ANDREW W.K. WEEK:
Bloomsbury publishing (the company responsible for the Harry Potter series), is celebrating their official 33 1/3 book about Andrew’s “I GET WET” album with a seven day party they’re calling, “Andrew W.K. Week.” January 13 through 18, 2014, will be dedicated to exploring Andrew’s debut album, the book about it, and author Philip Crandall‘s experiences in researching and writing about the making of the album. Unpublished excerpts and various other elements that didn’t make the final manuscript will be shared and examined further. Check out the installments below, as we post each day’s entries here.
Cry no tears as Andrew W.K. week comes to a close; the party goes on. Here in his last blog entry, I Get Wet 33 1/3 author Phillip Crandall looks at the album’s liner notes in search of the friends who have helped make the AWK party an epic all-nighter. From here on out, you can follow the book’s exploits on Twitter: @HeyYouLetsParty.
Listed underneath the “All songs written by Andrew W.K.” credit in I Get Wet’s liner notes are the names of established producers, names of session musicians, names that have been abbreviated and altered, names that have enchanted and engaged, and names whose listings pay tribute to a life’s worth of impact and friendship more than they acknowledge in-studio assistance. And while the I Get Wet 33 1/3 takes a more thorough look at these collaborations with and connections to Andrew, it simply can’t illuminate these names with the magical dimension of music.
IGW credit (as Darron D.): Programming
Video: “Look Over Your Shoulder,” from his Modern Jester album
In addition to Dilloway’s solo stuff, his Vimeo page is an absolute treasure trove archiving the noisiest of Ann Arbor efforts in the ‘90s, from his bands — Galen, Isis & Werewolves, The Beast People, etc. — to the bands of others credited on IGW, including Anthony “Dirty Tony” Miller and Nate Young. (Wolf Eyes, just one of Dilloway and Young’s collaborations, is regarded as noise deities, but the band got its largest spotlight in this scene from The Office.) A 1997 promo for Dilloway’s label features many of these bands as well, not to mention a teenage Andrew Wilkes-Krier at his living room piano at around the 11:03 mark.
IGW credit (as P. Larson): Technical Assistance
Video: “Lazers,” by Danse Asshole
Along with Jim Magas (credited for Technical Assistance on the 10th anniversary edition of IGW), Larson was a founding member of Bulb Records and the band Couch. Couch’s live show and 7-inch had a huge influence on Andrew and Dilloway, both of whom would eventually sit behind that Couch drum-kit at least once. “We did an impromptu Couch reunion in 2000,” Magas remembers. “We went out there and fumbled our way through all the Couch hits with Andrew on drums, who had never played with us before. He did a good job. If you can hit the drum, you could be in that band.”
IGW credit (as F. Thomas): Additional Guitar
Video: “Sunglasses,” by Saturday Looks Good To Me
Thomas’ pop mastery is on beautiful display as the singer/songwriter/leader of Saturday Looks Good To Me (see also: “Until The World Stops Spinning” and “When The Party Ends.” Andrew’s band Ancient Art of Boar put out a tape on Thomas’ Westside Audio Laboratories label, and the title track “Bright Dole” features Thomas on guitar and more giddy whimsy than you can possibly be prepared for.
IGW credit (as Matthew Sweeney): Technical Assistance
Video: “Break Up Your Band,” by Chavez
The former Chavez leader, Zwan member, and frequent Bonnie “Prince” Billy collaborator has played guitar with everyone from Johnny Cash and Current 93 to Neil Diamond and Dave Grohl’s Probot.
IGW credit (as Quigley): Technical Assistance
Video: “Beauty Crawls,” by Skunk
Skunk included teenagers Quigley, Sweeney, and Matt Coleman, who would later go by Claude and drum for Ween. Right around the time he met Andrew, Quigley’s band Vaganza was about to release its debut, chock full of gorgeous gems like “She’s Crazy” and “Everyday.”
IGW credit (as P. Solem): Technical Assistance
Video: “I’ll Be There For You,” by The Rembrandts
Personal story: For most nights I worked on this book, I’d take a one-hour break at midnight to watch back-to-back syndicated episodes of 30 Rock. Let’s call it my Liz Lemon Party! It was the perfect motivator to crank out transcriptions or thoughts until 11:59 p.m., and the back-and-forth decision of whether I’d a) get back to work, or b) get some sleep had to be made by 1:01 a.m. because if I debated any later than that, it meant some character on the next show (usually Chandler Bing) would get his/her opening zinger in and the jangly guitar of the Friends theme song would invade my skull, making either option that much more difficult. Once I discovered the IGW connection through guitarist Solem (the one whose shades are swiped by Jennifer Aniston in this video), I didn’t mind the invasion nearly as much.
IGW credit: Guitar
Video: “Daylight Dawning,” by The Coup de Grace
Jimmy grew up with Quigley and Sweeney, and his band The Coup de Grace toured with Skunk when they were both signed to Twin/Tone. Our planet doesn’t contain a larger Thin Lizzy/Phil Lynott fan than Jimmy Coup; check out his cover of “Don’t Believe a Word.”
IGW credit (as D.T.): Drums
Video: “Don’t Care,” by Obituary
Andrew’s fondness for this death metal band is obvious and widely known. His initial desire to distance himself from most every other musical influence probably isn’t. “The only things I wanted to be associated with,” he told me, “were Obituary, Florida, New York, (and) Michigan, but not Ann Arbor.”
IGW credit: Executive Producer
“(Is this) Time Travel Man,” from the infamous 7-inch.
Happy Day 4 of Andrew W.K. Week! As the old proverb says, you can’t make the most amazing, perfectly spiced deviled-egg party platter without smashing a few eggs. Here are but a few of the things that, for a variety of reasons, you won’t hear on I Get Wet, courtesy of 33 1/3 author Phillip Crandall.
1) Almost 75 percent of the songs on The Wolf
Eight songs (and a major portion of a ninth) that were recorded for demos or EPs before I Get Wet all eventually evolved into what we hear on that album’s follow-up, The Wolf. “Free Jumps” goes way back–it’s the name of an Ann Arbor band Andrew played with, and was one of the songs Donald Tardy actually remembers recording drums for during the I Get Wet sessions.
2) An Insane Amount of Arpeggios
Andrew W.K.’s first showcase in New York City (see awesomely lo-fi video below) featured an early instrumental version of “Girls Own Love” with unrestrained flair across the entire keyboard’s landscape. That’s not to say his live shows are without ivory-unleashing today, but the arpeggio accents that bounce so naturally here didn’t make it to any released versions of the song.
3) “Party Music,” “Kill Yourself,” “We’re Not Gunna Get Old,” and “Kicks and Bricks”
All appeared on early demos, and with the exception of the 10-second “Party Music,” all made it to Andrew’s Mother of Mankind compilation. “There’s this one song I remember on the demo,” guitarist Jimmy Coup says of “Kill Yourself.” “It said you’re nothing and you have no real friends. A really depressing dirge, and I fucking loved it. ‘Kill Yourself’ — that makes me laugh. That is, secretly, the most honest thing he’s ever written. That’s what drives him so hard, that sense of dread.”
Coup also remembers hearing “Kicks and Bricks” and thinking it was a “hit fucking song.”
“He missed an opportunity not recording that for I Get Wet.”
4) “Get Black On”
Technically, this is just an earlier demo version of “Take It Off,” which is track 5 on I Get Wet. But with “Get Black On,” you get those three titular words deeply growled at the beginning (rather than the group-sing-along shouts of the eventual title). Even crazier is what precedes the build-up to that growled line: a horn intro that sounds right out of James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing.”* Mark Morgan, a friend and former roommate of Andrew’s, says of the early version, “It’s basically the same fucking thing, but I really like it a lot more when he sang ‘Get Black On.’ I was like, ‘fuck yeah, this is amazing,’ then he changed it to ‘Take It Off,’ and…I don’t know. I like it the other way.” (Andrew now says that “Get Black On” is a better title, and he wished he had called it that.)
*h/t to Christopher R. Weingarten (@1000TimesYes) for his help in identifying where the hell I knew that horn line from.
5) “We Want Fun”
While it appeared (along with “Make Sex”) on the Japanese version of I Get Wet, domestic listeners would have only heard it on Andrew’s earliest EP and, eventually, on the Jackass: The Movie soundtrack. Erik Payne, one of Andrew’s guitarists, is part of Team Pain, the legendary skatepark architects (led by his brother, Tim) who built ramps for “Jackass.”
6) An Essential “She is Beautiful” Part
Early versions, like the one that appeared on the 10th anniversary edition of I Get Wet, didn’t have the “I ain’t got nothing to lose” bridge. Then-manager Matt Sweeney says the bridge’s addition late in the recording sessions “improved it in a songwriting kind of way.” Andrew also made last-second changes to the structure (and, it can be argued, innocence) of the opening track, “It’s Time To Party.”
Andrew W.K. week continues, this time with I Get Wet 33 1/3 author Phillip Crandall sharing some tangents and tidbits that ended up on his book’s cutting-room floor.
A go-to prank for teenage Andrew W.K. would be plastering downtown Ann Arbor with a mixture of eggs, flour, limburger cheese, cocoa powder, milk, and road salt. “It looked and smelled like soft diarrhea,” Andrew says, “and we threw it on people’s doors and windows and specifically targeted the parking garages where I worked, which was a bit odd because the next day I had to go there.” One night, in what he calls a “second act to an earlier event” against [Ann Arbor record store] Wazoo Records, he created another item to tag the downtown establishments with: stickers that had Wazoo’s phone number and looked like an advertisement for a towing company called Wazoo Wreckers.
Kelly Kuvo saw Andrew’s first show in New York. Prior to the show, Kuvo was approached by her (and Andrew’s) friends Aaron Dilloway and Nate Young and asked if she’d let them give her a needle tattoo. (“It’s just India art and thread where you poke, poke, poke until you get a permanent tattoo,” she says. “A lot of the arty rocker kids and crusty punks did that.”) She agreed, and they brought her a sheet of paper with design options that included a slice of pizza, a sailboat, and “AWK” in block letters. “His friends had faith in him,” she says. “That’s when I realized the full extent of him coming to New York to become a rock star. Everybody rolled their eyes because it would be embarrassing to be so blatantly obvious about wanting to be successful in music, but he wasn’t bullshitting. I think everybody secretly wants that, so why should it be so bad for him to be honest about it?”
Despite the moment of AWK-enlightenment, Kuvo settled on a tornado and cloud, right below her left collarbone.
Mixing on I Get Wet was done during the summer of 2001 in Ocean Way’s Record One studios in Los Angeles; Team AWK worked in one studio, while Dr. Dre was more or less calling the other one home. According to a profile published in TIME that September, Dr. Dre had worked three spurts of 19-plus hours one week and a marathon 56-hour session the week before, on such projects as The Wash soundtrack, a No Doubt track, and music for his own still-yet-to-be-released album, Detox.
Cory Churko did much of his sound prep for I Get Wet in a back room of Record One, often leaving a door to the back alley open so he could have some fresh air and experience some of the natural summer sunlight he’d otherwise miss in these all-day sessions. One day, a large man barreled through, asking “Who the fuck left this back door open?” The man was one of Dr. Dre’s bodyguards, and his concern was regarding someone else who might barrel through: “Don’t you guys know that Suge Knight just got out of jail?”
The I Get Wet book delves a bit into the wardrobe that AWK guitarist Erik Payne was almost stuck wearing on stage, but not into fellow guitarist Jimmy Coup’s iconic threads at all. “It was hot out and I was wearing a pair of running shorts and a Hawaiian shirt,” Jimmy remembers of the accidental combo he wore during an afternoon drive with Andrew. “We were taking a left turn, and the car in front of me didn’t take the turn. Then they didn’t take the next turn. I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ I’m not a hothead, but on the third light, I remember getting out of the van and going up to the car and going, ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ Andrew was watching me and thought that I was funny, dressed like that and telling this fucking guy to come out of the truck. It just caught him. The red shirt I’m wearing in the “Party Hard” video (below) is that original Hawaiian shirt, and then I went and bought a bunch.”
The UK music press spent time with Andrew in Tampa before I Get Wet was released, filing charmed reports that he was “bigger than Jesus” and “louder than war.” (Both appear as coverlines for NME, which piled on the honorable distinctions by giving him two covers for their October 20, 2001 issue.) Louise Mayne, who worked directly with Andrew in Mercury Records’ press office, says she had never met anyone “so completely transfixed” as the British media were with Andrew. She says the image of the bloody nose — “the most beautiful picture I’ve ever seen” — was marketed around London before the actual music was. “So many people found it so offensive and so revolting that it was talked about a lot,” she says. “People just wanted to reproduce the picture in everything that they wrote about Andrew; it was an excuse almost to run the picture.”
When Andrew and the band arrived in London for their first show in October, photographer Roe Ethridge happened to be in town already — showing that very photo in a group show called “The Americans” at the Barbican Centre — and he remembers promotional pictures for the album covering every public surface. Mayne organized a press trip for whoever responded soonest to visit Stonehenge with Andrew, and somewhere in her car in the nearly two-hour drive from frigid London, Andrew heard “Party Hard” on the radio for the first time. “I think it might have really hit him that this is daytime radio in England,” Mayne says, “because he was slightly bemused by how it was all going.”
If you watch the official “trailer” I made for the I Get Wet 33 1/3 release–which I spent far too much time working on considering how slapdash it looks–you’ll really only notice one discernible, not-completely-ancient-looking spine on the shelf. That book, on the far left in the first split-second, is none other than the fifth edition of Property, the casebook co-authored by Andrew’s father. I didn’t get too far past the cover page in my research reading though; just far enough to see the list of the book’s editorial advisors, where I found Elizabeth Warren’s name. She’s the Massachusetts senator whose 2011 rebuttal of charges that levying additional taxes on the rich were an act of class warfare (“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own …”) went viral and no doubt helped her win that seat.
Andrew was explaining some of the nuances of the chords he uses (versus simple power chords) when he started telling the story of how former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones asked him straight-up if he had ripped off the chord structure in “Party Hard” from “Just Another Dream,” a 1980 song by Jones’ band The Professionals. (He hadn’t.) “The only other time I have heard it used is with R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix),” Andrew says of the 2003 jam. “I was driving around in L.A. — I think when we were recording the second album — and that song was on the radio a lot. It was just fantastic. Maybe by the third or fourth time, I was like, ‘Wait a minute.’ This is one of those great chord changes, and it hasn’t been used that much.”
Andrew W.K.’s I Get Wet book is available on Bloomsbury.com, via Amazon, or wherever 33 1/3s are sold.
Over the years, Andrew W.K. has created more than just the perfect party atmosphere. In this second entry for Andrew W.K. week here on the blog, I Get Wet 33 1/3 author Phillip Crandall looks at some of the art his subject has created outside of a recording studio.
As a child, Andrew would create elaborate games incorporating slides, blocks, pennies, and other toys he’d find around the house. When he got into junior high, he made his own pachinko game (seen below in its current state), with rubber bands to bounce marbles around the large plank of wood and wire ramps to send them flying off the side. But even creating those objects — which served a competitive purpose beyond just a rolled marble — didn’t fully satisfy the young Andrew. “I’d build a haunted house or fun house in the basement, but I wanted people to come over and use it in a way that I didn’t have to tell them, like, ‘Now go and do it,’” Andrew says. “I wanted it to be commercial, because that was proof that it really had value versus just an amusement. You almost had to fool yourself into not thinking about that part while you were doing it — that there was no point in this, because no one’s actually going to really do it. That was the feeling I got: That, ‘God, I wish I wasn’t a kid.’ I just wished that someone would actually pay me to do it. It was really discouraging. Waves of frustration over not being able to officially participate in that kind of culture or experience or business, and just praying for the day that I was old enough to actually do anything that counted as official.”
Here’s an assortment of Andrew’s childhood art (photographed horribly by this author) from around his parents’ Ann Arbor home:
“Hot Rod” painting – age 15
“Mannequins” painting – age 16
“NERT-O Comics” painting – age 13
Andrew also erected the below structure — which friend Aaron Dilloway calls the Jumble Gym — in his parents’ backyard when he was 17. (Photo courtesy of Andrew W.K.) It was featured prominently in the film Andrew and Dilloway created entitled Poltergeist. “I think the music and part of the movie is influenced by this movie The Holy Mountain that we were really into,” Dilloway says. “One of the most psychedelic, over-the-top films ever. It’s also influenced by this movie called Sledgehammer. It got us obsessed with slow-motion video, which he ended up using a lot of in Who Knows? [his 2006 live in concert DVD].”
Here are two issues of Andrew’s WOLF “Slicer” Magazine, which he made at age 18, shortly after moving to New York City:
And, while his larger art pieces have served as covers for his releases, Andrew was just as meticulous with concepts for Island Def Jam in the off-chance his record label wanted to censor I Get Wet’s cover. “This was before they had a huge conference meeting to tell me that they wanted to censor it,” he says. “I was totally thrilled because I had wanted to censor it from the start.” They went with the black bar. (Photos courtesy of Andrew)
Then, of course, there’s this!
Happy Andrew W.K. Week! No. 89 in the 33 1/3 series delves into Andrew W.K.’s debut album, beginning with the classically trained child who embraced extremity and diving into the making of I Get Wet, his ultimate party invitation. Here, author Phillip Crandall shares what his midstream mindset was in trying to balance untainted passion for the music with the perpetually wild genius of that music’s creator.
I had already heard about the fake cease-and-desist letter Andrew W.K. created when he was a teenager — the one where he pretended to be R. Crumb’s lawyer and used his skills of legalese and recreating postage cancellation marks to strike fear in the heart of a local record shop proprietor whose store logo was similar to R. Crumb’s Eggs Ackley character. One label-running friend of Andrew’s confirmed the story of how Andrew pretended to be a Japanese music distributor ordering $14,000 worth of 7-inches and cassettes, complete with a fake check. Another friend told me he will receive the occasional lovely email from Andrew with an innocent memory — say, of the two of them at a baseball game — along with a photo of them from that event. The friend won’t be able to place why the picture makes him uncomfortable until he studies it long and hard and figures out what physical insecurity Andrew has picked up on and exaggerated ever so slightly, ever so brutally via Photoshop.
These stories — and more, but these are just the ones that didn’t make my manuscript’s final cut — were pogoing around my head as Andrew invited me to his friend’s concert that night and read off some new Brooklyn address where the show was being moved to–an address that contradicted multiple online sources, including that friend’s Facebook page.
We were wrapping up the second of two extended interview sessions that Andrew had — and I can’t emphasize the kindness behind his time-giving generosity enough — graciously granted me that winter weekend (to say nothing of the numerous phone interviews he continued to make himself available for). We had met at a Manhattan midtown pub the day before; he in a black leather jacket, red flannel, and Maggot Brain shirt, and me in some maroon tee beneath my ubiquitous green track jacket. Over the course of a few drinks, we chatted about our families and art’s ability to uplift and a dream I had about him growing a Ron Mael mustache for the purpose of ripping it off to recreate the I Get Wet cover … then we crossed the street for a quieter bar he had recently discovered. As far as my work was concerned, that first in-person session was as fruitful as it was all over the place, covering his New York City beginnings and some of his friends credited on the album. While passing around the CD to discuss a particularly hilarious liner credit, my jewel case with the broken front lid cracked even further. (“That’s classic,” he told me. “What I like is that they still lock together.”) Later that night, I kicked myself for not using those lighter moments to bring up the topic I was most anxious discussing.
“One early Andrew quote that stuck with me (which I never did find room for in the book, sadly) was about how if you go at everything in life full-bore, you’re bound to get wet.”
Without taking away from the book, its “revelations,” or the many anonymous websites counting on your page-views to keep the controversy percolating, there’s a name in those liner notes that I wasn’t looking forward to speaking aloud. One of my earliest goals was to avoid it entirely if the I Get Wet story didn’t need it. As I interviewed so many collaborators and AWK friends who offered (unsolicited) insights on the matter, I came to understand the relevance of that name and its collateral controversy. And if I were to ultimately type that name for all to read, I would absolutely have to say it before Andrew himself. My anxiety wasn’t out of fear of an immediate negative reaction, but of a long-term stonewall reaction–one that would keep so many other vital stories and details from ever seeing light.
Out of nervous negligence, I wore the same maroon and green that second day; I can only speculate as to what Andrew’s reasons were for arriving in the same blacks, reds, and Funkadelic. We tied up the previous day’s loose ends, talked about the instrumentation and studio-work behind the album, and, yes, got into the relevant Steev Mike matters. All questions that needed to be asked were; most of them were even answered, though the only response I’ll give away here is, “The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t really ultimately impact hopefully too much in the big picture.” Immediately, I felt foolish for thinking a couple outside-my-own-delicate-comfort-zone questions would ever sway a super-rad, beyond-helpful, friendly, and above all professional gentleman like Andrew W.K.
About a half-hour later, Andrew informed me of his friend’s change of venue.
One early Andrew quote that stuck with me (which I never did find room for in the book, sadly) was about how if you go at everything in life full-bore, you’re bound to get wet. Wet from the blood, wet from the sweat, or wet from whatever other applicable fluids. When I met Andrew’s parents a month earlier, his father actually used the phrase “get wet” in a non-album-quoting capacity, describing how, for Andrew, it took drive and desire to work alongside destiny. (“If you don’t step outside,” he said, “you never get wet.”) His mother went so far as to say Andrew strives to put himself in uncomfortable situations in order to achieve that fullness of life.
For me, the moment shortly after 10 p.m.–exiting an L station in Brooklyn that’s a full three stops farther than I’ve ever exited the L before, having to commit to one of two unfamiliar locations a mile apart from one another–was less a moment of uncomfortable truth than it was a moment of thrilling ecstasy. I was finally handed the opportunity to choose paved-path reason or insane uncertainty in this voyage, and I was all too happy to follow the unsafe unknown, both embracing and damning whatever sweat or blood may ensue. As random destiny would have it, a voice called my name within a minute of heading insanity’s direction. It was that of my friend Harold. (Note: Not his real name, but I wouldn’t want to be accused of dropping names for the sake of Google hits.) I had first met Harold when I interviewed him for what became my most beloved magazine clip; his friendship and radness had since been a huge contributing factor to many karaoke nights, fast-food lunches, and even one recording session where his tight drumming was the only thing keeping an inebriated rendition of “Janie Jones” together. I told Harold of my quest thus far and the noise show I hoped to end up at, and, as I expected, he was willing, able, and excited to follow me into whatever abyss awaited. And when we walked into the random building in question, Andrew was the first person we saw.
Who knows what lessons I would be mulling from Andrew’s inadvertent test had I gone the other way, but I doubt they would have benefited my book. Surely I wouldn’t have witnessed Andrew’s intensely visceral, all-consuming response to his friend’s sounds, nor would I have appreciated how blissfully blistering that live noise experience was to my virgin ears.
Had I headed south rather than north, I wouldn’t have run into my own dear friend, whose sudden appearance in my I Get Wet adventure reminded me of musical camaraderie and my most beloved writing project up to that point. And though it would take a few days for the hint to surface, that journalistic reminder ultimately informed the way in which Steev Mike’s story would be told in my book.
Most troubling of all, if I had ignored Andrew and followed safe reason, perhaps my brain’s delicate sensibilities would have convinced my heart it wasn’t up for the true Andrew W.K. challenge. I believed my intentions of getting wet were full-bore and true; I’m just stoked my visceral reaction was to step outside.