The Independent | By Adam Jacques
Following the release of his debut album ‘I Get Wet’ in 2001, it was Andrew WK’s (left in picture) single ‘Party Hard’ that propelled him into a dual career as a rocker and motivational speaker. He has spent the past year singing Ramones songs with Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg. He lives in New York
Marky and I have a mutual friend, Steve Lewis, who’s a king of the night-time world, part of the Studio 54 set. One day Marky was telling Steve that he was looking for a new singer for his band and Steve suggested me.
Like so many folks of my age, I’d been familiar with the Ramones since I was a child. Marky was the second drummer, after Tommy, but when he took over from the Road to Ruin album [in 1978], I think he took Tommy’s style to new heights, playing the drums with such urgency that he really proved himself. But we never met until we were introduced, in November last year.
So I went to dinner with Steve, Marky Ramone and a few others. He looked young and vital and in great physical shape. I was starstruck and nervous but felt an underlying force compelling me to push through the shyness. Luckily, he’s one of the few people I’ve met who I don’t think has an ego.
He was curious whether I’d be able to live up to the standards [the material] demands. So I did an audition of 35 Ramones songs.
Marky took a risk in associating himself with me: I’m not the best singer in the world, but by joining him and going on tour together, I have been raised up to a higher level. Though I do wonder whether I have reduced him!
I never expected to become friends with Marky. Sometimes you work on a project, have a shared vision, but don’t expect anything else. But I remember when we were about to play the first show in Europe, in Serbia. The rehearsal was in our hotel room, Marky playing drums on a couch, the guitar and bass players all in the same space. At one point, I made the sound of a fart, in time to the music. Marky laughed out loud in such a genuine way I thought, “Wow, maybe we could be friends.”
After that we went through a lot of good times and laughs, and I think those moments I had with him were the most meaningful parts of the project.
He had done some research on me and I know he likes the mindset I’ve been trying to pursue personally, as part of my party philosophy: be glad that you’re not dead. I asked him how long it feels he’s been doing what he does. He said, “It feels like it’s only just happening right now.” He’s seen some of his best friends in the band die, yet he’s not bowed by it. Instead, I think it’s given him an urgency to live. It’s something I relate to: I don’t remember what’s happened and I don’t want know what happens next; I just want to live for now, too.
Marky Ramone, 57
After a stint playing drums in 1971 with Dust, one of the first heavy-metal bands in America, Marc Bell took on the name Marky Ramone when he joined the Ramones in 1978 as the band’s drummer. Ramone continues to play the Ramones’ hits on tour with his band Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg. He lives in New York
I never knew who Andrew was until a mutual friend suggested him to me as a frontman for our band. We met at a restaurant a year ago, with Steve Lewis. He knew Andrew as he DJs in Steve’s clubs. The minute he spoke to me, I thought he was an intelligent guy and an extrovert, which is important for a frontman.
You have to take chances in life. So I gave Andrew a copy of all the Ramones songs to learn and he came to a rehearsal in Brooklyn. I told him, “You’ll need to be able to sing songs in rapid-fire succession – there’s no time for water.” I wanted someone who could do 35 songs in a 120-minute set, with two encores. He may have felt under pressure, but I could relate to that: I had to learn 40 songs in two weeks when I joined the band, in 1978. Joey [Ramone, the Ramones frontman] wasn’t a Pavarotti, but he had style, and Andrew has a vocal style that works well, too.
Some people who work together don’t get along. [The guitarist] Johnny [Ramone] and Joey didn’t get along but had a professional understanding. But me and Andrew hit it off. We had a lot of laughs on tour.
I remember riding a motorcycle with Andrew in Moscow. A Russian fan lent us his zebra-stripe-painted bike so we went driving round the block, Andrew holding on to me, which was a lot of fun. Being in the Ramones for 15 years, there were laughs, but not too many times like that, as animosities festered.
We never used a bus on this tour; we travelled in a van. Of course we had arguments, but to add levity I would make a belch and everyone would start laughing again. I had to reduce myself to that kind of humour: I’d stick my ass out of the van window. You could say it was regressing to childhood, but I find little things like that funny and so does Andrew.
One thing I learnt about Andrew is how much he likes the colour white: whenever he played, he’d appear in an all-white costume: shoes, trousers, shirt, the lot. But at least he was doing something alternative.
I’m a drummer, so maybe I’ve a drummer’s personality: I’m a lone wolf, I don’t socialise that much. Going to a club opening is difficult for me, as I prefer to tinker with cars, while Andrew is a lot more social.
When you see friends who died too early to enjoy the fruits of their labour, you need to not be bothered by the little things: let it go. We could only be on this planet for another day, so channel that energy into something positive. I think Andrew is like that, too.