Alumnus Engineers Song on Weird Al's Hit Album 'Mandatory Fun'

Kimberly Ashton
August 19, 2014
Benny Grotto, with Weird Al Yankovic on Skype
Photo courtesy of Benny Grotto

In his nine years working in the music business, Benny Grotto ‘05 said he's never been starstruck, despite having worked with Aerosmith, Ben Folds, Neil Gaiman, and Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls.

“But when Amanda told me that Weird Al was looking to do a session, it was completely and utterly nerve-wracking because I really like Weird Al,” Grotto, the chief engineer at Mad Oak Studios in Allston, said.

Weird Al Yankovic had asked Palmer to record vocals for his song “First World Problems,” one of the singles on his album Mandatory Fun, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard 200 in early August.

Grotto, who’s been a Weird Al fan since hearing “Amish Paradise” in 1996, said that working with Yankovic was “probably the only time I’ve ever gotten a little geeky with a client.”

But if Grotto was nervous, Yankovic likely couldn’t tell, since they recorded, engineered, and produced Palmer’s vocals entirely by communicating online. Yankovic would guide Palmer’s performance over FaceTime and then turn to Grotto to instruct him over Skype.

“On a professional level, he was so on-point and cool,” Grotto said. “He was really funny, and he was having a really good time.”

Being starstruck wasn’t the only first for Grotto. The only other album he’s worked on that charted was the Dresden Dolls’ No, Virginia..., which topped out at No. 96.

“So a No. 1 is kind of a pretty huge step up,” he said.