Rocker, motivational performer and producer Andrew W.K. (Wilkes-Krier) embarked on his lifelong courtship of music when he studied piano as a child. His single “Party Hard” from his debut album I Get Wet became a party staple and its YouTube views number in the eight figures. In addition to producing his own material, he’s worked with artists including Wolf Eyes and dub pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry on Perry’s 2008 Grammy-nominated Repentance.
W.K. had his first taste of production early when he discovered that his parents’ hi-fi included a stereo microphone. He began to record himself on piano and discovered the power and allure of working in audio. He was fascinated by the process and soon came into possession of a 4-track recorder. Unlike learning to read music, which he often found painful, recording provided instant gratification.
His production mindset resembles a hybrid of his motivational inclinations with liberal sprinklings of Zen. “I’ve always felt fortunate to produce for artists that I consider dream clients,” he observes. “They’ve been people I’ve dreamed of working with and it’s become a sort of magical situation. Many of them I wouldn’t even have had the nerve to hope to work with.
“I always felt that I got more out of working with these people than they [got from me],” he continues. “It’s a wonderful release and contrast to serving your own sonic vision. You take a break from what you’re doing and say ‘How can I make this person happy? How can I get them the sound they’re looking for?’ That’s the gift they give me.”
It’s tempting to presume that a producer’s chief role is to voice his or her opinion regularly. W.K., however, takes the opposite view. He feels that often times silence conveys infinitely more meaning than the voice can. “Not saying things is probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned,” he asserts. “Sometimes I’ll have a specific idea but instead of saying it––let alone force it upon them––I swallow it and it seems to end up happening. Either someone else suggests it or it happens on its own. When pushing toward the best result, sometimes less feels like more. If it’s meant to happen, it seems like it does happen.”
What’s commonly key for a producer is the ability to sense a strong song. Each producer comes to this knowledge in his or her own way. For W.K., a visceral response is his cue. “What I’m interested in are these undeniable physical reactions,” he explains. “If I feel chills, that’s what I’m trying to get to. It tells you you’re alive. It’s emotional in a way that you can’t define as happy or sad. It’s just being moved.”
The tour for his latest record kicked off this September in Denver and, among other dates, included Chicago’s three-day Riot Fest.
Contact Jeff Kilgour - The Syndicate, [email protected]; andrewwk.com