The cover of Andrew W.K.'s 2001 debut album, I Get Wet, shows the singer with his nose gushing blood all over the front of his shirt. Based on the image, you'd expect his music and his temperament to be, well, scary? But Andrew W.K. is all about having a good time (many of his song titles include the word "party" in them -- "Party Hard," "Party Party Party," "It's Time To Party"). The rocker and his full band returned to the stage for the first time in five years on Tuesday night in New York City and he's getting ready to release a double album -- including Close Calls With Brick Walls which was previously only available in Asia and Mother of Mankind, a disc of rare tracks and B-sides -- on March 23 before he heads out on the Warped Tour later this summer.
We caught up with Andrew to chat about returning to the stage, his relationship with the queer community, his love for Kathy Griffin, and the key to throwing a killer party.
Out: What was your relationship to music like when you were growing up?
Andrew W.K.: My parents started me on piano lessons around age 4 and a half and I had enough exposure to music to understand that I liked it but I had no idea that Id end up liking it as much as I did. Ive never thought about it like this before but the first orgasmic experience I ever had was watching these piano teachers play songs for us or watching advanced pianists. Seeing them work, I got these waves of joy, these goose bumps, and I didnt know what this feeling was, Id never felt that way before. Now, Ive felt that way many times since, which seems actually to be the whole point of life -- to seek out moments to feel that way as often as possible -- and music has always been a surefire way for me to get that rush.
Tell me a little about the double album thats coming out.
The new album is two CDs, both packaged in their own separate jewel case. I still really like jewel cases because they are portable in a way that -- of course, MP3s are portable, but -- I can still find almost a CD player anywhere in the world, whether its in a car or somewhere across the globe, and weve got 39 songs on here, between both of those discs. [Close Calls With Brick Walls] is an old album, but its never been released in the U.S. or the rest of the world, only in Asia, so its great to finally make it available and I figured, why not throw in some bonus tracks on the second disc, [Mother of Mankind].
Your upcoming show is the first show youve done with a full band in five years. What has changed since then and what can fans expect from it?
Its great to be touring again. Ill be going on the entire Warped Tour this summer. Thats our first headlining nationwide tour in six years, really. So, now, to be coming backa lot of it is the same. Its a lot of the same guys in my band, a lot of the same organization, the people I work with, but Ive certainly -- and weve all had so much life experience since then - its silly to say it will be the same. But as far as what people can expect, theyre going to expect us giving our heart and soul for the sake of the party, for the sake of the celebration thats going to happen in that room, that night. Whether its outdoors or indoors, its an enclosed experience. We want to bring everyone in and then blow 'em [claps hands] out with celebration. Well, not necessarily that [motions to hands] but, you know, just like open 'em up.
Why did you decide to become a partner in Santos Party House and how does owning a club fulfill you in different ways from being a musician?
Thats a great question. Santos Party House is a concert hall and nightclub, two floors, 8,000 square feet, downtown Manhattan, New York City, on Lafayette [Street], right below Canal [Street], and about, wow, at this point almost six years ago, three friends of mine approached me and said, "We want to start our own club." And actually, some of these friends go back to when I first moved to New York. One of them is a DJ and artist. The other one is an architect, the other one has been a manager and a bartender and worked in clubs for his whole life and we wanted to combine all of our experience, especially the experience I had traveling around and seeing all these different venues and going to different clubs. If we could make our own, and I really mean make our own from scratch, what will it be? And, any time you have an opportunity to open a business in New York City, its very intense, but a nightclub is especially intense. Especially [because] we didnt take over someones old space, we built this brand new. There had never been a club in this space. And to do that, as youre aware, in downtown Manhattan, was just an odyssey. It was the most adverse challenge that I had ever experienced and it was like going to college and business school and art school, all rolled up into one. Now its open and the greatest feeling about it is its like giving back to the city thats given me so much. And its a huge team of investors and partners and of course, the three friends that I started it with. But, its the city that makes it possible because if the city didnt come it wouldnt stay open. So, its just an incredible feeling to give back to New York and to provide a place for bands to play, for people to go and dance just like I was able to enjoy when I first came here.
When I told people that you were coming in for the interview, a lot of them were really surprised. I got a lot of, Oh, isnt that the bloody, party guy?"
So, Im wondering what your relationship is to queer culture and the queer community? How are you involved -- if you are?
I always prayed and hoped that when I got going in entertainment, that when my name was out there, it would be accepted by everybody. And, I grew up a fan of all different kinds of music, but especially very heavy music -- very loud and aggressive music. But, when I decided to do Andrew WK, I kind of figured that there would be certain things that I liked that wouldnt like me back. Even certain things that I came from, like, heavy metal, where I wouldnt necessarily be accepted by the heavy metal scene. And, as I continued on, I was always surprised to be accepted by scenes I didnt expect. Like, the punk scene. Why would they embrace me? The heavy metal scene, why would they embrace us? And somehow, I think, eventually, the sense of goodwill gets out even more than the sound of the music, or the style, or how I even look. I think theres an obvious sense of goodwill and joy in what were doing and I think that gets through people and they can see past the style or the genre and things like that. With the gay community I would like to think its the same thing: maybe people were intimidated by me. I notice that a lot of times people thought I didnt like gays. I never said anything like that. But I think that maybe the way I looked or the way I carried myself -- it didnt seem like Id be gentle or something. But I love gays as much as anybody else. Especially living in New York. That was a big part of my inspiration to move here -- heres a place where everybody is allowed to be. Well, not even allowed to be -- allowed to thrive. This is a place where everybody can come and anything that goes against the traditions of culture that excludes people or culture that says whos right and whos wrong or whos better and whos worse -- I dont want to have anything to do with that. I want to be a part of the culture that blows everybodys mind and Ive noticed that gay sexuality in general has a real ability to blow people away and thats, like, what I want. I want my mind to be blown and I want everybody elses minds to be blown and gays are good at blowing minds andother things, Im sure. [Laughs.]
Im just a big fan of sex in general, so, gay sex, straight sex -- the more the merrier. And I just want everyone to revel in their own sexuality and do whatever they want to do. And, if some people get freaked out, thats the whole point. Thats what so great about New York, to me, too.
Speaking of "the gays," I saw the clip of you on Kathy Griffin's show. How did that episode come about and what are your thoughts on Kathy?
I first became a fan of Kathy Griffin seeing her on Seinfeld, where she played this character who was designed to be the most annoying person of all time, which was just such an amazing idea for a character. And then to have this woman pull it off so artfully and really nail the vibe. So thats when I first saw her and I saw that she was getting her own show and that it was doing well. By the time they invited me to be on the show, it was kind of at its peak. I think it was sort of the last episode of one of the seasons that we did. I was aware that she went on dates with people and they asked me to go on one of these dates. And, without meaning to insult her, I didnt take it so seriously in terms of it actually being a real date. They found out that I was already engaged, or maybe I was even married at that point. And they said, "What are you doing? You cant go on a date." And I said, "I didnt really think it was a serious date." But they said, "It is!" I said, "OK. Well, Im going to talk to my wife and were going to break up for this one day and then well get back together." And my wife was fine with it. And Kathy seemed OK with that, too. I also wasnt aware that she was this gay icon. It wasnt until I went on the date when every 10 seconds some guy would come up and be like, Kathy, Im just so psyched to meet you! We went to the Duplex, which is a gay establishment by any definition that most people would use here in New York. And, again, she was just overrun by fans. And then I started to feel a little bit like a third wheel -- kind of like, Why did I even go on this date? But it was amazing. She was very nice. Shes very nice. And I wasnt sure how she was going to be, if she was going to be nice to me, especially. Very nice and very professional -- just [snaps fingers] pop on! She looked good, too.
Lets talk a little bit about your wife, Cherie Lily. Her act is so gay.
Shes obsessed with gay culture. She came up in the modeling industry as an agent in New York. She started in Chicago, where she grew up, and then she moved to New York. She moved here to pursue her own dreams as a performer but she liked the vibrant culture of the modeling world and the fashion world and she really thrived because she has a very buoyant spirit. But, eventually she broke off on her own and became just a performer. Now she also works in fitness. Shes sort of making her own vision that she can do all the things she loves like, exercise, make music, dance. But she never lost that connection to the gay culture that she got from the modeling business and a lot of her best friends here are either from that business or worked there at one point. As big as this city is, youre aware, its also very tight-knit and no one can say no to Cherie. Shes a very charming woman and she stole my heart and is stealing the hearts of many other men around this city in different kinds of ways.
Finally, what would you say are the most important elements to throwing a good party?
When it comes to partying, I think that the most important thing is to do what appeals to you and to let everybody else do the same. I always was bummed out when someone said, "You have to drink more this," or, "You shouldnt be drinking," or, "You have to be dancing now. Why are you standing against the wall?" That just was distracting. If everybody could just do what they enjoy at that moment and let everybody else follow their own will then I think there would be just celebration -- not only at a party but around the world. That could be the state of the world, I think you have to do what most appeals to you without any compromise as long as it doesnt interfere with someone else being able to party.
Close Calls With Brick Walls/Mother of Mankind is available in stores and for download on March 23. For more info on Andrew W.K., including details on his upcoming appearances on the Warped Tour, head to his website.