Nerdist was in Toronto this past weekend for Riot Fest, and we strongly advise that you check out our festival playlist here and our photo gallery here. While there, I had the pleasure of sitting down with our friend Andrew W.K. for a wide-ranging conversation about man buns, corruption in sports, the upcoming presidential election, and “assignments from the party gods.” Praise be to the party god.
Nerdist: We’re here in Toronto, Canada…
Andrew W.K.: That is true.
N: One thing I’ve noticed is that there are so many man buns here. What are your thoughts on man buns?
WK: I think people should do whatever they want with their hair, you know? I have long hair, and I sympathize with folks wanting to get it out of their face. Why should a woman be the only one who gets to put their hair out of their face?
Now, I’ve sometimes worn a ponytail. I’ve never braided my… well, I guess I did braid my hair once, or somebody braided it for me; that was interesting. But, you know, what’s the big deal? Let folks wear their hair however they want. It doesn’t bother you, and it always grows back; you can always change it very easily. You wouldn’t want someone telling you how to wear your hair, so let them have their hair the way they want. Why care?
N: Would you ever do one personally?
WK: Um, no. I prefer to keep mine down right now, but if someone said you have to do it or die, I would try it.
N: Well the stakes would be pretty high there, so you may as well.
WK: Yeah, I think at that point, with that much pressure, you’d be willing to do almost anything.
N: So like I said, we’re in Canada, and while Canada is very similar to our home in the U.S., because I’m an American as well…
WK: OK, where are you from?
WK: Oh wow, that’s a beautiful area.
N: I’m right on the border, I see Canada from my house. So what do you think is the biggest difference that you’ve noticed between Americans and Canadians?
WK: I don’t know. Not so much, really. Some of them speak French, but there are a lot of people who speak French in the U.S. as well.
N: I’m one of them, kind of.
WK: Really? OK.
“Let us all be our own presidents in our own life.”
N: A little bit.
WK: That’s impressive. I barely speak one language well. You have one up on me. Um, what else? Well, I notice Canadians have different money in their pockets than we do in the U.S.
N: It’s more plastic-like.
WK: Yeah, it’s much more durable, so I admire that a great deal. You can soak it in a tub and wipe it if you spill fruit juice on it or jelly or butter or anything. What are some other differences? Those are the only ones I can think of. It’s always been a land that I’ve enjoyed a great deal. I grew up in Michigan, so Ontario couldn’t be closer.
N: How about the NFL and Tom Brady? Do you think he let air out of those footballs or did he not?
WK: I don’t really know. I’ve definitely heard about that situation, but I don’t know enough to make any kind of definitive judgment. It definitely seems like it’s been a really big deal and a lot of people are very passionate about it, and I can imagine that in a situation like that, there’s high stakes: beyond just the championship, there’s also the legacy, the integrity of the team, the integrity of the sport, the integrity of Tom Brady himself.
This idea of corruption in sports is extremely demoralizing. It’s one of the areas we hope would hold out so that people’s own personal principles could be maintained in this sacred area of life, where so much is at stake, but at the same time, nothing’s at stake. It’s a game, but even here in this game, we unfortunately are seeing the same struggles that we see anywhere else: corruption, temptation, failure, and a lack of virtue. But I don’t know. Hopefully he didn’t do anything bad, and either way, hopefully everyone’s learned from it so we can all try to be better, whether we play football or not.
“Really, I just get my assignments from the party gods, and I try to do what they want me to do as best I can.”
N: Absolutely. Staying on football, do you follow any of the sports in Michigan?
WK: Not real seriously. I think it’s fantastic, obviously, growing up in Ann Arbor, there was a lot of excitement. I think at that time, I was a little overwhelmed by it, I was a bit frightened. Sometimes people would win a game and then try to smash cars and shatter storefronts and things, but I related to that as well, because there was some excitement about breaking people’s things. At this point, I love the atmosphere, I really like the atmosphere. You can go to a game and have no idea what’s going on or who’s playing and just get off on that collective surge of energy.
N: It’s very concert-like that way.
WK: Exactly, and I love the music, I love the marching band. That’s probably my favorite part of the football games, at least. Hockey is very big in Michigan, obviously. There’s a great legacy there, the Red Wings. What else… basketball, I was a big, huge Pistons fan. When I was growing up, my brother and I got to enjoy the Bad Boys era. It’s as good as it gets. When you’re a sports fan, you have a whole world always there to lose yourself in, and that’s very admirable.
N: On politics, what are your thoughts on the crowded GOP race?
WK: Yeah, there’s a lot of candidates there. Let’s see… Ben Carson, Ted Cruz…
N: Fiorina had a successful debate recently.
WK: Yeah, Fiorina. You have Scott Walker, you have Lindsay Graham, you have… who else is up there? Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush is up there. Mike Huckabee is up there, Rand Paul of course…
N: Who do you like out of that bunch?
WK: I don’t like or dislike anybody in particular. I do feel like a lot of them have different things to offer, different things to say, so there’s a nice diversity of tone and style. I don’t think any of them are going to be able to do much. I think with all these things, we can’t look to someone else to solve our problems. We have to solve them ourselves, it has to come from inside each one of us. That’s the scam of it all, you know, is thinking that any person or government itself can really do anything. The best they could ever do would be inspire us to do it on our own, to lead ourselves to a better world. These changes have to happen from inside each of us, not from the outside, not from the top down.
That’s not as a disrespect to any of the politicians or the politics in general, but I don’t want to expect so much of them. I don’t want to expect anything of anybody other than myself, so let us all be our own presidents in our own life. How can you complain about these politicians or politics in general if you yourself aren’t striving to be admirable, to live with integrity, to be a good person? How can we complain about other things or other shortcomings in society or culture at all if we haven’t even taken the first step, perhaps, individually? How can I lash out at someone when I know I’m failing left and right? So it’s nice to put blame on someone else, or put all your bets and all your hopes on someone else, but unfortunately, for better or worse, it has to start with us, with you and me.
N: That’s a very profound answer.
WK: It’s pretty basic, actually… but thank you!
N: What’s your favorite song about partying that’s not by you?
WK: Oh wow, that’s a great question. Well, since we’re in Canada, I think Kim Mitchell, with “I Am A Wild Party”. That came far ahead of me. Nardwuar the Human Serviette–he’s a fantastic, fantastic gentlemen and Canadian; he’s from Vancouver, in beautiful British Columbia–he’s the first one who told me about Kim Mitchell and “I Am A Wild Party”. That’s a great one right there. If you haven’t heard it, it’s sort of a Canadian classic, but if you’re from outside of Canada, it’s definitely worth checking out.
N: How about you and your music? You haven’t had anything new since 2011, with [The “Party All Goddamn Night” EP], right?
WK: Yeah, I guess so. Thanks for being aware of that, actually. Yeah, hopefully something soon, I’m not proud of this at all. I just don’t have plans, I never really have. And there’s times where that’s been great, there’s times when it’s been a little unpredictable, to say the least. So I’m lost in a load of pure confusion, but I’ve managed to find some purchase within the midst of chaos.
Really, I just get my assignments from the party gods, and I try to do what they want me to do as best I can. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s extremely satisfying, sometimes it’s boring. Sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s nauseating. But most of the time, it’s satisfying and fulfilling because it makes me feel like I’m doing something meaningful in following their orders. Sometimes just following orders is one of the greatest feelings in the world because you have a very clear sense of what you’re being told to do, and then when you do it, you know that you did it. Whether you did it poorly or bad, at least you fulfilled the order to some degree.
Photos by Derrick Rossignol.