Andrew WK Interview | ThePunkSite.com
|Band: Andrew WK
|Label:Skyscraper Music Maker
Avenue Theatre - Edmonton, Alberta
June 27th, 2009
||Interviewer: Bobby Gorman
Andrew WK is a fascinating human being, I can't stress that enough. He became famous with raucous party songs like Party Hard, Ready To Die, Party Till You Puke, I Love NYC and She Is Beautiful but there's so much more to him than just party songs. After doing research for this interview, I found out a lot of information about the performer that I had never known before - his philosophical ideals, his motivational speeches, his ideology concerning what can be defined as a "party" and just his general outlook on live. All in all, its just made me stop and go "woah, this guy is awesome." I went back and examined the lyrics further and saw much more than just the simplistic party tunes that I once saw, but instead saw some deeper meaning in the lyrics and I really let The Wolf grow on me like crazy.
When he finally came to town, I had no idea what to expect. The show itself was insane, more of a party than a concert with him singing and over two hundred people packed on the side right beside him the entire night making it one of the best concerts of the entire year - and near the top of the all time list. The interview went equally as well as I once again got some more insight into his personality and ideals. Read the interview, then go on his website and read everything he has on there, it truly is fascinating.
All pictures by Douglas Dollars.
Bobby: You just released the split with the Evaporators, a Wild Pear. Whose idea was it to do that split?
Andrew: Nardwuar presented me with the idea of covering some Canadian songs for the split seven inch. I had never done a split seven inch before let alone a split seven inch with Nardwuar so it was very exciting to me in terms of being a new experience and an opportunity to play these songs, to cover these songs that I really like. I actually haven’t done that many cover songs either. One of the songs I covered was a song by a group called the Leather Uppers who I’ve been a huge fan of since I was in high school for over ten years now. Well, almost fifteen years. Just getting to connect circles like that, to see something that you’ve loved manifest in different ways and maybe even unexpected ways over many years is very exciting. My friendship with Nardwaur, getting to cover these songs, the split seven inch, playing together with the Evaporators, that’s all me acknowledging beautiful connections coming together in different ways over the years. I’m very grateful.
Bobby: You said on your Twitter account that on the 23rd you went into the Santos Party House to record another song for a Volcom seven inch.
Andrew: Yes, I’m working on that, yes.
Bobby: What’s that seven inch going to be?
Andrew: This one is a split seven inch, I believe, with a band called The Riverboat Gamblers. Volcom the company has been very kind to me for many, many years. I really admire everything about them. Their record label, the gear that they make - skateboarding and snowboarding and even surfing [gear]. There’s an amazing group of people that run that company and I find it very inspiring and just a good vibe. Again, I guess I was just a little bit inspired after doing this split seven inch with Nardwuar to do another one with Volcom.
Bobby: This tour is, of course, in support of the split seven inch but it is also in anticipation of your new full length, 55 Cadillac, that comes out on September 8th. Can you tell us a bit about that album?
Andrew: Well, the 55 Cadillac is a very different album from the others I’ve released. Actually, I’m currently recording another rock and roll album so I’m always working on music. But this 55 Cadillac album is a solo piano album and all the songs I kind of made up as I went along. It’s very spontaneous. The idea was just to take a totally different approach. To me it was a very risky feeling; a kind of unfamiliar, scary feeling because all the other albums I’ve recorded I worked on them for many, many years and it has a certain sound. When you labour over something and fine tune it and fine tune it and fine tune it and work and work and work, you get a certain kind of feeling out of it. But there’s also a kind of feeling that comes from just playing and letting it come out spontaneously; so I wanted to see what it would be like to make an album like that and that’s what this 55 Cadillac is.
Bobby: So basically you just recorded it spontaneously, was there anything you recorded and then was like “nah, that doesn’t sound good” and re-recorded it?
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. Of course. I mean, I chose the best stuff.
Bobby: Also, with it being so spontaneous, is it difficult for you to go back and say “okay, what did I do here?” to recreate the song live?
Andrew: I wasn’t really planning on re-creating the songs live. But there’s definitely approaches, there’s moments from the album that I can approximate. Sort of, for example, start in this key. Play at this speed. Things like that, but the whole point of the album, again, was to play what comes out of you as you sit. So if I’m going to be performing songs related to this album, they’ll probably be more songs that I make up as I go along versus trying to re-create what was spontaneous.
Bobby: Like I said, the CD comes out on September 8th through Ecstatic Peace and your label, Skyscraper Music Maker. Does that mean you were able to solve the legal problems you were having that was making it impossible to release CDs in North America?
Andrew: Well yeah. Releasing the album on my own label is a great new era for me and is very exciting. We based the label in London which really, again, is sort of a new approach to me. But there really were no problems, it was just a matter of wanting to find a way that gave me the most control and gave us the most freedom for releasing what we wanted when we wanted.
Bobby: Okay, because I was reading somewhere online that one reason Close Calls with Brick Walls was only released in Japan and the Asia market was because you had signed a contract with your creative manager saying that you weren’t able to release stuff in North America under the Andrew WK moniker. What happened there? Were you able to get past that?
Andrew: There’s been a lot of confusion about that. It’s kind of a long story but it’s not exactly as you just said; it’s not exactly as people have commonly thought. Fortunately, everything’s been good all the way along and when we’ve released music in other countries, it was just by choice. Now having my own label is really exciting because I get to release whatever I want whenever I want. So I’m very grateful.
Bobby: Like you said, you have your own label now and you’re able to release whatever you want whenever you want. What are some of the bands that you’re currently working with?
Andrew: Well actually none of them are bands, they’re all solo artists. They are Aleister X, the other artist is Bad Brilliance and then the third artist is Cherie Lily. I noticed that it’s A – B – C. Aleister X, Bad Brilliance and Cherie Lily. So those are the artists I’ve been working with, I’ve been working on their music with them and they’ve actually performed with me as well. We’re all friends, we’re all based out of New York and they’re all on my label.
Bobby: Like we said earlier, Close Calls with Brick Walls was released in Japan and released on vinyl under Load Records, do you have any plans on releasing the album wider in North America?
Andrew: Well, I’m not going to re-release it on vinyl I don’t think. I’m not that big of a fan of vinyl. I like it because it has a big cover, I like the enlarged artwork but I like CDs. I think they sound the best, I prefer them over MP3s, I prefer them over vinyl. So we’re definitely going to re-release Close Calls with Brick Walls on CD, it’s going to have a bunch of extra tracks. I think there’s going to be thirty-three songs on it or something. So a really definitive collection, lots and lots of music for it. And maybe, since you mentioned it, maybe they’ll be a vinyl version too but then it’ll have to be like four LPs or something and it’s just kind of a nightmare.
Bobby: You said there was gonna be bonus songs, will you be taking songs from the Japan covers album?
Andrew: I wasn’t going to use those as bonus tracks but people have been asking about that Japan covers album so maybe I’ll release that outside of Japan eventually too. The bonus tracks that will be on Close Calls with Brick Walls will be the other bonus tracks that were on the Korean version and on the US vinyl version and some new songs.
Bobby: Of course music is far from the only thing you’re doing. A few weeks ago you debuted a new TV show called Destroy Build Destroy, how did you get involved with that?
Andrew: Well I really love television and making television. For the last couple years I had been in touch with Cartoon Network and Adult Swim and had been working on developing ideas for shows for them and when this idea came along, it just seemed perfect to me. It was very exciting. It allowed me to be energetic and dynamic and it involved giant explosions. So for me, it was sort of a no-brainer.
Bobby: So you’ve probably recorded a few shows by now, has there been any giant explosions that have really stuck out in your mind?
Andrew: Well I’ve got to ride in a World War II Russian tank and then explode a huge vehicle. I mean, these explosions are like twenty stories tall. They’re huge. They’re really, really huge. I’ve never gotten to do anything – I’ve never gotten to ride in a tank or even touch a tank or look at a tank up-close [before]. Just getting to be around that, in that atmosphere, making TV, it’s very high-energy, there’s a lot of teamwork, a lot of people working together to make it all happen. It just makes you feel very lucky, very fortunate.
Bobby: Like you said these explosions are massive. Your outfit has always been white t-shirts, white pants. How much laundry are you doing after all these explosions?
Andrew: That’s interesting because on that TV show, it’s true that sometimes we had to sort of scramble to make my clothes clean for continuity. Because I might get really dirty and then all of a sudden we’re supposed to shoot a scene that’s supposed to come before another scene and I’m supposed to be all clean again. So it’s true that I never really expected or thought about that wearing all white in this dirty, explosive environment might be problematic. But we worked around it.
Bobby: According to your Twitter account, you said you missed the premiere of the show because you were watching Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. I saw the trailer a few weeks ago, it looked amazing. How was it?
Andrew: I really enjoyed it and we were seeing an early version of it, not a final version but you can still get a full sense of the story of course; and the performances are incredible. It’s a very unique plot, I gotta say, I think people are really going to be interested by it.
Bobby: And also it’s not a regular Scorsese movie, he doesn’t do horror movies that often.
Andrew: Yeah, well I think it’s not really a horror movie. I thought it was going to be a horror movie. It’s a thriller. It’s like a suspense, thriller, a bit of a mystery. Very, very thought provoking.
Bobby: How did you end up getting an invite to see it so early?
Andrew: One of my good friends is a man named Don Fleming and his wife, named Margaret, she’s a producer who works with Martin Scorsese so I’m very fortunate. I’ve gone to a lot of his premiers and screenings, it’s just amazing. That’s one of the great things about living in New York is that you get to do things like that.
Bobby: Do you have any other TV plans in the work? I mean, you used to do Your Friend, Andrew WK on MTV. You have Destroy Build Destroy and now MTV is suggesting you to be Uncle Jesse in the next Full House. Do you have any other TV plans?
Andrew: *laughs* We are working on other shows and always have things in development with that. I would love to continue working and coming up with new ideas. I appreciate you asking that and people can stay tuned just by, I guess, by going on my Twitter! Twitter.com/andrewwk! I’m glad that you’ve gotten so much of your information from there because it’s very new, I’ve only been on there for a few weeks.
Bobby: What made you decide to go do Twitter?
Andrew: I’ve heard about it for years and then over the last six months it really blew up. It just really blew up so I want to participate in whatever’s going on on the computer and use it for what it’s worth. It’s a very powerful and exciting and new way to communicate with people. I’ve enjoyed it.
Bobby: You’ve also done motivational speeches, like I know you did a motivational speech at Yale University. So how did you go from being a musician to motivational speaker?
Andrew: Well it actually started a lot of times after the shows, and maybe like even what we’re doing now. When I was playing concerts people would talk with me and the good feelings that people were getting from the music, they also looked to me as an individual to give them those good feelings or to continue those good feelings. I didn’t really expect that but I appreciated people wanting to feel good in that way so it was very easy for me to find more ways to get that across. I figured music is a very good way to get that feeling of excitement and energy across but so is talking. That’s what’s led to the lectures.
Bobby: How do you also stay so positive? Even reading your twitter comments, you sent one out yesterday saying “as you read this, remember that you are alive and are you going to live it all the way?” So how do you always stay so extremely positive?
Andrew: Well, I don’t think of it as positive or negative these days. I just think about doing what you want to do. I think doing what you want to do is sort of inherently good. It’s sort of an inherently good vibe, an inherently positive vibe. When I’m writing things like that or saying things like that or sort of putting out motivational pep talks bits of wisdom or whatever it is, I’m doing that for myself as much as I’m doing it for someone else. I’m trying to keep myself in that state of happiness, of gratitude, of excitement and fun. I want to be in that mood as much as possible.
Colin * a guy standing near the door listening to the interview*: With that, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I just wanted to thank you for writing that article –Music, Love and Partying that you published in The Vice Guide to Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll.
Andrew: Oh, cool, thank you.
Colin: Greatest article I’ve ever read.
Andrew: Wow, that’s an old one. I’m glad that you liked it.
Colin: It rocked my socks of.
Andrew: Thank you. What’s your name?
Colin: My name’s Colin.
Andrew: Nice meeting you *they shake hands.*
Colin: Seriously, I read it monthly.
Andrew: Yeah? That was the first thing I ever wrote like that, so I appreciate you liking it.
Colin: I love it. One of the greatest articles I’ve ever read.
Andrew: Thank you Colin. Thank you very much.
Colin: I’ve been lingering to say that, now that I have… *He shakes his hand again and he turns and talks to some friends*
Bobby: I’ll have to check out that article. Speaking about writing, last year in Japan you released I Will Change Your Life and in 2007 you released an activity book, named the Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book.
Andrew: Oh, that wasn’t mine, I’m just featured in it.
Bobby: Do you have any other books in the works?
Andrew: Yes, I have been working on sort of a bigger book for a while now. It’s just a matter of getting time to sit down and do it; but yeah, I’d like to use books and writing and reading as another mode, another tool to communicate this feeling of energy. I mean, I just want to put out energy and then people can sort of take that energy and use it for whatever they want. That’s why I would never tell people how they are supposed to have fun, they’re just supposed to do what they want to do. I try to give that energy to go towards your dreams and that’s what the book will be about.
Bobby: A few more questions. I was reading on your bio that you were studying classical piano at the University of Michigan School of Music when you were four. When you’re parents got you into that, did they ever expect that twenty years later you’d be singing songs like Party Till You Puke and Party Hard based on what you were learning?
Andrew: Nope, they probably didn’t; and I wouldn’t have either! Piano gave me a very basic and valuable foundation to understand and appreciate all kinds of music and before I really learned about lyrics or meanings or styles or images, I just appreciated melody and rhythm. I’m very grateful for that because that’s the only way I’ve been able to do what I’ve done since. My parents understand that if it hasn’t been for them, then I never would’ve sung these party songs and I think they’re grateful for that, I think they’re happy about that.
Bobby: One last question, looking back now, what would you tell your teenage self?
Andrew: That everything’s going to be fine.
Bobby: Awesome, thanks a lot. Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to add?
Andrew: Yeah, twitter.com/andrewwk!