In honor of my hometown Pittsburgh Penguins winning their second Stanley Cup in a row (and fifth overall) last night, on June 11, 2017, I thought it would be nice to revisit my interview with Andrew W.K., the man responsible for “Party Hard,” the song that plays over the P.A. in the PPG Paints Arena (formerly known as the Consol Energy Center) every time the Penguins score a goal on home ice. (Yes, I know they won the Cup in Nashville, but they played quite a lotta games at home this season overall, so stay with me here. . .)
Andrew and I talked a good bit about hockey and the significance of the number 39 over on Digital Trends, but here on HRAC, we zero in on the music-centric nitty-gritties.
Mike Mettler: So after somebody hears “Party Hard” during a Penguins game, many of them are probably going to seek it out on services like Spotify and stream it, or seek out a hi-res version of it to download. Are you cool with the streaming universe, if that’s the way people are listening to your music?
Andrew W.K.: Absolutely! When I was first signed to the Universal/Island/Def Jam label around 1999 or 2000, I got to see the shift in the industry from the inside, and how that all played out.
Right around the time I got signed, the record industry was still breaking new records almost every week with sales of new releases, in physical copies. That was the high point of that version of the industry.
I really liked that. I was always excited about it — I always liked big blockbuster Hollywood movies and that music industry aesthetic. I like big, flashy production and videos. I always wanted to be a part of that world, and I was very lucky that I got to be, having come from a very different place of doing basement concerts with raw energy.
Mettler: Totally from the ground up, in your case.
Andrew W.K.: I wanted to cross that raw energy with the kind of resources that would help me move up. What’s interesting is making money or generating money from making music was never the idea. Because we had done it for so long and made so much joy without making any money at all, it was always about, “How can we do it bigger and better?” The money came into it when I wanted to make a cooler-looking video, buy a bigger drum set, or hire more people to be in the band — not have more money to put in my savings account or buy a car or something.
So when the industry started to shift, my thought was, “This is great, because now more people can hear this music.” It didn’t really cross my mind then how it would translate to decreasing the potential resources to make things and pay people. To this very day, I can understand both sides. Ultimately, all I really care about is that people are excited about music.
Mettler: It’s tough when you’ve grown up voting with your dollars to buy the music you wanted to listen to. I mean, I like having digital access to all this music, but I feel like I have to pay something if I’m streaming it. And if I want a physical copy of your 2003 album The Wolf, I’m going to go ahead and buy it.
Andrew W.K.: That’s true. I hadn’t thought about that part of it. Everything is fair game, to a degree. The “voting” now happens in touring, and in how many people pay to come see you play.
Mettler: Seeing an artist live is the main collective experience these days.
Andrew W.K.: And that’s become the physical experience. There’s always been both sides of the music coin. The advantages of all this technology actually outweigh the negative, which seem limited to this one aspect of the business. The tools that people have now, not only to get music but to make it — that far outweighs whatever downside there’s been.