A.W.K.: Is he for real? Let’s find out

Hatchet: Is this the first time you’ve played a college show?

Andrew W.K.: This is the third or fourth one we’ve done, and I don’t mean this as any disrespect at all to the organizers or to George Washington University, but I was talking to some kids today, and many students didn’t even know we had a concert today. I’ve had that happen at my other college shows, where the university won’t really promote the show … It seems like everyone who was there had a great time, and I certainly had a great time. It was a little weird, though, because one of the guys that works with our crew wanted to get an ad in The Washington Post for the show, and the school said no, because then people who aren’t students here would want to come. I didn’t realize this was for students only, so that was a bit of a let down.

H: Are you glad that the mainstream media seems to be picking up on the idea that your shows are just about wholesome energy?

W.K.: Yeah, it’s just a good time, and that’s what it’s meant to be … I think that’s maybe why a lot of different types of people are picking up on this music. The music does not in any way dictate who you are supposed to be … it doesn’t in any way define who you are, it just says that you are a person who enjoys having fun. Our shows are supposed to be a place where everybody feels OK; you’re not at odds, you don’t have to prove yourself or set yourself apart, your focus can just be on enjoying yourself. It’s like at a sporting event. You’ll find yourself cheering along with lots of people from different backgrounds, different ages, different cultures, all for the same thing. You’re not worrying about your job tomorrow or what you’ve done in the past, you’re there for that common vision, for that moment.

H: You talk about how you’re always on tour – 300 shows last year – and always signing autographs, getting pictures taken, doing 36 hour recording sessions. When are you going to sit down and say, “I need six months off”?

W.K.: Six years ago, when I had just gotten out of high school, I was working in a parking garage, and every waking moment I had for myself was devoted to making music. People ask what I do with my free time and I just say, “Well, this is what I do.” I haven’t reached a point yet where I felt like I need a vacation. It doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but this is what we came to do. It actually really excites me to think about how far I can push myself. These songs are all about pushing yourself, and if I didn’t do that myself, I’d just be a hypocrite, I wouldn’t be following the spirit of my own music. For all I know, I’ll die tomorrow or we won’t make it to the next show, so I’m just going to keep pushing and doing everything I can with my time.

H: What do you say to people who claim your music is simpleminded?

W.K.: I honestly want to know when that became a bad thing. When did it become uncool to enjoy yourself? When did celebrating, dancing, singing, smiling and having a really good time become not a good thing to be doing? I guess there have always been people like that – total bummers, total buzzkills – but I really think this music would make those people feel better. But if someone says to me, “Your music is just a big stupid party?” Well, yeah, of course it is. I’m not saying it isn’t. So what? Are you going to dance? I guess in this day and age, where things are really complex, where there’s a lot of stress and anxiety about the state of the world, and war and your own life, it sometimes seems trivial to enjoy things like music. I think in an environment such as this, people need simple pleasures, they need simple music. Find happiness even in the things you don’t like. Take good things from bad things. Don’t ever second-guess the things that make you happy. I don’t really understand the people that say they don’t “get” this music. There’s nothing to get! Either you like it or you don’t, and either way is fine. There’s no epiphany where you suddenly understand it all. If you tap your toe or get a melody stuck in your head, then you know everything there is to know about this music.

H: People talk a lot about how your music is a “revival,” and they make a lot of ’80’s comparisons. What are your thoughts on that?

W.K.: This isn’t supposed to return to anything previously done. It’s not supposed to reestablish something I feel has been lost. It’s not a tribute to any one person or idea. It’s not a revival. It’s simply this: A few hundred years ago, when music on a more instrumental level was starting to get really organized and move forward, people started to develop new instruments and new patterns and ways of notation and recording. People kept pushing and making things bigger, inventing new instruments ’til you had full-blown symphonies, and then electronic instruments, always in an attempt to keep that euphoric energy flowing. There’s something about music that always has just brought a rush, more so than anything else for me. So maybe the only revival you’re hearing is that. The reason my music generally sounds “huge” is for the same reason someone three hundred years ago turned a string quartet into an orchestra. The same way people express their feeling for the divine with cathedrals, so that even people that aren’t of the same faith or don’t have any faith still are in awe of the presentation. I want to do the same with music (because) it communicates my passion and expression. I want as many voice tracks, as many guitar tracks, as many strings as I can to make this as big and spectacular as possible. There’s just no other option for me. There are always people that will say, “Oh, music was better 40 years ago.” Well, OK, maybe you enjoy that music better, but what would have happened if people 40 years ago felt that way (about music then)? There’s never a pinnacle moment, there’s never a best, there never will be a best, because that’s what keeps us striving and pursuing to get more and more of that feeling that music gives us.

H: I guess there are a lot of people out there who, for whatever reason, think you’re a phony or you’re just putting on an act. Are you for real?

W.K.: Yes, of course. But that’s not my decision, it’s your decision. It’s you that’s going to decide whether or not to have fun with it and think it’s for real. It doesn’t matter what I say. I could put on a giant celebration with 10,000 people all dancing and singing and there’s still going to be someone there in the back shaking his head and saying, “Nah, I don’t know. I don’t think so.” If someone asks me if I’m for real, well, the answer is yes, but I can’t get inside your head and make you think that way. Even for people that come up to me and tell me that I’ve changed their life – no, you changed your life. I was just here doing this at the right place at the right time. Maybe I had a hand in pointing something out, but I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

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