Do you like to party? Andrew W.K. would say if you like to breathe, you like to party.
Chances are, at some party in the last 15 years, you’ve spilled some beer while jumping around to Andrew W.K.’s 2001 amped-up party anthem “Party Hard.” But for the energetic rocker, the party doesn’t end when the keg is kicked. In fact, the party never ends. For Andrew W.K., partying is life.
Andrew W.K. made a splash in the pop-culture pool party with his 2001 record I Get Wet, which featured the musical version of Monster Energy drink, “Party Hard.” His song “We Want Fun” was featured on 2002’s Jackass: The Movie soundtrack and he’s recorded more than a half-dozen albums including a nod to his classical piano training with 2009’s 55 Cadillac – an album of improvisational piano rock. He’s also worked with everyone from Markie Ramone to reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry. And that’s just the music side of his career. He’s also a radio host, author and advice columnist and, like, 17 other things.
The man who often appears in a blood-stained, dirty white T-shirt looks like a maniac. And he is a maniac – a person who is obsessively enthusiastic about something. Andrew W.K. is obsessed with partying. But, not obsessed with drunken frat-guy partying. Andrew W.K.’s idea of partying is more akin to a philosophy of life rather than some raging, sweaty, booze-soaked bash (although it can be that too, at times.) To party, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means to enjoy oneself at a lively gathering. For Andrew W.K. that lively gathering is called life. And partying, for him, is a daily celebration of all aspects of being alive, being in the moment and surrendering to the flow in a positive way. He’s a party evangelist. A party philosopher.
Andrew W.K. gave me a call last month from a New York City hotel room, while taking a break from preparing his weekly radio show – America W.K., which broadcasts, oddly enough, on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze.com on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Andrew W.K.’s intense, hard-partying rocker persona differs from the man on the phone – he’s thoughtful, polite and articulate. In his Village Voice advice column “Ask Andrew W.K.,” AWK dispenses some sage advice on topics ranging from dating with an STD to how to feel about terrorism. It’s a forum that also allows him to impart words of wisdom from his philosophy of partying.
Not surprisingly, the holidays are Andrew W.K.’s favorite time of the year. Because parties. (His holiday solo tour hits the Chameleon Club in Lancaster on December 13.) And one thing he wants you to know is you’re invited to party with him. Forever.
Mike Andrelczyk: Let me do a quick rundown. Rock star, music and TV producer, radio show host, actor, author, club owner, advice columnist, motivational speaker, ex-baseball card forger (note: that’s another story from AWK’s adventurous childhood – you can look it up for yourself) husband, father, partier.
Andrew W.K.: I just say “partier” because it encompasses all of that. I don’t think of them as different projects. I think of them as just one project called “Being Andrew W.K. and Partying as Hard as I Can.” This stuff just happens, I don’t sit down and say, “Next week I’m going to go work on X,Y and Z.” I used to think that the whole point of life was setting goals and being very specific about what you wanted to do. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I was very specific about wanting to go on an adventure. But once you decide to go on an adventure, the best thing about the adventure is you don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s what makes you have to rise to the occasion. If you set it all up in advance it’s not really an adventure at all. My only decision was that I wanted to become a partier on a party adventure and everything else is up to the party itself.
MA: You’ve turned partying into a philosophy of life.
AWK: Partying isn’t something that you just do on the weekend or when you listen to one song. Why does it have to be this isolated thing that we sometimes do? How can we make life feel this way all the time? That became my mission. The goal is to be able to be devote your life to being excited about being alive. It adds this whole other dimension where you realize that the most amazing thing that you’re ever going to get to do is to just be alive in the first place. Then all the sudden this thing that’s in the back of your head, this wishy-washy awareness thing, gets sucked right to the front of your mind and everything takes on this sort of importance. We’re reclaiming the miracle of being alive and celebrating it non-stop.
MA: Is there a golden rule of partying?
AWK: You don’t want limit other people’s ability to party through your own.
MA: I love this photo. Is this how you see the world? With a sense of wonder and joy?
AWK: That is me trying to be at my best. You have all kinds of ups and downs inside yourself and you want to find a way to live that makes the down times not stand in the way of the good times and makes the challenges actually bring out the best that you have. Doing Andrew W.K. was my way of trying to rise above my weaknesses. It brings out the best in me.
<<< Celebrate Andrew W.K.’s entire catalog. Start with these five great songs that aren’t “Party Hard” here. >>>
MA: You’ve released some music on the Internet that you made in your teens. It was a little darker and heavier. What made you go from that to uplifting party rock?
AWK: I’ve always tried different stuff. But there was a certain feeling that came naturally to me – this very major chord, major scale, cheerful kind of music. There was this kind of energy it gave me when I heard it or played it. It felt like the musical version of how I wanted life to be. Eventually, I realized that with this very short precious life you have this one chance to do what, perhaps, you’re meant to do. I felt like I was maybe meant to make this certain kind of energizing music. There seemed to be something that I was being asked to provide – for myself and others. If I’m offering a certain dish on the buffet, that’s what I’m offering. I want to be the sundae bar on the buffet.
MA: Do you remember hearing a certain song as a kid that made you want to play rock music? Do you have that specific memory that made you say “This is it. This is what I want to do”?
AWK: I don’t know if I’d call it a rock song, but there’s this series of albums that were made called Hooked on the Classics that featured the main motifs of many famous popular classical compositions that were then set to disco beats and driving drum beats. My parents had this album and even at a very young age I recognized some of these melodies. I was maybe 5 or 6 years old. I didn’t have an older brother. I didn’t have cable TV. I was a little isolated when it came to discovering new stuff, so I kind of just heard whatever I heard. I really liked how there was no singing on this record. It was just these insane melodies with this really driving beat. That was probably the first time I felt this undeniable feeling. It made being alive feel like something, rather than just this thing that was happening. It felt like a miracle. Like this means something. My parents got me the CD version of that same album as a gift not so long ago. The one I have has that great “Rhapsody in Blue” by Gershwin, which most people recognize from the United Airlines theme.
MA: Obviously, Star Wars is on everybody’s mind right now. How have the Star Wars movies affected you?
AWK: Crenshaw – he plays bass in my band – is obsessed with Star Wars. He is the biggest Star Wars fan that I’ve ever been friends with. And seeing his excitement for the film – I envy him in a way, because I wish that there was something that someone else had made that I felt that strongly about. In many ways I realize that I do have that with partying. And a devotion to Star Wars is very much like a party. It is a celebration of this incredible, very meaningful, very multi-layered world. That’s what I’ve admired about it the most. I like being around people who are passionate and fearless about what they enjoy. I remember seeing some of the movies in the theatre and they were actually quite overwhelming to me when I was very, very young. I remember being very scared and very confused. Why would Darth Vader try to kill his own son? It was very traumatic almost in a way.
MA: You’ve said that you don’t fight the force that pulls your life in certain directions. And I’ve also heard you talk about some advice that you’re Dad gave you, basically, “Don’t try, just do.” It all sounded very Star Wars to me.
AWK: I really don’t think my Dad remembers anything about any of the Star Wars movies at all. But, you’re right, the movies are dealing with these very essential aspects of the human experience and letting those play out in a very fantastic environment – this alien world. You wouldn’t think that would cut so close to home, but the themes that are being worked with are the standard journey of any person trying to discover their place. It’s wonderful to have those stories continuing to be told.
MA: I’ve been reading your advice column. You give some very thoughtful, intelligent answers. Does it come naturally for you?
AWK: Everybody has these answers. I couldn’t be less qualified, really. I never studied anything. I never went to college. Never was trained. Going back to Star Wars, if you could talk to Yoda, what would Yoda say? You can have that conversation with Yoda in your head. That’s what I do. I try to pretend that I’m talking to the wisest person in the world and ask them “What would you say to this person?” And we all have access to that – this gift of consciousness. I don’t think of it as my opinions. I’m as low and as weak as anybody else, but I can imagine what it would be like to not be low and weak and then try to aspire to that.
MA: We all have a Yoda inside of us.
Andrew W.K. brings his annual Party Hard Holiday Super Special Celebration solo-tour to the Chameleon Club in Lancaster (223 North Water St.) on December 13. Get tickets here. Party hard!