After first introducing himself to the world with the rock anthem that is “Party Hard” in 2001, Andrew W.K. has been a considerable staple of the music industry ever since, amassing himself a loyal following of fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Not content with just being a song-writer and performer, over the years he’d also tried his hand at TV and radio work, among other things, but he always comes back to the music. Currently preparing to release his new album You’re Not Alone next month, and tour the UK in April, Andrew spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about THAT song, what fans can expect from the upcoming shows and his as-yet unfulfilled dreams.
TITL: Hi Andrew, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, it’s much appreciated.
Andrew W.K.: My pleasure. Thank you for connecting and being willing to help share the party message!
TITL: First of all, for those who are unfamiliar with you and your music, who exactly is Andrew W.K? What would you say are your worst and best traits?
AWK: I’m a singer and performer who answers to the party gods – sometimes alone, but mostly with others. I can be defeatist at times, like most people, and angry, self-centered, occasionally pessimistic…but I’m also very passionate about what I do – and a believer in sharing that passion with others. To some, that might not be much of a trait, but to me, I think self-belief is key, and if you have belief in yourself, then you can also give that belief or help others find that belief in themselves.
TITL: That’s a great trait to have. And you know, sometimes one good trait can overrule several bad ones…
AWK: Maybe not all bad traits, but yeah; it’s good to have a balance, even if it is slightly off kilter!
TITL: How does it feel to know your career is still going strong when so many of your artistic counterparts have fallen into obscurity?
AWK: I would say I’m probably as obscure today as I’ve ever been, but I also don’t think that’s a bad thing. Careers like many things come and go and I consider myself to be very fortunate to still be doing this – what I love – and sharing my passion and art with people who share many of the same values as I do, believe in my music as I do and enjoy living life each and every day with a party attitude.
TITL: Your debut single “Party Hard” remains a rock fan favourite, even 15 plus years after its release. What would you say it is about that song that makes it so popular with fans? Did you ever imagine it’d get the reaction it is, even now, when you first released it?
AWK: I felt very strongly about it from the beginning. You have to believe in what you’re doing and believe that it will be that powerful in order to do the work that’s required to make it and get it out there to people. Even then though, it’s still quite shocking to see it connect with people and to have anyone at all care about it. For all the people that do believe it, who do connect with it, need it be that song, “Party Hard” or something else I’ve written, there are literally billions of people who couldn’t care less. I’m very thankful that there has been enough of a connection with the song to allow me to continue doing this, and as to the why or how it’s made such a connection with people – if I knew that, I’d have written a thousand more songs like that. It’s a mysterious thing – I don’t know if anyone really has that answer.
TITL: What, to you, makes a great song, and with that in mind, which would you say is the greatest ever written and why?
AWK: I think the greatest song ever written hasn’t been written yet, and hopefully never will be, and that’s why people will, or at least I hope they will, continue to write songs in the hope of achieving that accolade, or whatever name you want to give it. Every song I write is another chance to give someone the greatest feeling that’s ever been made, the greatest sound that’s ever been heard, and the greatest musical experience that is out there and waiting for someone to tap into. To me, the greatest song, as and when it’s written will have a combination of great melody and rhythm, and words – but of course there is a lot of powerful music out there already that has no words to it. Sometimes music without lyrics can say even more than music that has them. Music exists on its own terms and seems to connect with the most primal and fundamental aspects of the human experience. It’s the sound of what being alive feels like; it’s the life force made audible. Music is endless, and so I don’t think it’s even possible to pick one defining musical moment or song and label it the greatest ever.
TITL: How does your new album You’re Not Alone which is out on March 2nd, differ from your past releases? How would you say it charts your artistic evolution as a songwriter and artist?
AWK: I don’t necessarily try to evolve, I just try to get better; better at making the feeling and meaning come through the songs. For me, this new album is a continuation of the same effort I’ve been putting into what I do since I started. It began with the first album and has progressed through everything I’ve done or tried to do since then. Some attempts have been more successful than others, but each one in any area of showbiz or entertainment I’ve tried my hand at, whether it’s music, performing, doing TV or radio, or writing…all of it is one big effort to try and generate that empowering, uplifting enthusiasm that makes the feeling of being alive better. This album is, hopefully, an improvement on that same effort.
TITL: Could you pick your favourite track, or two tracks from the album and if so, which are they and why?
AWK: I don’t know if I have any feeling of ‘pride’ about any of them. I don’t know what that feeling even means. I’m impressed by certain things that people I care about do, but does that mean I’m proud of them? I was always told that pride is a sin, right – that it’s one of the seven deadly sins. I have a strong feeling of achievement and fulfilment about the songs on the album and I’m glad it’s done and is ready to be put out there.
TITL: You’re heading out on a UK tour in April. For those who have never seen you before, what can people expect from an Andrew W.K. show?
AWK: I’m with my full rock and roll band – three guitar players, bass player, keyboard player, drummer and I’ll also be playing keyboards and of course singing. Some of the people in the band have been with me since 2000, since the very start and we also have newer band members as well. With all due respect to everyone who has ever been in my band, I must say that we, as we are right now, are the best we’ve ever been as a band, and that’s largely because of the people who are in it and because of our focus and the time we’ve put into what we do – the experience we have under our belts. I feel what we can bring to the stage now is the best we’ve ever had to offer those who come to the shows. We’re the best we’ve ever been at generating that powerful, electric feeling in a room. We’ll give everything we have and I have no doubt that everyone who comes to see us, who stands in those venues with us, will give everything they have too; not to us per se, but to the party gods who we’ll be worshipping together in that shared space.
TITL: Of all the shows you’ve played throughout your career, is there one that stands out?
AWK: No, and this is no dig at the question or any others like it, but those sort of definitive, absolute, singular experiences I find to be quite elusive. The best concert, the best place to play, the one moment in your life that changed everything…I think most people would have a hard time summing up or isolating or pin-pointing such singular moments in their life, because then everything else becomes secondary. I don’t want there to be one best show – I want tons of best shows; tons of memorable shows, tons of favourite songs. Thinking about it any other way I feel is sort of disrespectful to the whole phenomenon of getting to be alive. It can be quite satisfying to, somewhere in your mind, sometimes have a hierarchy of experiences from best to worst and sometimes it’s necessary to do that and at others it’s unavoidable, but when it comes to art and culture, experiences are meant to liberate us from that need to order and make perfect sense of everything.
There’s not one concert that stands out and I’m thankful for that – they’ve all been incredible in different ways – even the ‘worst’ concerts, which are often a result of technical problems or other challenges. At shows like that, People in the crowd might say to us afterwards that the gig was awful, but our guitar player Dave Pino will usually respond with something along the lines of: “Dude that was the best one yet!” There are so many different outlooks and perspectives as to what makes a show good or bad, and so trying to define a great show can be and is very difficult, and so I personally try to appreciate the good and bad, and just be grateful for getting to do what I do every time I step out on stage.
TITL: You’re a frequent tweeter, but how, in general, do you feel about social media? Do you think there are any downsides to the power it has in terms of how it can and does impact an artists’ career and ability to reach an audience?
AWK: I can’t think of any downsides in that regard. I think it’s an incredibly powerful tool and it’s just another amazing method of communication. It’s not the same, but certainly similar to how television, even film and moving images, were huge breakthroughs and created new ways to express information and receive it. At the same time, you can be sceptical and somewhat cynical about it – it all depends on how you use it. The computer is a tool; an instrument, just like a screwdriver which you can use to either build incredible things or stab someone in the eye and make them go blind. Be careful how you use it.
TITL: Finally then, given how much you’ve achieved so far in your career, what advice would you give to aspiring, up and coming bands and artists who are looking to make their own mark on the music world? More personally, there any objectives and dreams you have left to fulfil?
AWK: Play as much music as you possibly can. Never allow the frustrations or even the rewards of the surrounding activities to take away from your love of simply playing music, because that you can always have. No matter what else happens to me, for example, as long as I can play piano, I know that I’ll have a true, reliable happiness in my life – the rest is just icing on the cake.
As for the things I still want to fulfil, I have no doubt there are many, but I guess I’ll find out what they are, if, as and when they happen. I try to let these opportunities present themselves, almost like assignments from destiny, and then do my best to fulfil them, or make the most of them, in honour of them. There’s not much that I can consciously plan out in terms of ‘I’m first going to do this….then I’ll do that.’ I have aspirations and dreams and things that I’d like to do for the sake of the experience, but only by the grace of the party gods – I leave it up to them.
For more information on Andrew W.K., including a list of his tour dates and ticket information, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter. His new album You’re Not Alone is available for pre-order now.