I have been listening to Andrew W.K.’s music since “I Get Wet” was released in 2001. The music has such a positive vibe and energy to it, that I would almost call it “addictive”. Much of the time, people attribute negative connotation to addiction, but I feel in the case of Andrew WK, can you really be faulted by forming a habit for music and messages that bring you up from the darkest places and make you feel alive? Notoriously fan friendly, motivational and a seemingly endless fountain of “life”, Andrew W.K. is someone that I have long waited to meet, and I finally got my chance before his full band performance at the State Theater in St. Petersburg, FL, on January 29th.
Eric Schmitt – When did you decide that your music should take a positive approach in the hard rock and metal genres?
Andrew WK – It’s a great question. Even more so than lyrically or ideologically, the big question for me early on was whether to use major or minor keys. I like all types of music, both major and minor chords, but I was always, in terms of energy, really driven by chromatic minor music. Like traditional heavy metal, especially very brutal heavy metal. It was very aggressive and I always drew great energy from it’s power. I wanted to do that, but I never felt I could do it as well as the masters. I had this strong feeling, like a pinpoint where I could use this major key, but I didn’t know if people would like it. I had these doubts that it somehow wouldn’t work, or the metal community wouldn’t like it. I remember very clearly coming back from this family trip, where I decided “okay, I’m just going to do it. I’m going to make this music that’s in my head.” I could hear how it sounded, and I just had to believe that I could do it. And it all formed from that, the major key is a cheerful sound, and everything just formed from that cheerful sound.
ES – How have you seen some of the positivity of your music manifest in your fan base and other external areas?
AWK – I never initially thought it would be a positive thing. Music itself makes you feel good. Music of all sorts, even if it’s a sad song, angry song; I don’t think anyone would listen to music to feel physically worse. It has a good feeling – it’s magical really. I feel that any music you put out there has the ability to generate that feeling in people. Certainly, when you can add to that already positive feeling in music, a positive message, or specifically focus on getting motivated and powered up, feeling good about life, then it gets amplified by a billion times! You fuse these two things, cheerful music and positive mindset, and it goes through the roof. So I was really excited and very influenced by people reacting to the music I was putting out early on – finding positivity in it. So I said, “okay, I’m going to commit to this”. A lot of the lyrics aren’t positive in a blatant way, they’re kind of all over the place, so it was really people finding that in it. I definitely wanted to be cheered up myself, so when I saw it was working for other people, it sort of became a team effort. We were using this music and a Party mind-set as a centerpiece to build around.
ES – Describe your mentality when writing music – specifically when piecing together the Wolf, which ventured into more serious territory than “I Get Wet”. For instance, “Never Let Down” is a significantly different song than anything that was on “I Get Wet”.
AWK – Well, there wasn’t a whole lot of rhyme or reason to it. A lot of the songs on the second album, “The Wolf”, were actually written at the same time as the “I Get Wet” songs. Some of them before. I guess I just chose to make the first album, like it will be these types of songs. Then the second album I would open it up to more tempos. But also, I think the first album started this party, then the second album was almost like singing about how that felt. Again, I didn’t intend for it to be that way. A lot of the lyrics and feelings that I got across on the second album were my amazement that any of this was happening, and recognizing it and trying to amplify it. It was “here’s the party starting“, and then “this is what it feels like”.
ES – What factored into you writing the “Party Bible”?
AWK – Being asked, probably first and foremost. Writing a book wasn’t something I planned on, at least right now. But, I had some people that were very supportive. Initially, my book agent, Simon, he said I should make a book. I’ve done writing throughout my work, advice columns and posting stuff, you know? I always liked writing, but a book was a huge undertaking. I, of course, was intimated by the challenges that it implied, but having someone there that believed I could do it was nice. Then several years later, Simon & Schuster actually came through with a book offer. So I started writing it (the Party Bible) and it’s not really an autobiography, more about partying and the stuff we’re talking about now. Hopefully it’ll be done soon, I’ve been writing it for a couple of years. It was definitely harder than I thought it would be.
ES – Do you think we’ll see an “I Get Read” book tour when the “Party Bible” is released?
AWK – (Laughs) That’s a great title for a book tour! Of course, I want to do a book tour and you know, not just do book appearances, but party lectures like I’ve done before, and play some shows. I love touring, so any reason to tour is great. Having the book, of course would be a whole new version of a tour experience.
I had never seen Andrew perform live, and having his full band on hand before trekking down to Miami for ShipRocked 2015 was certainly an added bonus. I’ve always envisioned Andrew WK as the “party guy,” but the interview gave me a glimpse into the intellectual away from the stage. I don’t know if I was still hung up on that aspect, but when the band blasted into “It’s Time to Party,” the State Theater crowd erupted and I was swept up in a tidal wave of emotion and sweaty metal heads. It was the most intense level of fan interaction I have ever seen at a live performance!
Song after song, bodies would fly from every corner of the stage, some being caught by partying revelers, the others falling to the sticky alcohol mess of the floor. But there was no strife, no anger, no machismo – the entire crowd was united under the “Party Banner”. I had never seen anything like it, and I stood my ground 6 feet from the stage so that I could absorb the energy in all its glory.
Sporting 4 guitarists (!), a bassist, drummer and Andrew on keys and vocals, the band was almost militant in it’s musical assault on the crowd. The performance was an unrelenting barrage of good feeling, and the crowd was more than eager to reciprocate. Constantly singing along, invading the stage to dance with band members and raining down applause after each tune! ANYONE that walked into that performance mid-set would have been swept off their feet by the energy – it was that strong! After playing the majority of the “I Get Wet” and “The Wolf” albums, AWK closed the show with the title track from the first album and “Don’t Stop Living In the Red”. It was towards the latter song that my wife, who has never really been a fan of Andrew’s music, was converted. The look in her eyes said it all – She had indeed, Partied Hard!