Master of positivity Andrew W.K. makes us a party-starting mixtape
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In I Made You A Mixtape, we ask our favorite musicians, actors, writers, directors, or whatevers to strut their musical savvy: We pick a theme, they make us a mix.
The mixer: When he burst onto the scene with 2002’s I Get Wet, Andrew W.K. was just a long-haired dude who sang fun songs about parties. Now, 10 years later and fresh off I Get Wet’s deluxe 10th-anniversary reissue, it’s clear that W.K.’s more than that. He’s become a worldwide lifestyle guru, motivational speaker, and relentlessly positive force of nature. Because of his penchant toward parties, though, The A.V. Club asked W.K. to make us a mix full of songs guaranteed to get a room up and dancing.
“It’s Time To Party,” Andrew W.K.
Andrew W.K.: That’s the first song off my first album. Which, thinking about it now, with the last almost 11 years of nonstop partying, it all literally did start with that song and that album. And it hasn’t stopped since! So even though the song is only about a minute and a half long, it’s been 11 years long in a way. I feel like that song speaks for itself and hopefully makes it very, very clear—if not undeniable—that the party has begun.
The A.V. Club: Did you think when you first recorded this song that partying was going to be your whole career?
AWK: That was my dream! I certainly did not expect it to come true quite as intensely as it has and in the ways that it has. Every now and then you have those glimpses of clarity about your destiny and your fate, but often, especially when you’re working very hard on making your dream come true, it can be delightfully surprising to see how it unfolds, and it certainly has unfolded in a way that I’m just endlessly grateful for. I really wanted to have more fun in my life, and I figured that starting to party and starting an endless, lifelong party would be a really good way to be more cheerful.
“Tutti Frutti,” Little Richard
AWK: This guy invented that spirit of joy in music, as far as I can tell. I mean, there’s Johann Sebastian Bach, he has certainly a joyful power that comes through his melodies, and there’s all different kinds of music out there, but when someone focuses purely on trying to either communicate or—even better—conjure up joy, like the physical sensation, it’s really tremendous. And Little Richard, he’s doing that. He’s not singing about fun; he is actually manifesting fun out of nothing.
When I’ve put on that song when I DJ or host a party, the whole place goes bananas. Every time! All over the world. I’m sure they’ve heard the song before, but even if they’re not familiar with Little Richard, that song, it’s like a tool. That’s how I think of these kinds of pieces of culture or entertainment. They cause something to happen. They’re a direct route into this feeling—kind of like the way a hammer drives a nail into a board very effectively—these songs drive joy into your brain.
“(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!),” Beastie Boys
AWK: This is such an important song. For a long time during the era when they first released this song, partying wasn’t necessarily that cool. Or at least having fun wasn’t always considered very cool, and it seemed like a lot of times—and recently as well—people thought that being very serious was cool or it made you seem cool. So I was very thankful to Beastie Boys, like everybody that loves them, for being able to come out so strong with so much excitement and such a celebratory, fun-loving attitude. And it’s not that they’re not serious, they just happen to be very serious about fun. And that song is one of the greatest songs of all time for very obvious reasons.
AVC: Fun is so serious you have to fight for it.
AWK: You do. You do, because those people that are so dry and so serious, they can be very stoic and very staunch, and there are times when you have to call upon real physical force. The beauty of it is they’re not saying you have to fight against the downers or the haters; you fight for partying. You fight for what you love instead of against what you hate.
“What Time Is Love,” The KLF
AWK: Well, first of all, it starts with an MC5 sample—“Kick Out the Jams”—and then it does this amazing reverse. It’s one of the greatest riffs of all time. The archetype of all different sorts of dance music or techno or electronic dance music is in that riff. It creates this atmosphere that’s almost menacing. It’s almost so much party that it’s scary. But that’s another song that works every time. It works every time.
AWK: T-Pain, I think, is one of the most talented musicians around. Right now especially. His rhythmic sensibilities, his melodic sensibilities, his singing—with or without Auto-Tune, he’s an incredible singer. I had the chance to meet him and see him play in New York City like two, three years ago. And his energy, even when he’s just sitting down getting ready to go onstage, is palpable. And when he hits that stage? It’s just an explosion. He’s one of the most energetic and inspiring performers. He makes it look so easy, and not only does it look like he’s having fun, he really is having fun. He’s having the greatest time. I wish I could sing like that; it’s a very vicarious kind of joy. He’s also one of the greatest dancers I’ve ever seen, in terms of originality and, again, enthusiasm. There’s so much enthusiasm that comes through in whatever he does.
And that song, to me, is just amazing. What I really love—which is maybe difficult to hear on the computer, so I encourage people to listen to the song with headphones or on a good stereo, so they can hear the incredible bass—the bassline is this distorted, squared-out, kick-drum sound.
I just heard this song, because it’s off his newer album, and I can’t wait to start playing this in the nightclub at Santos Party House.
AVC: You co-own Santos. How often do you DJ there?
AWK: As often as possible. I don’t want to burn people out, that’s the thing. When we first opened, I was doing stuff there so much that people were like, “Uh, I just saw him two nights ago. What’s the point? I’ll just wait till tomorrow. He’s probably going to be doing it again.” So I’ve restrained myself a little bit. It wasn’t easy, but I wanted to give other people a chance to DJ there as well.
The last place I DJed was on a boat that sailed around Manhattan for this birthday party of an amazing photographer named Nicky Digital. I’d never DJed on a boat before, and it was incredible. A little wobbly, but very incredible.
AVC: Did you play Scooter?
AWK: I think that one might have even been too intense. I think the boat might have sunk or flipped over from the sheer power of this tune. Did you see the video?
AVC: It’s very crazy.
AWK: It is. “3 a.m.! The painted cow!” That’s how it starts. It’s a fantastic video. Real beautiful blond dancers. Scooter’s one of the greatest groups of all time, in my opinion. In all the history of German musical acts, they have the most Top 10 singles. That’s kind of the phenomenon about them: They sort of seem like an underground band, but they’re also one of the most successful bands. It’s a strange dichotomy where they’re still a bit obscure to a lot of people. I think even in Germany, people don’t realize these songs that they’ve heard and love are necessarily by this very special group. The singer, his name is H.P. Baxxter. What I really like, too, is how dynamic the song is, from that really intense solo, almost like a kid’s voice or like a baby woman or something, and then into that full-blown, very, very triumphant “dun dun dun dun dun!” It’s one of the songs I wish I’d come up with.
AVC: How did you get into Scooter?
AWK: My friend Chris who lives in Berlin—he’s actually an Englishman, but he moved to Berlin, and shortly thereafter found out about this fantastic, fantastic band. And they’ve been getting bigger and bigger and bigger. They’ve now become quite popular in England as well, and throughout the U.K., and are spreading. Because they sing in English, so it gives them a real big potential. Now I’m just waiting to see if I can help introduce them to American listeners. It’s my goal to spread their party to these shores. I don’t know if they’ve ever played here or not.
“Tom Tit,” Aleister X
AWK: Another Englishman, though he now lives in Brooklyn. I remember the first time I heard his music. This doesn’t happen that many times in anyone’s life, but you hear something and you instantly have this overwhelming feeling that your encounter with hearing this music for the first time is going to change your life forever. And that’s how it was with him. It was like the greatest music I’d ever heard. From that day on—when I was just hearing it almost in the background at a friend’s house, I asked, “What is this?” He said, “Oh, it’s this guy Aleister”—I made it my dream and focused everything on, “I’ve got to meet this guy, I’ve got to work with this guy.” And it wasn’t even a desire more than it was my destiny. You get those glimpses, again, of what you’re meant to do, and that was one of those very clear experiences as to one of the most rewarding and life-altering encounters I’ve had. He’s a very intense and magical man.
“Pump Up The Jam,” Technotronic
AWK: There’s those songs that just don’t quit. You know, they just keep going. This is another one where no matter where I am in the world—all different kinds of clubs, all different kinds of crowds, ages, vibes, backgrounds, orientations—everyone flips out for this song. There are just so many hooks in it, too. And it follows a rather unusual structure.
To me, it’s like “Tutti Frutti.” It’s completely singular and as powerful as music can be in terms of getting the job done, and the job here is to start the party.
AVC: I don’t know if you’ve watched the video recently, but it’s so 1990.
AWK: When I used to hear the song it would just be on the radio. I remember waking up to go to catch the school bus, and having this song on and I think it was the first time I ever heard the word “booty.” Ever. Like, whether it was in a song or just said. I didn’t even know what it was. But I had a feeling that it was something kind of maybe dirty or sexual or something.
“Grrrr,” David Guetta
AWK: David Guetta has been blowing up and blowing up over these past six years to superstar status. I’d heard a lot of his songs and I liked a lot of them, but my wife, Cherie, has been a fan of his for twice as long—pretty much since he had started—and was trying to explain to me that this is more of a recent phenomenon, these kinds of pop songs he’s doing, that he came from a very hardcore, straight dance-music background. And he wasn’t just a DJ going for Top 10 singles. So he released that “Grrrr” song quite recently, and I think it was to show his longtime fans and the whole world that he could still make the best pure instrumental dance music that anyone could make. And I think it’s one of the greatest songs of any genre I’ve heard.
That’s another one, again—I tried to choose all these because they do get this response out of people—that’s the song actually, on this whole last world tour we did, when we finished our last encore and left the stage, our sound guy would kick right into that song. And it just kept the energy completely elevated, so that it wasn’t like, “Aw, the night’s over.” This song’s going to keep the energy going and actually transfer you into your next realm, whether it’s going out for an after-party or whether it’s waking up the next day. That song and that groove, it just really propels you.
AVC: That’s a really bold statement, saying it’s one of the best songs ever.
AWK: It is, and that’s how I feel about it. In any genre, in any capacity, of any style. It’s an amazing piece of music. And boy, cranking it loud on a great sound system when people are dancing, it just doesn’t get any better.
“Werk,” Cherie Lily
AVC: You mentioned your wife, Cherie, and she’s on this list.
AWK: She’s been playing in bands and doing different kinds of music for a long time. Came from a more punk-rock background and played guitar in several different bands over the years. But then she wanted to do music that she could relate to her work in fitness, because those are her two passions. Music and, basically, athleticism. She used to be a competitive snowboarder, actually one of the first female snowboarders in all of the Midwest, at least as far as we’re aware. And now she’s a fitness professional and teaches aerobics and does all kinds of related endeavors, and the beautiful thing, especially about aerobics and those classes, or any kind of repetitive athletics, is you use music, even if it’s just the sound of your own heartbeat. Dance music is just designed to push you forward. So she started making her own dance music for her classes, instead of using other people’s. And this was her first song that she really nailed it. It’s her masterpiece. And again, if you crank this in the club, people—they’ll work.
“Shots,” LMFAO Featuring Lil Jon
AWK: It’s a really brilliant song. LMFAO has nailed it time and time and time again, but this one’s a real prime example. I remember the first time I heard this song, it actually wasn’t the song. I was standing in line at a college in Canada that I was doing a lecture at, and they were serving up hot slices of ham and everyone was waiting in line to get their slice of ham, and they started doing this chant, [in the same rhythm as “Shots”] “Plates plates plates plates plates plates!” Because they were passing out paper plates. I said, “Wow, that’s such a great hook. I’m going to steal this. I’m going to make a song that says something, maybe not plates—” but they were like, “Oh, no, that’s a song already!” And then when I actually heard the real song, I was just completely delighted. Because I love, love, love Lil Jon. And I love that bassline. It’s a lot of great syncopation, and a lot of energy, and one of the greatest voices that’s out there. Lil Jon, he can just say, “Okay!” or “Yeah!” and that sets the world on fire.
“Celebration,” Kool & The Gang
AVC: To some people this song is cheesy.
AWK: It’s just because it’s been heard so much. And I sort of felt that way until I heard it really loud in a club, and not just on the radio or in an elevator somewhere. The verses, it kind of drops down, but that’s just so they can built it back up for that [loudly] “Woo hoo!” Imagine when they first recorded this how excited they must have been to come up with this. And that “doo noo noo noo,” that’s just one of the greatest pieces of music. But because it’s almost like “Happy Birthday” at this point, it’s easy to forget its power. So I recommend cranking it. If you crank that and it’s the right mood or the right time—that perfect prime—that’s why I put it second to last on this list, sort of thinking when you need that little boost you would not think necessarily that this song would do it. But it’s that perfect prime, ecstatic, euphoric feeling where you’ve been dancing for three hours and you’re just sort of hitting that runner’s wall—or that dancer’s wall—where all the endorphins are kicking in and you’re just lost in this glow of the “life is good” feeling.
AVC: As a DJ, how do you know when it’s the right time to play something like “Celebration”?
AWK: Here in New York, a club is open till 4. So I would say at 3, I would start thinking about it.
Another good one that could work for that would be “Good Times” by Chic. By 3:30, if people are dancing, then you’ve earned the right to play that song. And it can definitely be a risk. But the odds are it will take it into this complete next level, because everybody knows the song, and that’s what’s special about those kinds of songs. The risk is everyone knows it too well. But if it’s the right vibe, it’s this real sense of unity and that we’re all in this together. Sort of like an awareness moment, where you can look around and realize, “Wow. I’m alive and having the best time I’ve ever had.”
“Party Hard,” Andrew W.K.
AWK: Thirteen’s a very lucky number, so I wanted to put this track and bookend it with the first song. This song to me is like my whole life. It was a gift that was given to me from unknown sources, and it inspires me to make the most of the opportunities I’ve been granted. It’s just incredible, this life I’ve gotten to lead here. And this song is the theme song of my life.
AVC: What makes this song the theme song to your life more than “It’s Time To Party” or any other song you’ve done?
AWK: I think because this was the first song that I wrote that I made up to do Andrew W.K. This is the theme song. It’s a logo, basically, like an emblem.