Dropping November 3 is Raditude, the seventh album from Weezer, which promises more sing-along choruses, Cheap Trick guitars, and ironic self-deprecation. Also, it features a flying dog on its cover and a much-discussed rap verse from Lil Wayne. We spoke with Weezer leader Rivers Cuomo last night by phone about his forthcoming collaboration with Katy Perry, rapping with Weezy, and the lyrical flub he can’t stop thinking about.
You announced last Wednesday that you’re collaborating with Katy Perry this week. Has that happened yet?
I am. Yeah. The only way they got that out of me, though, was during that word-association game. Because normally I’d never blab about that sort of thing. So I’m not gonna say a word about it, except to say I’m really sorry I said it. [Laughs]
You also worked with Lil Wayne, Polo da Don, and Jermaine Dupri on Raditude’s “Can’t Stop Partying.” How did that happen?
I wrote it with Jermaine Dupri, who’s from like a hip-hop, R&B background. And it was a challenge to take his ideas, to try to make that with my chord progressions and melodies. We got to a point in the song where we were like, “What are we going to do next?” And Lil Wayne has been my favorite rapper for the past few years, so we called him up and said, “Hey, come on down and see what happens.” Sadly, I wasn’t able to meet him. He came in super late after I’d already left the studio and by the time I got in the next day, he was already gone.
Was he given any direction on what to do on the track?
Generally, when collaborating I like to see what a person’s first instinct is before I give them too much direction. I like to keep all the doors open, and that was the case with Lil Wayne. There’s some anxiety there, because I think any other rapper would’ve just did, like, “Woo hoo, it’s a hip-hop party! We’re having fun!” But he really seemed to tap into the dark side that I was trying to bring out in the song.
Do you have a favorite line from his verse?
He says, “I hope the killer doesn’t take the life of the party.” And it’s like the last thing you’d expect somebody to say in the middle of a party song. Let me say one thing: I added a track of myself; I join him on two lines of the rap. And he didn’t give me a lyric sheet, so I was just trying to hear what he said. And unfortunately, I sang the wrong words over the top of him. So what sticks out is my voice, coming in and singing the wrong words. And I’m so pissed at myself. I ended up singing, “I hope the killer doesn’t take the life out the party.” And that’s just nowhere near as cool.
How much hip-hop do you listen to?
Well, a little bit. I’m not super knowledgeable about underground stuff. But the big records I like. I like the last Eminem record. We’re gonna do a performance for AOL later this week and we might have Snoop come down and rap, or this other guy, Fatlip.
What else are you listening to right now?
Well, the CD in my car stereo right now is Katy Perry. That’s one where I bought the album and I’m really taking some time to get to know the whole thing. I’m totally burned out on all the singles.
The leaked songs from Raditude are being compared to the Jonas Brothers. How do you feel about that?
I love pop music, but for some reason I haven’t heard them. Maybe they’re on a different radio station or something. They came to the Weezer show at the Forum last year and they were all super-cool guys, but I can’t comment on that comparison.
In an interview with Pitchfork this month, you implied that the lyrics on this album weren’t as personal as on previous ones. But they’re still pretty specific …
I must’ve been confused or something. The single, “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To,” obviously it’s about a situation with someone I’m very close to and I don’t want to talk about it too much. A lot of times I’ll try to take the original idea and sing about it in a way everybody can understand.
Here’s an example — the song “Here’s Your Daddy.” I’d been in the hospital for five days with my baby. She was really sick and no one knew what was going on, so I was going crazy in there. I left the hospital for the afternoon to clear my head and write a song. The first line I wrote was, “You are my baby tonight and I’m your daddy.” But when it came time to develop that, I didn’t want to write a song that was just about my daughter, because that’s not as universal. So I had to find a way to make it a broader message.
When playing that word-association game with Buzznet last week, the first word that popped into your head when they said “blogs” was “stupid.” This struck me as weird for someone whose band’s promotional strategy (the “Pork and Beans” video, Raditude’s cover art, etc.) seems to depend so much on attention from blogs …
These terms “going viral” and “online” and “for the blogosphere” … to me it’s what we’ve been doing from day one. Trying to do things in an interesting way mainly for ourselves. But also to make people confused or perplexed. When we started, our heroes were this band Wax. There was no Internet back then, but they just pulled these stunts. They played this show at Del Taco and everyone just had to talk about it. So I felt it was just that same instinct carrying over to 2009. Mainly we’re just trying to amuse ourselves.
Do you read any blogs?
I definitely read Bob Lefsetz. ESPN Soccernet, I don’t think that’s considered a blog. Is it Idolator? Is it a girl named Maura or something like that? I dig her. I’ve noticed a couple times she’s said, like, “Oh, these Weezer guys are just trying to rile us up, trying to get some kind of blog buzz.” She’s funny.
You’ve said your 2-year-old daughter is a big Weezer fan. Does she have a favorite album?
You know, she’s like part of the generation that doesn’t even know what an album is. It’s all just iPod to her. I think her favorite song is “Can’t Stop Partying.” She hasn’t heard the Lil Wayne version yet.