Rockstar. Performance artist. Party animal. Motivational speaker. Poseur. Genius. Hack.
The jury’s been out on Andrew W.K. since he burst onto the scene with the rock anthem ‘Party Hard’ from the 2001 album ‘I Get Wet‘. But the pop star’s myth has gotten even deeper; just last week he told a London audience that he is an actor playing a part. We’ve been big fans since we saw his thoughtful chat with singing Socialist Ian Svenonius, and, wanting to set the record straight, we tracked W.K. down. He told us about his show on the Cartoon Network and the new, London-based label that’s finally letting him do is own thing. He also spent a lot of time talking cryptically about unspeakable business agreements and the “we” behind W.K.
So, has Andrew W.K. gone rogue, is he cracking up or is he really just putting us all on? Take a look and decide for yourself.
Museyon Guides: Hi Andrew. You’ve got so many projects going on — a new album, a TV show. Tell me about them…
Andrew W.K.: The last album I put out (‘55 Cadillac‘) was a very different kind of album for me—all improvised piano pieces with no other instruments or singing or structure of any premeditated type. That was a real exciting experience…after many years of different situations I managed to get my first-ever chance to record the album that I wanted to make without any outside influence. When you have that kind of freedom, this is the kind of music you make.
On the show, ‘Destory Build Destroy’, we’ve got everything. We’ve got explosions, we’ve got monster trucks, we’ve got teenagers running around like crazy, we’ve got a lot of destruction, but a lot of creation as well. Working in television, that’s something I’ve been excited about and interested in ever since I filmed my first music video. It was the atmosphere of the production: the cameras and the lights and the crew of people and the teamwork and adrenaline that goes into creating some visual–TV, film, video–kind of presentation.
MG: Even though you’ve got so much going on, you’ve got tons of stuff coming up, too, including a “Lost Album”.
AWK: ‘Close Calls with Brick Walls‘ is the lost third album. That came out originally in 2006, but it was only released in Japan and South Korea. People were not able to get access to this music unless they imported it or were able to find a used copy, or a download, of course. But people have been asking for a long time: Are you ever going to put this album back out? And now, fortunately, because of a new business structure, a new agreement, a new understanding now we have this opportunity to release this album. And the great thing is we’re re-releasing it with a companion album called ‘Mother of Mankind‘.
MG: Your music is so wide-ranging. What are your influences?
AWK: What you listen to, what books you read, what movies you might watch, they might not necessarily find their way as influences into other aspects of your life, or other work that you do. For example, I really, really love peanut butter, as well I love rich and strong cheese, but those topics have never worked their way into my lyrics. Or food-influenced attitude hasn’t really found its way into my day-to-day creative output, but still is one of the most important things in my life. What I mean to say is the music that I listened to growing up hasn’t had too much to do with the music I made here. And it’s not because I don’t love so much music, it’s because when I got involved in doing this, the musical style was pretty much mapped out. It wasn’t really an opportunity where I was going to be expressing my musical interests through these songs.
This situation is much more similar to Radio City Music Hall producing the holiday show. Where that’s a specific goal they want to bring people high holiday hopes, excitement, cheer and tradition, and everyone sort of loses their personal identity when they team up to create that. That’s kind of how I feel about Andrew W.K. I made that decision a long time ago when I first started doing it in 1999. But I was excited about that—letting go of my own person. It’s a balance between the ego boosting that naturally happens when you’re the frontman, the center of some people’s attention. And then it’s also a great crushing of the ego when you sacrifice your own life and your own personality and your own individuality for something that you care about.
MG: There have been a lot of rumors about who Andrew W.K. is, and you’ve recently addressed it yourself. So, what’s the deal?
AWK: There are certain aspects—like in so many businesses—where certain information is kept confidential and it’s agreed by everybody to do so. The thing that makes my situation a little different is because I agreed a long time ago, when I was younger, to keep certain information private, that ends up becoming more confusing or complicated to people because I haven’t been able to talk about it, or have made that decision. What people don’t have the ability to know, they let their imaginations start to run away with them.
It doesn’t matter how this stuff is made, as long as what I’m presenting people are enjoying. And I really would encourage them not to put so much importance on my personal life or my career history or what I was doing before Andrew W.K. Or how Andrew W.K. came together or how it’s made and who’s involved in having it made. Those are legitimate questions, but most people are not going to want to go down that road—it’s just not in their best interest. It’s like when you’re growing up and your parents tell you things at certain times and don’t tell you things at other times. You can say they’re lying to you, but no, they were just waiting to share information when it was helpful. And didn’t share it when it wasn’t helpful or detrimental. It’s not worth it for me to give up everything that I’ve put into this just to prove myself to people.
MG: Does it ever get old being Andrew W.K? Do you ever just want to throw on a pair of black jeans instead of white?
AWK: It is very intense wearing those white clothes. It just feels very different wearing them, I’m not sure why. I think when you wear white you see more of your body … you’re more aware of yourself in a mentally exhausting way. I love wearing dark clothes because you just blend into the shadows and you’re not popping out. When you wear all white–whether you’re a bride or a butcher–you stick out. I don’t look at it as a lot to live up to; it’s like being an athlete or playing a sport. I signed up for this a long time ago. I was well aware of what I was getting myself into. I could not have predicted how it would progress or how it would unfold, I would still never change what I’ve done or not do it.
A lot of the things that you do in show business are ways of living that you’re told not to do in other ways of life. Whether its engaging in something that people might think is frivolous from the very start, like entertainment, to the fact that you’re putting yourself onstage, putting so much importance on what you do that you want to present it to people. But you’re also asking people to look at what you do and approve of it, to let it into their lives. It’s very, very intense.
I guess there was a time when the first album had just come out, when I was just starting, when I had nothing to compare this to, I had never done anything like this in such a full-on, intense way. I guess, in the back of my head I kept thinking there’s gonna be a time when it all goes back to normal, when my life feels like it did in high school, or in junior high school, or when I lived at my parents’ house. The majority of my life had felt a certain way, and then when this started everything felt different. I realized it’ll probably never go back to how it was. It opened a can of worms that you can’t close back up…
For more from Andrew W.K.–including his holiday party tips–tune in tomorrow for Part II of our interview.