Andrew W.K. doesn’t generally create music with an overarching concept in mind, he says. Well, except for maybe partying, that is.
“Beyond that I’m just trying to get an intense feeling across, an intense feeling of musical energetic power,” he explains over the phone during a break from touring in early August.
So, when it came to his new album, You’re Not Alone, the renowned partier says he set aside all ambitions except simply putting out an album.
“That was quite helpful because it made what had become an overwhelming and really discouraging series of missteps and setbacks much simpler, so that all I have to do is get a certain number of songs together that can constitute an album,” he explains. “And if I can do that, that’s better than nothing.”
Once all was said and done, he says, recurring ideas, messages and themes contained within You’re Not Alone – although unintentional – became more apparent.
Released in March, the album is his first since 2009’s 55 Cadillac, though it’s his first full-length album of original rock songs since 2006’s Close Calls with Brick Walls.
Bolstered by the strength of singles like “Music Is Worth Living For” and “Ever Again,” You’re Not Alone sees Andrew W.K. returning to the fun, bombastic hard rock sound through which he made a name for himself during his early- to mid-2000s run. 55 Cadillac was a detour into instrumental piano territory.
You’re Not Alone keeps Andrew W.K.’s “party mindset” alive through tracks like the one of the same name, and is interspersed with motivational spoken word titles like “The Feeling of Being Alive,” “In Your Darkest Moments” and “Confusion and Clarity.”
Some of the material on the album dates back as far as 2005, he says. Because the album had been gestating for such a long period, he envisions fans likely would have received a different product had the material amounted at any other time.
“That’s one of the reasons they can take a long time, for me at least, is you can continue to make changes and have a lot of second thoughts, take tracks off the album, add new songs back on,” he explains.
“I was coming up with brand new songs even toward the very end of the mixing process for the album and then ended up setting those aside. So, at some point you have to bite the bullet and just release it.”
Somewhat of a modern Renaissance man, the “Party Hard” musician had kept busy outside of music, hosting Cartoon Network’s Destroy Build Destroy, writing regular columns for The Village Voice and Vice, embarking on speaking tours and more, sporadically writing and recording all the while.
As for what made now the right time to put out an album, well, his answer is quite simple.
“This was a fortunate situation where there was a hard release date that had been scheduled by the record label, by Sony and the team of people I was working with,” he says.
“I was so fortunate to have that opportunity in the first place, but also the structure that the schedule created and to understand that there (were) many other people relying on me to keep my word.”
Because Andrew W.K. doesn’t consider writing to be a sit-down process for himself, he views his only responsibility as to seize the ideas whenever and wherever they might appear.
“Chord change ideas and melody ideas, they either come or they don’t come,” he explains. “I’ve never personally been able to will them, to force an idea, to be able to sit down and say, ‘OK, now I’m going to make up a song.’ I mean, I could, but I usually don’t think they’re very good. They usually just appear in some form or another.
“It’s very strange and I used to be a lot more frustrated as to why it didn’t work the way I wanted it to work, when I wanted it to work,” he admits. “Why didn’t ideas come when I wanted them to come? Why would they come at what seemed like random moments?”
He ultimately learned to respect the process, which this time has proven more fruitful than expected.
“I mean the great thing now is for whatever reason the song ideas and music ideas have continued since the recording,” he says. “So, right now it’s a good era of lots of music and I wonder, well, why wasn’t that going on at other times? And it’s just a mystery.”
Ultimately, his experiences and growth as an individual allow him to recognize writers block as being only temporary.
“I suppose now I’m able to be more patient. In the past I would think, ‘Well that’s it. That’s the end of everything. I’ll never have an idea again,’” he admits. “And now, you develop I would like to think a little more maturity or at least a little more perspective and are able to say, ‘OK, well I felt this way before. I’ve seen these dry spells come before. I have also seen them pass and I have to have the composure to carry myself along in a useful way during this dry spell.’ And then once it lifts and there’s ideas again, I have to be ready to strike.
“And that’s holding up my end of the agreement essentially with the creative spirit, wherever that is coming from, is to not abuse it, to not be resentful when it goes quiet, and to give it everything I have when it does reappear.”
With You’re Not Alone now out, he says crowds have been receptive to the new tracks. As part of his upcoming U.S. fall tour, he will perform at Hotel Congress’ HOCO Fest in Tucson on Sunday, September 2, after which he will travel to downtown Phoenix for a headlining show at Crescent Ballroom on Tuesday, September 4.
“It’s a very motivating time,” he ponders. “There’s a great feeling of urgency. I think that desperation has transformed perhaps into its more positive mirror image, which is a sense of urgency.
“I mean, you could be desperate and that can turn into a very propulsive kind of driving motivation. And that’s what I feel right now and I think that the band does and a lot of the people that I’m so fortunate to work with. We really just want to do everything we possibly can as best as we can and keep this party power flowing.”
HOCO Fest w/Andrew W.K. and Spirit Adrift, Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress Street, Tucson, 520.622.8848, hocofest.com, 6 p.m. Sunday, September 2, $20 advance presale, $25 day of show.
Andrew W.K. w/Tony Martinez, Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Avenue, Phoenix, 602.716.2222, crescentphx.com, 8 p.m. Tuesday, September 4, $19.50-$23.