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Interviews   

Andrew W.K.: Carpe Diem


Through his work and his life, Andrew W.K. is the most vibrant incarnation of the expression “Carpe Diem”. Since he’s coming from a very academic family and musical training, his goal through his music and his life has always been to have fun, and to spread this fun to those who listen to him.

We had the opportunity to talk to a man who seems very surprised to still enjoy the songs from his first album, I Get Wet. Andrew will celebrate the album’s tenth anniversary by playing it in its entirety as part of a special tour that will stop by Paris tonight, April 16th, at La Maroquinerie. When he mentions his latest EP, called – as we could almost have guessed – Party All Goddamn Night, he tells us that his next album will be “the most exciting rock’n’roll I can make”, in line with the rest of his career.

Interview.

(About the first album) « These songs are something different than that. I don’t even know how to explain it, it’s a bit of a mystery. I enjoy playing them more now than I ever did, even when we first wrote them. »

Radio Metal : This tour celebrates the 10th anniversary of your first album I Get Wet. What are you feelings about this anniversary?

Andrew W.K. : Well, I can’t believe it’s been that many years. It really came up and snuck up on me. It was actually my manager who pointed out that the ten-year-anniversary was coming up and it coincided with some really good progress that we had made in terms of some contractual issues and other business problems that we had resolved so that we were able to now do a full-scale tour, and we figured “well, if we’re gonna do a full-scale tour, why not take this opportunity – since it is the ten-year-anniversary – to do this special show?” We’re going to play all the songs on the album in the order of the album. I never expected the great response, it’s been truly inspiring and surprising. I’m shocked and delighted and I feel very humbled at the same time. The beautiful part of it is that we’ve never been better as a band, this is the best that my band and I have ever been through our show, our playing, our singing, our performing and our partying.

The first album isn’t the most mature album of a band. How do you feel today while playing those first songs of your career? In other words, how do you look at this album now, with hindsight?

I actually like the songs more now than I ever even did before, which has also been a surprise for me, it’s also been a shock. I mean, these are the songs we’ve played the longest because, obviously, there was a time when we didn’t even have any other songs to play, but I never would’ve expected to enjoy playing them even more as time went on. I guess I figured, just like anything, that sometimes you get tired of it, or you get bored – like you don’t eat the same food everyday. But these songs are something different than that. I don’t even know how to explain it, it’s a bit of a mystery. I enjoy playing them more now than I ever did, even when we first wrote them. I’m amazed at the songs themselves. I don’t even know how I got to write those songs, it feels like someone else wrote them, so I’m just amazed at the songs themselves and I don’t take credit for it in that way, it was all just a miracle that any of this has happened at all, and I guess I’m feeling that sense of wonder about that whole adventure that we’ve gotten to take.

You’ve just released « Party All Goddamn Night » EP only in Japan. Why is that, why only in Japan?

That actually was for a festival. We were going to play a very special rock music festival in Japan, and the record label, Universal, that I worked with there for my full career, they asked to create a special EP to celebrate this festival we were going to play. But then the earthquake happened in Japan and the tsunami, a terrible, terrible event. So the festival was canceled and the EP wasn’t released in the same way that it was going to be, originally, everything canceled to finish with. But those songs, I’m still working on them. I’m actually gonna play one of those songs at the show. We’re playing the special song called Head Bang that is on that EP, and I’m amazed that you’re aware of it at all. But the other thing is that I’ve had some issues with contracts and business problems that we’ve fortunately now resolved, so from now on, we will continue to do our best to put out everything we do worldwide. The good thing is, with the computer and the internet and downloading, people can usually find whatever music they want, even if it wasn’t released in their own country.

« It will be the most exciting rock’n’roll music that I can make »

You have an intense relationship with Japan. Japan is a very strange market. Some bands that have absolutely no success in their country are considered as rockstars in Japan. How do you explain that, what is so special about this country ?

I’m not sure. We’re most popular as a band in the US, which makes sense because that’s also where we’ve spent the most time. I really wish we could and would – and we will – spend more time in Europe. But in Japan there’s something about rock’n’roll music that they really, really like. They’re just really passionate about culture in Japan in general. But I can’t explain it beyond that, I’m just thankful that we’ve gotten to have so much fun in Japan and gotten to travel around the world as much as we have, and I just want to do it much, much more. I don’t want to only spend so much time in one place. The US is obviously where I’m from and it’s a very big country, so there’s a lot of places to play there and that can take a lot of time but it’s just as important to me that we bring this party around the world over and over again. The last time we were in France, I think it was in 2004 or 2005, so I don’t want to take that long before the next time, it’s important to me that we spend more time in Europe.

What can you tell us about your next studio album? Apparently these songs from Party All Goddamn Night will be on this record.

Some of them might be, I’m still working on the album. So some parts of those songs might be, I might change them, they might get re-worked or they might be really similar with just a different mix and a different recording. So it will be the most exciting rock’n’roll music that I can make, and the most exciting songs that I can make and I’ll do it again and do it again and eventually I’ll have ten or eleven or twelve or thirteen songs as exciting as possible.

By the way, will the fact that you’re playing your first album I Get Wet every night have an impact on the way you’re writing songs for this next album?

I don’t know. Every way that I can, that leads to a sense of joy, of feeling of excitement, of energy, of pleasure, that is my goal. Nothing really changes other than I try to get better and better at doing that. Better at playing piano, better at finding the melodies that make me feel so good and hopefully that make other people so good as well.

As the king of partying, could you tell us what are the key ingredients to a good party?

Definitely music. But I think it is possible to party even without music because you can have music in your head. There are times, for example, when I don’t have speakers or headphones or a way to listen to music, but if it’s music that you really love and it’s in your heart, you can just hear it in your brain, like when you hum a tune to yourself. So music is either in the air or in your heart, I think that is really important for partying, and ideally someone else being there besides yourself. Now, you certainly can party by yourself and I do have songs about that, but usually it’s even more exciting if there’s someone else there, or some other people, whether you’ve met them before or not. And then, beyond that, I would say whatever anyone else would want to add. As long as you have enthusiasm and a sense of gratitude, even if you’re just thankful that you’re not dead, the party will happen.

Partying is often associated with drugs and alcohol. What is your opinion about that, do you think that you have to get drunk to have fun?

I think people should do whatever they want as long as their style of partying doesn’t infringe on someone-else’s ability to party. Just like a little baby or a five-year-old kid having a birthday party, they’re gonna have what he thinks or she thinks is fun, and my grandmother, who’s 96 years-old, she has her way of partying and it can change also throughout your life. So all that matters is that you can find a way to get into that state of pure and total joy. I would never tell someone how to do that, because everyone has their own likes and their own preferences and their own tastes and their own style. So as long as you go and enjoy yourselves with as much enthusiasm and energy as possible.

« Every way that I can, that leads to a sense of joy, of feeling of excitement, of energy, of pleasure, that is my goal. »

You obviously are very passionate about partying. Does that passion change as you grow older?

Oh well, I think you just get better at partying.

When looking at your career, what is striking is that you’ve been raised in a very serious musical environment : you have a very solid musical background, your started playing piano at the age of 4, you studied jazz music. And during your whole career you wrote some very simple lightful and fun songs. How come you did quite the opposite from what you started with?

I was given very traditional piano lessons and very traditional training and a foundation and appreciation of all kinds of wonderful music, but then you have to make your own way, you have to find out what it is that you’re meant to do. When I look really deep down into myself, I wanted to feel a feeling of pleasure and joy through music, a kind of energizing enthusiasm about life that made me have energy, have power, that made me feel like the kind of the world. And I just figured out a way to make music that made me feel that.

You’re a very busy man, you’re not only a musician, you did some TV shows, you did motivational speeches, etc. Where does that hyperactivity come from?

Well, first of all, I am busy, but there are plenty of people out there that are a lot busier than me. Everything I do is actually still under the umbrella – it’s still part of entertainment or show business or the entertainment industry, so they are usually related or connected to each other. One develops into another. I just feel very lucky, I just want to make the most out of these opportunities, I don’t want to waste them or sit around. You know, I can sleep and rest when I’m dead. Now is the time to make the most of all this and enjoy it. There are people out there that would give anything to have the chance to do what we get to do here, so in honor of them and in honor of ourselves, and because we love it, we work as hard and party as hard as we possibly can. It’s just a joy, it’s a pleasure, it’s my dream and it’s coming true everyday, so it would be much harder for me to not do this than it is to do it.

What’s coming next? What are your plans for after the tour?

I want to get back to New York City in June, after going to Australia and Japan, then I’ll resume recording the new album and put it out as soon as I possibly can, without rushing it. It takes time, it’s a tedious style of recording, one thing at a time, one instrument at a time. Once that’s done, I will go and tour again and release the album all around the world.

Interview conducted on apri, 12th, 2012, by phone
Transcription : Stan

Andrew W.K.’s website : andrewwk.com



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