This DJ Will Rock You!!!
~~ Close Calls with Brick Walls ~~
Andrew WK takes rockin’ out to the next level
There comes a time in every music lover’s life when they have to acknowledge the fact that most of their beloved artists are touring on behalf of the bottom line. Skyrocketing ticket prices and $80 concert T-shirts are but one symptom of the grossly disproportionate gap between performer and audience member.Stadium rocker extraordinaire Andrew W.K. is the antithesis of your typical money-grubbing, corporately groomed pop star. His approach to his craft is a breath of fresh air that blows into town in the form of a self-propelled Highway Party Cruiser Tour that will see him hit three Alberta venues. Indeed, clad in a tight white T-shirt, even tighter jeans, dark, stringy locks and a bloodied upper lip, Andrew W.K. is coming to your town to help you party down.
"The whole point of going to these places is to be there, to spend time with the people and enjoy interactions based purely on having fun. I wanted to expand my resources and doing these get-together-style concerts allows me to be with the audience and thereby continue adding more experiences. Some of the highlights of the Party tour have come after the concerts, in the two to 10 hours that follow, hanging out with the people who had come to see us play and celebrate."
Seeking to reconnect with his fanbase, Andrew W.K. pulls no punches when it comes to getting in your face. In fact, it was the brutally bloody cover of his breakthrough album, I Get Wet, that garnered as much attention as the music itself. The offending photo of Andrew with a healthy trail of gore leaking from his proboscis was the result of an intentional run-in with a cinder block. Many were intimidated by the sheer violence of the image, but others were intrigued by Andrew W.K.’s unapologetic commitment to the physicality of his preferred genre. Similarly, some of his best promotional opportunities came when he broke his foot while performing on stage and persisted in finishing his tour rocking out hardcore in a steel wheelchair and plaster cast.
"We got some great pictures out of that incident," W.K. muses. "We made the best of a lousy situation. I’ve maintained cuts on my forehead – one in particular could easily be opened up with a fingernail. I hadn’t initially done it for that reason, but a friend explained that it was a common move in pro wrestling to have a perpetual ‘bleeder’ that you could use to get gory. I’ve used it for some publicity shots, but in terms of injury the things that have happened to me on tour, considering the craziness, were thankfully just bizarre accidents and fluke injuries. I don’t blame the events or myself. These things could have happened at home in my own living room."
Happy accidents have led to some of his greatest creative achievements. He recently found himself in the surreal situation of being invited to a songwriting sweatshop hosted by none other than Glenn Quagmire’s objet d’amour, Taylor Hanson.
"I had a great time working with Taylor Hanson. He invited a bunch of people to a songwriting conference at his home in Tulsa. As a musician who usually works as an individual, I’ve never really experienced being a participant in that kind of thing. We all build brick walls to try and reinforce our own tastes and abilities and it works. But at the same time it isolates and constricts you when you could be performing at an even higher level."
Andrew W.K., who has often been accused of being a fictional character, was thrilled to be invited to appear as an animated version of himself on the ridiculously subversive cartoon series Aqua Teen Hunger Force, alongside the show’s stars Master Shake, Meat Wad and Frylock.
"Appearing on Aqua Teen Hunger Force was one of the greatest honours I’ve ever received. I had become friends with the amazing group of people at Cartoon Network, and they wanted me to perform a song on the show. I was so busy at the time that it made more sense for them to write the song for me. I really like the way they drew me and I loved getting to impersonate myself."
A self-made (Iron)man, Andrew W.K. is gradually overcoming a strong aversion to collaborating with anyone on anything. He still records most of his own instrumentation, jumping from guitar to drum kit to mike to mixing board with inexhaustible enthusiasm. Relaxing his grip on preconceived perfection, he plans to invite a number of friends and collaborators to contribute to his next album. Moving rapidly from one project to the next, he wants to launch two new albums and several websites in the next two years. In addition, he plans to give his latest album, Close Calls with Brick Walls, its North American debut in vinyl form. Originally recorded and released solely in Asia, the new issue of CCWBW will feature five previously unreleased bonus tracks.
"I’m very excited that I’m going to be presenting so many projects at once," he says. "It has been kind of a convoluted process, but I really wanted to take my time and focus on each individually in turn."
W.K. is known for working independently and it was only until recently that he entertained the idea of having musicians join him in the studio.
"I preferred to perform every piece on the album myself in order to achieve my ideal results. I’ve always been opposed to the idea of collaboration for some reason, but I plan on opening up with my next album and asking friends to play on it."
Another collaboration for Andrew W.K. is the television show Smoke Show, an idea that stemmed from his experience working on his live in-concert DVD.
"It was really exciting to work with screen and sound simultaneously. I combine words with gut instinct spontaneously and without self-consciousness. Words and images translate visual and auditory impulses into statement. My Smoke Show will be like a winning race-car driver laying celebratory black rubber as he burns a victory lap at Nascar!"
Andrew W.K. performs at Broken City Sunday, April 15, 2007
by Christine Leonard
Originally published April 2007 in FastForward Magazine.