Wednesday, October 14, 2015

An Interview with Weird Paul

Paul Petroskey interview
Weird Paul with B.C Rich Warlock guitar
Originally calling himself "Off-the-Wall Paul", Paul Petroskey is a Pittsburgh area musician who started releasing his own music on cassette tapes in the mid-eighties as "Weird Paul".

When his family bought its first video camera, he began vlogging at a time when the internet didn't exist. Until YouTube, the only way to watch Paul's vlogs was on VHS tapes. Long before food reviews became a popular topic among YouTube video creators, Paul recorded his own McDonald's Breakfast Review in 1984. He was way ahead of the curve.

He was also making his own homemade horror movies, involving his whole family.

Now known as the "original vlogger", Paul continues to write and record songs (over 700 and counting) and perform live. He's even had a documentary movie made about him called Weird Paul: A Lo Fidelity Documentary that played at the Chicago Underground Film Festival and Leeds International Film Festival.

With hours of videotaped footage from his personal archives remaining to be seen, Weird Paul's channel is sure to be entertaining for some time to come.

I contacted Paul by email and asked if he would be interested in doing an interview with me. He generously agreed and patiently answered 25 questions I posed to him, which you can read below.

1. You recently mentioned that you've seen 8000 movies in the last 25 years. What do you use to keep track of what movies you've watched?
Weird Paul: I use a notebook.  I started using it in 1989 and eventually started another notebook in 1992.  When I got a computer in 2005, I digitized the whole list, typing it in by hand.  But I still use the notebook as well.

2. Have you seen any of them at a drive-in theater?

WP: I think I only saw two movies at a drive-in.  One was probably the first movie I ever saw, The Apple Dumpling Gang.  That would have likely been in 1975 when I was four.  The other one was The Hangover II, which I saw in 2011.

3. How do you watch most of the movies you see nowadays? Is it mostly in theaters and cable TV or are there still video stores in your area?

WP: There are still a couple video stores in my area, but they only stock newer commercial releases.  I rarely watch anything like that, the few I do want to see, I check out of my local library.  I watch a lot of movies on YouTube.  These are very rare movies that for the most part are not available on DVD, but that someone has taken the time to digitize and upload.  I occasionally watch some movies on TV, but not many on cable, I watch them on over the air digital stations like THIS TV and GET TV.  I don't go to the theater very much, I can't afford it!  I do have a large collection of DVDs and VHS tapes, including many movies I still have not seen.

4. Watching your homemade horror movies reminds me a lot of The Blair Witch Project. Have you seen that movie and have you stopped to think that you were ahead of the curve in the shaky cam genre?

WP: I did see The Blair Witch Project when it came out.  At the time I thought the gimmick was already a used idea (same as Cannibal Holocaust) but I did like it.  Of course, my shaky camera was due to not using a tripod.  This was not done by choice, I just didn't have a tripod!

5. There's a great documentary called Beauty Day that reminds me in some ways of what you do. It's about a guy who, like you, videotaped himself doing crazy antics for his local public access TV show in Canada. Some people thought he was strange but he didn't care. Have you heard of it or seen it?

WP: I have seen the trailer...I think it was actually you that pointed me to it! (editor's note: guilty as charged) It looks fascinating.

6. What was it about the movie Squirm that inspired you to record an entire album in its honour called Worm In My Egg Cream?

WP: It was definitely the scene with the worm coming out of the guy's spilled egg cream.  That scene left a big impression on me.  I couldn't get it out of my head.

7. Your song The Thing With Two Heads is basically a synopsis of the movie of the same name . I always get that one confused with The Incredible 2 Headed Transplant . If you've seen it, which one do you think is better?

WP: I have seen both of them and I think that The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant is the better of the two.  The main reason is that even though both movies are really amazing and ridiculous (in other words, entertaining), The Thing With Two Heads suffers from a somewhat boring middle-section.  The beginning and end are great, but the middle is pretty repetitive and gets tiresome.

8. You wrote a song called Human Eye in which a significant other has only one eye and can't watch a movie in 3D. What do you think of the technological progress they've made with 3D in movies?

WP: I've seen a few movies at the theater in 3-D (the one that comes to mind at the moment is My Bloody Valentine ).  The new 3-D is a whole new ballgame compared with the old 3-D (I actually watched Creature From the Black Lagoon on TV in 3-D around 1982 or so!)  You can get yourself immersed in the world that the movie takes place in now, before it was just stuff randomly coming towards you from the screen.

9. Speaking of eyes, have you ever seen X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes?

WP: I love X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes.  I own it on DVD.  I also saw the band Pere Ubu perform their own soundtrack to it, live.  It was a real experience.

10. Your song Robot Armor on your album Medically Necessary is a great rock song . Which robots really rock in movies? (favourite movie robots)

WP: I've always liked Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet. I have the poster above my desk.  Another one of my favorite robots is Gog from the 1954 movie of the same name.  And  The Colossus of New York.  Although, technically he would be a cyborg since he has a human brain.

11. In 1985, you made The Killer Hula Hoop , which you describe as the worst horror movie of all time. If I didn't know better, I would think that this was the inspiration for Rubber, about a killer car tire named Robert. Have you seen this movie and if so, what did you think of it?

WP:  I have not seen "Rubber".  I have heard of it.  I never made the connection before, but you're right, it's does seem like a similar horror idea.

12. You wrote a fun song called Please Don't Break My Atari. Many customers were sorry they bought Atari's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial video game. Do you own it or have you ever played it?

WP: We got ET for Christmas in 1982, like lots of other families.  I played it quite a bit, and I think I remember having some kind of guide (that I would have gotten from Atari) that walked you through how to win it. 

13. Have you seen the documentary Atari: Game Over, which chronicled its rise and fall in addition to the excavation of thousands of Atari game cartridges (many of them E.T.) that were dumped by Atari at a landfill?

WP: I didn't know about the documentary GAME OVER until you mentioned it in this interview.  So I did watch it on YouTube and I enjoyed it very much.  Back when E.T. came out, normal consumers like us had no idea they had rushed to get the game out or that a video game "crash" was on the way.

14. What is your favourite Atari game based on a movie?

WP: This one is easy. ALIEN is definitely my favorite Atari 2600 game based on a movie.  Very addictive game.  I've played it for hours.

15. Not only did you write a song called We Love Computers, you recorded a couple of videos about Commodore 64 including one about a Star Wars game. Assuming you've seen all the Star Wars movies, is there one that you prefer overall. Is there one you hate? Are you looking forward to The Force Awakens?

WP: I actually have not seen Attack of the Clones.  I was in the room while it was on, but I did not fully pay attention to it.  Most people I mention this to have said that it's probably the worst Star Wars movie, so I don't feel so bad.  Return of the Jedi is my favorite and the first one I saw in the theater.  I feel like that was the apex of the movies, because it was the best "effects" movie, better than the first two and it was the last one without all that CGI, which I'm not a fan of.  I am really looking forward to The Force Awakens.  I'll definitely go see it, hopefully with my son.

16. Weird Paul: A Lo Fidelity Documentary played at two festivals. Were you happy with the finished product and how it was received?

WP: I was very happy with the Weird Paul documentary, although I felt at the time that certain aspects of my life had to be kind of glossed over due to things I was going through then.  Now, so much has changed in the last 10+ years - part of which probably has to do with the movie being made in the first place.  The night it premiered here in Pittsburgh was great, I had a long line of people waiting to meet me!

17. Would you say I Got Drunk at Chuck E. Cheese is your biggest hit?

WP: I used to say that I Got Drunk at Chuck E. Cheese was my biggest hit.  But earlier this year, my song Pot of Macaroni went viral on Vine - almost 4 million loops!  So I think by default (and the fact that kids tell me that they and their friends sing it in school (!), that it is now my biggest hit.

18. You interviewed your dad once in which he gave a passionate review of 12 Angry Men. Ironically, you've angered him in some of your classic videos. Did his review convince you to watch the movie and do you still anger him occasionally?

WP: His review is very influential, I have heard from people who watched it after seeing him talk about it.  I still have not seen it.  One of the recent times I made him angry was when I was supposed to watch the back of his van as he was backing it up to the front of his house to unload a couch.  My point of view was bad and he cracked his tail light on the mailbox!

19. In 1985 your homemade movie All You Zombies put its own spin on the genre. Being from Pittsburgh, were you influenced at all by Night of the Living Dead, seeing as that movie was filmed in that area? 

WP: When I made "All You Zombies" in 1985, I still had not seen any of Romero's zombie movies (of course I have seen most of them by now).  I was very aware of them though, I had seen ads in the paper for "Day of the Dead" and double and triple features of them.  I also had heard kids in school talking about different zombie movies, so I was indirectly influenced, you could say

20. Your recreation of "Strange Brew" with your little sister as Dougette is hilarious. Were you a big fan of that movie?

WP: I was a HUGE fan of Strange Brew.  I had seen the previews for it on movie review shows like Siskel and Ebert's.  As soon as it came out on VHS, we rented it and I watched it more times than I can count.  I still quote it all the time.  Then I found out about SCTV on reruns and started watching every episode the characters appeared on.  I would love to see Bob & Doug McKenzie's 2-4 Anniversary, but the DVD is now rare and more than I can afford!

21. "Still Going Strong" is one of your best albums. What's the inspiration for the song "Delusions of Grandeur"?

WP: Here's how "Delusions of Grandeur" was inspired.  I had a home video from 1984 of me reviewing a McDonald's Breakfast that I had uploaded to YouTube.  It was (maybe still is) the oldest food review on YouTube, so it caused a little bit of a sensation when the online community found it.  I started getting all kinds of wild ideas, which basically culminated with me telling my friends that someday I would have my own TV show.  A couple weeks later when the excitement died down, I felt really foolish about how I'd acted.  So writing the song was a response to that.  Of course, a few years later, now I DO have my own TV show, even if it's only locally here in Pittsburgh!

22. "Peanut Butter Recall" has garnered quite a good response on YouTube. Were you surprised at its success and do you think it could one day surpass your McDonald's Breakfast Review in views?

WP: "Peanut Butter Recall" started out like this.  I had the idea to write a song with that title, about remembering kinds of peanut butter.  Then I'd make a YouTube video, get it to be the top result for the search of that title and wait for there to be an actual peanut butter recall.  Then people would Google "peanut butter recall" and my video would come up.  There hasn't been a major peanut butter recall yet, but my video IS the top search result.  I'm never sure what the response will be to anything I do, but I was happy to see it really take off.  All we need now is a big peanut butter recall, and yeah, maybe it will pass the McDonald's Breakfast video in views.

23. You've just released a new album with Ben Blanchard and the video for the song Maybe You'll Find Some in The Garbage is your most creative yet. Can you tell us who did the video effects and how long it took to shoot it?

WP: Maybe You'll Find Some in the Garbage was produced by ZAV, the same producer that puts together the new Weird Paul TV show and that made the Peanut Butter Recall video.  I usually go in with some rough storyboards and let him take over from there.  We shot Peanut Butter Recall all in one afternoon.  "Garbage" took three separate days to film

24. I'm not a musician but that red guitar you have is awesome. What kind is it and how long have you had it.

WP: It's a B.C. Rich Warlock and is one of the significant "pointy heavy metal" guitars.  Lita Ford is one of the famous guitarists known for playing it.  I've had it since 1987 - I thought it was really cool to have a heavy metal style guitar, now it seems more ironic when people see me come out onstage with it.  It's been kind of my trademark.

25. How many songs do you have written that are waiting to be recorded for another album?

WP: I actually don't have any songs written that are ready to be recorded.  I have tapes full of ideas and when I decide I'm ready to make a new album, I put those ideas together.  I often write the songs either just before or during the recording of them.

Thanks, Paul, for taking the time to do this interview!

I'll leave readers with this. It's the intro to The Weird Paul Variety Show which he mentioned in his answer to question #21. The TV show can be seen on COZI TV, Thursdays at 7:30pm Pittsburgh (59.1 through the rabbit ears) and on Verizon Fios channel 463.


You can watch WeirdPaul on his YouTube Channel
Visit his website at

You can also follow him on various social media:

Photo of Weird Paul used with Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License (text has been added)

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