The first time Phillip Crandall saw Andrew W.K. live, he was just out of college but still living in Gainesville. Crandall described the experience in his new 33 1/3 book on W.K.'s I Get Wet: "Afterwards, I couldn't remember a single between-song sentiment Andrew shared with us, only the added bonus excitement that context instilled. Those feelings are sacred and that context incredible." He told us it was, simply, "the raddest concert I'd ever been to."
It was fitting that we met up with Crandall for the International Noise Conference at Miami's Churchill's Pub to discuss his recent publication. Much of the book focuses on the Ann Arbor noise scene -- one in which W.K. was entrenched growing up -- also, he performed with To Live and Shave in L.A. briefly alongside Rat Bastard, the man behind the festival taking place at the Little Haiti bar. All sorts of sounds came through the door as we sat on the back patio and got to know a little bit more about Crandall and the process of writing his first book.
See also: Andrew W.K. Says "Twitter Is a Party"
Crandall is a new dad (he called his baby "really cool" and "smiley") who lives near his wife's hometown of Coral Springs in Margate. "She needed the beach," he noted of their move South from New York City where they lived after college. Originally from Inverness, FL, he studied journalism at University of Florida and after, found work as an editor for the now defunct FHM.
"I don't enjoy writing when it's a profession," he admitted. But penning this book was an endeavor he spoke about with the enthusiasm of a true fan. "I just love the democratic process (of 33 1/3)," he said. "I love the series and I knew I wanted to be a part of the series." He'd pitched Ween's The Mollusk before, but is now glad he didn't delve into the prog world, one he wasn't familiar with. Besides, his W.K. journey sounds much more wild and intense than even Ween might have offered.
"That keyboard feeling" was what attracted Crandall to W.K. But, he adds, "Once I was hearing the roots of where he came from, the Ann Arbor noise scene -- and I didn't listen to any noise at all -- but just hearing humor in that scene," it seemed he had to follow the path down the historical rabbit hole of this time and place.
Crandall accompanied W.K. to see Aaron Dilloway of Wolf Eyes perform in New York. "And I saw Andrew's reaction to it. He was moving against a pole. He was in a zone," Crandall remembered, "I don't know how to describe it, and fortunately, I don't have to describe it." Instead of taking apart each song on the album, a typical reviewer approach, his I Get Wet book was largely written as an oral history and delves deeply into that hotbed for experimental sounds in Michigan.
"I was determined to do it, and I flew up to Ann Arbor, and met a few of these guys. I went to Andrew's parents', they were nice enough to have me over." For pizza, no doubt. Being in the city inspired his inquiries into W.K.'s noise and punk influences. "Andrew's always been about his friends. And that he's always giving back those who influenced him. And you might not hear the noise in his music, but if he takes it as seriously as an influence, then it is that serious of an influence."
Crandall continued, "He's trying to get across that feeling. He kept saying that word, 'feeling,' and if I'd been writing it as a reviewer, it might be frustration to capture it. But you can't argue with that feeling."
When questioned on the issue of W.K. and irony and authenticity in his act, the author explained: "I think it's taken on so much that maybe he doesn't see it as an act, or think it's an act. And maybe if it did start as an act, he's grown to appreciate the things that have come out of that. Him being as open and loving as he is, I don't think that's an act... I never thought of it like, is he trying to get to a frat audience, I thought he was just that. He has been accused of pandering to jock rock or whatever, and if someone came up to him who fit that description, and said, 'bro, that is fucking rad,' he would respond in kind... When you come at him with something, he sort of volleys back likewise. So if you're taking about deeper things, he knows where to go and be genuine."
Thursday, February 13, Crandall celebrates the launch of his book at Fort Lauderdale's Radio-Active Records. There were times while working on the book that he heard unfamiliar band names, like Sparks for instance. At Radio-Active Records, Richard Vergez made sure to help him along in his sonic quest. "I had gone to Radio-Active a lot, and they were helpful," Crandall said, "I had two dreams, if I was promoting this book. One was a release party, and the other was to set up a parking spot at the Swap Shop, and I'm going to do it. I want to put a blanket out, set a table up, and sell the book at the Swap Shop."
Though bringing Andrew W.K., even in book form, to the Swap Shop is certain to make a lasting impression on Broward County, we wondered what kind of impression Andrew W.K. and Crandall made on each other. Are they friends now? "When I first met him in New York, he text messaged me about nine times in one night." Crandall'd been warned about W.K.'s passion and wasn't sure if the musician's input would be "the best and worst thing" that happened to the book. Luckily, it wasn't like that for him.
"I would not say I was friends with Andrew. Not more than any other fan is. I know he would say he's friends with all his fans. Anyone who is passionate about him is a friend. I would consider him a friend, but he didn't call me for my birthday." W.K. performed in Tampa right after the book was finished, invited Crandall backstage and met his pregnant wife. "There's nothing but sincerity that comes from him," he explained.
"Somebody was asking me, in an interview, why I didn't choose an album that's in the canons of classic albums, I don't know enough about that 'canon' to say, but that's doing homework. Homework sucks." Pick up a copy, because unlike homework, Crandall's 33 1/3 is more like a thoughtful, smart party on paper.
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