Life is all about partying. Or so Andrew W.K. would have you believe.
In an odd way, the guy’s onto something. Andrew W.K. has a legion of fans who subscribe to his party-all-the-time mantra, and for good reason: The dude's all about having fun. And what’s wrong with that? Unlike a lot of people who will twist having fun into dark, dangerous and destructive behavior, he’s a firm believer that partying is all about positivity. To him, partying comes down to simply celebrating life, appreciating the people close to you (and yourself) and just being happy to be able to party at all.
For the uninitiated, Andrew W.K. burst onto the music scene almost out of nowhere in 2001 with his now-party classic album, I Get Wet. The album featured a controversial cover of him bleeding (Oh, no! So much blood! Call the FCC!) from his nose, and down his mouth and chin. If anything, having such an instantly recognizable album cover definitely worked in his favor; people (like me and my friends) bought it in droves, supported him, passed the word along, and now -- 10 years later -- he’s rolling through San Diego’s Epicentre in Mira Mesa on Friday night, for a hotly anticipated all-ages stop during his Party Hard Holiday Solo Tour and getting ready to release his first book in 2014, The Party Bible.
Bottom line: He just wants to keep the party goin’. Luckily, he set aside some time from partying to talk with SoundDiego before the show.
Dustin Lothspeich: Why the decision to do a solo tour around the holidays?
Andrew W.K.: This style of show -- with me and a keyboard -- goes back to the very beginnings of what I’d do as a child, really. Piano’s my first instrument. And once I started doing W.K. around 15 years ago, I didn’t have a band. So, I’d grab a keyboard and play the shows by myself. It’s important and valuable to me to be able to stay close to that style of playing. Don’t get me wrong: I love playing with my band -- we’re playing New York on Year's Eve -- but I like the feeling I get from solo shows. I’ve never played a solo show like this in San Diego, and, who knows?I might not play it here again. It could be a singular, once-in-a-lifetime event.
I’ve started doing more of these shows -- it’s become kind of an informal tradition, actually -- over the last few years. It kind of started in New York, or the Northeast realm, when I was asked to play one of these one-off solo shows around Christmas. And it turns out I’ve been doing it every year since 2006. Every year, it gets bigger, and this year, we added West Coast shows, too. It’s just taken on a life of its own. And it’s been thrilling. It’s great that there’s already an automatic festivity in the air because of the holidays. But it’s an experiment: You never know what’s going to happen. There are definitely pros and cons, but it’s exciting.
DL: Are solo shows more difficult to play or ultimately more rewarding?
AWK: It’s an unpredictable, vulnerable position to put myself in. I get very charged up. It’s a freaky, scary feeling when you’re up there without the full band. But it does give it a lot more room for other people to get involved with the show. It’s really not so much a concert as it is a "presentation." It’s more of a party atmosphere, where everyone there can feel included, and that’s really important to me. But, yes, it’s definitely a challenge. It’s a good challenge, though. It's unpredictable. We’re gonna make it up together. When you’re up there in a band setting, with eight of your best friends, you have a sense of security vs. these shows, when I’m up there with just one guy named Blakey Boy.
DL: Who’s Blakey Boy?
AWK: Blakey Boy is my right-hand man. He’ll be up there prancing, dancing, caterwauling -- setting the tone! He showcases the style in which we like to party, with the dancing, the singing along -- the closest I can compare these shows to is basically hanging out with your friends at a house, singing songs and having a great time with your buds. The shows will get as charged up as we can make it, and the music actually translates really well to just me and a keyboard. It’s just easy to get into. The energy comes from the music and being together.
DL: Do you ever get tired of playing your most well-known songs, like "Party Hard," off I Get Wet?
AWK: No, definitely not. There have been times where I’ve been physically worn down, where I’ve just done a ton of head-banging, marching and hollering. But, much to my surprise, I’ve enjoyed playing these songs more and more over the years.
DL: And why is that?
AWK: It’s just more thrilling. I think I’m more thankful. I’m more amazed that any of it has happened at all. I’m amazed it actually exists. I compare it to being thankful for my parents, who created me, made me, took care of me since I was born, who were constantly there for me -- and how I always took them for granted. That’s how I felt about these songs. They gave birth to my existence. They launched the spaceship into the adventure.
DL: Did you ever think the adventure would involve you opening the Black Sabbath tour over last summer as a "special party DJ"? What was that like?
AWK: It was a fantasy dream come true. I’m still processing it, actually. Just getting to see them perform every day and be up close to the shows like that, and be on the road with people who have accomplished so much, and how you can see what they do -- and what they’ve done -- at such a high level; You can feel it! It’s an atmosphere that permeates all the surroundings they occupy. That’s how you know you’re in the presence of godlike people.
DL: For some younger kid who’s looking to get into partying: Do you have any tips for them to get started?
AWK: It’s a vast but very simple subject. Most great subjects seem to straddle the extreme -- something very complicated, but also very pure. My advice is to stay very close and very connected to things that make you feel good -- physically as well as mentally good -- in your life, and in your soul. Don’t doubt those things. Doubt is helpful, and has its place in life, but when something is crying out to you and drawing you toward it in a positive way -- that’s something to really cherish. There will be plenty of times in life to doubt. So if we have something really uplifting to turn to in those darker moments, it can be a lifesaver, quite literally. Learn what makes you happy to be alive. Life doesn’t have to be easy all the time. Life is amazing and intense -- it’s a full spectrum. We’re just trying to pump each other up and cheer each other up. Be aware of your own mortality, be aware of how fragile life is -- but make the most of it and be amazed by it. No matter how dark life gets, there are always possibilities.
Dustin Lothspeich plays in Old Tiger, Diamond Lakes, Chess Wars and Boy King. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.