I saw an interview with Andrew W.K. a few years ago in which he discussed music, partying and life. Partying, obviously, refers to having a good time and enjoying life. This seems to be a common theme for the artist, as he enjoys being a professional musician and living his dreams. I was recently given the chance to speak with W.K. about the upcoming Skate And Surf Festival, going on tour with Marky Ramone, and some of his guilty pleasures. With the amount of fame he has garnered, Andrew has remained humble for all of the opportunities bestowed upon him, and he truly appreciates being able to live his life doing what he loves and inspiring others to do the same. Check out what he had to say below:
You’ve got a busy year ahead of you, with the Skate And Surf Festival coming up on May 18. For you, is there a difference in energy between playing a festival or a small club?
There’s a lot of good omens and excitement in the atmosphere about it. This will be a different show by me because this will be the first time playing Skate And Surf as a solo set. I’m really excited about that because it’ll be a new experience for me and the audience. I really love the crowd and everyone else that is there to become my band and sing along together. With all of the bands and acts that’ll be there, hopefully this will be a fun contrast as well for the audience.
What is your favorite festival to attend, whether you are performing or viewing as a fan?
Most festivals that I’ve been to is on natural grounds, parking lots or amphitheaters. In Japan, they have this festival called Summer Sonic that is in a baseball stadium. If you’ve ever been to a stadium concert, there’s a really intense dramatic atmosphere that comes along with that surrounding. But to me, every festival has a certain magic to it that connects different kind of vibes in terms of where they are and how they are put together. I like that people come and they might not even know any of the performers, and just come for the party.
And festivals are so special to music in general because even though single act shows are nice, fests are treated more like a party.
Totally, and people might be going to see one act, or a couple, and might find one that they’ve never heard of or see someone that you didn’t expect to see or enjoy. There’s always this sense of discovery, all of those other people being here, and it’s conducive to meeting new people. There’s so many beautiful people there and there’s unending beauty on all sides.
You’ll be heading on tour with Marky Ramone to play some Ramones songs. Would you like to tell us a bit about it?
Yeah, he invited me to go on tour with his band, Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg, and I will be singing lead vocals on tour for 34 Ramones hits. I mean, I’m in a state of shock about the whole thing—it still hasn’t sunken in yet. We have been rehearsing and having a blast for about three or four months now, and it still feels like a dream. I’m just so amazed that he asked me of all people and am very humbled by it. It’s already made me a better singer and I think it’s made me a better person as well. It’s unbelievable.
Was there a song that you listened to by them growing up that you were excited to perform with Marky and the band?
Back when I first moved to New York, I was in a record store by the vinyl records and they were playing this song. I just had to stand there and listen to it. When it finished, I asked the cashier what song it was, and she explained that it was “Bonzo Goes To Bitburg (My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down)” by the Ramones. I actually requested to Marky when we started talking, if we could add that song to the set and play. It’s something that is very magical. If someone were to tell me that I would be playing that song with Marky Ramone and traveling around the world performing all of these amazing Ramones songs, I would not have believed it. I would have passed out.
You’ll also be playing at your own venue, Santos Party House.
Yes, the first show. I just feel very blown away, very grateful, very lucky, almost too lucky. Like, how lucky can we get to play with Marky Ramone at the venue that my friends and I opened? I don’t take any of it for granted and it’s extremely motivating to make the most of these opportunities because they are so amazing and for all the people that don’t get to do this stuff, I wanna do right by them too. Sometimes the universe chooses things for us that otherwise makes things that would be impossible not only possible, but come true.
It took quite a while for you to obtain a cabaret license for Santos Party House. Upon working the details out, was the license one of the most important aspects of the venue idea?
Yes, that was challenging. We didn’t want to move into someone else’s venue and change the name, we built a brand new venue. We had the space for three years before we even opened. We paid rent and everything. It was a complete over-the-top challenge, and it was a group effort. I’m very thankful to everybody who came together to make this place possible. You can’t really open up a place like that unless you have a huge amount of help.
In terms of music today, the instrumental aspects of music create a certain tone, a certain feel. It engages the audience into the song. Do you view lyrics as an essential part in building this engagement or do you think it can be done by the music itself?
There are songs that I like very much that I don’t know what the lyrics are, but I will get an overall sensation from the rhythm, the melody, or the overall delivery. There are also songs that match the feeling of the music, where each one elevates the other. It’s almost like the lyrics are singing about the feeling the music is making.
For me, I’ve never been a big lyricist, where I would sit down and write words first. I’m not proud of that, it’s just not how I work. I usually make the music and then try to sing about the way the music makes me feel. But there’s room to all types of approaches to music. Some people specialize in lyrics because some people want to relate to these words, you know?
Right. Lots of people like relating to songs, even though they may not want to admit some of the songs that they relate to. Dave Grohl discussed pleasure in music in his keynote at SXSW, “Forget guilty pleasures! What about just pleasure? I can honestly say that ‘Gangnam Style’ is one of my favorite songs of the last 10 years.” What do you think of this statement?
I totally agree with him. For years, especially when I was first starting out, I was asked what my guilty pleasures were. I would say, “If I like it, I won’t feel guilty about it at all.” I would like to encourage everyone to like what they want. If something gives you a sensation of joy and happiness, especially if it is music, why question or be embarrassed by it at all?
What album, song or artist has been giving you pleasure and joy lately?
The album I have been listening to the most lately—once and sometimes twice a day—is Harmony Corruption by Napalm Death. That album has this ability to make me feel like I am a nuclear explosion with the amount of energy that I get, even just thinking about it. It’s been about 13 years listening to it, and I only like it more and am thankful for it.
What has been the most surreal moment of your life so far?
The more I think about it, my whole life seems surreal. Not that I am amazed by my own life, in that way, but it just seems so unreal and bizarre. It certainly doesn’t seem like I can take credit for this. I try to look at all of the people involved, all the mentors and amazing folks that have helped [make] this all happen. I just feel like being alive in general is surreal.
Andrew W.K. will play at the Skate And Surf Festival on May 18 and Irving Plaza in NYC with Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg on Oct. 3. For more information, go to andrewwk.com.