Interview: Andrew W.K. | GFTPress
In the early part of this new millennium, if one was to walk into a party, club, dorm room, or any place where beer was flowing and people were having a good time, there was a ninety-eight percent chance that Andrew W.K.’s voice would be blaring from the speakers telling you to, “Party Hard,” and you would gladly obey. But it wasn’t only DJs and frat boys who used Andrew W.K.’s hard driving brand of rock to get folks amped. Over the years, Nintendo, Google, Kit Kat, and others have all utilized Andrew’s music in various ad campaigns. The Andrew W.K. brand has become much bigger than just high-energy, head banging, brick to the face rock and roll, though. Andrew has gone on to host a live action show on Cartoon Network, record an instrumental solo piano album, open an award-winning nightclub in New York City, host his own talk radio show, and that barely cracks the surface. In this interview, GFT’s editor, Jack Daniel Miles, speaks with Andrew W.K. to discuss his wide-ranging career and finds out that even though it may seem like Andrew is doing many different things, he’s really only doing one, and it’s the same one he’s been doing since the beginning. Partying.
ANDREW W.K.: Hello, Jack, how are you?
Jack Daniel Miles: Good, sir, how are you?
A.W.K.: I’m fine, thank you.
MILES: I’m excited to talk to you.
A.W.K.: Thank you very much; thank you for including me. Congratulations in advance on the premiere of GFT Press.
MILES: Thank you. You’re no stranger to the world of writing. You have your column in the Village Voice, an anthology of your advice column from Rockin’ On published in Japan, and you did have some other work that was slated to be published in the U.S. called The Party Bible, as well. Is that still in the hopper?
A.W.K.: Yes, I’ve been working on it for a long time. It’s my first ever book from scratch. Initially, I wanted it to be just a collection of all of the various writings I had done from the advice columns or magazine columns or other pieces that had appeared over the years. The publisher, Simon & Schuster, was very adamant about it being a very fresh book starting from scratch, and it is taking me much longer than I had anticipated. Progress is continuing along, and hopefully, it will be done sooner rather than later.
MILES: That’s great. I can understand, especially when you have as many things on your plate as you do. And that’s something I want to talk about a little bit if we could—about your career…you know, what’s kept you in the game, the diversity of your career. You’ve had a fascinating career journey; from what you’ve called your privileged upbringing, to your early career experience with Dave Grohl and finding a kind of mainstream success early on, then all of the ups and downs—the legal wrangling, ‘Steev Mike’ controversy—you’ve spoken of past issues with depression, then there is the love-hate relationship that you’ve had over the years with the critics, the backlash you recently faced over your relationship with Glenn Beck and TheBlaze Radio Network, and I guess my question is one that all of us who put ourselves out there face at one point or another amongst all of the ludicrousness and stress of a publicly lived life and career. Did you ever think it was all just too much, thought about walking away, hanging up the white jeans and t-shirt? With all of this, what’s kept you going and fighting for what you’ve created, your livelihood?
A.W.K.: Well, I think I’ve been very fortunate. I haven’t had to fight very much. In the big scheme of things, it’s been very easy, almost effortless, in continuing, moving on, moving forward. I’ve been very fortunate, not necessarily from anything I’ve done, in particular, it’s just good circumstances, more or less, from the beginning. Many of the obstacles that perhaps appear to be overwhelming, ended up being resolved, or they ended up turning into almost a type of good fortune on their own that I couldn’t have anticipated. I’m very thankful. It’s not because I possess any particular skill or work ethic different than anyone else. In fact, I feel like things are a lot simpler for me than many other folks I’ve seen—including folks who are working regular jobs trying to get by. Again, I’ve just been extraordinarily lucky.
MILES: It’s great that you’ve been able to turn around situations that may be difficult into a positive. I think that there’s a lot of folks out there, especially now and maybe as times have changed…you know, the state of the arts, for people coming up, is in a very strange place right now, it’s tough. I think that the public has developed a distaste for paying for music, literature, and whatnot, and a lot of us struggle in that sense, finding it difficult to get paid for our artistic creations or move down that career path. As far as that side of it goes and how it’s changed over the years, do you think that has had an impact on how you’ve managed the music part of your career? You’ve talked about the fact that you have a lot of music that you’ve been stockpiling—new music—do you think that the music business side of all of this and where it is at right now has hurt you at all? Has it impacted you at all? Or is it more complicated than that?
A.W.K.: I don’t know, great questions. I haven’t really thought about that very much. There wasn’t a lot of planning or design that went into steps or choices or directions I’ve gone in. It was just getting up every day and seeing what happens. I’m not necessarily proud of that. I don’t necessarily recommend that to anyone. Typically, it’s just how this has worked out for me. I felt that it would be exhausting to look at the landscape or the industry in that way and try to work within it or without it. I just, I don’t really know how to explain it…I just, I just kept working. It’s never really been a problem for me. I never really made any money from music in the first place, so it wasn’t really a change for me. I think if you’re a very famous, successful artist like…well, Metallica is a great example because they really had to go into a battle for that. That really did impact them and their income and their business and maybe their whole approach to what they did when the industry began changing. But I wasn’t really an established artist at that time, I was just coming out right when Napster was blowing up, and that side of things revealed itself with how people could get access to music. I thought it was all fine and fun, but I didn’t have a lot of overhead. I still don’t. I think I’ve always been in kind of a sweet spot. I’m not too high up on a level where there’s a lot of pressure and stress, and I’m not too low on a level where I’m desperate for every penny. Money has never really been a big part of this. Like so many people, it wasn’t about trying to make money. I was excited to make money so I could play…to buy more equipment, a new backdrop for a tour, make money to shoot a better video, hire more people to be in the band, Just keep going, that was the focus. The focus was just feeling, the feeling of excitement, that’s always the center point. I don’t feel like I’ve been very diverse when it comes to focus. It’s always been a single focus on a type of excited energy about life. I think that because of that being the focus, all of these other things can come and go, change, shift around, and it can appear as though I’m doing a bunch of different things with all different stuff happening, or that it’s all scattered, but it’s really not at all. It’s just this guy who is really into promoting and conjuring up this full-fledged excitement—emotional, physical, spiritual, mental excitement about life.