Interview: Andrew WK - ‘Partying kept me going through the hard times’

WHAT a decade it’s been for Andrew WK. But it hasn’t all been a party. Celebrating the tenth anniversary of his smash debut I Get Wet ahead of his UK tour, Andrew WK talks to reporter Andrew Trendell about tough times, New York, Sonisphere and partying hard.

So are you just taking I Get Wet around the US at the moment then?

Yes, we are almost one month into our world tour and I consider all of this as just great preparation, practice and building to the UK shows. By the time we get there we are going to be in top, top form.

Obviously I Get Wet has proven to be an immense milestone in your career so far, but how does it feel to get back into the mindset of playing the album in its entirety?

We’ve played all of these songs consistently and regularly, but it’s just interesting to play them in the album order. It’s just a very different and refreshing way for us as a band to play a show. At most concerts it’s usually a surprise where the audience wonders what song is coming next, but this way if you’re familiar with the record then the whole album effectively becomes one long song and that can be very satisfying.

So how does it feel to take it out there and ask fans to consider it as a whole body of work rather than just a collection of songs?

To me, it is just a collection of songs. I don’t know if there’s a thread or anything. With all of this music I usually just take it one song at a time and make it the most exciting song I can and then make another one. After you do that about 10 or 11 times then you have an album.

It seems that you’re enjoying a lot of freedom at the moment as an artist, especially after making 55 Cadillac (his instrumental jazz album). Is this just another part of you spreading your wings some more?

55 Cadillac was a totally different album for me. The whole real point of it was to do the exact opposite of what I normally would. I wasn’t writing songs or taking the time to record them, I was just making it up as I went along. As an album it was also the result of a whole lot of legal loopholes and a stand-off that I had got into between me and some of the folks that I worked with over the years. I thought that the album would be a way to fix a lot of those problems and it wasn’t in the end, but it was very enjoyable. I’m not super-proud of the music but I’m glad that it exists.

Did you learn anything from that and your experience on the One Man Show tour that fed back into your normal day-to-day rock career?

We always find ways to keep going, and I do take full responsibility for the decisions I’ve made – some have been great and others not so great. Even when I’ve got into trouble I can’t blame it on anyone but myself. There were a couple of years there between 2005 and 2009 where it was really intense – just battling with people and these contracts that I signed without fully understanding what they entailed. I still can’t believe it but we kept going and working. Looking back I think that it was destined to be that way as I developed skills and abilities that I wouldn’t have developed otherwise. You have to embrace the adversity and the challenges – you can’t let them stop you but let them feed you and make you stronger.

In the end I wouldn’t change anything, even though I was very depressed at times and extremely angry and frustrated and dealing with a lot of anxiety. We just wouldn’t be as strong as we are now as an organisation and now I fully understand what I am committed to doing and I appreciate every bit of it.

How did you go about dealing with those tough times and anxieties of the past seven years whilst having to keep up this public persona of the ‘hard-partying’ Andrew WK?

That’s the joy. That’s the easy part that gives me reason to keep going. It’s not just me trying to entertain other people – it’s me trying to be best that I can be. Because of how frustrating and painful those times and transitions were, the music and getting to do what I do otherwise is what kept me going and is where I found happiness. The whole adventure is a blessing and privilege and I never take it for granted. I still feel like the luckiest person on the face of the Earth because I’m getting to make my dreams come true and I’ve been humbled so many times to realise that even if it doesn’t feel like things are going in the right direction, you’re still on a road is already set up for you. You don’t always have to understand where it’s taking you or why. You’ve got to have some blind trust in your destiny, and as long as you work as hard as you possibly can then things will generally be OK.

The decade since I Get Wet was released has been one of immense change - especially as the album was released the year of 9/11. How much would you say that New York has changed as a city for an artist?

The longer that I live in New York, the more I love it. It was always changing long before I started living here and it will continue to do so. That’s the nature of the city. It’s an amazing place just to visit or walk around in, let alone to live there. My past was only sparked to life as soon as I moved to New York City. I grew up in Michigan before that and that was an amazing place where so many people had a huge impact on me, but sometimes you just have a feeling about who you are and where you’re supposed to be. New York is clearly where I was born to live.

Do you think that you’d have a different sound if you’d lived anywhere else?

I don’t know, that’s a good question. I think it’s the excitement, possibilities and electric energy of New York that makes me feel the way that I feel and makes my music the way it is. I’m completely exhilerated. It’s an intense place. Whatever I do, I just want it to be intense.

I always find that it’s such a welcoming place.

Oh, that is so good to hear. I think it’s because the people love the city and are proud of it. I’m glad you found it that way because people do make a big effort and we want people to come. There’s a level of appreciation for the city even existing at all. It’s a truly remarkable city and there’s nowhere quite like it. It’s as singular in my life as my mom, my dad, my brother or my wife.

A lot of your fans in England were quite devastated about not being able to see you at Sonisphere. How do you feel about it and what have you heard about the whole thing?

I was just hearing about it last week and it wasn’t completely confirmed that it was going to be cancelled, but when I heard that it wasn’t happening I was extraordinarilly disappointed - like everyone else. We’d been looking forward to play that festival for a long time and it was going to be a bunch of people come together to love music. Bu the sadness if ultimately replaced by the drive to make a new festival and try to have someone else fill that gap.

Any plans to play any other UK festivals this summer?

If we’re invited then I would love to.

And finally, who are the top three people that you’d like to party with - alive or dead?

Hmm, I would like to party with Michael Jordan, for sure. Martha Stewart - she seems pretty hardcore and I’ve seen photos of her at some unlikely parties and she seems to have a pretty open-mind and a lot of enthusiasm. And finally, dad. I’d like my dad. That would be fun and he’d get a kick out of that party himself.

Do you see a common thread that runs through those three choices?

Yeah - they’re all awesome!

- Andrew WK will play Manchester Academy on Friday 13th April

- The 10th anniversary deluxe reissue of I Get Wet is released on 17th July