Less a man, more a movement, Andrew WK reflects on his best year yet. Warning: this interview includes the word party. A lot.
Does an Andrew WK interview ever need an introduction? Thought not, for more on the man's exceptional 2012 pick up Rock Sound Issue 169, out everywhere now!
To begin, has 2012 been a resurgent year for you? Is that a fair assumption and why do you think that has been?
"It's absolutely been our biggest year yet and I don't really know why. It's like a miracle. It was our 10 year anniversary, so we were certainly all thinking about the adventure this has been, and how lucky we've been to do it at all, let alone for a decade plus. Maybe other folks were thinking that too? Maybe it just takes time for certain things and certain people, music, and feelings to get out there all the way? This all feels like it's still building and getting partier and partier. The feeling is really inspiring and also very humbling. It makes me realize more than ever that this party was something that we ALL built together - not just me and the band - but everyone who has ever believed in the feeling of joy, excitement, and pure fun that we're striving to create. It's a privilege to party together. It's the partiest life I could ever imagine, and I'm thankful every day, to everyone."
Did you expect those anniversary shows to sell so quickly? And did it make you nervous before the shows knowing the levels of expectation?
"Never in my deepest dreams did I ever think these shows would do so well. How could I? It was a complete shock and my managers and our whole team were just amazed. It was a feeling of, 'Wow! Something has been happening here that we didn't even know about.' I could tell that people were staying with the music and new people were coming to it, but we hadn't done a full UK tour in over seven years. It's like the party was growing this whole time, since we first started in 2000 - 2001, but we had yet to see the passion explode like that. It felt completely out of our control, like we didn't try to make it happen - it just happened through people's sheer love of partying. It was the power of the party people and the power of the party music. I'm just another believer in that feeling of fun, and I feel obligated in the best way to deliver on the promise this music makes to everyone who cares about that feeling.
I'm a fan of the music and these feelings, just like anyone else. I didn't make it. I didn't write it. I didn't come up with Andrew WK. I was chosen and given the chance to do it, and that was the greatest thing that ever happened to me, so for me, it's like getting to be part of a dream dreamed by a lot of people at once - a shared vision. There's a good kind of pressure from that sort of dream and it comes with expectations, but they're expectations I also have for myself and that the music has for me and all of us. Everyone of us has different duties and responsibilities within this party, and I just do my thing while everyone does theirs. Everyone here counts - that's the only way something like this happens - through that incredible group effort and belief and perseverance. I really hope that when you're reading this - if you're someone who believes in this feeling of joy and power this music creates - I hope you understand that YOU made it happen and are continuing to make it happen every day. I don't MAKE this music, WE DO THIS MUSIC."
And from your perspective how were those shows? What stands out in the memory?
"I have so many memories that my brain is flooded and I can't even process them. The amount of partying wiped out my entire soul. It was like being reborn. There are flashes of puke and blurry images of near-death headbanging. There are glimpses of gods and blinding bursts of keyboard smashing. This whole last year has been the most intense of my entire life and the most intense for Andrew WK in general. It's all been building up to this.
It made me think back to 2005, right when I started doing this, and to think of those years that lead to me getting to be part of it. From 1998 to 2004, that was when the foundation was built - the stage that I got to step out on. And it made me feel very grateful to the people that came before me, that made the first albums, that did the first tours. It made me feel like the luckiest guy on earth. And all the work and practice and time I put in really paid off on this tour. This was the moment of glory. It was the best shows we ever played as a band. It was the biggest crowds we ever had - not just in the UK, but in the US too. Something was happening right in front of our eyes and it was overwhelming, but in a good way. I'm still processing and grappling with what we went through. It was a turning point in life - one of those times where you realize that things are different now - you'll never be the same again, and you could never go back to where you were, no matter how hard you tried. You are at a different place now. I never want to go back again. Before I started doing Andrew WK, my life wasn't as good. I wanted to do this because I wanted life to be partier. And that's it."
Do you think shows like that reminded a lot of people about your music and allowed it to take centre stage once more, moving the legal disputes, Steev Mike details etc to the background for the first time in a couple of years?
"Yes, thankfully. The partying is what matters most, everything else should just stay in the background and be ignored. I'm very thankful to my lawyers and excellent new managers for cleaning stuff up in 2009. Once that happened, we were able to do things like world tours and go bigger. The times before that were probably the darkest and most challenging for me, in terms of having so many people try to tell me what to do, and people accusing me of being false or brainwashed. Keep in mind that I was coming in and taking over right in the midst of the worst problems with Andrew WK, in terms of the legal battles, the confusion over the earlier years, and mounting business issues with his first managers. There was a lot of in-fighting and I was just trying to keep it together and not get pulled in. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into at that point, and if I had, I probably wouldn't have signed up for this. But thank goodness no one really explained it to me - at least not the depth of it all or the past history.
I'm actually still pretty out of the loop when it comes to most of that kind of stuff. But that's because it's not my duty - it's not my responsibility to get caught up in the contracts and the business. All the bickering about who-made-what and who's really in charge isn't important. I've always been a guy who likes to do his good work. I like direction and I like fulfilling an obligation and following the orders that will get the best results for everyone involved. So I've always tried to go along with what we're doing here and respect the fact that there are a lot more people making this than just me. After all, I wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for them and all they've done - so I respect that. A lot of energy, time, and resources were devoted to this before I came along. It's not only about appreciating that, it's also about making the most of it and going along with what you agreed to do, to support the big picture and the big goals. Looking back to 1999, when Andrew W.K. first got going, it's clear that they had a plan for the long term that wasn't just about me or the music in that place or time. If I imagine what it would've been like to be putting that together from scratch, especially back then, it makes my head spin. So it's a lot easier for me to come into something that's already gotten going - that's been set up and fine-tuned.
I count my blessings for that every day when I look in the mirror - I say a little thank you and a little prayer for all those people - not just my managers or creative people or lawyers and business people, even though they are very important - but also the people that did this first with them. That doesn't mean it hasn't been challenging, but that's part of what you get when you make a deal for your dream to come true. Back in 2006, we made some choices that put us in a very compromising position. I won't say that I regret it now, as it wasn't my idea or what I would've done, but it was something I ultimately did take part in, and I am still conflicted about it. It's hard to know when to tell people about this stuff. I will admit that I made some mistakes about how we handled those issues - how we responded to people's accusations or ignored very reasonable questions that people had for me or my team. It gets very complicated for me, because these are people I live with every day, and other people cared about me and this just as much as they did. It was hard to decide how to react. You can't just ignore people's questions forever, but you also don't want to answer something that will change people's minds or make them not focused on what you really want. I do think that some of the ways we handled those times were misguided. And for that, I do apologize. And that goes for everyone I work with too. In the end, it's all working out. Obviously, we all want the focus to be on the good feelings - the good feelings and the good fun that the music puts out there. I wish people wouldn't look too deep into this. I wish they would just forget about what happened in a lot of ways, but I understand that people will think for themselves and will want to see what's going on. Still, my dream is that people just ignore all that stuff and just party. That's the whole point of everything we're doing."
Who had the idea to take a party bus to Hevy Festival with you on it? And how much fun is it being you on days like that?
"Getting to do Andrew WK is just like a fantasy every day. I never forget that. It only gets more amazing the more it goes on. I can't believe I get to do this - it almost seems like some people would think it should be illegal to have this much fun, and in some countries it is! That bus ride with all those party people - that was just amazing. As I said, I'm not always really in the loop when it comes to creative ideas and plans, but I think it was my manager's idea and our booking agent's. I could be wrong, though. Of course, we have to give huge thanks to everyone on the bus for being so awesome. And of course Hevy Festival contributed so much as well. Whoever it was that came up with the idea, it was amazing. We wanted to do something really fun, really memorable, and really party. That whole festival was just so unbelievably intense and amazing. I vomited for almost an hour into a little small river behind our dressing room. I just remember how amazing the water looked with the puke trinkling into it and the little grass and trees and sticks and bugs. And then there was this animal zoo park with all these truly terrifying giant beasts marching around. We got to see them up close and I had almost a complete mental breakdown. And then we got to go and play a part show that basically turned into a riot and the police and security tried to shut it down. And just the fact that we were playing that main stage - it was just so amazing - so unbelievable. What an incredible bunch of party people! What a day! What a night! Those are the times that make life worth living."
What's next for Andrew WK? How do you build on the great year and make 2013 even better?
"The only way we can make it better is to just keep on going. It seems like as long as this has existed, it has built up. I can't explain why - I don't know if anyone can. It's a mystery, but that doesn't matter. It's destiny and it's out of our hands. As long as we keep partying, that's the most important thing - the rest will take care of itself. It's up to the party gods and the fate of the universe - this will go as it is meant to go. We're recording a brand new rock 'n' roll album, and as always, we will all do everything we possibly can to make the most exciting and intense feelings in the world. More music, more shows, more life, more love, more everything. More partying."
And just because it's right, can you leave us with a party tip for the Christmas season?
"PARTY TIP: Be glad you're alive and have a party about it."