Marky Ramone + Andrew W.K. on Blitzkrieg Project, Paying Tribute to the Ramones + More
As Andrew W.K. so perfectly pointed out in the beginning of our conference call with both himself and Ramones drummer Marky Ramone, we had created a “party line.” During this unique conversation with punk rock’s new dynamic duo, we spoke about everything concerning Marky Ramone’s newest Blitzkrieg lineup, featuring Andrew W.K. on vocals.
In an “it’s just crazy enough to work” spark, Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg, who tour the world jamming classics from the almighty Ramones, recruited Andrew W.K. as their frontman. We caught the collaborative band at their first-ever show at Santos Party House in New York City, and shortly before their recent gig at New York’s Irving Plaza, we managed to get both Marky Ramone and Andrew W.K. together on one phone to go in-depth about the project.
We already delivered the exclusive that Andrew and Marky were hoping to create original music together, but now we bring you the rest of our exclusive chat with Andrew W.K. and Marky Ramone.
First of all I wanted to say how much I enjoyed the first show you guys did at Santos Party House. It was so much fun. It truly did feel like a party. It really felt like a celebration of The Ramones and the lives of Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee. That being your first show, Andrew, how did you feel performing 30-plus Ramones songs in New York City at a venue that is partially yours?
Andrew: It’s one of those moments where if I had to die that next day or something I would have gone out on a high note. I don’t think that life could get more magical or meaningful than that on so many levels. It’s entirely surreal, it’s extremely humbling, it also shows that dreams can really come true and that with enough effort and enthusiasm, really unlikely things can happen. If someone had told me 10 years earlier that a night like that, I would get the be a part of it in such a powerful way, I don’t know if I would have believed them. It’s hard to imagine. Nights like that make all the harder times worthwhile. I will be able to hold onto that night. I am still processing it, you know?
Marky: Very eloquent, very nice, very well put. [Laughs]
Marky, having done a lot of these Blitzkrieg shows, coming onstage again in New York City at a smaller club with a packed house and a very, very enthusiastic audience; is that kind of show reminiscent of playing somewhere like CBGB or other smaller club shows with the Ramones way back when?
Marky: It was a lot more intimate. Recently, over the years, I’ve been playing these huge festivals and then when you come back to a venue-type situation it’s really a contact that you miss. Playing that one show; you were right. It was a party. We were all together having a great time and sometimes that’s what you miss when you play these outdoor, huge festivals. Was it like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB? Stuff like that? Yeah, there was something there. I could say that there was a sweat, there were the sing-alongs and the fun. Just looking at people eyes because they were that close to you, and that’s what I remember about the well-known clubs also in New York City and around the country where we played.
Yeah, again the entire time fans were jumping on stage and Andrew, you were giving people the mic, letting everyone sing, letting anyone who wanted to come up and sing do it. How important is that sort of crowd participation in this incarnation of Blitzkrieg? I know you have played overseas since, so has that continued?
Andrew: I mean, I feel like I’m an audience member in this experience. I feel like anyone that wants to sing these songs is just as worthy of singing them as I am. I am very, very grateful that I have the chance to be the main person on the mic, but anyone else would have those same feelings. Anyone would want to sing these songs, anyone would want to have this opportunity. I feel very, very lucky, but with that good fortune comes a sense that you want to share it with people and you want people to understand that you are just as excited about it as they are.
I always wanted that to come across in everything I did, especially something like this. Again, where there are so many people, even very close friends of mine, that would give anything to have a chance like this and I want it to feel like it’s a shared glory. Like we are all reveling in the power of this music together and we’re not really playing it to you, we are playing it together and that show really was like that. Even with all the shows I’ve played with my own music, that was a very unique kind of feeling because there was soul. The legacy was so strong and it’s still alive and that’s what I was really blown away by at that show. You could feel that the songs are alive. It is not like playing oldies or something, it’s still growing, it’s still building. People are still confronting this band [the Ramones] and what they’ve done and they are still fathoming it. I think that that is going to be happening for many, many more decades.
Sometimes something that is so intense and so amazing that it takes that much time for it to be fully appreciated and I felt like people were going out of their minds in the best way for the love of how great this music is, including friends of mine that have seen the Ramones play many, many times; New York friends of mine. They themselves, having seen the new show and having heard the albums over and over and over again, say to themselves, “I just can’t believe how great these songs are.” I really do put it up there, without any kind of reservation or humor, I really put it up there with the greatest music that’s ever been made. Up there with Mozart and Bach in terms of its power to make the human spirit come alive. It’s a brilliant thing.
I was one of those people that dived onto the stage and got to sing. I can attest that it made the night so much more special.
Marky: What was great also is that there were lot of young people there that didn’t have the chance to see the Ramones because we retired in 1996, so a lot of these new fans are now old enough to go out and they see how energetic these songs really are and how we just go right into them with no stops. There’s definitely a lot of energy in the air when we do play these songs.
I’m 26, so I know exactly what you mean when it comes to experiencing it for the first time. I’m like, ‘Holy s–t, this is so powerful and energetic.’ Even after that show, when Andrew’s ‘Party Hard’ came on the speakers, the crowd just kept dancing and moshing just as hard as when you were on stage. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. Andrew, I know you said that there was a very unique crowd that night. Marky, do you feel the same way? How do you respond to a crowd being that involved?
Marky: Well, it was very diverse and there were older fans and younger fans. To me, I always say this: the music definitely bridges the generation gap. The younger fans, I like to call them friends, were all up in the front stage diving while the older fans were in the back going, ‘Eh, I did that, but I just came to hear the music. I’ve been there and done that.’ But they had a great time and as I walked out of the club, I got a lot of remarks from people who were hanging out near the gates. They were really nice to hear, very kind words about how much fun they had that night.
Marky, one reason you chose Andrew for this project is because you identify with his party philosophy. Now, Andrew, since you’ve been around Marky for a while and you’ve been to all these places with him, is there any particular philosophy of Marky’s that you’ve found yourself identifying with?
Andrew: The impact he’s had on me is just, quite vast in ways I’m sure he wouldn’t have anticipated and maybe not even intended. To think anyone committed to what they are passionate about and working at it every day with extreme focus is always inspiring, but to see someone do it for the love of it and to do it with extreme grace, warmth and kindness and patience… There have been people that have been through a lot of stuff but this is a very unique individual. To see the poise and the strength of character after all those ordeals, still being able to stay in the moment and find joy and bring joy to so many people, it’s deeply inspiring and very moving.
I just like to be around people that are doing what they were born to do, it’s the best vibe. You can feel it just in the room before the show in the dressing room or when we’re traveling or driving. There’s this palpable energy that’s being maintained. The thing I most appreciate is that Marky has every reason to feel however he wants to feel, yet it’s very evident that he doesn’t take anything for granted and still gives everything he has to what he loves to do. That’s as good as it gets.
Marky: Thank you.
You’ve taken this tour to so many different countries. Are there any particularly memorable experiences or stories you can recall from your international dates?
Marky: Well, we did Russia. That was great. It just seems that everywhere we go, the participation and response basically is the same. Just having a good time, engaging the audience, the audience singing along with the songs; it really is at this point, from what I can observe, a universal feeling. We’re not going to stop at this point, we’ll just continue going on. We just keep learning more songs and we’re going to add it to the set list and change it around sometimes. So, we’ve done about 10 or 12 countries together. It’s just overwhelming, it’s just unbelievable.
Andrew: What’s most remarkable is how similar all of these diverse places are. Like Marky said, it’s universal. It’s a very human feeling. Music brings people together and it’s one way everyone can relate. You do get to see it. I haven’t played music ever in a lot of these places that I got to go with Marky, so I was especially excited just to travel and be taken places. The first show we played in Europe was in Serbia. I had never been there, never had the chance to go there and it was my birthday. The mayor of the city, the one that organized the show, remember that Marky?
Marky: Yeah, he brought up a cake and sang happy birthday. There were about 8,000 or 9,000 people there. They were all going ‘Hey Ho, Let’s Go!’ They knew the words. I was surprised and very grateful to see that, that this music can expand into other countries. Better late than never. The thing is, it’s gotten there. I’m just so grateful for this because when the Ramones started, no one really paid that much attention because it was such a new genre. What we were up against was disco and all this other stuff. A lot of DJ’s didn’t want to play us and MTV only played us a few times, but we garnered a large underground following that grew and grew and grew in so many other countries. This is the result later on. We’re talking 30-something years later and it just amazes me that we can just go out there and play and provide this great entertainment to people.
Andrew: They’re ready for it.
Andrew, I spoke to Marky recently and he said he liked that you weren’t just trying to imitate Joey Ramone. Is that a conscious effort?
Andrew: I mean, it’s impossible. It’s an impossible thing to do.
Marky: Andrew has his own style and the way he projects onstage, it works. Everyone is different.
Andrew: The amount of effort it takes just to sing the songs is enough. The songs just take over. Anyone can sing these songs in their own way, that’s part of the brilliance on how they’re written. You don’t need to mimic anything because the song is just asking to be sung. That’s what we see in the crowd, they’re singing it as well as I am too. Again, there’s no way anyone could ever fill Joey’s shoes despite whatever his shoe size actually was.
Marky: 10 1/2. [Laughs]
Andrew: [Laughs] There will never be another one like him, there never has been before him. His legacy is his own and the beauty of it is the songs and what he has done as the singer is so strong. He invited everyone to sing. There was always such a welcoming attraction to be part of it in any way. I’m just here to sing the songs, the rest of the work takes care of itself. The spirit takes over. That’s how he felt too, once that music kicked in, it took over. All he had to do was sing the best he could.
Marky: And now we’re in 2013 and the energetic level and lyrical content of the songs definitely appeals to, obviously, youth. You can’t fool them, they know what’s good and what isn’t. They like the assault of an energetic night like that. So that’s why they come out and enjoy themselves like that.
Almost 40 years, amazing. Marky, what’s the latest on your autobiography?
Marky: It’s done. Going over the transcripts and making sure that everything flows properly. Every detail is there. Not just the Ramones but my time with Richard Hell & the Voidoids, and my tour with The Clash with the Voidoids, and making ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,’ working with Phil Spector and the Grammy, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the whole thing with The Simpsons, everything. It is done and it’s going to be very comprehensive, it’s going to be thick. It will definitely be out in 2014.
Having just finished their string of U.S. tour dates, Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg are set to perform three U.K. dates before taking a break from the road. Stay tuned for all your news on Marky Ramone, Andrew W.K. and the Blitzkrieg project.