This Saturday night, a ridiculously fun show is coming to The Independent in San Francisco. Marky Ramone, former drummer of New York punk legends The Ramones, has tapped Andrew W.K., professional partier, to sing Ramones classics with his band. Because this might be the most incredible concept in the history of fun, we decided we needed to talk to Andrew W.K. about it. Our conversation touches on the brilliance of simplicity, and I also ask him for some marriage advice.
Gordon: Are you just preparing for the tour right now? Are you in rehearsals?
Andrew: Oh, no, no. I’m on tour. I’ve been on tour, I guess, since April. The shows continue on. I’ve been on a bunch of different tours, but moving around …
Gordon: I notice you’re just like the busiest guy in show business right now.
Andrew: I’m not maybe the busiest, but trying to stay as active as possible and simply enjoying it, and the variety and excitement of it all keeps it very stimulating and entertaining for me, that’s for sure. I’m very thankful just operating table have this many opportunities to keep doing anything.
Gordon: Do you think these things out? Like the Marky Ramone Blitzkreig tour. Is this something that you seek out opportunities for? Did he find you? How did this get going?
Andrew: With all due respect, I don’t think I could ever dream up an idea like this to want to seek out for myself. It’s so out of the realm of what I would consider possible, even worse, having the nerve to ever think I could say, “Okay, well, now I’m going to be the singer in Marky Ramone’s band.” At the same time, it’s just completely thrilling to realize that sometimes your dreams will come true in very roundabout ways.
If someone asked me, or told me ten years ago that I would be able to do anything of this, I wouldn’t have really believed that it was possible. At the same time, I’ve seen it actually happen and unfold. I don’t know that Marky would ever have been able to predict it for myself, a lot of his experiences or even working together on this, it’s just one of those things … it’s mystical and very exciting, and I won’t try to figure out exactly how it happened. It’s just some kind of magical destiny, and I’m just very thankful for it.
He asked a mutual friend of ours who he’d recommend to sing for him on this tour, and that friend is a man named Steve Lewis, sort of the king of New York nightlife. He suggested me, and then the next thing you know it started happening.
Gordon: What are … speaking of this show, are you doing … is it pretty much all Ramones? Do you stick some of your material in there?
Andrew: No. I would never do that … 100% Ramones. Anywhere between 34 or 38 Ramone’s classic songs, pretty much spanning the entire career, their entire discography. It is fast and furious and bang, bang, bang … just very intense. If you like these songs, we’re playing them very true to the way they were recorded and they way they were performed.
Gordon: So 35 songs is the first hour …
Andrew: Anywhere between 34 and 38, because we did add some more songs there.
Gordon: Are you going to be wearing your typical outfit? Or are you going to be Ramones-ing it up a little bit?
Andrew: I’ll be wearing my regular clothes. It wasn’t something I really talked to Marky about … but later he explained that he didn’t really like it when people tried to dress in the Ramones style. He just wants people in the band just to dress how they dress. That was very nice, but that was always my thing. It just seemed very disrespectful almost, in a way, to try to dress like someone that you’re not, or try to fill Joey Ramone’s shoes. It’s completely impossible to do so. I could never sing as great as him, so I just try to sing as great as I can.
Gordon: Are you playing, too? Are you just singing?
Andrew: Oh, no, I’m just the singer with a guitar player, a bass player, and of course, Marky on the drums.
Gordon: There’s a lot of people that I know who are going to the show, are very excited about it. I think you’re going to see a bunch of people acting like it’s the late ’70s, in the pit, right here in San Francisco. I think you’re going to love the energy.
Andrew: I’m very, very glad that people are excited about it. It really is … this kind of music is a special kind of music where, as long as you just give it all you have, it does the rest. It’s just the way these songs are written, and the, again, mysterious power that they have is matchless. There’s really … it’s really as good as music can possibly get, that kind of music that’s so direct and so pure, and … what’s the word? … deceptively simple, that allows it to really cut deep into people’s souls and stir them up.
We’ve done two tours of Europe right now with Marky. We did two back in May, and then we went back to Europe again; so I’ve gotten to play a bunch of shows, and we’ll be bringing our best to these shows and to the UK. I have a lot more experience playing with the band now, and that was one of my concerns was were people going to like this. But it doesn’t matter really what I do, what anyone in the band does, with all due respect to each person’s contributions. It’s the songs themselves that make or break this show, and the songs are just so fantastic that people just freak out.
I’m always thinking, “Are they going to be mad because I didn’t look right or because I wasn’t dressing a certain way, or because I wasn’t trying to sing in a certain way?” I was just singing with my own voice. None of that matters. You just realize it has nothing to do with what’s’ going on here. What’s going on here is delivery of the greatest rock and roll music that’s every been written. There’s never been better songs written in any genre. It’s just as good as … not only as good as music gets, pretty much as good as life gets.
Gordon: There’s a particular rush about singing your own material in front of a crowd that’s responding to it. Are you getting a similar rush from this or is it a different thing?
Andrew: It’s similar and different. The similar rush comes from the fact that it’s high-energy music that’s trying to generate that sort of physical explosive energy. What’s different is that I’m singing music that I didn’t make that I love so much, that I could never had made. It just never would have occurred to me. That’s what’s so fantastic and so baffling is: how do you even come up with music like this? It’s just the greatest feeling to be able to sing these songs that I love so much, that I never could have written. It’s this privilege and very humbling opportunity. I actually feel more like an audience member, myself, who’s just so lucky to be in the midst of this.
I feel like everyone’s in the midst of the music, and it’s a group effort that everybody in that room is intertwined.
Gordon: I just wanted to ask you some questions about some of your own projects. I saw you here in San Francisco several years ago when you played with the Calder Quartet.
Andrew: Oh, yes.
Gordon: I know you’re doing more grand piano shows coming up. Do you see yourself doing that more or is that something that you’re going to keep really special. That was an amazing night, and that was just fantastic to be there.
Andrew: Thank you very much. I really appreciate that. Of course, the Calder Quartet would appreciate that as well. I have no pland really as far as what kind of show to do or what kind of work to do or what kind of life to life. I just … I decided I want to be a professional partier and use that to do everything, and I’ve just been very lucky to be able to have all these different chances. I don’t feel like I’m responsible for them. In the best way I just feel very lucky that these people are willing to have anything to do with me, and I just want to keep doing everything I can. I want to do as many different … to get the party energy going in as many different ways as possible.
Gordon: Yeah, you did the Black Sabbath DJ gig.
Andrew: Again, I would never … I would just never even occur to me to say … and maybe it should. Maybe I should be thinking more along the lines of, “I want to do this specific thing,” and then make it happen; but the more I’ve turned myself over to the seemingly random power of your destiny or your fate, it seems like the more these kinds of amazing chances have come my way.
It still takes me stepping up and saying, “Yes, I’m going to do it,” but I don’t really debate it. I didn’t have to debate: yes or no? Should I do this Black Sabbath tour? I didn’t have to debate: yes or no? Should I try to sing for Marky and do these Ramones songs. It was just more, “I can’t believe that I’m getting to do this,” and I wouldn’t even think twice. I’d just show up and give my best effort and see what happens next. It’s gotten so unpredictable and so dream-like that I can only imagine where the road’s going to take me.
I used to feel like I was in control of what was going on in my life and that I would pick and choose how I wanted my life to go, but I started to realize more and more that there’s just no way I could take responsibility for what’s happened to me. It’s just too good and too amazing. There must be some other forces at work. So I’ve turned myself over, really at this point 100%, to those forces.
Gordon: Have there been things that you wanted to go but, just for scheduling reasons, you couldn’t?
Andrew: Not in the big picture. I’ve gotten to do everything and much, much more than I could ever have dreamed of. But yeah, I’d like to record a new album, and I’m working on that next year, and I’ve had to postpone that … chosen to postpone it so I could do these other amazing adventures. I just want to have a live that feels like an adventure, feels like a roller-coaster ride. It’s fun to know what’s going to happen next, but it’s also fun to fly blind and just live in the moment that you’re able to be alive and just have the excitement of the unpredictable wash over you.
Gordon: I have a question on a personal note. I’m getting married tomorrow. (Editor’s Note: “Tomorrow” was September 28.)
Andrew: Oh, wow! Congratulations.
Gordon: Thank you. We actually … and this probably happens to you a lot … we actually sent you an invitation to our wedding. I don’t know if you get them. I don’t know what happens.
Andrew: It’s happened from time to time, but I’m just wondering where they’ve been sending these invitations. That’s my main concern is that I would love very much to get the invitation. I mean, I’ve had the pleasure of going to many weddings of friends, but also some people that I just met out of the kindness of their invitation, and it’s always been surprising to me. It’s really amazing when someone that you don’t know face to face still has the desire to bring you into this most special of all days. Thank you very much for the invitation. It means a lot, even if I wasn’t able to go or I wasn’t … I didn’t actually physically get the invitation. The spirit of that, I think, I feel somehow or another.
Gordon: On that note, I was going to ask for marriage advice. I mean, you’re married, so …
Andrew: Just the greatest feeling of … that you and that person now that you can share this adventure with forever. It’s really great to meet them sooner rather than later … it’s just when you’re having so much fun, it’s a lot more fun to go through it all with someone else, especially times when things aren’t as fun, then you really, really are glad to have someone on your side.
It’s like meeting someone that’s as important to your life story, to who you are, as even your mom and your dad. It’s a very strange new kind of feeling that’s also very familiar. I’ve had many relationships and I had many girlfriends, and they all were very valuable in their own way; but it wasn’t like meeting a family member. That was when it was very obvious to me, like, “Wow. This is …” Again, it was out of my control. It was like, “Well, this is what I’m meant to do.” It was just as clear as feeling like I was meant to play piano or something. It’s just part of what makes me me.
Hopefully it’s been the same for her. Hopefully it’s the same for them. It’s like a real combination of two individuals making a new two-person individual. I guess that’s kind of contradictory, but …
Gordon: Thanks a lot for talking to me. I really look forward to seeing the show here this weekend.
Andrew: Congratulations again on the wedding, enjoy that, and thank you so much for the invitation; and thank you for spreading the word about the show, the Ramones show with Marky, and it means a lot to me that you personally are excited about, and tell your friends as well. Thank you for their excitement. Spread the word, and get good people there for a good party.