Andrew W.K. on His Philosophy of Partying: "It's About Celebrating That You're Not Dead"
It's not an Andrew W.K. party till somebody's spurting blood.
Photo by A. Strasser
There's nothing new about looking to a rock star for inspiration. From Bad Brains singing about positive mental attitudes (PMA) to Pink and Katy Perry singing about female empowerment, it happens all the time.
What is surprising is that a guy with songs called "Party Hard" and "Party Til You Puke" could turn out to be a rock 'n' roll Joel Osteen with partying as his religion instead of Jesus.
Andrew W.K. has spent the last decade and a half rocking crowds, giving speeches, writing books and an advice column, hosting television shows, and generally spreading happiness and satisfaction in life by talking about his philosophy of partying -- which he says can mean literally whatever makes you happy.
W.K. has played all over South Florida during all those years, but he will come to Miami proper for the first time since 2002 when he blows the roof off Grand Central on January 31. So we at New Times got him on the phone to chat about partying, politics, and perpetual positivity.
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New Times: Your Facebook page is absolutely one of the most positive things on the Internet. It's built around your concept of life as partying and keeping a positive outlook on everything around you. There's no way everything can always be awesome. What inspires that outlook for you?
Andrew W.K.: I don't know. I have tons of great things in my life. I usually just think of one of those things -- a friend or family member, a song I like, anything good -- it usually just takes one thing, and it shifts my immediate mood. There's times when you're supposed to be in these moods and you've got to just embrace it. Most of my work, that was me trying to cheer myself up. Ninety-nine percent of all of this effort with partying and everything was all initially to make myself feel better 'cause I was so angry or depressed or struggling with bad feelings. So I wanted to have something I could work on that made me feel better about being alive. If anybody could feel good from it, that's an added bonus, and if other people like it, we can cheer each other up and cheer each other on.
Some people are confused by this idea of partying. To most, that means getting wasted and being generally unproductive. You have a slightly different way of using the word party. Can you explain it for the less aware?
I tried to pick one of the simplest words or concepts that expresses the idea of fun, excitement, pleasure, enthusiasm, or celebration. It has been confusing to me why a word or activity like partying can be confusing to others. At the same time, maybe it's too straightforward. I mean, it is getting wasted, or not. If you don't want to get wasted, you don't have to. It's about doing what you want to do to celebrate that you're not dead. I figured, yeah, if you're gonna focus your life on anything, it might as well be partying. It seemed like the most fun thing I could think about. I wanted to put my time and effort into something that hopefully I and other people would enjoy.
Was doing all the other stuff well beyond writing and playing rock 'n' roll always part of your plan?
No, no, no, I never could have dreamed of that. I had inklings very early on that things could go any way, but I actually like leaving things more open to not really knowing or not really understanding. I sensed that I was going to do something. Rather than pushing toward something, I felt like I was getting pulled toward it.
You've done interviews with Glenn Beck and been on several Fox News shows, and inevitably, they try to get you to take a stance on some kind of political issue. The same has happened with letters written to you for your column that are focused on specific politics. How do you manage to keep people from rolling their eyes without taking a side or judging people when you answer?
I'm not a professional political commentator. I'm not very well educated in general, let alone in politics, and I think that most folks who have me as a guest are aware of that so they generally don't turn to that. They've got people who are more involved and dedicated and suitable to those things, so all I can do is offer my party expertise, which is the mindset that I personally adhere to and promote, so it's easy. I don't really have an opinion... But most of the time, I don't have to worry about it because they know that I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.
There are several intense conspiracy theories about your origin as far as the writing and production of your music, where you came from, whether you're the same Andrew W.K. that the world was introduced to with your first album, I Get Wet. Does this bother you? Does it matter? Are you real?
At times, it's frustrating to deal with people thinking anything that I didn't want them to think, but then I realize that's futile and I can't control it. Perhaps, even more than that, what they thought could be even more valuable and maybe I could learn something from it, and maybe even they were right. So I tried to start listening even more to the people I didn't agree with and see what do they know that maybe either I don't know myself or don't want other people to know. The whole thing just introduced a whole level of doubt, not only into my offerings, but also into my perception of myself and the world, and that's only made me more thoughtful... There's nothing wrong with questioning things, even if what you're questioning has the best of intentions. I've made peace with the fact that people will and should think a lot of these things, or maybe even that they're right. You can't have it both ways: You can't do something and then be mad when someone says something about it, so it is what it is.
You've talked about how much you wanted to get on a tour bus when you were first starting out. Does going on tour still excite you?
Yes, more than ever. I appreciate all the stuff that comes with this great work, more than I ever did before. I didn't expect that. I didn't expect to grow tired of it, but I expected to take more of it for granted, and instead, I've had the exact opposite of that. I've just felt more amazed, almost sort of frightened at the fact that I've gotten to do this. This is not a normal way to live. Most people, including myself, would have given anything just to do this for a few days, let alone coming up on 15 years. I feel very, very fortunate.
-- Stephen Feller
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Andrew W.K. With Wastelands and Bleeth. Presented by Poplife. Saturday, January 31. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $20 to $25 plus fees via epoplife.com. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.
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