INTERVIEW: Andrew Talks Woolen Birds, Bad Feelings, and Cheerful Boosts

Andrew W.K. - Performer, Speaker, Ambassador Opens Up

With school back in full force in Lawrence, Kansas, the students were ready for a night of partying and forgetting about their responsibilities. Who better to bring the party than the Messiah of Party himself – Andrew W.K.?

For more than a decade, the self-proclaimed "King of Party" has brought joy and day-after pain to show-goers. Tuesday, September 17th was no different as he rocked the Granada with favorites like "Its Time to Party" and mega-hit “Party Hard.” After the show we sat down with the party master himself to ask him a few questions about making music and life in general.

How do you stay motivated after all these years of doing all this crazy stuff – speaking, music, being an ambassador.

Do you ever watch Portlandia … here’s a group of people who want to put a bird on it. ‘Here’s a velvet bird. Here’s a bird made out of felt. A woolen bird.’ When it comes to these kinds of things, I’m winging it – like a bird. Put an exclamation point on it. A kind of enthusiasm, that’s what I like out of my days and experiences – some kind of cheerfulness, some kind of energy, some kind of encouragement, (as well as) someone that’s there to support me, and also there to cheer me on. If you’re going to be my friend, be there, share stories. Be there to listen. Cheer me on and give me that little boost.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever learned from a fan – whether it be a fan at a show or a friend?

Don’t die. Just do not die if you can help it. I would like to think that in our lifetime with the technological advancements, we can sustain some version of consciousness or existence one way or another to keep going. That’s the beautiful thing about creative arts – they have a way to cut through. Stuff that was created 100 years ago almost holds up better now than then. It is more applicable, more appreciated now than it was. That’s the best thing I can do in my time here is to offer something to people that hopefully cheers them up and gives them a little bit of boost that’s going to keep them going. Maybe it’ll resonate a little bit beyond us. The grandest aspiration that anyone can have is affect people that are not even born yet.

So now that you’re in your second decade of making music commercially, what is different now about making music and performing than it was 10 years ago?

There are definitely technological differences. Although, what was 10 years ago? 2003? You know, actually there’s not that much different – Napster, iTunes. When radio first came out, people thought that radio was going to be the end-of for recordings. People ain’t gonna buy 7 inches or cassettes, or in our day and age – CD’s and downloads – or whatever anymore. Radio only promotes it. It’s like saying ‘why is anyone going to buy your recording if they can see you tonight?’ Because not everybody does – it’s a different thing. A recording is not the same thing as a live experience. They each have their own qualities and their own textures that make them unique.

I just think we have to keep a very open mind, but stay very focused on all the things that make all these experiences worthwhile. There’s some kind of pleasure you’re extracting. It’s like a very physical feeling you’re extracting from all these things. I can download a song or album from my favorite group and I can feel that energy – and I don’t mean my mood or a certain attitude or emotion – I’m talking about physical energy. I feel that energy through listening to it through my headphones – the same way I would seeing them live. If you focus on that end result, rather than how you get there – people are so caught up on the method – forget the method. Focus on the end result that’s the product of all those efforts. All those things are just tools and methods to make ourselves feel good before we die. That’s all it’s ever been about and if we just focus on that, the rest of itself will take care of itself. It’s supposed to be about fun anyway, so why would you get so hung up on something like the method?

When my first album came out a lot of folks said it would have sold and been a platinum album if it wasn’t for Napster, you know. That was never my goal. When I felt the way I felt it wasn’t like ‘well, I feel this way so I can get a platinum album’. It was never the point of any of it, it was always like, ‘I want to get people cheered up. I want to get cheered up, now what?’ I think that spirit not only hasn’t died, but I think it’s been amplified in that time.

Notably different about this show was the lack of a backing band. Dubbed a ‘solo tour’, Andrew W.K. adorned the stage with only a keyboard, pre-recorded tracks and trusty sidekick, Blake. At first it caught me off guard. I didn’t put the two-and-two together that Andrew W.K. without a band was what he was referring to with ‘solo tour.’ Maybe I’m slow. When they came on stage there was this feeling of ‘oh no, I hope people get into this’ but as ‘It’s Time to Party’ started playing, the full-house energized and let go, as any good partier would.

I think you merged the whole live show experience with the recorded sound well. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anyone crowd surf without a band, which is awesome.

We’ve played here in Lawrence (at the Bottleneck) many times – more than a lot of places, especially in the Midwest. This is like one of best party towns there’s ever been. I was a bit intimidated, to be honest, to come in here (The Granada) without a band and all that. I try to embrace that humiliation and embarrassment that comes with going up on that stage without a band. The folks here, they were really nice – they always are. I don’t know, I just hope people understand it’s not about satisfying some kind of urge, it’s sometimes about that kind of confusion, you know. (I felt) perplexed for most of the show. It’s not a good feeling, but sometimes the overriding feeling that’s good comes from the feelings beneath that, that aren’t so good.

So would you say – tonight’s show – do you feel good about it?

Yes, absolutely. I do because there was that lady Ashley that proposed to her boyfriend – that almost made the whole show worthwhile in a way. What she’s already gone through is more than I’ve gone through. In all the things I’ve done, it just seems like such a bit of hoopla compared to the things she’s gone through. She told me what she’d been through and it made me feel very, very useful to be able to provider her with that moment to propose to her fiancé.

The show ended after the grand proposal as Andrew W.K. and Blake walked abruptly off stage. It was like going from 60 to zero in .5 seconds. The crowd chanted for an encore briefly, then gave up as the house lights and music turned on and everyone slowly dispersed.

What’s next for Andrew W.K. the performer, the speaker, the ambassador?

I’m just partying.

If I learned anything from my experiences that night, it was that life is too short to take anything too seriously. Let down your guard and (excuse my lame rhyme) party hard.

This news item was posted on: October 22, 2013

A.W.K. on Facebook

A.W.K. on Instagram

A.W.K. Twitter Feed