MUSIC The progression of party-rock champion Andrew W.K.'s career reads less like a linear trajectory than a whirlwind of bizarre, hilarious, and downright enviable undertakings. After he started out as a keyboardist in New York's avant-garde circles, and built his reputation with a handful of ecstatic butt-rock records (most notably 2001's I Get Wet, featuring that iconic nosebleed on its cover), W.K.'s biography plunged into full-on chaos mode.
From new-age piano improviser on 2009's 55 Cadillac, to kids' game-show host on Cartoon Network's Destroy Build Destroy, to celebrity ambassador of Playtex Fresh + Sexy Wipes, to valiant record-setter for Longest Drum Session in a Retail Store after this year's much-blogged 24 Hour Drum Marathon, predicting W.K.'s next move over the past decade has proved futile. Yet, his latest gig might be the most wonderfully surprising of all: assuming the bandleader role in the latest incarnation of punk-rock legends, the Ramones.
Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg, featuring W.K. on lead vocals, will hit the Independent this Saturday night, introducing a new twist in the Ramones' storied legacy.
Speaking to the Bay Guardian over the phone from St. Louis, on his second US tour stop as the band's de-facto Joey figure, W.K. sets his zany, carefree party persona aside, revealing himself as both humbled and starstruck at the reality of leading the band he's idolized for so many years.
"It's a combination of feeling on top of the world, because dreams just keep coming true, and terrified by the magnitude of how fantastic the opportunity is, and also, not embarrassed, but just aware, of how many other people would like to have this chance to sing these songs with Marky. Why do I get it?" W.K. ponders.
"I feel very, very lucky, like I want to represent all my friends and all the people around the world that love this music so much. I feel like I'm doing this on [their] behalf, and that this opportunity is to be shared as much as possible, at least in spirit."
Most famously led by Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny, and Tommy, the most iconic quadfecta of first names in rock since the Beatles, the Ramones forever changed the course of pop music, as one of the formative outfits of the punk rock movement. The songs, from "Blitzkrieg Bop," to "Rock 'n' Roll High School," to "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg," were hedonistic in their intent, and radically economical in their structure and duration, feeding directly into the party mindset W.K. would adopt decades afterward.
Their records, from the skeletal beginnings of Leave Home and Rocket to Russia in 1977, to the Phil Spector-produced technicolor pop of End of the Century in 1980, certainly marked an artistic progression, but W.K. thinks of it differently.
"All the albums are just this big explosion of inspired genius. It's hard to even break it apart. I don't want to break it apart, actually. I just like thinking of the whole thing as just this one phenomenon.
"[The Ramones are] so singular. They're so completely self-actualized, that just them standing there screams this certain feeling, and no one else has it... When we play live, it almost feels as if the show is one song."
While Marky Ramone didn't join the band until partway through its creative explosion (he took over for Tommy on drums in '78, after several stints with the Misfits and Richard Hell & the Voidoids), he continues to keep the Ramones legacy alive, as its last remaining member after the deaths of Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee, from lymphoma, prostate cancer, and a heroin overdose, respectively. W.K. is clearly inspired by Marky's resilience, through tumultuous times that would've rendered positive, joyful music a near impossibility for many musicians moving forward.