Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Andrew W.K Interview: I Get Wet Tour, Gundams, Burritoes, and more!

Andrew W.K. played a show at The Masquerade on April 5th. I was able to have a chat with Andrew a few hours before the gig. We discussed everything from the latest tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of his debut album I Get Wet, Gundams, what he looks for when producing, and talk of a new record in the making.

You first released the album
I Get Wet about over ten years ago. When it comes to Andrew W.K. on a personal level, do you consider that release as your definitive piece of work, or do you feel like there is a lot more to Andrew W.K. than just those group of songs?

Andrew: That's a great question! I would say yes and no to both. Any piece of work that I put out, I hope is definitive to someone. As much as no one can really be summed up in any one way, I can't be summed up by that or anything else I've done, I hope I can't be summed up. And that you can't be summed up, and that any of the readers can't be summed up, everyone is infinite in their depth and complexity. But if I had to be defined, I'd love to be known as the bloody nose, party guy! That's a privilege. I'd like to offer something of value to someone out there in this world, and if they can find some value in any of the work, that's a blessing, hopefully for us both!

So you do kind of see yourself as the party guy?

Oh absolutely!

Over the years, you've explored many different realms of the entertainment industry. Everything from producing, television, owning a venue in NYC, motivational speaking. Is there any aspect of the entertainment industry that you would like to get into? Or would you rather concentrate on the areas you've already stepped in?

There are a few more realms to explore. I think you'll see it as I do it. I think we had a great bunch of fun so far, and I don't see it stopping anytime soon.

What inspired you to record the Gundam Rock? It was only released in Japan. Has Mobile Suit Gundam always been an interest of yours?

Actually no, I had been familiar with it for many years as the sort of original robot superhero animated series. I mean it has quite a proud and influential legacy. But I only found out more about it after having gone to Japan to play concerts and do my works there. One of the main folks, a man named Kimi Kato, who is a higher up gentlemen at Universal. He is a huge Gundam fan, and just traveling around the city, we would pass a store or a vending machine, or some display that had some new Gundam that he had not seen or purchased yet. Or sometimes even though he already had them, he would purchase extras. He was the first real passionate collector of Gundams that I had really gotten to meet and talk with. So he taught me about Gundams, educated me about Gundams, and then almost like divine twist of the tale, the Sunrise Corporation that owns the Gundam franchise, approached Universal and me about doing this rock tribute album. With special new versions of these classic, wonderful Gundam songs. I had already been familiar with a couple of the Gundam songs, having recorded for example Ai Senshi on my other special Japanese covers album. So it was a very natural progression to hunker down into the Gundam material. I gotta say, it was one of the most challenging, but also most rewarding recording experiences I've ever had, just because the songs were very complex arrangements, and I tried my absolute best to be true as I possible could to the original arrangements. In terms of the horns, strings, percussion, backup vocals, really fantastic music. What I mostly did was translate the words in English, add some extra guitar, few different twists and turns here. But the songs are so good that at points its not so much about changing them, its just about reveling in their beauty.

Have you ever given much thought to playing those songs from Gundam Rock in a live format? Maybe take them to anime or comic conventions around North America or Japan?

Sure, if there's an invitation, I'd gladly do it. I did play some of those songs in Japan as we were releasing and celebrating the album. That was very fun, again challenging, but also rewarding. There songs for me when they first hit you, it was almost like a new color or a new flavor of ice cream that you'd never tasted or imagined before. But then once you get that taste, it stays with you forever. And those songs have become some of my favorite songs, so I'd love to play them even more, live or elsewhere.

In terms of producing, you've been through a wide variety of different genres and collaborations. Ad jingles, Japanese ringtones, noise and art groups, Reggae legend Lee "Scratch" Perry. As a producer, are there any genres or sounds that you would like to help capture in the future?

To me its all spirited, intense music. Spirited people with spirited visions, intense ideas. That's what I wanna be around. Fortunately you find that in all different ways. Different modes, different styles, different instruments, different deliveries. As long as its intense and stimulating, then I'm most likely gonna be drawn to it. I don't really look for a soothing, relaxing experience from culture, music, art, etc. I have to be blown away. I wanna be shredded, I want my mind shocked, freaked out, inspired! To me that's very uplifting. It makes me feel like there's possibilities out there beyond my understanding. Things that I still don't know about. That keeps me in a state of awe, wonder, and joy. So as long as it hits those marks, you will find me there.

Is putting on the live show the thing that drives you the most to be a musician?

No, although that feeling certainly encapsulates all that we've been talking about in terms of intensity, uplifting, and inspiring sort of power. But you can get those same feelings either imaging a live performance, or just listening to a recording. As long as it takes you to a place of extreme joy or pleasure, it counts! Fortunately there's all these different ways to get there. It's true that a live concert experience, where there's a person there to deliver something, an audience to receive it, and then bounce it back...that's a magical space that nothing else can really touch. I like the fact that a recording is different from that, as much as I like the fact that a performance is much different from recording an album.

What type of memories come to mind when you think of Atlanta, Georgia?

Oh geez, I mean we've played here quite a bit! Between Ozzfest, two different Warped tours, at least four of our own tours. Halloween party, last year I guess, and here we on again! Not to mention coming here for my work with Turner television, Destroy Build Destroy. It's one of the great cities of the U.S. And its only seemed to of been booming bigger and bigger! So it's always a joy. I remember the last time we were here at The Masquerade, there wasn't all these beautiful new apartments and houses, so that was really impressive. We came here another time, we went to Little Five Points, because we had a flight that got canceled and we had a night here. So we came into downtown area, went over to Five Points, ate a great meal, and had a great time! Its always been a delightful, special place.

Five Points has really good restaurants for sure!

Yes there is some awesome food. Tasty subs, salads. Very good burritos!

In the next ten or so years, where do you see yourself as a performer?

Hopefully just better, you know? Just better in every way. That's all I could really be sure about. The rest will develop as it goes, I'll just do my best along the way. I'd like to continue to develop more skills, to be able to manifest this kind of feeling I'm going after. Definitely got better since I started, so I'd like to continue that. Maybe there's a point where you just don't get better, but I've got good role models, for example Lee "Scratch" Perry. I think he is a master creator, and has only increased and refined his powers over a fifty or sixty year career.

You've been a performer since a very young age. Would you ever want to try out other lifestyles, or do you see yourself as a lifetime entertainer?

Yes I have no other interests in doing anything else. Sometimes I felt weird about that, a lot of my friends have all sorts of different interests. I just don't have enough space in my brain, or my soul, or heart, just enough energy in my body to really care about anything else. Sometimes I feel weird about that because I have other friends and family members who sort of have their work, and then they go off and do other stuff. Like go fishing, hiking, research certain projects, build things, etc. I just have no interest in any of that. Every interest I've ever had is been able to be put to use in entertainment. So drawing, painting, sculpture, films, TV, radio, music, performing, writing. This includes everything I've ever cared about. It still is sort of like one thing, I guess like your saying entertainment, or performing. But for me its the whole world.

In the next couple of years, do you see yourself touring for I Get Wet primarily or are you guys gonna branch out from that?

This is a special tour that ends in June. And then in June I'll go back to NYC and resume recording the latest album. But this tour is special because it was this idea that snuck up on us that "Oh wow we have this ten year anniversary to celebrate!" Not just our album, but just sort of existing for ten years. Its been exciting to play the I Get Wet album, our debut first full length, from all the way through at these live shows, in order. And then we play songs from all the other albums as well.

You guys have never done all of I Get Wet before right?

Exactly! This is a totally new and very thrilling experience. The shows have been going fantastic and are very encouraging for the future. We've always played, for the most part, almost all the songs on I Get Wet for the show anyway, but just never in this order. So that's sort of the new twist on it. But those songs were the ignition that started this whole explosion. And out of respect for the power that they've given this adventure, we can never turn away from them. We'll always continue to play those songs, as well as all the other great songs we can squeeze into an evening's concert.

Can you give us any kind of time table on when your next album will be released?

As soon as its done, I don't wanna rush it. But I do wanna get it done as quickly as possible. There is a lot of hangups and delays for various reasons. There's an open area right now that should allow us to get it done sooner rather than later.

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