Interview with ANDREW WK (@andrewwk) from @CMJ 2012. IT’S TIME TO PARTY!
Man. Myth. Rocker. Andrew WK came into the mainstream music scene like a bomb going off, and I’d say he was just the kick in the pants that we needed. Rock and Roll is about having fun, partying, and making friends, and who wouldn’t want to hang out with this guy?! I mean, come on… You dead or something?
When not speaking, acting, hosting events, running his awesome club Santos Party House, or otherwise partying his ass off and encouraging the rest of us to do the same, AWK can be found performing any number of instruments, or singing like a banshee on privileged stages everywhere.
Is he a hard rocking partier? You bet. Are there 3 of him? Possibly. But one thing is for sure… When AWK is around, it’s going to be a balls-to-the-wall good time! I caught up with Andrew WK at a quaint little restaurant in Greenwich Village during CMJ to see if he was indeed a hologram, or simply possesses the power of teleport. Neither would surprise me.
G- Andrew… Thank you very much for speaking with Live High Five today! How is everything going with CMJ this year?
AWK- You know, CMJ is always a pleasure! This is NYC’s great music conference/convention/festival, and it has brought so much opportunity and joy to so many folks, and I’m always thankful to be involved.
(song playing over system)
And here we have a song called “Let’s Have A Party,” and it is quite suitable. This really is a party, not just when I’m around but when CMJ is in town. And I’m enjoying!
I did a panel yesterday, and was hosting a fantastic fundraising event with Taco Bell on Monday night… The Conflict of Interest Party for the World Hunger Relief program.
AWK- And just having a blast, basically!
G- And the Conflict of Interest Party… I was there, I thought it was great, but we’ve both been bouncing around pretty good during CMJ I’m sure, and how about any standouts that you care to mention, music wise? Have you seen anything that really blew your pants off?
AWK- Actually, yes! The first group that performed on Monday, The Hounds Below…
AWK- First of all, they’re from Michigan, and I grew up in Southeast Michigan. Actually, the lead singer used to be in a band called The Von Bondies, and he is close friends with a lot of my friends from the Epsilanti/Ann Arbor/Detroit areas of Michigan, and I consider that a good omen. And I’ve noticed that during this whole week, there’s continued to be good omens, strange random connections that eventually don’t seem so random. So, I follow those omens, I have faith in those connections, and I take it all as a sign that we’re on the right track… This is our destiny!
G- Right on! So, I want to talk about Santos for a minute, because I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent there or how many awesome lineups I’ve seen there. I personally think it’s one of the best venues in NYC…
AWK- Thank you.
G- And it’s always a party! You guys have very, very diverse lineups there, and it’s very open… How’s everything going at the venue, and what’s going on there for CMJ?
AWK- Well, that means a lot, first of all, because this is a… Santos Party House is probably, like, a lifetime achievement. Of course, not just for me, but for a whole big group of people that got together. A lot of friends and family that made this possible. This is one of the… I think, to be honest, this is the first brand new venue, meaning we built it from the ground up brick by brick. It wasn’t like we moved into someone else’s club and took it over and changed the name. We built this place. It’s the first new venue in downtown Manhattan in over 20 years, and that should be an illustration of how challenging it is to do anything let alone start a new place, let alone have that place be a dance club and concert hall.
And the fact that you’ve had enjoyable times there means a great deal to us, because that was the whole point. That was the pinnacle of all my partying and all my experience, was to let is manifest in an actual building… Like an architectural manifestation of partying, and to be able to play there tonight… I’ll be DJ’ing there… I’ve played there, I’ve performed there… We wanted to offer this spirit to all folks.
Of course, it is challenging. We’ve offered parties and concerts every night this week for CMJ, and it’s chaotic. It really is. But we’re always doing our best. We’re always learning, always improving, and we appreciate people’s understanding and support and dedication during that. Because we’re not a… There’s a lot of venues that are run by larger companies, and we really are a group of music people that decided to make our own space, and people’s dedication to the cause has allowed us to continue and consistently improve.
G- Right on! So, I believe in Santos, and if you ever need a janitor, I’ll quit my job and come down and work, but…
AWK- Actually, there is a toilet that’s been clogged up for the last 6 weeks from a large amount of, I guess human waste, maybe some towels stuffed in there, as well. Maybe an adult diaper, or two.
G- Well, I’m not a plumber. I’m not a plumber.
AWK- Oh. Ok janitor.
G- Yea a janitor for the club if I can just get in to the shows, that’d be great!
AWK- A plumber would clear out the rubbish, and you might mop up around it or something.
G- Probably something like that. Clorox with half warm water. (laughing) And Santos is at 96 Lafayette Street, so make sure if you’re in NYC, you go check that spot out.
So, when Andrew WK is trying to party hard, what does he eat for breakfast?
AWK- Well, I don’t ever try.
(I bust out laughing)
It’s very easy, not just for me but for anybody. It’s sort of an automatic, like breathing. I do have to try to breathe, certainly. Maybe there are folks out there, and we do say this with all due respect and sensitivity, there are probably folks out there right now who are probably just struggling to breathe, and breathing could be challenging.
But I think for a lot of folks, that the sort of natural elements of existence, such as your heart beating, breathing, your brain operating on some level, it comes naturally. And partying and celebration, for me, comes naturally. Much like Yoda said, ‘There is no try or not try, you just do,’ and I do party!
G- Excellent! Very good.
AWK- Thank you very much.
G- Now, between the music, the acting, the producing, the speaking, and the general nature of your existence, you have and are very prolific, and you have your hands in many different pies. One thing that really impresses me the most is that you are able to keep such a schedule… How do you manage to keep your time like this, and how do you manage to keep such a schedule? Which of these endeavors do you enjoy the most?
AWK- Well, that’s a great question. I’ve been very lucky to have a lot of endeavors and have a lot of opportunity to do a variety of work, but it all falls under the umbrella, the overall umbrella, of entertainment or show business or the arts, or whatever. So, to me, that’s much less challenging than if I was doing an economics report one day and then the next day doing a jungle adventure cataloguing bugs, insects, and young spiders in the Amazon. So, it’s pretty much consistent within partying, music and performing many different ways.
Fortunately, all of my interest has ever in the arts, so it’s very second nature to me almost at this point, and to not have a schedule has become a routine. Not having a routine has become almost predictable. It would almost, at this point, be more shocking and upsetting to have everyday be structured in the same way, so I really embrace and enjoy the variety and experiences I get to do. I’m very thankful, I’m very lucky, certainly humbled by the blessing I’ve gotten to enjoy here, and because of that, because of how fortunate I feel, I really try to make the most of them, and that’s a big part of the motivation in my efforts makes it easy about how this is a dream come true for me, and how there’s other folks out there, and even some of my friends, who would like to be able to have these opportunities, and what would they do with them? And I know they wouldn’t waste them or take them for granted, so I keep that attitude in the forefront of my mind and, you know, keep treating each day like it could be my last.
Hopefully not, knock wood. (knocks the wall) This is particle board, I think.
G- Hey it counts. We’ll count it.
AWK- Plastic laminate. Yea, you want to do the best you can while you have the chance, and it all relates to partying and it all relates to me being here on the face of the Earth, and that’s the adventure that I’m so lucky to be able to have.
G- Ok. Now, since all of your endeavors have been in the arts, and everything like that, how did AWK really come into existence, and what was your main motivation for creating music in the beginning?
AWK- Well, my parents… Well, they were born. A while ago.
G- Yea (laughing). Mine, too.
AWK- Yea. Fortunately, and I guess their parents were born. Well, they must’ve been born, as well. And I guess you could trace that back pretty far. I mean, at some point someone had to have been born the first time, so I say thanks very much to that person. And however you got to be born, thank you, otherwise I wouldn’t be here and you wouldn’t be here. And thank you to everyone else who has been born and gave birth to us. And, uhh, I guess that’s it.
G- Yea. Thank you to my uncle’s apartment where my father tells me, probably under the influence of alcohol, is where I was conceived.
AWK- That’s awesome!
G- Not bad. So, real quick question, and probably one that is going to get shot down very quickly. Any ideas where I could get a copy of “Room To Breathe?” There were 35 of them and it’s a little hard to come by.
AWK- It is. I don’t believe I have a copy myself.
AWK- I may, I may. It was a cassette tape. Those are a fragile format. They can degrade… That magnetic information, of course, can literally fall off the tape. How strange is that?
It was one of the earlier recordings I ever made, probably around the age of 17 years old.
AWK- And I did my very best. And there’s a typo… I misspelled the word “Breathe” as “Breath,” I think, so I do apologize for that. But I also take responsibility for it, and “Room To Breath” is a great title as well, and I’m owning it, and who wouldn’t want room to breathe or breath?
You can probably find one, I think… Some folks have put that up on some mp3 sites. There is a wonderful website that’s run by an amazing partier named Dick Allen called AndrewWKmusic.com, and he might have that up there as audio for ya.
G- Alright. Well, for us dorks that are into tangibility, I guess I’m just going to have to keep hitting eBay pretty hard and try to score a copy from somebody.
AWK- Yes. Physical objects are nice.
G- Yes that’s the key. Now, in addition to everything else, you do motivational speaking engagements, and do you ever plan on doing any speaking tours in the future ala Henry Rollins? Well, motivational speaking and Henry Rollins doing his thing are a little different, but is that something that you intend to delve into a bit more in the future?
AWK- Absolutely. I enjoy very much… Really, it’s just another mode of getting that party energy out there, really. Music, of course, has an ability to raise spirits and incite energy that is really second to none. But, as we’re experiencing now, hopefully words and talking can also conjure up that same kind of energy in a different way.
And they way I really started doing lectures and motivational speaking was through meeting folks that said they don’t listen to rock music. You know, not just my music… They don’t listen to loud music at all!
Or they saw an interview, and they didn’t know what I was offering otherwise… They read something that connected with them, and well… I don’t want to leave those folks out, and I don’t want to let them hang out there alone in this party. We’ve gotta invite them, too! And if it takes talking, or speaking like this to makes sense to them, I want to use that, as well.
And actually, doing interviews like this helped me develop the skills or… I have low-level skills at speaking… and try to make the most of that to get through to anybody who has anything to gain from the positive party power that we’re putting out.
G- That’s wonderful. Very, very good!
AWK- Thank you.
G- Now, you‘ve been around for a while and you’ve done a lot of things, and I want to know is there a particular craziest or most memorable show that AWK has played to date? Where was it, and what was it like, because I’m sure they’re all chaos? The ones that I’ve seen have been!
AWK- It’s hard to pick favorites. This has been a struggle for me, not just with that question, which is a great question, or other questions about favorites, but myself thinking ‘What is my favorite song,’ or ‘What’s my favorite artist,’ or my favorite friend, or my favorite parent, or my favorite food, or my favorite restaurant. The world is my favorite thing, you know? Being alive is my favorite thing.
Now, I haven’t been dead yet, so I can’t compare it, I guess, in all earnestness, and I’d like to not be able to compare it for a long time, but the world is a rich and lavish place, full of all types of experience. Sometimes, even the, quote unquote, bad parts about being alive can become a favorite, in what they offer you in terms of wisdom or strength building. Just getting to be here at all is my favorite thing, and that goes for every show, and every party. I would never want to rank them, because even the shows I thought were my worst, or that I did my worst, or that weren’t as fun maybe for the folks that came, it still had value, and I’m not here to judge it. I’m here to absorb it and make the most of it.
G- That’s excellent. Humbling wisdom from somebody who has been in this for a while, and that leads directly into my next question… As somebody who approaches life like you do, who is inspired to bring good times to people who need it, who want it, who already have it, there are a lot of kids out there that look up to you, and a lot of bands that want to do what you do, and a lot of people that are striving to be in your position, and I think they could use a little bit of the advice that you could impart on them. So, what advice could you give some of the up and coming musicians out there who want to make it in music, on the road and want to try and go pro like Andrew WK?
AWK- Well, that’s a great question and phrased very well, because there are many levels of success, and the first and foremost bit of advice is to be successful as yourself. Become a successful version of becoming your own person and being alive. And that can be a very intense experience. For me, it’s probably going to last my whole lifetime. I’m still trying to figure it out, but that’s ok.
Meaning that, when somebody says ‘How do you become a successful musician,’ I would say, well ‘Do you play an instrument,’ and hopefully they’d probably say ‘Yes.’ And I’d say ‘Do you enjoy playing it,’ and they’d say ‘Yes.’ And I’d say ‘Do you play it often,’ and they’d say ‘Yes,’ then I’d say ‘You’re a successful musician.’
But like you said, if you want to take it further than that, in terms of touring or making a profession where you make a living through it, those are very different elements, and I’ve noticed some folks get very frustrated with what they’d cal the business, or the aspect of show business that aren’t directly related to playing an instrument or singing. And if you can find a way to enjoy and appreciate ALL of the aspects of this industry, the entertainment industry, that’s the best shot you have at doing anything.
Just like you can be very good at writing programming code on the computer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be able to invent a groundbreaking technology or website, or even have the charisma or personability to go out there in the world and sell it… Those are all different things.
And you shouldn’t push yourself into an area that you don’t enjoy. You should follow what is natural and is passionately available to you and make it count in a way that is 1) fulfilling and 2) motivating, because it is very hard to do work if you don’t enjoy it. And I’m someone who enjoys everything about it, from doing what we’re doing right now and sitting down and talking about this, to making a song, to singing on a stage, to working with my business manager on plans for, you know, a tour. To me, the whole thing is enjoyable, and the more that you can find to enjoy in all of it, and not necessarily get hung up on the parts that aren’t as creative as playing an instrument, the whole thing is creative… You’re creating your life as you go. So, create one that is fun for you and live at full blast!
G- That’s awesome! Well again, this has been great, and this is going to end my CMJ experience because I have to go party hard in Philly with Skalapalooza tonight.
AWK- Oh wow!
G- This has been Andrew WK for Live High Five in a quaint little restaurant, and we thank you very, very much for your time!
AWK- KEEP IT QUAINT!!!
G- That’s right!