February 20th, 2009 | Interviews

michael hsiung

Download: Andre Williams “Can You Deal With It?”


(from Can You Deal With It? on Bloodshot)

Andre Williams is a true artist. You want rap? You want R & B? He’ll give it to you. You want rock? He’ll put that to your ears nice and sleazy. The Black Godfather—a.k.a. Mr. Rhythm—has shaken our tailfeathers with bacon fat and chicken grease. He lost almost 100 pounds in a year and a half nose-diving with Ike Turner, has been homeless, and wrote Stevie Wonder’s first song. It doesn’t get realer than that. This interview by Daiana Feuer.

Do you have more ties or hats in your closet?
I would say hats. The oldest hat I have in my closet is my black derby. I’ve had it for ooh, eight years. I’ve been through so many of them and I don’t keep them long because traveling in and out of places, they wear out pretty quick. Absolutely.
Have you ever given one away?
I have not ever given one away. That is a very good question. I can’t even tell you why not.
What decade had the best dancing?
I would say the ‘80s. They were dancing closer, first of all. Like the ‘90s, they dancing far apart—you don’t know whose partner’s was who’s. Now and before that, they practically was doing the waltz. It wasn’t an interesting dance. I would say the ‘80s people were closer.
What kind of music were you doing in the ‘80s?
I was making the transition from contemporary rock ‘n’ roll to rock. Truthfully, I wanted to work and the only way that you could work is to keep up with the times. At that time, when rock n roll got stale—which was in the early ‘80s—and rock got hot, so I just went to rock. I always stayed with what the trends called for.
If you could go back to one decade, which would you like to visit?
The ‘50s. The late ‘50s, absolutely. The late ‘50s, people was carefree and they was having more fun. Now people are so serious, you can hardly have fun. I think people are more serious. This might sound crazy. But people are more in the attitude that there’s no tomorrow, so let’s do it today. Let’s get it done today. Tomorrow is not planned. I don’t know if I’m saying it right but people are so speedy. They want everything done as soon as possible. ASAP.
The apocalypse is coming is what it sounds like.
There you go. There. You hit it on the head. You hit it just right. It’s like the apocalypse might be tomorrow, so let’s do it today. Let’s have as much fun as we can today. They’re not afraid—they just anxious. Anxious to make sure that all they can put it in one day—they try to jam it all in there. They got to make a day as full as possible.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Have more than one thing going for you. In other words, by saying that, the disappointment is not as great. You always have something to fall back on. You always got an alternative. Make sense?
Where are all your eggs? How do you like right now?
Since I quit drinking and I don’t smoke anymore, it’s kinda boring. It’s kinda boring but it’s healthy. I think I appreciate now better than I did before.
People say you replace one thing with another, so what takes center stage now?
90 percent my music is the most important thing now—is to make sure that I can come up with good product. So I would say that’s the most important thing now in my life.
What’d you think when Hank Williams died?
I wasn’t surprised. I felt bad for a minute. But I figured it was sooner or later, it was coming. You know, for his lifestyle. Anybody that lives that kind of life, that’s going to happen.
Do some people have to live that life in order to give something to the world?
I think that—and this is just my opinion—but I think that people choose that way of life because they can’t deal with the real life. They choose the easy way that to them—they can’t be realistic. They can’t face the world as it really is so they draw their own picture of the world.
Do you provide something for people to draw their world with?
I would hope so. I’ve lived a long life. Of course I’ve had my ups and downs. But I figure there’s some parts in my life that I could draw from that would probably be helpful to people. And there’s some parts in my life that I don’t believe would be helpful to people.
Did you ever think you’d perform again when you were homeless?
No. I did not. I had no idea that I would get back to where I am now. I didn’t have a clue. It makes me thankful to a higher power that I was able to survive the bad things in my life. Which was interesting but was very traumatic. That day-to-day, hour-to-hour living is no fun. I don’t believe it can be described. You have to almost live that life—it’s so traumatic. No two days are the same. Every hour is something different. It’s a different experience. One minute you’re humble, the next minute you’re aggressive. The next minute, there’s so many different characters that you fall into. Minute to minute you have to fall into a different character in order to survive.
That’s heavy.
But it’s the truth.
What’s a ‘bucket of blood’ place?
A bucket of blood is a venue where there’s a lot of drugs, a lot of potential prostitution, a lot of bullies, a lot of hostile people, a lot of unpredictable characters. That would round it out.
Are there any in the documentary on you?
I can’t remember what all was in the documentary because I was in a different phase of my life. I was drinking heavy and a lot of that stuff I don’t remember. And I haven’t seen it again. I had seen it one time but I was so out of it that I don’t remember actually. I was told that it’s pretty interesting. I can imagine it was pretty interesting because at that time I was a pretty interesting character.
You’re pretty interesting now.
I think I’m kinda boring.