“Rockstars” have never been known for their humility. Rather, the trend has always appeared to be that the more fame an artist achieves, the less accommodating they become. Especially if they’re truly talented and musically gifted. Apparently Andrew W.K. never got that memo.
I caught up with the ultimate spokesman for partying hard when the Vans Warped Tour stopped in Montreal and was immediately surprised by the organization and smoothness of all things related to Andrew W.K. As most musicians “forgot” about their interview times, Andrew showed up only about a minute late to his 1:30 p.m. press time and immediately launched into interviews, before heading off to a three hour meet-and-greet extravaganza with his fans. The multi-instrumentalist, who can rock a piano as if he were Beethoven’s prodigy, is not only know for his solid music, but also for his live shows, which are packed with unrivaled energy and good times.
Before hitting the Montreal stage to put on just such a show, Andrew took a few minutes to talk about his latest double album release, his love for Canada, and the true meaning of partying hard.
Q: I showed up early today to make sure I got the chance to speak with you, so thanks for taking the time.
A: Oh, thank you, really. I mean, sometimes you don’t know if anyone’s going to want to talk to you, so thank you very much for wanting to.
Q: Montreal is your 14th date on this year’s VWT – how has the tour been treating you so far, and are you sick of this heat wave yet?
A: Well, today is nothing! The one thing that was interesting about this tour was that the first three days were as beautiful as you could get. We were in California and it was just a cool breeze, a gently warm sun, no humidity, 78 degrees. Just unbelievable weather and I was like, “Wow, this is way easier than I remember! This isn’t bad at all.” ‘Cause we did the Warped Tour in 2003 and I had these memories for years of it just being very physically brutal. I was like, “You know what? I must have just been too young back then. Now I’m older, I can rock the place.” And then we hit Arizona and Texas and everything changed. It was 111 degrees, extreme humidity, extreme heat where you walk outside and it feels like when you open an oven and you can’t even breathe the air. It hurts your eyes. Not even how bright it is, but just the heat. So then I said “Okay, NOW I remember what Warped Tour is like, why this is insane, I remember now.” We’re in great shape considering what we already went through. We also went through a hurricane, so this is nothing. This is a beautiful day!
Q: The Andrew W.K. Party Tent has already become a highlight of this year’s VWT, but I don’t see it here today – what gives?
A: Today [it’s not here] because of two things. Because of being in Canada, with the border crossing, and also because of the distance that this venue requires our bus and our trailer to be from the actual concert site, which is two miles I think. We weren’t allowed, basically, to do our full party set-up. And that I’m really not happy about, but there’s nothing we could do. It’s the choice of the venue. But we set up and impromptu Party Tent. I still will be partying, right after this. And that’s a chance for me to hang out with people and make more of the day than just the show.
Q: I heard you spend about three hours there every day?
A: That’s about right.
Q: Does it ever get tiring at all?
A: You know, it’s not about tiring or not. When you have a purpose and a meaning that’s driving you personally it’s like jogging or something. Yeah, it’s easier to lay on a couch, but it’s something you wanna do. For me, this music specifically, and what Andrew W.K. is about, has very much to do with spending those three hours in that tent. And to not do it would be more painful for me than laying on the couch, you know what I mean?
A: Unbelievable. You’re probably aware that every day they make a new order for the groups, you never know what you’re gonna get. Yesterday we were the second group. Very early in the day. Now, there’s great things about that. One, everyone’s just getting there, it’s not as hot yet, usually, a lot more energy ’cause it’s just starting out. But a lot of times people miss you. I was blown away, and I think this speaks to Canadians. They want to get the full day’s worth; they’re not gonna wander in at five o’ clock when it’s half over, so there was a massive crowd there. The biggest crowd I’d seen for any of the Warped Tour shows for starting. And the audience was fantastic; it was one of the best days we’ve had. Canada never fails.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Canada; more time touring in Canada than any other country, beside the U.S., in the last six years, so it’s very important to me. I grew up in Michigan, but I spent a lot of time in Canada as a younger person doing exchange student kind of trips in Peterborough, Ontario. It’s just very important to me and I relate to it, so it’s very exciting that the Warped Tour comes here. It’s the only foreign country we go to.
Q: The latest release, Close Calls With Brick Walls/Mother of Mankind, features one CD that’s been released in Asia for some time now – why did it take so long for it to come out here?
A: Yes, it originally released in South Korea and Japan in 2006 for a whole bunch of reasons that are not worth going into in my opinion. It’s business, contractual, a lot of personal stuff, but it goes back to just deals I made way back like ’98/’99. And I’ve been working with different people throughout my whole career. Some of the relationships have been very smooth, others have been as far from smooth as you can possibly get. But the good thing is, last year, right after I put out this solo piano album [55 Cadillac], things kind of came to a head again, for the umpteenth time. Yet we resovled that and everything was worked out, and that’s how we’ve been able to finally re-release this old album that was only available in Asia, able to get the full band back together, do something like Warped Tour, have a new beginning, almost a comeback, because all the dissonance has finally been made into a harmony.
Q: So the Party Tent may not be in full swing today, but what makes the ultimate party?
A: Really, a shared understanding that parting is doing what appeals to you at that moment, so long as doing that thing doesn’t limit anyone else from doing what appeals to them. It’s very much the very basic ideas of life. The Golden Rule: following your instincts, following your passion, but really understanding that this idea of celebration and partying that has sometimes been reserved, or that we’ve been told that you’re only supposed to do that here and there, that you’re supposed to do stuff you don’t like to do and then when all that stuff is done then you get to party. I say you get to do what you like all the time. That’s the point of life, that’s the meaning of life; to follow that instinct against all odds, even when it seems like the craziest thing to do. And it might take you through ordeals, but what else is more valuable than saying, “At least I followed my heart”? And that is partying hard. Party you can do here and there, but if you party hard it means you’re commited to following your instincts and doing what appeals to you, which could be drinking a beer early in the day [he smiles, lifting up his beer can]. Or it could be, you know, rolling around the river over there all day. No one should tell someone else how to party.
To keep up with all the latest from Andrew W.K.: http://www.myspace.com/andrewwk