Andrew W.K. On: How He Plans To Drum For 24 Hours During The O Music Awards

Posted June 17

It wouldn’t be the O Music Awards without something weird and wonderful to add to the mix. Last year, that weird and wonderful thing was Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips breaking the Guinness World Record for the most live shows in 24 hours (multiple city) — this year, that aforementioned thing is musician, motivational speaker and all-around Party King, Andrew W.K. Yup, the Grand Czar of Positivity and Having Fun will be joining our 24-hour awards show on Wednesday, June 19th (kicking off at 7pm EST) and he’ll be undertaking a characteristically amazing and off-the-wall feat: He will be attempting to drum from 24 hours straight. Have we got your attention yet? We thought so.

This week, we’re kicking off the fourth O Music Awards — a celebration of music, tech and fans. This year’s show will manifest as a 24-hour online live music festival featuring more than 50 bands, a ton of exciting awards (and a kitten or two), as well as a day-long drumathon (#drumathon) in the Oakley store in Times Square. That event will serve as the heartbeat for fest — a.k.a. Live Music Day — and will be kicked off by Questlove of The Roots and Andrew W.K., who will then drum for 24 hours straight in attempt to set a new world record: Longest Drum Session in a Retail Store. (He’ll be joined by a few surprise guests along the way — and we promise they’ll make your heart pound. Pun wholly intended.)

Andrew W.K. took a break from partying — and preparing for this amazing feat — to chat with the O Music Blog about his O Music Awards nomination (Must-Follow Artist on Twitter) as well as how he plans to make it through the fray this week.

Check out our Q&A below and start sending those positive vibes W.K.’s way!

So what did you think when you heard about your nomination?

Well, I was very excited first of all to be nominated in the awards. I remember hearing about the awards previously and then this year some people had mentioned the awards — I guess they said I was nominated. But I didn’t really believe them, compared to some of the other folks that were nominated. It just seemed like this other plane of the industry. But lo and behold, I actually was, and it was very exciting to me and very motivating.

It’s encouraging to be recognized even at all with efforts in this realm. I’ve always really loved the computer and the ability to party with people all around the world using this technology. For me, even before Twitter existed, we always had a part of our website for people to write in and ask questions and I could post back and it would be posted for everyone to see — just this idea that I might not be able to be in, say, Spain right at this moment, but I could still engage with this person. I understand this isn’t for every artist, their aesthetic, but for me, this is the greatest thing that’s ever happened. I just wanna say thank you very much to the O Music Awards for nominating me.

That being said, we just reached out to thank them and see what else I could do to be part of this really exciting event and that’s when this drumming idea [came about].

How did you feel when we asked you to do it?

Initially when it was presented, I think all I heard was there’s this chance for me to drum in Times Square. I was very excited about that — just any way I could physically be involved with the event was neat. And then I heard about the 24-hour aspect of it and it wasn’t really until four days ago that it really hit me –- like wait a minute, that’s a really long time, that’s a full day. It’s not as long as a year or even 48 hours, but I realized it’s not like drumming for 24 minutes or even 12 hours; it’s going to be very challenging. That sort of changed my whole point of view from being very excited to still being very excited but also very intimidated.

How long is the longest you’ve drummed before?

I’ve been in bands where maybe the longest show we played was two hours. I don’t know how to describe it. I’ve played drums in many bands, some of which were very challenging drum parts, but it was a song that would last four or five minutes at the most and then you could take a quick breather.

There was a band called Scheme that I was able to play in here and there — it was a very large band anywhere between 10 and 20 or even 30 people at any given time, and there was one show where it seemed like the show went on for 4 hours. Now I wasn’t a very experienced drummer at that time, but I remember my hands were bleeding. I couldn’t really use my arms anymore, my ears rang for about four days. It was the first time I’d ever had my ears ring where I’d wake up the next morning and it was just ringing even louder than the night before.

I thought, ‘Oh well, by tomorrow morning the ringing will go away,’ and it just didn’t. It just didn’t. So that was probably the most intense percussion experience I had. I was playing metal pipes and pots and pans, pieces of scrap metal, so it was a little less forgiving than a drum with some bounce-back.

What do you think of the 24-hour thing?

Just doing anything for 24 hours is a feat of endurance. Staying up for 24 hours you go into a very interesting space. But I’ve done that many times, so I think having long bouts of wakefulness under my belt is gonna [help]. Also I did another feat of endurance. It was meant to be a 24-hour autograph signing in Tokyo, but it ended up becoming 36 hours. I did make it through that.

In some ways, the fact that there’s a musical element to this challenge where not only am I going to play but I’m going to play with other people, that’s going to make it easier. There’s an energy that just comes inherently from music that propels you beyond what you would be able to do without the music — sort of a supernatural phenomenon. I intend on harnessing that and definitely trying to prepare to develop my ability to harness the energy that music has, especially rhythmic music.

Do you have any specific things that you’re going to do to prepare, train — are you going to wear gloves?

Yes, I’m definitely going to wear gloves. That was probably the first thing I thought of. The last time I was drumming with gloves on, I got golf gloves –- I guess what you use as a golfer to putt or whatever. Those wore through within one show because it was very thin leather, so this time I’m going to make sure to get real drummer’s gloves — if there is such a thing. It’s gotta be something that’s thick enough to not wear through.

The point is that you have to play through the blisters — even from holding a microphone — it’s when you stop playing that the pain will set in. So it’s kind of like perpetually walking it off. I’ve sprained an ankle and taken a lot of falls and injuries on stage, but if you just keep going and walk it off the adrenaline keeps the pain away. I almost feel like your body resets; you don’t get as much swelling, you don’t get as much pain signal to the pain. Definitely the endurance factor of having to keep going will help.

And then I’m definitely gonna try to stay up and do at least one or two 24-hour runs of this on my own. Or at least go as far on my own. I don’t think it’ll compare because there’s gonna be so much stimulation from the actual event — knowing that it’s live and people from around the world can tune in, all these amazing legendary drummers that’ll be joining me, the cameras, the lights, the excitement of being in Times Square — that’s gonna add so much energy that I can absorb and use, so it’s gonna constantly be refueling me. But it would be good, even if it ends up being easier, just to go through at least one 24-hour session on my own.

Are you planning on bringing your own kit?

Yes, I do have my own drumset, but I want an even bigger, more fantastic drumset for this. Having a lot of variety of different drums for me to play will keep this interesting for me and hopefully interesting for anybody’s who’s watching.

So I’m gonna try to get the biggest drum set that I can, within reason, just so I have a lot of tones, dynamics and textures in sounds. Gretsch Drums, they’ve been the main company that I’ve used for drumming in my band for many years and they’ve offered to supply us with whatever we require to make this happen, so that’s exciting. Then Sabian cymbal company, which we’ve used for many, many years — they said they’ll get whatever we need, so that’s gonna be fun, just having a special, elaborate, expansive setup to play with.

Sort of like a Neil Peart setup?

Well, I don’t know if it’ll be that big, because I think we’ll need about three or four rooms the size of what we’ll have. You would need a football stadium to fit his kit.

That would be more tiring too, I’m guessing.

Having more than 40 different toms might just be too much to fit in this space, but I love big drum kits. They look awesome, they sound great, and if you can use them as well as he does then they make sense.

Do you think you can make it through the 24 hours? What are you anticipating?

I really don’t know. I’ve worked for 48 hours; that’s the most I’ve ever stayed up and kept working during recording sessions, trying to hit lines. It’s a real odyssey. You go through many different feelings. There’s times when you get your second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth wind. There’s times when you feel like you couldn’t keep going no matter what happened. But having that music there and having the people counting on me and cheering me on, that’s gonna change everything.

Whenever I try to endure to this extent, usually it’s been more solitary, not with this many people around, and certainly not a live musical performance happening at the same time. So I don’t know –- part of me is very confident that I’m gonna do it just because I have to; I have to push myself to do this. And part of me is very humble and nervous. I’ll admit it. I’m intimidated by this because I really don’t know what it’s gonna be like, but I’m going to give everything I possibly have to it.

Check out more from W.K. below!

Image courtesy of Jonathan Thorpe