Your brain is like a tightly woven ball of spaghetti. Sometimes you have to unravel it and see what’s in there.
story by Chris McNamara
photo by Soren McCarty / www.musicimagery.com
A few years back at Metro, Andrew closed his set by climbing atop his keyboard as his band cranked out the closing notes. He squatted on his haunches, then launched forward as the final drums crashed. But rather than soar into a triumphant leap, his feet slipped and he crashed to the floor. And the crowd roared. Weird thing is, it made more of an impact than had he leapt to Lee Rothian heights. That’s the story of Andrew W.K. – the outsider, the guy who falls onstage but is having too great of a time to care. And his soundtrack is heavier than hell.
You don’t find many hard rock musicians who began classical piano at four years old. “Early training laid the foundation of music as music,” he says. “You’re not thinking about the story of a song, but more like ‘how does this music feel?'”
And you don’t find many who wear the same white T-shirt and grimy jeans each time they take the stage. “There’s absolutely no reason for it,” he offers. “They are the clothes I have, so I might as well wear them.”
And you don’t find many who rush over to a keyboard at a song’s hardest rocking point. “My songs are about the key of C major and F major,” he says. “Like, at this tempo these notes feel fantastic. My songs aren’t about anything.”
The songs may not elaborate, but the songwriter does. Andrew likes to talk, as his horse voice reveals. And he gets excited about just about any topic that arises. “Whoa! There’s an ant crawling across my leg right now!” he shouts mid-interview. But he seems intelligent. Sure, he references a song called “Victory Strikes Again” from his latest album, and his favorite band is named To Live and Shave In L.A. “Describing them is like trying to describe a coma,” he says. “It’s just something you have to experience.”
Despite comments like that, Andrew really seems like a sharp guy. He claims to be shy and enjoys his concerts because he is surrounded by girls and guys who will let him be who he is. “It’s the ideal environment to have fun,” he says. “It’s a moment in life when you can be around strangers and feel good enough to be yourself. It’s a celebration of life. That’s what I’m trying to do with music.”
While anyone who’s listened to his songs (most notably “Party Hard,” “Party Till You Puke,” “It’s Time to Party” and “Long Live the Party”) might disagree, Andrew does not consider himself the savior of fun in a musical landscape of gangsters and dour rockers.
“All music is positive. Music is naturally a good thing,” he says in defense of darker artists. “The music we’re making is not in any way a reaction against others’ music. I love angry music.”
Some of his lyrics could be construed as angry, such as this little ditty from “Ready to Die”: “Better get ready to die / Better get ready to kill / Better get ready to run ’cause here we come.” But the backing music – that “how does it feel” quality – is so positive that it neutralizes any lyrical negativity. And on stage the words are often absorbed into the thunderous guitars and keyboards anyway. “My priority in concert is to justify my good fortune,” says the singer, who makes a point of working the crowd after his set. “This music is not mine alone. It belongs to each and every one of us.”
And then there’s the dancing. It’s tricky to describe Andrew’s dance moves, but here’s a shot: Frankenstein doing Tae Bo on angel dust. He stomps with his feet, punches the air and bangs his head with the abandon of someone who was never told hair metal (or for that matter Jazzercise) went out of style. And on this tour it’s getting even…uh…better. “I’m really busting a wider array of moves now,” he says. He describes one move in which he buckles down then spreads out as “the pinnacle of hunkering.” He has added some sauntering to his repertoire in addition to “some straight up jigs and some standard jitterbug moves.”
He’s not kidding.
“Your brain is like a tightly woven ball of spaghetti,” he explains. “Sometimes you have to unravel it and see what’s in there. My brain has all new stuff in there now and my dancing benefits from that. The whole point is to make people say, ‘If he’s dancing then I can dance and feel okay.’ I want my physical presence to make others feel good.”
That it does. And MTV2 is trying to harness that ability with a program titled “Your Friend: Andrew W.K.” The guy who appeared with a bloody face on his first album, the guy who has worn the same nasty clothes for years, the guy who has advised us to get ready to kill will be offering advice to America’s youth. “Who knows why they asked me?” he says. “I’m not qualified to give advice any more than anyone else.”
Andrew W.K. will play at the Vic May 14.