steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

interview
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andrew w.k. and andrew k.m. have a conversation

GHOSTS N' STUFF - "STRANGE PLACES" AND "THICK AIR"

AKM: You had mentioned earlier that you had a paranormal experience. I'm guessing that's not something easy to describe. Are you able to say any more about it than what you've already said - that it was paranormal?

AWK: Oh, sure, I can tell you what happened. We checked into the Marlborough Hotel, which is a very famous old hotel in downtown Winnipeg, that had been redone, maybe 20 years ago. They sort of renovated the inside... maybe longer ago then that. So it had this extraordinarily beautiful outside faade, this almost cathedral-style look... just beautiful. Inside, it looks more like a contemporary... Holiday Inn, perhaps. There was a very strange disassociation between the exterior and the interior. And when we walked in, I mean, we had been driving for about an hour at that point. It was about 3 or 4 in the morning. We were feeling extremely out of it. But once we walked into the hotel, the amount of feeling out-of-it went way, way through the roof. It seemed as though everyone else working at the hotel and in the hotel was also in this out-of-it state of mind. You just are blurry. It's like you're underwater, or you're trying to talk through air that is solid... it's hard to explain. Maybe you've experienced that. But as we were checking in, the front desk woman was having a really hard time checking us in. She kept sort of losing track of where she was in the process, kept having to start over. She had to make the keys over and over again, she got sidetracked again, she was sort of mumbling as she was speaking... I'm almost starting to feel like that now remembering it. Just really out of it.

But I thought, well, it's 4 in the morning, I'm sure she is out of it. So we run up to this room, this sort of small room, two small beds that were very old, and again... just everything about this place, we felt trapped in. And I've never felt claustrophobic. I like cozy, small spaces. But this feeling... it wasn't even a bad feeling, it was just really thick, like you couldn't get air, you always wanted to open a window, but the window was always sealed shut in some kind of strange way. One of those rooms where you feel like you're in the room and looking at yourself being in the room. It's hard to explain. It's like you're laying on the bed, but you can also see yourself laying on the bed as you're laying on the bed. There's a lot of presence going on.

In the morning, we woke up, and I felt completely, completely messed up. I figured, I'd slept for probably eight or nine hours, I thought I would feel all rested, but I felt completely, completely weird. And it wasn't going away. So we decided to check out of the hotel, and as we were checking out and going to the other hotel, we were joking that maybe it was haunted. And it had never occurred to me before to accuse a place of being haunted. I'd never said that before. It wasn't even in my vocabulary. I wasn't really interested in the paranormal in any ways that would have me looking out for a haunted vibe. I just said that.

So we went to this new hotel, and as we're driving there, I still feel completely out of it. I felt like I was asleep; I couldn't focus my eyes. It was just the first day, too. It wasn't like we were going hardcore or anything. We were just coming off the airplane, basically. We got to the next hotel, which was brand new and really beautiful and couldn't be any more different than the other one. And we were telling the guy, the front desk guy at this new place, "Hey, have you ever heard of the Marlborough Hotel?" He said, "Oh, sure. It's a strange place." "We couldn't really handle it, so we had to come here. And he said, "Well, it's a very famous haunted hotel," and we said what! He said, "Oh yeah, it's like a top tourist attraction for paranormal people, paranormal researchers. And sure enough, he prepared a dossier, he printed out all these different websites. He was so excited we were excited about this, he printed out all these different websites talking about the Marlborough Hotel and all the hauntings there, and gave it to us. I had never had anything like that happen before.

AKM: Oh my god. Well, I wouldn't think that would happen very often, either. That's pretty amazing. Actually, would you ever play a show there, do you think?

AWK: Uh, the Marlborough Hotel?

AKM: Yeah.

AWK: Yeah, sure. That'd be amazing.

AKM: Do you think that could happen anytime in the future?

AWK: I would love it. I don't know exactly how we could go about it. It wasn't a bad vibe, it was just a really strong vibe, and I'd never dealt with a vibe like that. It wasn't a bad feeling; it wasn't negative, it was just extremely intense. Probably just the result, as old as that hotel is, in Winnipeg, it would make sense that a lot of intense people and experiences passed through there. And that's enough to give a place a lot of character and atmosphere, but sometimes if you're not ready for it, it can be too much.

AKM: Well, Winnipeg has a certain history with rebellion and, sort of, civil war, to an extent, I guess...

AWK: Yeah, we read about that. That would make sense. Sort of, uh, turmoil. Big experience, people living really crazy lives... and a hotel, well it's a transitory space. All it is is vibes coming through and going. Just think of all the different people that came through there over the years. It's an old place.

And there was something about the way they tried to cover it up. I mean, this renovation is so deliberate, so strange, so completely contrary to the way the hotel must have originally been, that it's only amplified all those different boundaries running up against each other, all those different energies and eras and times and places and people. I've never been... I've never felt... I've gone to all kinds of crazy places at Stonehenge, for example. I didn't feel like this at Stonehenge. It's a different feeling that's just as intense. But this was thick.

And I remember hearing people talk about haunting where they were like "oh my god, I just walked into that room and you could just feel something there." And I was like "what did they mean, feel something. There's nothing in the room, how can you feel anything?" And they said, "well, it's hard to explain. I felt something that you can't describe."

I didn't really disbelieve by that point. I believe in the possibility of it. But until you have an experience, it's really hard to fathom the idea of things beyond what we have normally taken to be real.

AKM: It was everyone with you that was feeling this way?

AWK: Well, me and the one other guy. Thank goodness, 'cause if he wasn't there, it would have been absolutely terrifying. There's no way I could have done this tour by myself. Absolutely no way. I would have, I might have stopped. It would have been way, way, way, way too scary. 'Cause a lot of the experiences we had were really scary. I mean, there were times, like in Red Deer - we checked into, again, one of the most amazing places we'd ever been, this hotel, that was actually sort of an SRO, a single room occupancy, where people were living. It was the oldest hotel in Red Deer, so it too was haunted. And by this point we'd already had the Winnipeg experience. This blew the Winnipeg experience out of the water in terms of the intensity of the actual building, the actual structure itself.

They were kind enough to give us two separate hotel rooms. And we checked into our separate rooms, he checked into his room, I checked into mine. In about two minutes we bumped into each other in the hall, each other going to each other's room 'cause we couldn't stay alone. Like, that's how intense, and I'm not exaggerating. I just couldn't even be alone.

So I'd never really had a journey like that, an adventure where I'd been taken so far out of my element because I intentionally wanted to go there, dive head-on into the other realm that I hadn't... I guess there's different ways of looking at the world, different ways of performing, different ways of doing a tour. And that was the whole idea. It was a very different kind of tour. I'd never done a tour like that before. The cool thing about it was we had a brand-new Cadillac, so it was very comfortable.

AKM: Ha, it sounds OK. The interesting thing is, from your stories, the locations they've been in are all really, sort of, northern desolate locations with pretty barren landscapes, I guess. And you'd figure that a lot of intense experiences where a lot of vibes go through, they'd happen in places where I guess a lot of people, souls, and experiences would pass through. But those two experiences happened in the middle of the Prairies where there's not a lot of life around.

AWK: That's a very good point. And I don't know how to explain that, or describe it. Maybe things were able to settle in there. I don't know. I don't know why. Maybe because in the bigger cities, things get disturbed more, there's so much more passing and going that things don't get to settle. I don't know how hauntings work, I don't claim to know anything about it. But it seems like maybe in the quieter areas, more rural, things can settle in, like, dust doesn't get disturbed, dust can pile up, and all those vibes can pile up more easily.

AKM: Hm.

AWK: For example, in a city like New York, the whole place is extremely haunted. Incredibly, incredibly haunted. But, it's still... there's so much going on at all times that it's constantly getting ruffled up and it doesn't have time to settle in, in a lot of places. Like, think about how haunted a place like Grand Central Station is. There's just so much activity that whatever ghosts there are all probably all worked up, and probably don't hang out there 'cause it's too busy.

AKM: Would you be interested in traveling to more isolated locations and playing there?

AWK: Yeah, I would.

AKM: Do you have anywhere in mind right now, or is this just a thing for the future?

AWK: Well, it hadn't occurred to me, for the immediate future, to set up an adventure tour, something like that, that's just as much for me than for the show.

AKM: Mm-hm.

AWK: I never really did that on tour. Whenever I was on tour, I never went and saw the sights, I never quite ever got out of the tour bus or the hotel; I just was working. But that was a tour where I did really want to go out. So I like the idea of doing another one. And I'm sure Canada could provide that.

And if we really set out to do it... the thing is, I'm a little apprehensive of it. Because, again, when you go... I think these forces are real, they're as real as you believe them to be. And if you dive into it head-on, you're asking for something that you will get. Because you reap whatever you sow. And I don't know that I'd want to reap that right now. I'm still coming off that experience.

AKM: There are actually stories about people using recording devices to, sort of, trap these forces. Do you have any recordings from when you were in these areas - any musical recordings?

AWK: My friend did have a digital camera on him, and did have some footage that he shot. Like, driving down the road, he took a lot of amazing pictures, which are all on my website. There's even a video of us - there's another haunted location we found where a man had died, and I believe it was... shoot... it might have been in Edmonton... boy... I really apologize I can't remember.

But anyways, at one of these venues, in the basement, a man had been high on some kind of really mind-expanding substance and he had freaked out, which was really unfortunate. And during his freakout, he climbed into the wall downstairs in the basement of this venue, which was this very old place in itself. It literally happened a few years ago, from what I understand. And unfortunately, he became stuck in the wall, and then he died there.

So we went and looked at that area, and looked at the wall, and walked around down there, and filmed a video of that. And that actually up is up on Youtube, I think. It's an extremely dark video. I believe it's on AWKTV, the Youtube account, but I'm not sure if it's still up. [It is.]

AKM: In terms of going up there, would you be interested in recording any music and try and channel this into your music, now that you've had these experiences?

AWK: It's already there. I mean, for sure, it's already there.

AKM: Would you be interested in going up and actually recording music in locations like that?

AWK: That's an interesting idea; I think that could be cool, but, I mean, the change already took place. I had that experience and that changed everything. It just showed that there's more going on than I could ever understand. And I like that. That will always be with me and appears in everything I do. But yeah, I mean, that's a cool idea. Again, I just want to be very respectful of these different vibes, and not mess with things that don't want to be messed with there, that aren't meant for me to mess with. If there's a good vibe and that makes sense, that sounds like a cool concept.

other topics:

HIS UPCOMING INSTRUMENTAL PIANO ALBUM, '55 CADILLAC

FINDING NEW SENSATIONS IN DESOLATE PARTS OF CANADA

"GETTING A BIG FEELING OUT" - MORE THAN MUSIC

"SOME OF THE GREATEST PEOPLE THAT EXIST"

COVERS, AND "SOME ESSENTIAL ALBUMS"

"WHERE YOU FROM"

ON CRITICS AND MUSIC WRITERS (US!) - "IT'S JUST IDEAS"

 

interview conducted by Andrew Kai-Yin MacKenzie
June 2009
published July 11, 2009
photo credit: captured from "andrew w.k. in haunted basement" video

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