Monday 16 April 2012

Andrew W.K // Interview & Live Review

It has been ten years since Andrew W.K's album "I Get Wet", (including iconic and controversial front cover) was released.  The "Party Hard" singer is back, with full band and currently on a world tour; their biggest to date! 
We caught up with the man himself ahead of the Manchester Academy show to chat rock 'n' roll, the lucky number 13 and of course, partying!

Heya Andrew. How’s the tour going so far? You started in America and then have brought the show to Europe.
Yeah, so we’re well polished by now. The band and I have stayed active off and on over the last twelve years now, but in 2005 due to some decision back in 1998/99 (contracts that I didn’t fully understand), we had some trouble doing world tours. We did festivals but hadn’t done our own proper headline world tour like this with the full band in many years. After all this time to be back with a world headline tour and it being our biggest and best yet is humbling and shocking and motivating; I’m still trying to process it. Last night in London was the biggest concert that we’ve even played in our entire career. So, to feel like this is still building after all this time and after the adversity, it seems like the stuff you thought maybe was a mistake turns out to be a blessing in disguise.  

So, it’s the tenth anniversary tour of the album“I Get Wet”. What can we expect from the set list and show? Will the songs be in the same order as on the album?
Andrew W.K on stage in Manchester
Yeah, exactly. These are the songs we’ve played a lot, just because they’re our oldest songs, but never really in that proper album order which is exciting and interesting, especially if you’re someone who is very familiar with an album. An album like that then becomes one long song and you don’t usually get that at a concert; it’s usually a surprise what song will come next. So, to have that album order at a concert is very particular and unique and also very odd; “Party Hard” is the song we traditionally play towards the end of concerts, but it’s the second song on the album so we feel like we’re already on an encore on the second song!

And, it’s Friday 13th today – are you superstitious at all?
Well, it’s a very lucky number so it’s a great day and of course a great movie series as well. The number thirteen, I guess has been misunderstand but is actually a fantastic number and a great, great day to be playing here in Manchester.

The cover of “I Get Wet” is the most iconic image of you that everyone immediately recognises – did you think at the time it would have that impact?
Yes, yes. I felt pretty strongly about that image and had to battle for it from time to time. People thought it was too gory, but then I figured who hasn’t had a bloody nose and there doesn’t have to be violence involved. People thought of it as a drug reference, which I hadn’t thought of before; I just thought it would be a really awesome picture and thought I hadn’t seen anyone make a picture like this before. A lot of the work I’ve done doesn’t have a lot of thought put in to it, because we’re trying to respond to deeper feelings and instincts and maybe even super human intelligence that doesn’t really have anything to do with us. I don’t really feel like I’ve come up with any of this. I feel like, for whatever reason, I was meant to deliver it and it’s a privilege to do so and give it everything I have. I didn’t sit down and design this in the way it seems it has been designed; there are forces behind the scenes that are responsible for that and I’m just here to execute it, and that’s a great position to be in.

Some people will just see this public persona of “party hard Andrew W.K”, but you trained as a classical and jazz pianist.  Do you think that it’s good to have that foundation of classical music and is that what developed your love for music? With your album, “55 Cadillac”, the piano is something that has stayed with you.
Andrew W.K and band on stage in Manchester
Yes, well 55 Cadillac was my attempt to go against the grain of my own self; but I enjoyed the album because it was so frightening to release. But, you said it best, the traditional musical training, especially having an instrument like a piano where you have all these beautiful black and white buttons laid out there waiting for you to play, it’s very easy to make a note. As far as getting in to music I think that is the best way, probably better than guitar, but that’s just my bias of course. I like guitar more in many ways because it’s more expressive, but in terms of understanding music the piano is really great. And if I hadn’t had that training I wouldn’t be doing any of this.

From playing classical music at an early age to where you are now, did you ever think you would do so much and now with the 10th anniversary are you looking back over everything?
Well, you always try and absorb your experiences as you go. But it’s really impossible, from what I’m able to tell, to think backwards; you’re always thinking forwards. Maybe it’s more like a spiral and you cross over yourself again and again and hope to have embodied more of yourself each time around. But, part of me always understood that this was what I was meant to do. Part of me also believed that wasn’t how life worked sometimes, but fortunately I had a lot of amazing teachers and role models and mentors who showed me not only that that’s how life is meant to be, but that’s how life should be. It’s a mistake and confusion to think you can’t make your dreams come true; that’s what the meaning of life is, to have a dream. I have no other interest, that’s the funny thing; when you do what you’re meant to do you don’t really have space for anything else and that’s a blessing.      

If you could go back and give your younger self from ten years ago some advice, knowing what you know now in hindsight, what would you say?
I don’t know? A lot of the things I would say would be “don’t be as shy, don’t be as scared of the world”, but I figured ways around that then, so I wouldn’t really want to change anything. I would just say “Hey you’re doing a great job, keep going, maybe don’t be so hard on yourself”, but if anyone’s going to be hard on you it should be yourself. I would also tell myself not to wash my hair so much; I used to wash it twice a day because that’s what everyone at school was doing. I’d also say don’t use deodorant; it took me many years to learn that. So yeah I’d say “Wash you face, don’t wash your hair, don’t use deodorant, and maybe when people were being mean (and there were a lot of people), to not let them make you feel sad at all”. All those people are doing nothing now, that’s how it usually goes. 

Your music has opened the door to other projects like motivational speaking which I guess transcends the music. Why did you decide to do that? Is it your way of kind of giving back and helping others?
That certainly is an aspect of it, I hadn’t thought of that; sure if I have anything to offer in terms of insight or experience that would be helpful. To me, it’s more that the aim of all the different work is to create this euphoric feeling of power and joy and a pure feeling of being alive. But there are some people that don’t listen to rock and roll music or listen to music at all, so I wanted to figure out ways to get to them too, to conjure up the same feeling. Rock music does it just like “that”, but for those people who don’t listen to it it’s difficult. But, I would meet folks who hadn’t listened to my music but would say, “I read this interview with you and it was really exciting and I got this good vibe”, or “I saw this thing on TV that you did and I’ve never heard of you but got this good feeling.” A lot of the time it was older people too; people that didn’t relate to various forms of culture or aesthetics but were still thinking about the same feeling because it’s the core of the human experience; wanting to be in this state of joy. So, I thought I want to reach these people too and if we can find a way to conjure up this feeling for them just using words then that’s got to count too. And, it certainly made me a better performer.   

Andrew W.K
And finally, Santos Party House in New York, your bar; is that the best place to party?
Yeah, Santos Party House is the architectural manifestation of this party joy: a place that we built from scratch, my friends and I in Manhattan. It’s the first, brand new dance club and concert venue to open in downtown Manhattan in twenty years! That’s been in many ways the most challenging and rewarding adventure that I’ve ever gotten to participate in. That was also a situation to give back to New York City, to offer other people a chance to have the party, musical and social experience that I got from New York.  I heard a rumour that “Kraftwerk” is going to the club tonight; I’ve missed all the greatest shows there, that’s the only frustrating thing about it. But the thing is, I feel like I’m already there and the power that the bands contribute to the venue I still feel. I can just go there a day later and touch the wall and some of their DNA hopefully soaks up into my bloodstream. 

 And here's what happened when Andrew W.K took to the stage...
The word “party” may as well be synonymous with Andrew W.K; he writes about parties, calls his shows parties, he even owns a party house (“Santos”). Andrew W.K, the life and soul of the party, is back complete with an equally enthusiastic full band; three guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, his wife on vocals and a pizza shaped guitar thrown in for good measure. If these aren’t the best ingredients for a party then, I don’t know what are.

Andrew taking to the stage with pizza guitar
The chants of “It’s Time To Party” and “Yes, Yes, Yes” welcome Andrew W. K to the stage (in his trademark white jeans and t-shirt ensemble): in fact there are multiple “Andrews” here in Manchester this evening as both male and female fans alike are dressed head to toe in white, complete with the infamous blood stained nose and mouth. 

“I Get Wet” played out live here in its entirety is the ultimate “party soundtrack” for everyone in the venue both on stage and off: the very fact that they know which song is coming next only spurs them on more. The show isn’t about the pretentiousness of performing songs; Andrew, the perfect showman, is intent in connecting the audience to the music, to share in the pure joy of it; because after all, music should be fun. And the crowd here tonight don’t need much convincing, relentlessly bounding up and down to “Party Hard and “Take It Off” on mass. In between playing the American National Anthem on his pizza shaped guitar and blasting out album hits such as “Party til You Puke”, Andrew W.K shows his music prowess with impromptu complex piano melodies, just because he can!

“Happy Friday 13th” Andrew announces, “You have to enjoy music. If it wasn’t for you, then we wouldn’t have a party like this” before bursting into album title track “I Get Wet”. Of course no Andrew W.K party would be complete without not one, but two encores. For the first, Andrew and the rest of the band modestly stroll back on stage and shout “This is the celebration of not being dead”. Then the band and crowd launch into “Victory Strikes Again” from Andrew’s second album “Wolf”. Next, new song “Head Bang” sees the vast crowd doing as the track suggests with vivid enthusiasm.

Mass stage invasion during the encore in Manchester
This encore was undoubtedly the warm up for the second encore: the crowd chant “we want more” and as the band take to the stage once again, so too do the crowd. One by one, fans clamber up to join Andrew W.K on stage; helping one another to ensure full participation. It is heart warming, frenzied and enthralling all at once. By the time the party ends, the group on stage has engulfed the members of the band, who embrace the invasion more than anyone. 

Tonight, Andrew W.K came to party and the entire Academy partied just as hard.  

Catch Andrew W.K on the rest of the world tour...

Tue, Apr 17 - Antwerp, BEL - Trix - GET TICKETS HERE
Wed, Apr 18 - Amsterdam, NET - Bitterzoet - GET TICKETS HERE
Fri, Apr 20 - Winterthur, SWI - Salzhaus - GET TICKETS HERE
Sat, Apr 21 - Munich, GER - Hansa 39 - GET TICKETS HERE
Sun, Apr 22 - Berlin, GER - Feststaal Kreuzberg - GET TICKETS HERE
Mon, Apr 23 - Cologne, GER - Underground - GET TICKETS HERE
Tue, Apr 24 - Hamburg, GER - Uebel & Gefaehrlich - GET TICKETS HERE
Thu, Apr 26 - Copenhagen, DK - Beta - GET TICKET HERE
Fri, Apr 27 - Oslo, NO - John Dee - GET TICKETS HERE
Sat, Apr 28 - Stockholm, SE - Debaser Slussen - FREE before 22:00