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Andrew WK | I Get Wet | interview | party | rock | Lollipop

Andrew W.K.

I Get Wet (Island/Def Jam)
An interview with singer Andrew W.K.
by Scott Hefflon

Aside from singing and songwriting [note to self: If you call him a singer/songwriter, punch yourself in the mouth], you can play most or all of the instruments and write all the parts?
I don't look at it that way. It's all "what does it take to get the songs as good as possible?" If I have to do a lot of it, then I have to do a lot of it. If someone else can play a part better than I can, then let's have them do it. It's whatever it takes to make the songs as exciting, moving, and well-done as possible.

I'm a piano player by heart from when I was really young. When it comes to playing guitar and bass and drums and keyboards, and even singing, I can do my music, and I learned by working around my inability to play the instruments to make them work for me. So I couldn't go play great blues guitar in someone else's band, but I can play these songs.

I learned music on the piano as well. While I hated it as the time, it gave me the linear - black & white, you might say - understanding of how written music and finger placement and notes all related.
It really is exciting, isn't it? It teaches you melody and chords, it's very rhythmic and percussive as well. I hope to someday have the time - in fact, I will make time - to go back and take more lessons and learn how to play better.

Did you start by screwing around on a four-track, and now the production is simply better?
Exactly. I learned as I went along. I didn't have the money or the resources, so I made do with what I had. It taught me to learn piece by piece without getting in over my head.

Ingenuity can come out of desperation...
I agree. In many cases, it's the spirit that counts. Music is something that we can latch onto and trust, even if we don't understand it. Music is something that exists unto itself, and we as humans try to get in there and work with it, but really we just try to not get in its way.

One of the things that I enjoy about your music is I can't get passed the good feel I get from it to critically analyze each and every aspect, and the stitching that holds it together.
That's the effect of a well-recorded song; you don't dwell on these things, but you let the experience wash over you. The songs were built from the ground up, with every single millisecond of the record written exactly...

Bit of a control freak, huh?
Just a bit... (laughs) But really, that's the beauty of it: The songs themselves were done, I just had to execute 'em. So it wasn't a question of how they should be, it was a matter of how we were going to make them what they were, ya know? That's why it takes so many thousands of hours, stacking and stacking until I say "This is acceptable."

I'm never satisfied, but that's why I'm making a second record and will make a third and so on. Basically, I just try to not stand in the way of the blinding light that the music is trying to deliver. It gave me the trust and the chance to be a part of it, and I'm going to try to not fuck it up by being human, filled with fears and doubts and problems. But if I trust in the music back again, it'll give me strength, know what I mean?

The music exists without you - it's merely filtering through you - and your responsibility is to try to perceive and channel and "capture" it, all the while screwing it up as little as possible.
Exactly, sir. It's bigger than me, but I'm not insignificant.

How did the band form?
An old friend of mine contacted Jimmy Coup out of the blue and said "This is the band you gotta be in," he comes down, we meet, we play for a few minutes, and bam!, done, he's guitar player #1. And then, I write a letter to my favorite drummer, Donald Tardy ("D.T.," ex-Obituary), and send him a CD to see if he'd like to record on the album or something, and a few weeks later, he's the drummer in the band. And the rest of the band are friends of Donald's, and we just knew this was it. We're all at the point in our lives when we wanna do stuff.

Actually, why don't you talk to Jimmy, seeing as he's right here. Get his side of things...

Jimmy, how are ya? What's your background?
Great, man, great. All of us have been in bands for years, but how often does anyone come along with a brand new idea like this, ya know? Basically, when you first hear it, if after 10 seconds you aren't jumping up and down with your eyes bulging out of their sockets, you aren't the guy for the job. Right on down to the tour manager, that's the way it's been.

I wasn't sure if I was going to have to be a house painter for the rest of my life, but along comes this CD in the mail, and that changed everything for me.

I can't say enough about the guy, so if you have a week someday, you and I can write the book. In the meantime, I'd better give you back to Andy...

Andrew, did you grow up in a musical family?
No, not really. May dad likes music and listens to music, and he had a stint of playing piano, but he also had a stint of painting, making candlestick holders, and lots of other stuff. He does stuff, ya know what I mean?

My mom decided that her goal was to be the best mom that she could be, and that included challenging me and bringing me opportunities, and ideas, and things to try. And that included playing piano. We had a piano and I took some lessons, and while I listened to music, my relationship with music was through and from me... I'm only realizing this now that I'm talking to people about it... My experience with music was not through an older brother playing me music he liked or talking with friends about what bands they liked, it wasn't through TV or radio, it was directly with the music and what I thought about it.

Later, whenever I saw someone doing something I'd never seen before, I got really excited. Not because I wanted to copy it or do the same thing, but because I'd seen something new. And it inspired me to want to do new things myself.

I was very fortunate to live in a town where a lot of people were doing a lot of stuff, and I had parents who encouraged me to do whatever I wanted. I didn't have to fight them to open my mind to new things, I simply had to chose from all the things I saw.

What town did you grow up in?
Southeast Michigan. That's Detroit, Ann Arbor... Crazy, crazy people who blew my mind and changed me forever.

I used to play on my keyboard for hours, recording little songs, adding to them... That's how I entertained myself. I used to cut out pictures from magazines and arrange them on the floor in patterns. For hours. OK, kind of weird stuff; I was kind of a loner, an intense kid, but it was good.

Then I was in bands cuz it seemed like fun. Then more serious bands, full bands, punk bands, usually not writing all the material so I won't have to get in that mode and take over, just playing what other people wanted me to play. I played drums most of the time, and I was in a really serious metal band in Detroit for about a year, and that was really great, and then I decided that I wanted to make the most exciting music in the world, and that was going to take all my effort, all of my energy, and all of my time, for as long as it took. I said "I'll do whatever it takes. Starting right now."

So I focused on learning how to record better and how to write songs - or let the songs come - and not questioning or doubting or talking to people anymore, because people kept telling me that what I was doing was wrong, that it would never work. But I holed up and created a world in which I could produce and learn and grow.

How old were you?
I was 17. I moved to New York when I was 18. There I proceeded to live in isolation in Brooklyn, near Queens, for two years. I was a salesman out of my house so I could stay indoors at all times. I was playing any show I was offered, any show I could get.

What were some of the early songs like, before you had a band?
A lot of them are the same songs as on this record [I Get Wet]. But the songs were different because I didn't have guitar players, so the songs were almost all keyboards.

I really like your work ethic, your passion, and your energy.
It's not coming from any one place or any one person, so there are no rules, it's an open playing field stretching in all directions.

And there's no dress code...
It's inclusive, not exclusive. You can like anything you want, believe anything you want to believe. Celebrate the possibilities, ya know?

And it's about time someone came along to kick slacker ass, give people a real jolt, wake 'em up and get 'em going...
But really, ya don't even have to agree with us on that... We're just those guys... If someone else wants to say, "What I wanna do is sit around on the couch all day, napping, watching TV, and eating chips," do it. Be that guy. The music will still be there for you, every day, unconditionally. In this time of doubt and confusion, this music can be a pillar of strength. I really believe that. I think about that every day. It's just exciting... I could ramble like this for hours...

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