The infamous music writers at Jaded Punk recently sat down with Andrew to try and get the full story about the recording of “I Get Wet.” It’s the first time since 2005 that Andrew has discussed the album in this amount of detail. The questions were challenging and the answers were revealing. Read the full interview HERE, or below…
Record Revisited: Andrew W.K. / I Get Wet (2001)
Revisited by: Andrew W.K. (Andrew W.K. is the world’s most notorious party rocker. He is also a motivational speaker, producer, owner of the record label Skyscraper Music Maker, and part owner of the NYC venue Santos Party House.)
Normally, for our Records Revisited segment, we like to have someone reflect on an old record that made an impact on him or her at one point in their lives. Some folks have used it to discuss their pop punk phases, others have examined their hardcore periods. But it was tough to find someone who could adequately reflect on Andrew W.K.’s I Get Wet. The album transcends genre, time periods, and music scenes and is arguably the most famous party rock album of all time. It breaks rock music down to its most basic elements.
With one simple message: Party!, Andrew W.K. instantly spawned a truly unique movement, one that perplexed many. With lyrics like: “It’s time to party. Let’s party. Hang out with yourself and have a crazy party. Hey you, let’s party. Have a killer party and party!” many asked: Was this a joke? A guilty pleasure? Was the madman on the album cover with a dried up bloody nose a genius? A lunatic? Some sort of party rock idiot savant like a headbanging, footstomping Rain Man? And no really, was this a joke?
But however you felt about its intent, it was hard to deny the sheer intensity and likability of I Get Wet. As W.K. himself would say, ”Don’t even try and deny it!” After all, how could you? Do you hate partying and having a good time? Do you hate fun? What kind of person hates fun and partying and having a good time? A very sad person, that’s who.
So, as the album turns over a decade old, and was recently reissued as a special deluxe anniversary edition, we thought: Who better to revisit I Get Wet than The Wolf himself, your friend, Andrew W.K.
It’s been almost 11 years since I Get Wet came out. Today, the album and just the culture of Andrew W.K. in general, is sort of a household thing. But at the time, was it difficult to get people, let alone a major label, to grasp what the hell you were doing?
Andrew W.K.: From what I’ve been told, It was very smooth the whole way. I’ve had the good fortune of working with a foundation that had already been built so it’s easy to get spoiled or assume it was all easy. I totally understand what you’re saying. But from what I understand from the people I’ve spoken to, the label was always very supportive. They actually were there building this as much as anyone else. So I think on the creative side too, they were spearheading almost the entire project rather than it being a typical battle. Of course, I had heard horror stories myself from other people’s experiences with labels where their record didn’t even come out. That’s the worst case scenario. They worked on the entire project and it doesn’t even get to be put out. But again, from what I understand, great team, very supportive, almost sort of instigated the idea rather than the other way around. So it was like a partnership.
So do you feel like they let you take it in the direction you wanted to take or were there points where they said, “we’d rather you do this or that?”
AWK: I don’t have any particular stories, that I’m aware of, of people saying that they wanted something other than what was being worked on. When I came in, things were very smooth. There were a few times when I had ideas recently that were not met with as much enthusiasm as I would hope. But I didn’t feel like it was my place to sort of direct things. I’m there to sort of do what I’m asked to do. And I knew that when I got involved and I’m sure it was like that from the very beginning. It was never a one-person project. It was always a team effort and it still is. I’m grateful for all the work people did and feel privileged to continue it.
Taking a step back and being as objective as possible, how do you think the album holds up overall?
AWK: I remember the first time I heard it, I was blown away. And I wasn’t listening to a lot of rock music at the time.
What were you listening to then?
AWK: I mean all kinds of stuff. I guess just sort of lighter music in general. Lighter rock…you know, things that are just not that intense. And a lot of intense rock music wasn’t that intense. So I was excited, became a huge fan of the album, never dreamed that I would get to work with it like this. But I think it sounds even better now. And of course now I’ve been playing these songs for years and feel very close to them but it was definitely a new kind of energy that I hadn’t heard and was very excited about. I didn’t really know what to make of it. A lot of my friends were into it and I had seen the “Party Hard” video on MTV. That was probably the first time I ever saw it. It seemed a bit confusing in general.
From the way you’re talking, it seems like you didn’t realize a lot until after the fact. But obviously, you had planned a lot of this stuff out. You’re just happy with the way it came out?
AWK: Oh definitely, definitely. But I can’t take credit for it. I’m happy with everything I got to contribute.
And when you look back at the album now, how do you feel when you listen to it? You think it holds up still?
AWK: Yeah I mean, I don’t sit down and listen to the whole album. I’m just playing the songs live. I enjoy playing the song live more than when I started to. It’s something that I enjoy doing more, the more time that’s gone on. I feel like I do a better job at it than when I started and I’m certainly a lot less nervous and intimidated by trying to fill these shoes. But the sound of the actual album itself? What’s funny is, I don’t know if there are certain tones or frequencies in there, I don’t know if they’re on purpose or… It’s just like one of those albums, it’s probably just because I’m so familiar with it, but I can hear it in the background extremely quietly. Um, I’m trying to remember the last time this was when this happened. It was probably in a bar or some public place. It came on the TV or on the radio, sort of amidst other music. Just a short snippet, maybe in the background of an advertisement or someone, maybe like a DJ talking over it, but I could hear it right away and tell that’s what it was. And I was even impressed I could tell what it was. And it wasn’t even like I could hear the melody or the specific song. It was just the tone of the recording. And that’s what’s cool about it. It just has like a…there’s an atmosphere to the whole sound that goes beyond the particular song or the lyrics.
Right. In general, it’s a good thing when you can recognize your own songs in public.
AWK: Sure, and I have played them a lot at this point.
You recently reissued it as a deluxe edition. Did you make any updates to that reissue?
AWK: Nope, no. That whole album is not even remastered. That was just a choice made by everybody. The gentleman who originally mastered it, his name is Howie Weinberg, and if you look him up, he’s actually a legendary mastering guy and there are a few of those names that you’ll see over and over again and that’s for good reason—because they make stuff sound amazing. So part of the mastering of that record gives it the sound it has, so we left that. So my contributions were the more recent live tracks…
Yeah which are fucking nuts, by the way. They sound crazy recorded.
AWK: Yeah, that was exciting to make this new version and say… like, this time around, let’s do my version of the record. And then we recently put out a really old, old version of the recordings. Some of the bonus tracks on that second disc, some people refer to them as demos but they’re actually not demos. They’re the same actual recording of the album itself. They were just the earlier versions and then they just took those same versions, the tracks that were originally there, and just added on to that. So it wasn’t even re-recorded. It wasn’t like, “OK here’s “It’s Time To Party” and now we’re gonna start from scratch.” Kind of like the framework of a house or something. And that I think was really cool and I had never heard those. And that was mind blowing just to see how similar they were and then also how different. You could definitely hear the exact same parts. The guitar intro, for example, from “It’s Time To Party,” that’s the exact same guitar from the actual album, the released version. So, it’s obvious that all the sounds they added, there must’ve been a lot of layers were…there must’ve been a lot of layers but the spirit is there.
Yeah, if you’re familiar with the album, it sounds like you’re listening to the same thing but it definitely has a very different feel to it.
AWK: Because it’s actually a different singer too. That seems pretty clear. I actually didn’t ask about that but the singing is very very different. I think that was before they brought in the main voice that you hear.
You mean they altered your voice in a different way for the final edition?
AWK: Well, I mean my voice on the live stuff is from that tour we did on that recent tour in 2012. so that’s me and the band. You can hear the guitar player singer quite prominently.
And your live shows are still mostly material from this album. Do you think you’ll still be playing these songs as long as you’re playing music?
AWK: Hopefully. I mean, I always sort of figured with the setlist I started working with—we had The Wolf and I Get Wet to work with. When I first started playing, we were doing a pretty half and half set. And then when we put out Close Calls with Brick Walls, which was obviously a huge deal for me, that added like 18 more songs into the potential setlist. And the first time we toured on that, we played one show in Orlando, Florida and then we played mostly in Japan and South Korea and that was a set that was primarily Close Calls with Brick Walls songs. So for this most recent tour, it was the anniversary of I Get Wet. We were playing all the songs straight through. Because that album’s been out the longest.
It kind of feels like those songs are the lifeline of your catalog. It almost feels like you started with your manifesto and have been carrying it out ever since.
AWK: For sure. As I said, I love playing those songs more now than I did 8 years ago and I didn’t expect that. A lot of people I spoke to said, “Oh, you’re gonna get so sick of playing these songs” even though I liked them going into it and it’s actually been the opposite even to my surprise. I enjoy playing all the songs more now. And I’m not exactly sure why. It’s not like I appreciate the songs more, it’s just physically more enjoyable to play and sing them now than in the beginning. Maybe I’m just better at it now somehow. But also, again, the I Get Wet album has been out the longest so people have had the most time with it, so people know those songs the best. So that’s what I really like about playing live is when people are familiar with the songs. It’s fun to play new songs that people don’t know but there’s something very magical about being very familiar with a song and then being part of that in that live experience.
Sure. And I remember when this album came out, a lot reviews, even the positive ones, said it was fun but it’s probably a flash in the pan or that it’s gimmicky. But it seems to have proven the opposite—that it has a timeless quality about it. Why do you think that is?
AWK: I don’t know. I wish I did. Because then I could think, “What could I do now, this year, that will have this kind of effect 10 years later?” It does seem to me—and of course, I always try to take my perspective with a giant grain of salt because I’m in the midst of it—that it just seems like it’s building still. It’s still growing. And maybe it’s just sometimes people…give people time to fend with what you’re offering them. It was definitely a lot to take in. And I could see that as an audience member in the beginning, as I said, it was overwhelming, very intense, a bit baffling, like, I didn’t know what to make of it. But I didn’t think I had to figure it out. But sometimes over time, it became like, wow, I can’t believe it still exists. We work as hard as possible and all the people that believe in this feeling keep it growing. Like, you wanna tell people about it. And for that reason, I’m very thankful to everyone else beyond me and beyond the band, and the people who have worked so hands on with it. The people who are coming to the shows now, a lot of them have never seen an Andrew W.K. show ever so they must’ve found out about it somehow.
Yeah, it’s a cultural thing that just keeps building for sure.
AWK: It’s also like…when that record came out, I remember this very clearly and maybe you do too, there weren’t a lot of songs about partying, there weren’t a lot of songs in general that had sort of a driving, four-on-the-floor kind of dance beat. It was just a gray…
Well I’m thinking back to albums that came out around that time. It was 2001, right?
AWK: 2001 in the UK and I guess 2002 in the US.
Right, well just thinking back to then, a lot of the albums that came out then, even the albums that were good at the time, might not hold up today if they had any sort of political or current commentary. But this hits a base instinct of partying that will probably never get old.
AWK: I hope people like partying forever and I can’t even imagine a world where they don’t. And it’s true, partying is very popular now. Like, there’s a lot of culture and colorful entertainment, especially music, that is specifically singing about partying, using those words, having that driving beat, having loving-sounding music. It’s been a real big shift to embrace this positive attitude. I’ve been really happy to see that. It’s great for me, you know.
Well not to inflate your ego too much, but do you think there are any artists now that you feel like you might’ve been a direct or indirect influence on their message, especially in the pop world?
AWK: I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about that. Probably not because no one really reaches out to me. Maybe they just don’t reach out intentionally. I don’t think so. But I hadn’t thought about that.
But even now, like you were saying, you sort of did spark a thing where it’s like, “Hey, let’s just write basic songs about partying.” And now in the music world, you have a lot of types like Miley Cyrus and Ke$ha [editing note: it hurt my soul a little bit to type the dollar sign] who just have songs about partying that are supposed to be fun. And I’m wondering if you think you, in any way, even indirectly, influenced the writing of those songs.
AWK: I doubt it. I love those songs. I think those are great songs. I just think the aesthetic or the tone of the world shifted enough to allow people to have fun. It’s great and it’s encouraged now. And I’m just happy because I like that music and I like that attitude. I like real dark music too for sure but I never really liked that bleak hopelessness kind of feeling that music were to give. So this to me is very modern and forward and it’s new sounds and new vibes and I like music that’s about having fun and the more the merrier.
So no emo for Andrew W.K.?
AWK: Well I like that too as long as it’s intense. It’s just when it’s passive or bleak, it’s hard for me to relate to because I want music that makes me feel amazing. I actually want all culture that I’m gonna experience to make me feel amazing. Even it’s amazingly freaked out or amazingly scared. But just everything intense. And I don’t really look for comfort culture. Because I look for comfort in a nice pillow, a warm bath, a bowl of macaroni and cheese, some tacos…
Now you’re talking my language!
AWK: Yes! And then if I’m gonna watch a movie, I don’t expect that movie to comfort me, I want it to stimulate me. So I think that culture’s very stimulating now. I love all electronic music because there’s a spirit of wanting to hear a sound that you’ve never heard before. Even if it’s a weird keyboard sound that you’ve never imagined someone can make…
So can you get down with like, Skrillex then?
AWK: Sure, yeah. Just the idea of breakthrough kinds of sounds. I imagine to a parent that would hear Skrillex, that might be the equivalent of my parents first hearing death metal.
I would love to hear that your parents are big death metal fans.
AWK: They’re not fans of it, but they’ve definitely heard it. But it’s exciting just the way things are pushing forward. And it’s exciting too when there’s room for everyone to do their own thing. No one can own the feeling of joy. So just the more people making music like that, the better.
Last question: Does it feel like it’s been 11 years?
AWK: Well, I remember when the album came out, so if I think of it that way, no. It definitely, in some ways, feels like way longer. It feels like 20 years. And I think that’s good. It’s a lot of life jammed into those years.