This coming week, #1 party animal Andrew W.K.
plays two shows at the Mr. Roboto Project
. After the June 7 show sold out immediately, a June 8 show was added (and sold out almost as quickly). The fact that he was playing such a small venue seemed (to some) odd enough, but what touring artist ever has an extra day to just throw around?
That’s just the way Andrew likes to do it. “Rather than planning out a whole year in advance, we kind of take things as they come,” he explained over the phone. “And while there’s an unpredictable aspect to that which — at worst case — could be kind of stressful, it allows for things like [these shows] to happen. Which are definitely exciting and interesting for me, and keep me entertained. Which is important if I’m trying to entertain other people.”
I imagine these shows are going to be pretty wild.
I anticipate that, based on what people have told me about the space, and based on the reception. Getting to do all kinds of shows was always personally important to me. It’s really satisfying and enjoyable, you never get used to one kind of show. One day you’re playing at an outdoor festival for a thousand people and the next day you’re playing a place like Roboto.
That contrast is extremely stimulating for me and this music, fortunately, translates and allows both of those kinds of environments to really work. I’m very thankful to have that, to never lose touch with the first kinds of shows I went to myself, and first was playing. It never really even occurred to me that you don’t keep playing shows like that.
It’s been a few years since you put out an album, and over the years you’ve become known for other things besides music. So, what is your relationship with music these days?
Music, for me, was really like learning to ride a bike or learning to read — I guess even like learning to walk or learning to talk. It’s a very fundamental skill that has been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember. And I never imagined it would be a career, it was just something I did. It became this very elemental aspect of being alive for me.
I’ve been stockpiling songs for several years now, but haven’t had the open space to … the first album took two years to records, the second took a year. The others took me about six months. As I got better at recording I could do things more quickly but having one month — even having two weeks — of unbroken time has been very challenging for me because so many opportunities have come up. Opportunities that I just couldn’t say no to, whether getting to play with people like Marky Ramone or going on tour with Black Sabbath or getting to do motivational lectures and writing.
Although there are times where I feel frustrated because I want to record those songs, I also have faith that when it’s meant to happen, it will happen. It’s nice to have those songs ready to go, it’s great to be playing all these shows all the time, but I sort of feel like it’s all out of my control now. And that was a very scary feeling at first. At times it was very demoralizing. But I almost think that the only thing I was ever in control of was deciding to want to do anything, to want to do something, to want to contribute some kind of good feeling or power or energy. Once that became the focus, some other forces took over.
You write a weekly advice column for the Village Voice. How did that happen?
I’d done a monthly advice column for a Japanese music magazine for 10 years, and it had just ended about a year before [they] asked me to do this one. It almost seemed like destiny.
Was there a point in your life when you realized, “Hey, I’m really good at giving advice”?
I don’t know if I’m good at giving advice more than anyone else. I think everybody has the capacity to be thoughtful or to consider other people’s situations or circumstances. It’s very helpful for me to be in that mindset once a week, to try to think the highest thoughts I can, to imagine, really, ‘if I was talking to the best person in the world, with the most integrity, what would they say?’ I think about my parents, or my mom — for a lot of us, even if we didn’t get along with our parents, there was a sense of them having all the answers at some point in our early life. My mom especially had this empathetic compassionate ability to put herself [in my place] even though I knew she’d never experienced quite what I was going through.
Hopefully, if someone does get something out the advice column, they realize that whatever they may have gotten out of it — even though I may have written something about it, it’s coming out of them. Even if they think that I introduced some idea, their ability to relate to that idea is showing some presence of the idea already inside them.
Really, we’re cheering each other on, we’re pepping each other up and we’re trying to psych each other up with this sense of the highest potential.
In a way, the column gives some context to your other work. I was just having conversation with someone who said, “I just don’t get the ‘Party Party Party’ thing.” But you’re very open in the column about your own struggles with depression. I feel like the ‘Party Party Party’ thing wouldn’t work —or it wouldn’t be as real or appealing — if you were the kind of person who was always happy, or didn’t have these kinds of dark feelings.
I certainly understand what [they’re] saying. A lot of people don’t like partying: whatever they think of as partying, they don’t like that. I actually think usually they DO like partying, they just don’t realize it. They don’t realize that they already are partying and they’re just maybe misinterpreting and idea of what partying is.
My whole motivation to go into that celebratory [mode] was because, for no rational reason —there’s no reason that I should feel as bad as I have —for a lot of my life, I wasn’t happy about being alive. It was a very unpleasant experience and I wanted to try to find a way to get cheered up and to make it feel celebratory.
That feeling was the motivation for trying to feel good, trying to feel better. [It’s the idea] that you can celebrate being alive, that you can have a party about life. It can be that far reaching, that broad, that simple. It changed my whole perspective. It made the hard times and the painful times feel like they counted for something because I could use those and turn them into something good. And I figured, partying as a word or an idea was something everyone could understand. Even if they didn’t like it, they could understand that it was meant to be fun. That is was supposed to be this feeling of joy that made life feel good.
I’ve always tried to present it as a simple, one-dimensional thing at first, so it can be easily recognized, easily spotted on the landscape, kind of like a Las Vegas casino would have a very obvious sign saying “Casino! Casino! Casino!” Then you can go in there and have all kinds of experiences and get really lost in it, if you want. As far as an entry point I try to make this a very easy entry to find, and if someone wants to go in… its asking a lot of someone to
go in, it takes their time and energy and they have to have some faith and trust in what I’m offering. But I want to make it big enough on the inside to be about the whole world, to be about life.
ANDREW W.K. with The S/CKS, NAKED SPIRIT. 7:30 p.m. Sun., June 7, and with NO TIME, BAT ZUPPEL, 7:30 p.m. Mon., June 8. The Mr. Roboto Project, 5106 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. Both shows are sold out. www.therobotoproject.org