Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brett Allen and Nick Luca at New Monkey Studio
All of this happened so oddly. We were out in Los Angeles (seemingly where dreams really do cut through the clouds and the muck and come true occasionally) just a few days before Halloween last year, taping some sessions at Elliott Smith's old studio in Van Nuys, apparently not only in an area of the great state of California iconic-ly glorified by Gene Autry and cowboys of the like, but also the playground for the pornographic film and periodical industry. It was a spot that felt golden-crusted, seedy, overly commercialized, fake, real and shaded by rows and rows of photographic palm trees. The evening prior to our final day of taping, we had Blake Mills, a former player in Simon Dawes, by. He was in L.A. at the time doing a lot of session work - at that given moment, playing with Superwolf's Matt Sweeney and others on the upcoming Kid Rock record that was being produced by Rick Rubin. Sweeney turned out to be such an ace fellow, and one who had such a good time rocking out with us and Mills in that setting, that he left the studio that night for a dinner engagement and a few hours later sent an e-mail saying, "Just had dinner with Andrew W.K. He's in town and would love to do a session, if you're interested." A session with Andrew W.K. has been something that we've long be interested in so we called back with an enthusiastic, "You bet," made the necessary arrangements and extended our recording plans by two hours the next day, deciding to end the proceedings with an improvisational set with Andrew and Sweeney before the former had to get back to taping episodes of "Destroy, Build, Destroy" and the latter had to return to Rubin's lair. So, Andrew shows up a bit early, knocks on the door and asks if there's a liquor store nearby. We point him in the right direction and he returns 15 minutes later with a plastic grocery sack with a six-pack of Bud Heavy tall boys, asking everyone, "Could I interest you in an ice cold beer," rhythmically and exactly. All who were posed the question graciously accept the beer in hand and it's almost curious that the kind gentleman in the monster truck hat didn't crack them open for us. Sweeney arrives shortly thereafter and prior to getting to the stand-up piano and the guitar amp, they step outside the back door on a crisp and clear night to just soak it in and chatting about what they were going to attempt, likely doing it in exactly in the same spot where Smith used to smoke his weed. They then returned to the room and what came next was a free-form explosion of Andrew's hands pounding keys into submission and Sweeney ripping and receding, drawing from and instigating. They wove through each others smoke and turns, grafting themselves onto the others' thoughts, deciphering and blurring them into new threads that could have just raged and roared and floated out of the room had they not worked their collective ways to a mutual ending - something that naturally put some finished punctuation where they deemed it belonged. When listening here and in the room as it was happening live, it's easy to hear both men tapping into an open-ended conversation that feeds, cannibalizes and then caramelizes into pieces that are believable, but previously unconsidered or unthinkable to them. It's an enchanting exploration into what happens when pure creative energy is so dear and respected in two people, so adored and striven for, that these kinds of expressions can materialize out of an outstanding blackness or non-space. It's a fiery brand of inspiration and we like to believe that the devil and his soul-acquiring negotiations may have been at work here. He sure knows how to party.