Back in April Andrew W.K. personally reached out to AndrewWKMusic.com and expressed his desire to become a resource to this fan-site. Is it not obvious why Andrew W.K. has a cult-like following? Since the beginning he’s shown tremendous loyalty to his fan-base or what he refers to them as–his personal “friends”. To assure that you know you are invited to his party, it’s common for him to write long and personal responses to fan mail, spends hours after shows hanging out, video chats with you for an hour each week (he hasn’t missed a week in the past 1 1/2 years), constantly gives out free merchandise, and then there’s the stories out there like the time when he signed autographs for ten hours and ended it in somebodies kitchen… just to name a few.
AndrewWKMusic.com has witnessed this philanthropy first hand. Having previously contributed to this site in many other ways, he was now offering an even more precious resource–his own time. So, a third party publicist didn’t contact me, there is no imminent album to promote, nor are we a famous publication that carries any weight. We’re just a fan-site and I’m just a nerdy fan, asking nerdy questions. Nevertheless, he has set this time aside by dedicating it to his “friends”. The four conversations lasted over 45 minutes each! So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, dig in! And stay tuned and subscribe via Email or RSS for parts 2, 3 and 4 in the coming days and weeks.
While adapting these transcriptions into an easy-to-read “interview” format, slight creative liberties have been taken.
–Party #1 – April 12, 2011–
AndrewWKMusic: Thanks for setting this up.
Andrew W.K.: Sure, thanks for everything you’ve been doing.
AndrewWKMusic: So how’s your day going?
Andrew W.K.: Everything is good, it’s a beautiful day here in Los Angeles, it’s very sunny. I have some meetings and things tomorrow. We are continually filming Destroy Build Destroy, which is the main reason I’m out here. I’ve also been recording out here for the new album. So you have some specific questions right?
AndrewWKMusic: Yes, one item of yours I was most interested in was what fans call the “We Want Fun” album. There’s not a lot of information on it because it was never released. So if you had any clarification on that, it would be helpful.
Andrew W.K.: Yea sure I’ll just tell you the whole thing. So as you are aware the first thing I ever released as “Andrew W.K.” was a 12″ with Wolf Eyes, as far as using that name on a release. After that came the Part Til You Puke 12″. Even before Party Til You Puke was recorded I had already recorded most if not all of the songs on We Want Fun, which was going to be my debut album on Bulb Records.
I had already moved to New York and I had been living, working and traveling back and forth to Providence Rhode Island where Bulb Records was based at that time. Of course Pete Larson [owner of Bulb Records] and I had first met in Ann Arbour, Michigan where he was first set up. I traveled up to Providence all the time to work with him, play shows, and do everything else. So I had a selection of songs… do you remember is it ten songs on there?
AndrewWKMusic: I think there are twelve.
Andrew W.K.: Because there are a whole bunch of other songs that I don’t think that are on there. For example, the version you have does it have a song called “They Ruined Our Lives”?
Andrew W.K.: OK yea, I’m trying to remember now what the whole idea was because I prepared another group of tracks that I still have, that I found. I don’t have the original masters or original mixes to work with but I do have versions of the CDs, while I was working with those albums. There was a bunch of other songs that I guess I didn’t put on there, but did consider working with from the same era. So what songs are on that one, do you have the complete track listing?
AndrewWKMusic: Yea, it’s pretty much a mix between I Get Wet and The Wolf songs, the version that I have is:
- It’s Time To Party
- Free Jumps
- Girls Own Juice
- Your Rules
- She Is Beautiful
- Tear It Up All Night
- I Love Music
- Kill Yourself
- Don’t Stop Living In The Red
- Party Music
- I’m Totally Stupid
- Party Hard
Andrew W.K.: OK right, if I remember correctly I recorded and wrote the Party Til You Puke EP after all those songs were recorded. I could be incorrect, but I believe that is the case. I wanted to release Party Til You Puke [the EP] first because I had been playing shows using material that sounded a lot like that—-the drum machine and keyboard based music. Those were some of my first shows I was first playing as “Andrew W.K.”, both in Providence and New York. So I thought it made sense to connect what I had been doing, or what people had been suggesting me doing in the beginning, with that first release. Then we went to the next stage which was the We Want Fun album, but at that point I had already met my A&R guy at Island Records and decided to sign with him. Island Records bought out the contract I had with Pete and gave him money. Then we started approaching the [Island Records] album using what was going to be the We Want Fun album as a starting point. A lot of the song versions on We Want Fun are actually from the same versions that appeared on I Get Wet. Even some elements from songs on The Wolf are actually from the same recordings, just with more work done on them. Even Party Til You Puke [the song on I Get Wet] had been taken from the original version on the EP.
AndrewWKMusic: Yea you can tell that elements from We Want Fun are embedded on I Get Wet.
Andrew W.K.: Yea exactly. Sometimes I didn’t have a lot of pieces to work with because several times during my recordings of all of the first Andrew W.K. stuff, I lost my hard drive. So all I had to work with was just some stereo rough mixes—-I learned the hard way. But it wasn’t too tragic, there’s a lot of stuff throughout my whole life that I lost and wish I still had. But over the years I’ve gotten better at keeping everything, trying to organize it and trying to back it up. That’s just one of the stressful things about working in general, trying to keep track of all the work you do. It’s not always the case that the best stuff ends up being the stuff that hangs around, gets archived or gets released in a way that preserves itself. Sometimes I think there’s really good things that just get lost, even if it’s just an idea that you didn’t have the ability to remember, write down or record. But at the same time, the best stuff you always remember does stick around but I always wish I could hear earlier things.
AndrewWKMusic: That album sounds like an extension of the AWKGOJ EP, it sounds very much the same.
Andrew W.K.: Yea I think all those songs were recorded at the same time, the same exact setup and the same recording system. There were definitely songs that I wrote after AWKGOJ EP which were going to be on We Want Fun album. But I think at the same time, there were a lot of songs that were written and already recorded which were all done around the same time. I just put some on AWKGOJ and saved the rest for the Bulb album.
I’m glad that album didn’t come out at that time, I was really relieved that it didn’t. I wouldn’t be opposed to putting it out now, it’s not that I didn’t want people to hear it. It has things about it that I really like in many, many, many ways but back then as far as a first full-length album I’m glad we did I Get Wet.
AndrewWKMusic: Once Island approached you, it probably made a lot of sense to withhold it and save it up for I Get Wet.
Andrew W.K.: Yea and by that point I also realized I could make things sound, in my mind, even better or at least different. When I recorded We Want Fun & AWKGOJ, that was my first time I really dove into recording. I was learning so much as I went that just by the time that even two years had passed I realized I could do even more or better, in terms of the sound I was trying to go for. I wanted it to be really hard-hitting and that’s what we did with I Get Wet. After I did that, to be honest, with The Wolf I didn’t want the album to be as hard hitting. I wanted it to be a bit more like the feelings that were on the We Want Fun album. The song “Totally Stupid” to me, defined the feelings that I was trying to get the majority of the time on The Wolf. Which is a feeling that I don’t really think appears as distinctly on I Get Wet. It’s more emotional but I Get Wet is more moving in a joyful and energizing way. But I wanted The Wolf to be moving in every way. It’s every emotion, it’s that feeling of just being overwhelmed. Like it would make you cry, but if someone asked “are you sad?”, you wouldn’t say you were sad. You’re just overwhelmed with this feeling of emotion.
Close Calls With Brick Walls was an attempt to really sythesize both of those things, both of those feelings. It appeared as kind of a raw energy coupled with a some kind of an emotional and human feeling. I wanted to really talk about just being a human being. Now with this new album I’m trying to combine everything of my own work going all the way back to Party Til You Puke. I feel like it was a natural desire to do that. I want the emotion from The Wolf, I want the power from I Get Wet, I want the electronic manic quality from Party Til You Puke and the musical arrangement approach of Close Calls With Brick Walls.
AndrewWKMusic: Yea even on your new EP [The Party All Goddamn Night EP] I can see it reverting back to some elements of Party Til You Puke with its dance beat on some tracks.
Andrew W.K.: Yea absolutely, I’m taking entire approaches that I haven’t used in a few years but always loved, and have a new found appreciation for. As well as certain recording approaches that I’ve taken. Like how I would do guitars and the way I would layer things. For most of the music it’s usually been an attempt to remove the sense of any instruments or any performance. All you hear is the song as sort of a sound itself, just one total sound. You’re not really thinking about whose playing bass or how the guitar player is playing that one chord or that one note. It just washes over you and there’s not really the time or enough separation to examine it in that way.
I do like music that is the exact opposite of that but that’s just the thing that I do. On Close Calls With Brick Walls, that was the first time I wanted to listen. I wanted myself to be able to hear people playing the music. And I love it, and am really glad with it, and I’ll make an album like that again. Actually the next album. I have two other albums in the works, and then I have another album that’s an instrumental rock album. That’s the one that I’m really gonna go even more over the top with.
Because sometimes there’s a place for personality and individuality and performance in a song or in a recording. But I think sometimes there’s not, sometimes it just gets in the way of the song itself. I have a lot of respect forthe song and the recording and not as much respect for the players or how they perform, or how they approached it, or their style. That is not what I’m looking to do with this music. It’s not about impressing someone with how fast you can play a scale or anything else. It has never been important for me to tell people about how I play, what I play, or if I can play well or not. I don’t care if people think I can play piano well. I’ve made efforts to try to show that I don’t play well, because I don’t want it to be about instrumental players. It’s about the feeling of this recording, of this song, of this thing, and everybody else is just a part of that. I mean of course you always respect a great mechanic with what they are able to do, the tools that they happen to use and how they approach repairing a machine. But at the end of the day it’s how the machine works, how it gets done what you want that machine to get done. Everybody else is just serving the cause of that machine. I think thesong is like a machine and I’m just a mechanic. Everybody else is there just to serve that song and not just show off how they can serve it or how good they are at getting to that place, because that’s just distracting.
AndrewWKMusic: Yea so obviously that’s been a good approach and you have had success doing it that way. Nick Sheehan [a long time fan] mentioned how he noticed, and in retrospect I’ve noticed too, how each release is almost completely different than the previous one. I love that, it’s incredible to listen to such a diverse discography and enjoy it.
Andrew W.K.: Well that’s very nice and I appreciate that. It’s not always been intentional, I’ve never approached something like “OK we have to do this one different than the last one”. It’s just “I want to do this” and then it comes out however it comes out. I really want it to be the best sounding thing it could be. Whatever I think that is at the time, is what the result will be.
I also appreciate listening to records I love which sound different from other records by the same artists. Even if it’s a different production style. You know it’s funny because if you listen, and of course these are changing times, but if you listen to an artist on an iPod or any kind of shuffle playback where it’s taking songs from all over their work and a series of albums, that can be rather alarming. Because they’ll have totally different frequency ranges. Where one will be very mid-range-y, one will be all blown out and treble-y, one is half quiet and one album is louder. But I love all of that! Like you’re saying, it’s the spice of life! It’s not always comfortable and it’s not always settling, but I don’t want that out of culture or art. I don’t want to be comforted or soothed or settled or made to feel OK. That is just a personal preference that I have, but I would not be being true to myself if I didn’t approach my work in that same way. This music is not meant to comfort you, that is not its feeling.
There is great music out there that I love that is comforting, even if it’s an artist like Charné or something. But that’s not what this is and that’s not what my passion as an individual is and you always have to stay true to your vision. Part of that is always shaking things up, always shaking up yourself. I never want to feel comfortable, the only thing I want to feel comfortable in is being uncomfortable. Because that’s when you can grow and expand your mind and realize that you don’t need to cling to any of these things to still be yourself and have a fun time.
AndrewWKMusic: I have one more question about the We Want Fun album. I emailed a guy who said that when you were passing it out, his copy had some artwork on it. It was of some painting of a girl, so there is artwork for it too?
Andrew W.K.: Yes! That’s correct and I’ve remembered this before but I’m glad you reminded me about it again. It is true that at the same time while manufacturing copies of “AWKGOJ”, I had made semi-professionally duplicated copies of We Want Fun done. It did feature what I intended to be the album artwork, which I still have the photos for–thank god. It was a fairly large scale painting of a girl’s face, which you can see a small portion of on the back of the Girls Own Juice [AWKGOJ] album. I painted it the way as it appears on the back cover, which is of a very beautiful girl’s face. She’s wearing sunglasses and she has a band-aid on her face with little hearts on it. Then I actually painted over that same painting and turned her face into half-of-a-skull-face with a really bad bloody nose, blood all over the place, and one of her eye balls was popping out. The glasses were shattered, the band-aid that had once been on her cheek was now wrapped around her glasses trying to hold them together. I still have very good quality photos of it. So that was going to be the front cover of the album and the back cover was going to be the bloody version. I actually cut that painting off of its canvas and frame and give it to Pete Larson, so I just pray that he still has it. I use to give away all my paintings and all my artwork to my friends, I hope they still have them. I gave away some really good paintings and some really cool clothes that I made and painted too.
AndrewWKMusic: So it sounds like the same concept in Close Calls With Brick Walls where you have one picture on the front and the backside is different.
Andrew W.K.: Yea I never thought about that, but yes that’s a good observation. It’s something obviously very basic, you know there’s one way and there’s another way.
AndrewWKMusic: Do you remember the release dates of AWKGOJ and Party Til You Puke?
Andrew W.K.: I think the albums have the dates on them, I believe that Party Til You Puke was 1999 and AWKGOJ was 2000. That sounds right to me, if not it would be like 1998 and 1999. But I think it was 1999 and 2000 because I Get Wet came out in 2001 in the UK and in 2002 for the rest of the world.
AndrewWKMusic: So is that when you recorded it or is that the actual release dates, because I always thought it went AWKGOJ and then Party Til You Puke after.
Andrew W.K.: Oh really?! OK well you know, you could be right, I don’t remember that. I do remember an interesting story with the Party Til You Puke LP after they had just been manufactured. For some reason we had all the copies, like my share of the 12” inches, sent to my parents house. I remember that they were all going to be recalled because the whole album cover was going to be changed to be “Steev Mike” and say “Steev Mike – Party Til You Puke”. In the end it didn’t end up happening which of course was a huge relief and all for the best. Hmm… that makes me think that might have been after I had moved around and started working with Island even. It’s very tricky for me to say, my sense of time as maybe you’ve heard isn’t the best. I remember lots of events very clearly and details about all these experiences but as far as what happened when and which is first is difficult. Especially at that time because things were very, very condensed. There was a lot happening over a very short period of time, which makes it seem like a long time had passed but it could have been only two months.
AndrewWKMusic: Yea, it does seem like that time was jam-packed, I mean you were touring very soon after or even before I Get Wet.
Andrew W.K.: Yea, yea the touring and the touring didn’t stop. That was the other thing, we really didn’t get off the road until 2005.
AndrewWKMusic: So did the CD and the 12″ come out the same time?
Andrew W.K.: No, no they were definitely separated for sure. For example I remember on AWKGOJ, we never really did any promotion for it. That is what is odd about it, we didn’t make any posters that I remember, there wasn’t any promotion and I didn’t do any interviews. Not that I had any idea or any expectation that I would do any of those things. The thing I remember very clearly when we put out Party Til You Puke is that we did really awesome posters, we did interviews, we did my first interview ever. It was more “out there” and that may have just been Pete Larson taking more initiative and reacting to any feedback we were getting from Girls Own Juice. But it’s very weird, I always thought it was Party Til You Puke first and then Girls Own Juice. But I don’t know, I really don’t know, the dates on the releases would be the only way to tell.
AndrewWKMusic: OK my last question for today, can you tell me about this promo? [shows picture]
Andrew W.K.: Those are midway mixes, they sound different than the other versions right?
AndrewWKMusic: The only one that sounds different is “FreeJumps”, its version is exclusive to this promo.
Andrew W.K.: Well “Free Jumps” we had originally been working on for I Get Wet with Scott Humphrey who was producing the album. I have actually just reconected with him after not having seen him since 2001. Which was awesome and he’s doing great. So he was the producer and he was working on that, but we just didn’t put the song on I Get Wet and I said “I’ll save that for the next album”. We had a lot of songs that we didn’t put on there, as you’re aware.
So that was just my publishing company sending out a rough sampler of some songs that were in the works, to get people excited. They do that from time to time. It’s a bit unusual because as you’ve seen, these versions get out there and it’s kind of confusing and for some artists who care about that kind of thing, they could be really upset. Like why would you release this rough version!? But I was OK with it and I’ve usually been OK with releasing multiple versions of things and people hearing demos because I like to hear that stuff from people who’s music I like. I understand how people have this thing about only putting it out when it’s ready, but I’m never ready to put out anything anyway! But there is a beauty in all that roughness, you know like when I go back and hear things that I thought were terrible and never wanted to release, but now they’re exciting for me to hear. If I liked an artist I would be happy to hear anything that they did, just for fun—why not right? I would understand the difference between that and their finished and polished album that they would release. I think most people are that smart and they understand that. So yea that was just a rough mix.
AndrewWKMusic: Yea I figured there was a pretty easy explination for it. I’ve found that most people that come to AndrewWKMusic.com are collectors so they understand that this is a B-Side or this is a weird promo thing. I’m sure some people who come are looking for something else but I think the people who stick around are collectors and are trying to find anything and everything–they’re nerds pretty much. [If you’ve read this far you’re a nerd]
Andrew W.K.: That’s the best and I’m very grateful to anybody who cares about something or likes something that much because not only is it wonderful and it allows me to continue doing this directly, but also because that’s the kind of person I can relate to the most. That’s been one of the best things, I don’t think every performer gets to experience the kinds of people that happen to like what I’m doing. They are usually people that I would just get along with very well anyway and have common interests with anyway. When you put out into the world the thing that you’re most excited about and interested in, and are able to express what you like in the world, in general through your work. Then the people you end up meeting, that like it, usually are people that are into all kinds of the same stuff or at least even the same head-space that you are in. Over the years that’s the thing that I’m probably most greatful about is the people I get to do this with are people I really enjoy.
I remember the whole Kurt Cobain crisis, where he hated his fans. How could you? I think that was the main problem that he had. He had set this whole thing up in his mind about who the kind of person he wanted to have like his music and then when people he didn’t want to hang out with started liking it, it just destroyed it for him. I try to take the exact opposite approach, that was the big impact and big influence that Kurt Cobain had on me. Which was to do the exact opposite thing when it came to this. I want to do something that allows me to connect with people that I would otherwise never think I would like. Then we find that we have this common ground or this common enthusiasm. That head-space allowed me to go out there and meet the best people in the world.
AndrewWKMusic: Well I’m glad you took that approach because we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.
Andrew W.K.: As you’re aware I’m extrodinairly greatful for what you have been doing with the site. You know, there have been other sites but you have stepped it up and for the long haul. It’s been tremendous for me and for every other fan, and even for the other people who ran the old fansites. Where you can help pick up where they left off or use what they already contributed like AWKShare.com. It means so much to me and I always want to be able to give you information or help keep it going. If nothing else it’s a great service too. Because you have stuff that I don’t have and I can go to your site to find out about stuff that I didn’t know about, and that’s just awesome. You’ve really proven yourself over the long haul and I’m just very thankful.
AndrewWKMusic: Wow, well thank you I appreciate that. Thank you for giving me a good reason to do it. I think it’s so cool of you to do this, a lot of musicians are untouchable so this has been really fun.
Andrew W.K.: And believe me I’m aware of that and actually I have respect for people who do that, because I understand. But that’s just not what this thing is. It’s just like the difference between people make horror movies and people who make Disney movies. Disney movies are a different vibe and this has a different vibe. It’s not about being separate, it’s not about making people feel distant, it’s all about partying, it’s all about getting together, that’s the whole thing. It all really works and that’s why this is the way it is.
Stay tuned for part 2 of 4 – coming later this week!
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