Song of 2011 at the Logan Awards for my song “Snoopy The Dogg”. It was made all the more meaningful that Dr. Demento himself was our MC and presented me with the award. Sadly, I never knew Logan Whitehurst personally. I was asked to be the chair of this year’s awards, so I reacquainted myself with Logan’s body of work. He was such an amazing talent, and really best represented the DIY ethic of creating funny and beautiful music. So I can’t be more proud to have lived up to that standard in the eyes of my peers, and I am committed to keeping the awards going along with founder Rob Balder in the future.
Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians in geek culture?
It is great to have idols, but don’t mold yourself too closely after any specific one of them. If you love “Weird Al”, don’t wear Hawaiian shirts and sing all nasally about food. If you love Jonathan Coulton, don’t grow a beard and do acoustic guitar songs about zombies and monkeys. If you love Flight of the Conchords, don’t move to New Zealand. My point is, have your own identity as a performer. Yes, emulating your heroes is a great place to start, but you have to grow from that point and become your own unique individual as a performer.
Finally, what does 2013 hold for the great Luke Ski?
Well… *music cue* WHAT’S LUKE PLUGGING NOOOOOOW?!?!?!?
The best weekend ever in comedy music is almost here! MarsCon 2013 is March 1st through 3rd, at the Crown Plaza Hotel & Suites in Bloomington, MN, right across from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport. This year’s line-up includes our Music Guests Of Honor sponsored by DementiaRadio.org, British comedy music trio FLAT 29! Dan, Charlie, and Rich are doing their first ever performance in America on the Main Stage at MarsCon 2013! Also making his first appearance at MarsCon, stand-up comedian and nerdy musician MIKEY MASON! Other returning favorites performing on the main stage include THE GREAT LUKE SKI, POWER SALAD, POSSIBLE OSCAR, INSANE IAN, TV’s KYLE, MAX DEGROOT and KOBI LACROIX! We’ll also be hosting the 3rd Annual Logan Whitehurst Memorial Awards for Excellence In Comedy Music, as we celebrate the 10th year of the MarsCon Dementia Track! Go to MarsCon.com for more information on the rest of the convention, and for details on the MarsCon Dementia Track, visit MarsConDementia.com.
Whether you’re attending MarsCon 2013 or not, you can still help out this year’s performing comedy music acts by ordering the MarsCon 2013 Dementia Track Fund Raiser album! Available to purchase both as an MP3 download and as a 3-CD set, it’s just under 4 hours of excerpts from all of MarsCon 2012’s live main stage concerts! The funds raised will go towards covering the hotel room costs for the Dementia Track main stage concert performers this year. This year’s collection includes comedy & music by TVs Kyle, Cirque du So What?, Worm Quartet, the Gothsicles, Seamonkey, Possible Oscar, the Boobles, Dino-Mike, Consortium Of Genius, Devo Spice, the great Luke Ski, Power Salad, Feng Shui Ninjas, Beth Kinderman, DJ Particle, Jeff Reuben, Brett Glass, and Derwood Bowen! You can get the 3-CD set with MP3 download for just $30, or you can just get the MP3 download only version for $20. We’ve also posted a free 35 minute preview of the collection. You can order the MarsCon 2013 Dementia Track Fund Raiser album, and MP3s and CDs of our previous year’s collections as well, right now from the Fundraiser Shop page at MarsConDementia.com.
Besides MarsCon, I will be performing at many of my usual big conventions, like Gen Con Indy. I’ll be going to L.A. to mow the lawn of my largest Kickstarter donor, as well as perform a house concert for him. I’ll be throwing a private event for my Kickstarter donors called “LukeSkiCon 2013” in June. I’ll continue to work caricature gigs and do commission art via my website ArtByLukeSki.com. Hopefully I’ll record a new album this summer, and if there’s time, make another Bad Rapport puppet video for YouTube. Speaking of which, I’ll also continue to do regular episodes of my 2 podcasts…
LUKE & CARRIE’S BAD RAPPORT
The fortnightly podcast I do with Carrie Dahlby where we play comedy songs, report on News of the Stupid, and I talk forever. Listen in at BadRapport.com.
THE FUNNY MUSIC PODCAST
Luke Ski & Devo Spice interview the artists who posted new songs each week at theFuMP.com. All of the episodes are archived here and you can also listen to us record it live each Thursday night at DementiaRadio.org.
At Dragon*Con 2004, Dr. Demento declared “the great Luke Ski” to be his radio program’s “Most Requested Artist of the 21st Century”. His song parodies, originals, stand-up and sketches about pop culture pheonema (doot doo, do-do-do!) have make him a favorite performer at science-fiction and fandom conventions all across the midwest and beyond. He is the musical jester of sci-fi, the emissary of rap dementia, the pimp of the geek nation, and a prominent bacon enthusiast.