STILL PARTYING HARD
In case you don’t know what Andrew WK has been up to in the past ten years, he’s released three albums, hosted a game show on Adult swim called “Destroy, Build, Destroy,” done a motivational lecture tour, played countless shows and built an award-winning concert hall and nightclub in downtown New York City with close friends and associates. Now he and his band are about to embark on a 10-year anniversary tour for the album I Get Wet. Kellen Powell catches up with him before he sets out and finds out what it’s like in the day of the life of the founder of “The Party.”
I first became aware of Andrew WK the way many people did, by seeing the iconic image of him with his hair wet and matted in his face, while blood is pouring out of his nose. The image seemingly announced a menacing new force in the rock ‘n’ roll arena, but what made him even more interesting was that he turned out to not be that menacing…
Tough? Sure, he’s built like a brick shit house and if you’ve ever seen him on camera or gone to one of his shows you know there’s an intense physicality to everything he does. But is he mean, or scary? Not a chance. Andrew WK has spent his career championing life, positivity and fun. He’s like a beacon of good vibes.
Can I start by asking what a typical day is like for you these days?
I’m sure people say this all the time, but the thing is, I guess there’s nothing really ‘typical.’ Every day is different. In many regards that’s my favourite aspects of this kind of work, the variety that comes from traveling or from the specific activities that go into any one-day. There’s always something fresh or new or exciting…
For instance when I was doing Destroy Build Destroy, three days a week I’d have a routine for filming, showing up at 5:30AM in Hollywood and driving out to the official movie-ranch-studio place out in Santa Clara. I put my skills into a bunch of different avenues and in this case TV performing helped me learn about being on camera and being on stage.
It helped me be a better front man and using my rock‘n’roll front man skills came in handy being on a show like that. But then that’s just filming and then you go and do something else. I used to think that life was going to go back to the way it used to be before I moved to New York, before Andrew W.K., but now it seems like it might never go back to being normal.
Why did you decide to go on tour again instead of pursuing one of the avenues you’ve been exploring?
Well, you always want to keep adding more to your arsenal but I never wanted to stop necessarily, any one of those particular sources of work. I just wanted to add new things to it. Adding more TV was a big effort, adding lecturing, different types of performance or work. You go up on stage without an instrument maybe, but there’s still some kind of show to put on. It could also be working on other people’s music or projects. Touring is just one thing that we’ve done since we started. It’s really been what’s built this. Fortunately, the band and I have remained active playing shows all throughout and we’ve never really missed a single year.
We did the Warped tour in 2010 for the whole summer. We did January in Australia and then another tour in October, and then another show in Minnesota, but to be on the road back to back for many months, that’s something we hadn’t done. I guess the real reason is once you’re on the road there really isn’t much time to do anything else. So you couldn’t film a TV show, or really record three albums, or lecture, or work on opening a night club, for example.
So having those open blocks of time has been great, we’ve been able to keep a variety. But now, its time to tour again! Also, we’ve fortunately resolved a lot of business issues and complications that have been holding us back a bit over the last few years. Having the 10 year anniversary of the whole Andrew WK thing, the whole adventure, the timing is right, the conditions are right.
A lot of artists find touring to be grueling and emotionally taxing. How are you feeling about going out on the road?
I love it more and more the longer I do it. And its really incredible, but I haven’t really toured much, I would play shows around where I live. Like when I was in Michigan, I would play around there, and in New York there’s a whole bunch of cities clustered around the North East; Providence Rhode Island, Philadelphia, New York, and not to mention Montreal. But really getting into a tour bus and doing the whole thing-it’s a big adventure!
One of my favorite things is the traveling. The shows are intense and take a lot of physical energy but rather than drain you, the traveling seems to charge you back up every day. It’s just a great feeling to be on the road with your friends, and your family. I’ve spent more time with this group of people over the past 10 years than anyone, bar my mom, dad and brother.
Who do you think is coming to see you on this tour? Is it mostly fans from the past 10 years, or has it attracted a new generation of fans?
I’ve been really surprised at how great the response has been to this tour. It’s already shaping up to be the biggest response we’ve ever had since we began. That means a lot. I’m reading comments from folks that are saying it’s the first time they’re ever seeing us and comments saying it’s the first time they’re going to be seeing us in 8 years. That’s what you hope for, you have to keep building and bringing new people to the party.
You talk about “The Party” but you seem to be deliberately vague about what “The Party” means. Can you try to articulate it a little?
It’s vague out of my own inability to describe the feeling. The goal, the mission, it’s really a physical feeling that I’m trying to get across… that I’m trying to manifest or create. But it’s really hard to describe how that feeling feels without just, feeling it! And the word that I came across at the beginning that everyone else agreed with was ‘party.’ That was the most to the point, powerful and accepted word that everyone could understand. The feeling in your body that this is trying to make, it’s a raw energy, and we’ve all felt it and need to feel it through different causes.
That’s what music is for me. An incredible and undeniable way to get to a feeling of physical power and excitement and energy and joy. Your body feels good so why not use that. There are a lot of things you can do to try to get yourself into a state of pure exhilaration, but this is a fun way to spend your time.
Your outlook is extremely positive. How do you approach, or deal with negativity within yourself or from others?
The vastness of anyone’s moods – to some end – add to your life experience. Being alive is an obviously positive experience. The opposite would be…an emptiness, some kind not being there. So things are inherently positive, but within that there’s a range of emotions and attitudes that it’s only healthy to have. It’s all part of the effort. You get frustrated, or you might feel competitive or hurt or jealous or insulted or whatever, and you use that to push you as much as the feeling of happiness. They all have their place.
It’s happy to feel sad sometimes. Why not get to explore the whole range of what it feels like to be human? I don’t mean a “mood” necessarily, but more the way that your body gets goose bumps or you get butterflies in your stomach. Let’s go after that and let’s feel as alive as possible. That’s really the point of all the work.
Do you ever just need a break to read a book or take a long bath with some candles or something?
I’ve definitely read books, which is a great feeling, and they can be very exciting too. I have taken baths before when I’ve had really bad stomachaches but otherwise… I don’t care for them. They seem like they take too long. And I’ve always thought they were boring, even when I was a little kid. A great way to deal with any kind of pain is thinking about something that makes you happy or doing something that makes you feel good. So, often to me, it’s more relaxing to work, because my work isn’t work that I wouldn’t want to do.
How do you keep ahead of the sheer physical demands of your intensity though? Is there a diet or exercise regiment?
It’s just a lot of adrenaline. I don’t know exactly. I mean there are people that take it a lot further than me in terms of their energy expenditure. There are a lot of things that make it possible. The music itself makes me feel energized. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve played these songs it just does this thing. It’s the feeling of doing what you’re born to do, it creates energy, even when it’s really tiring. I don’t know what else I’d rather be doing.
There’s also plenty of times where I’m playing keyboard, recording an album or just on a plane for 17 hours sleeping, so it all balances out. I think of someone, like a soldier in the army, and they’re working night and day, and that puts it in perspective. Even a marathon runner, or an NBA athlete, I think has more demands on themselves.
I wanted this. Just think of all of the people who would give anything to have these opportunities, including me. Over a decade ago, before I moved to New York, I would say, when I get my chance, if I ever get it, I’m not going to take it for granted. You’ve gotta really grab it while you can because you might die the next day.
You’re very active online through Twitter and with live video chats with your fans.
Yes I’m doing one tonight actually!
What do you get out of being so available to interact with them, is it just about giving back to the fans?
I just love the computer, always have. As soon as I was able to incorporate it, like having a website for example, I just thought it was an exciting and powerful tool. I really see the computer as an extension of the human spirit. And many of the best aspects of humanity are bound, enhanced and amplified by the computer.
I don’t think of it as different to any other tool or an instrument. It’s just like a guitar, paint pallet or a brush or anything like that…You can use it to do these incredible things. For example, I use it to talk and communicate with people around the world all at once. It’s amazing, there’s really no other way to do it.
It’s magic in its purest sense. That’s always been an aspect of it, and this Andrew WK adventure happens to really work well with the computer because of the attitude and the excitement that we can all have so instantaneously. It makes sense that everybody gets to have parties on the computer, parties at the concerts, parties in your car or wherever you listen to it. It’s a real great technique and method to get to the feeling.
In terms of what I get out of it? I get a lot of insight into my work and feedback and energy from people. Like a pep rally; a team effort. We’re psyching each other up and keeping each other focused on the right things. It’s like any group of people hanging out together. Even if we’re not physically in each other’s presence, we’re together, keeping each other at our best.
At this point, having been doing Andrew WK for 10 years, do you have any regrets?
Well I don’t know if regrets are the same as “would you do something over again?” because you might not be at that point if you hadn’t done something. But maybe if you had done it differently, even if it seems so obviously silly, maybe things wouldn’t have unfolded the way they have. I feel like this road, everyone’s road, has these twists and turns that can seem like the downfall or the end or a real problem. But they can just be part of the unfolding of a person’s particular life story.
So, I mean, sure I’ve made all kinds of mistakes and poor decisions and didn’t know enough about people I worked with or what I signed up for at times, but you can’t know how life is gonna be until you live it. If anything. I’m glad to still be working at all, to still be doing any of this. It’s all been incredible and surprising and really shocking so… something is right. Something is right, and as long as we’re still going I can’t complain.