Groovy Interview with The Original Vlogger WEIRD PAUL PETROSKEY All About His Video Making History, Lo-Fi Music Career and Why He Chooses VHS to This Day!
There he is! Watch Weird Paul on the (You)Tube, dude!Tell us a little but about yourself, man. You’re the “Original Vlogger”. Can you tell us about that title, and when it all started? My parents came home from a shopping trip with an RCA color video camera in September 1984. It was not actually a camcorder, because it had to be attached to the VCR to tape something. If you wanted to walk around and film with it, you had to carry the VCR around with you on a strap, around your shoulder (which I did for years). My dad did NOT want me to get near the camera. But I did not let that stop me; I knew my destiny was to have that camera filming me as much as possible. When I started uploading the old 80s videos that I'd made to the internet in 2012, some people took notice because they resembled the videos that were currently being made by people for YouTube. Only I'd made mine over 25 years before. So some of my subscribers started calling me "The Original Vlogger", they told me I should use that title. So I did.
Weird Paul still rockin' the VHS camcorder thirty years later, man! Electrical tape. What an invention.I’d say that was a groovy move, man. What kind of stuff did you record at first? Did you have any particular plans for the footage? Where can we see all of your early video camcorder footage? The first thing that I filmed after my parents were done testing the camera was the contents of our toilet. My dad was not amused by it at all. He took the camera away and erased my footage. That afternoon I got the camera back, though, by whatever means were necessary. It was attached to my hand the rest of that day. I filmed a room tour, my neighbor mowing his lawn outside the window, a music video (for "DRIVE" by The Cars), a documentary on my family's feet, my impression of Tiny Tim, a prank (dropping ping pong balls on my sister's head), a UFO cover-up drama starring myself - and that was all in the first day! And the day after that, I filmed what is probably my most popular YouTube video, a review of a 1984 McDonald's Breakfast - very similar to food reviews that are made on there now. I had seen The Homemade Comedy Special before we got the camera. I had also seen Len Cella's movies on The Tonight Show. Len Cella was my first big influence. There was also a special program on TV, I think in 1983, which were all films people had shot at home with their video cameras. Not just home movies, but actual short films. So I thought, I can make stuff like this, too, and maybe it'll get shown somewhere, though I didn't have any real plans to make that happen. But now everybody in the world can see what I shot, because I'm uploading it to my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/weirdpaulp I have around 130 hours of footage, so I keep uploading more of it. I have another channel for all the stuff I made with copyrighted music in it (like the over 600 homemade music videos I made), that channel is www.youtube.com/weirdpaulvideos. My "sweded" video for "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister is popular on there. You’re a radical lo-fi musician, man. When did you start recording music? It was covers at first, I believe? When did you start doing your own stuff? In early 1984 (this was even before we got the video camera) I was 13 and I had finally gotten into popular music. I thought, I can make my own albums on cassettes (I thought I could do anything that anyone else did and I was usually right). The first ones I made were all parodies of songs I heard on the radio. Most of them were about my teachers I didn't like; my history teacher Mr. Lebbeda was a main target. I recorded them by going in the bathroom (good acoustics in there) and playing the actual song (“You Might Think” by The Cars for instance) on one tape recorder and just singing over it. I captured this on a second tape recorder also in the room. Eventually, I got my first guitar in 1985 and I started writing my own primitive songs and recorded albums with a mix of the parodies and originals. I would lend these tapes out to kids at my high school, most of whom thought I was really strange. In 1987, I released my first cassette IN CASE OF FIRE THROW THIS IN of all original songs and sold about 50 copies of it around my school. We'd have Friday night concerts in a friend's garage and all the kids would come out to hear me play. I'd make music videos for my songs, filmed on VHS. After high school, I got signed to Homestead Records who had put albums by Sonic Youth, GG Allin, Dinosaur Jr and Daniel Johnston, just to name a few. I've kept releasing music (over 30 albums) and playing live (over 500 performances) to this day. And I still make many of my music videos on VHS.
The cover of Weird Paul's IN CASE OF FIRE THROW THIS IN. Dig that shirt, dude.You’re also a notable collector, with an interest in a variety of vintage things. Can you give us an idea of some of your collecting habits? I know you collect VHS, too. What are some of your favorite tapes? I've been collecting stuff since I was a kid. I started out collecting things I could get for free, like postage stamps, bottle caps and matchbooks. I have never had much money, so I've almost always been a "budget collector"; I rarely pay more than a dollar for anything. I usually shop for stuff at thrift stores, used book and record stores and flea markets. I've been haunting these kind of places for so many years now that I've managed to build up quite a haul - some of this stuff you just can't find for the kind of prices I paid for it years ago. Records, old toys, old books, retro video games, etc. I show all of this stuff on my YouTube channel. And of course VHS! I have a lot of cool big boxes (Force Video is one company I really like) and anything strange/obscure/independent is always on my want list. But my favorite VHS company of all is Vestron. I picked up one of their print catalogs at a video store back in 1983 (which I still have) and I became obsessed with all the strange movies in it. So Vestron is my main label to collect and I've been trying for years to make a complete list of every title they released with catalog numbers. There is no complete list of that on the internet and I keep finding more I didn't know about! You’re still recording a ton of videos for YouTube, and they’re still shot on VHS. Why do you choose to shoot on video tape in a world digital built-in cams? What is it about VHS that does it for you, dude? When I had my first viral YouTube video and my subscribers started calling me The Original Vlogger, I thought, well I can make new vlogs, too. But I didn't have a digital camera. All I had was a Video8 camera and I couldn't get the tape door to open. So my only option was to plug the Video8 camera into a VCR and film my vlogs onto VHS tape, then digitize them with a DV converter and edit them in iMovie on a 2005 iBook. And that's still exactly how I do it, almost 4 years later. I still don't have a digital camera, and I honestly don't need one. The VHS is so great to work with and I've been working with it since I was 13. I love how it looks, and it goes great with my channel, since most of what I talk about is retro-themed, anyway. My subscribers really like it too and I feel like it's unique in a world where almost everything you see looks the same. I got my first blank VHS tape in 1982 and I have filled up over 1000 VHS tapes with movies, TV and my own films since then. It's a great format! What’s going on in Weird Paul’s world right now? What’re some current events or projects you’d like us to check out? I have the first in a series of limited edition 7" releases coming up in a few months. I haven't had too many vinyl releases during my career yet, so this is exciting news. I've had some of my 80s films screening here and there and my 1984 McDonald's Breakfast Review is going to be screened at Giron in Chicago in March. It was chosen by VIDEO! VIDEO! ZINE from a bunch of home movie videos that were submitted for a contest. There is a documentary about me called WEIRD PAUL: A LO FIDELITY DOCUMENTARY that came out in 2006 and played at some festivals. I sell that on my website, but I just heard from some filmmakers that are interested in making a new up-to-date documentary on me. It will include the whole YouTube and internet story, as well. So, I'll have more news on that soon. I'm also planning on doing some concert appearances outside of Pittsburgh this year, so maybe I'll end up in your town - come out and say hi!
Weird Paul with a radical stack of VHS master tapes AKA VHSolid Gold. Photo by Nathan Pazsint.Yo, I’d DEFINITELY be there if you came to the Philly area, man. That would RULE. Where can we keep up with you, Paul? Where’s the best place to experience all of your analog-inclined output - past, present and future? I'm uploading my videos to my two YouTube channels: www.youtube.com/weirdpaulp for my old VHS footage and new vlogs about cool retro stuff and my memories about it. https://www.youtube.com/user/weirdpaulvideos is where I keep uploading all my old homemade music videos. So you can subscribe to those for all the fun. You can see featured older stuff I've done and keep up to date by liking my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/weirdpaul - I post some pretty entertaining stuff there. You can listen to my lo-fi output of over 20 albums at www.weirdpaul.bandcamp.com. I've also posted a lot of funny retro 6 second clips on Vine and I'm on Twitter, Instagram and Soundcloud doing the stuff they do there.
Weird Paul on New Year's Eve in 1986 with his trusty camcorder! What's that in his right hand? Chicken nugget. I'm sayin' chicken nugget. Party.Anything else you wanna shout out to all the Tapeheads hangin’ in Lunchmeat Land? Everything old is new again, and everything new is cool again! There's a resurgence of popularity for 80s stuff and especially for VHS and it couldn't possibly be better timing! VHS is the best and I'm glad I'm helping to introduce young people to some of what they missed before they were born!
Yo, so are we, Paul! In case you haven’t noticed, Weird Paul just rules. Be sure to clickity-click on all the hot links above to explore his multifaceted magnetic magic kind of world, and don’t forget to pay a lengthy visit to his YouTube channels. I analog assure you that there is a seemingly endless ocean of shot-on-video, homemade variety insanity just waiting to invade your brain, Tapeheads! So, wait… why are you still reading this?! Go hang with Weird Paul in a virtual world of the radical past, man! DIG IT!!