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Andrew W.K. explains how his Twitter fans got the Penguins partying hard

“Ultimately, all I really care about is that people are excited about music.”

If you’ve been watching the NHL Playoffs, professional hockey’s grueling championship quest, you got to hear it at least three times Monday night during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks. And you’re likely to hear it again this evening, when Game 2 gets underway shortly after 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

We’re talking about Party Hard, Andrew W.K.’s hard-charging anthem (and life mantra) that has been the Penguins’ official goal song since last October. Anytime the Pens score a goal on their home ice at the CONSOL Energy Center, Party Hard plays over the P.A., and the hometown fans go, to put it mildly, apeshit.

Party Hard became the Penguins’ official goal song in October, thanks to a Twitter campaign spearheaded by uber fan Nicholas Doblick, a movement that was seen and responded to by the team’s social media department. When the song was pumped out to the crowd after the Pens scored a goal 56 seconds into the game against the Buffalo Sabres on October 29, Twitter exploded in response, and the song immediately skyrocketed to 33 million impressions. “I’m still just blown away by how the whole thing unfolded as it did,” Andrew W.K. told Digital Trends in an exclusive interview.

In addition to his official Party Hard duties for the Penguins, Andrew W.K. will be spinning his fourth first-Saturday Party DJ set at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on June 4. He also recently launched his own political party dubbed (of course) The Party Party, but his first love has always been making great music.

“With each song, I’m trying to go after that feeling of elation, of euphoria,” explained Andrew. “It’s not the only feeling in the world, it’s just the one I thought I should try to focus on and find the most effective way of getting there.”

When a team — or anyone — acknowledges their own fans’ passion, it just amplifies that excitement on all sides.

Which Andrew W.K. songs best embody the achievement that goal? “Pretty much every song on the first album [2002’s I Get Wet] does, but Take It Off and We Want Fun have that feeling for sure — they’re all trying for it,” he replied. “Some have it, even if only just for a few seconds, but getting it there for the entire song — that’s hard. Working for that goal gives me something to keep pushing towards.”

Andrew W.K. called Digital Trends to discuss his unique relationship with the Penguins and their fans, embracing the industry shift to streaming, and how he still loves the blockbuster aesthetic.

Digital Trends: I grew up in Pittsburgh in the ’70s and my dad and I went to every Pittsburgh Penguins home game back then, so when I heard that Party Hard had become their official goal song, I thought that was the perfect marriage of music and team.

Andrew W.K.: Well, that means a lot to me, particularly coming from someone who’s had that experience with the Penguins and with hockey in general. You understand how those atmospheric songs are a big part of the game, and the feelings associated with the game. To have this song chosen not only by the team and the people surrounding the team, but specifically by the fans — that was the most meaningful thing of all.

It became one of those perfect social media groundswells. When you and I were growing up, we would have had to figure out a different way of making something like this happen.

In the old days, I think we would have had to have gone door to door and collected page after page of petitions with signatures, and then somehow try to get a meeting with the team to present them with the figures. (chuckles) But it’s true — this does seem to be one of those wonderful developments that technology has facilitated.

And you were receptive enough to see what was happening with it out there on Twitter, and open enough to be a part of the movement. You probably get all sorts of requests coming your way through social media on a regular basis, but this one really affected you.

I don’t get that many requests, to be honest, that are this significant. What I was wary of was not coming on too strong in my support, because I’ve had past experiences where sometimes people’s enthusiasm can kind of wear down the people in charge, or irritate them, or they take it the wrong way because they don’t want to be told what to do. These are all assumptions on my part, but you never know.

My main point in wanting to get involved with the fans themselves, the ones who had started this effort, was to let them know I appreciated them, because I never, ever expected that this would happen. Without being cynical about it, it just seemed like… well, I don’t know. In the past, I had seen other people start these things with petitions to have us play concerts or at certain festivals, and they usually didn’t happen, for whatever reason.

The fact that the Penguins responded to this campaign really shows there’s something special about that organization. A lot of other large institutions — not just sports teams — have had to grapple with how exactly to engage with their fans and their audience using this new technology. And I think the Penguins are a shining example to show that, one: It’s not too difficult. And two: The results speak for themselves.

When a team — or anyone — acknowledges their own fans’ passion, it just amplifies that excitement on all sides.

Pittsburgh as a city has always had a great passion for its sports teams. A related example is how the Pittsburgh Steelers use Styx’s song Renegade to help jump-start their defense in the fourth quarter, something that’s been a hallmark with them for at least a decade.

That’s awesome. Pittsburgh is a very unique place. They pride themselves on that. Every city has its own character, of course, but sometimes that character just develops by happenstance. When the place itself recognizes and then formalizes what’s special about it and makes that a part of who they are — you kind of become a fan of being a fan, you know what I mean? I’m a fan of Pittsburgh fans, not just the individual sports teams.

It’s something you can feel. Being someone who’s traveling and touring and playing in a lot of cities, even the response to our concerts there was always unique. It was something we grew to be able to count on. It was not just a fluke. It’s something about the people there where when they get into things — there’s a special excitement.

Voting with your dollars now happens in touring, and in how many people pay to come see you play.

And that clicks with what I like about music, culture, and social excitement. Going out there — it’s very friendly. It’s not menacing. I like seeing how they can balance that level of intensity, energy, and excitement and also manage to keep it so positive and loving.

I see you have a Penguins jersey with the number 39 on the back. Who chose that number?

They said I could choose any number I wanted, but I wish I had written PARTY HARD on the back. They didn’t have periods to write W.K., so they just wrote ANDREW.

Oh, I’m sure you could get them to stitch PARTY HARD on the back for you.

Or I could go back and get a different one with it, since they have all the color variations.

Right, all those alternate jerseys. What’s the significance of 39 for you?

That’s the year my dad was born, and it’s a number that’s popped up a lot in my life. I’ve always been into 1939, and the New York World’s Fair. And I lived on 39th Street, and on the 39th floor. Once you pick a number that means something to you, then you notice it everywhere.

Speaking of 39, there’s a Queen song called ’39 that’s on A Night at the Opera (1975). It’s a pretty cool Brian May song that’s about a space voyage.

Oh really? Wow. I’ll have to look it up. Thanks for the tip.

No problem. So after somebody hears Party Hard during a game, many of them are probably going to seek it out on services like Spotify and stream it. Are you cool with the streaming universe, if that’s the way people are listening to your music?

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.

Totally from the ground up, in your case.

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.

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.

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.

Seeing an artist live is the main collective experience these days.

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.