The first time I came across Andrew WK I was definitely old enough to know better. When I Get Wet first came out, I certainly wasn't listening to Sum 41, and though sometimes now I still sing at dinner 'cut my life into pizza, this is my knife and fork' to the grating rhythms of Papa Roach, I have to make it clear that I never actually liked any of the pop punk/nu metal/shit grunger music that epitomised American alternative music in the early 2000's.
It was later at university that I ran into Andrew WK again. Having not paid any attention to the white denimed beast, I somehow found myself at one his gigs and whilst it was the height of nu rave and I was largely weighed down by the heavy Looney Tunes alarm clock I had around my neck, I felt compelled to leap around. He peaked my attention, energising the audience. I think it was the bit where he thrashed around on stage in a wheelchair with his fingers down his throat, eventually hurling before a raucous performance of 'Party Til You Puke'. Yeah, that was really something.
Andrew is and has always been one of those figures who crosses the boundaries. Many a music-snob will smile warmly thinking about Andrew, audiences who almost certainly weren't listening to the fellow via his angsty-fat-jock contemporaries, or The Bloodhound Gang. It's namely his philosophy that has allowed this to happen. Across motivational speaking, a plethora of interviews (he is almost certainly one of the most press friendly musicians working today) and despite a couple of other records that were poorly received, he has systematically managed to remain at the forefront of affections due to the generation defining motto of his own coinage: when it's time to party, we will party hard. How can you argue with that?
I meet Andrew in a swanky hotel in West London. He is a huge man, with a polite voice, a big-friendly-giant if ever there was one. I am struck by how dirty his white jeans are and I think 'surely he has more than one pair'. I stop staring at his crotch.
I ease in with a filler question and am unsurprised what the answer is: What are you doing here in London? I'm here to show my London fans how much I love them ...and to party.
Of bloody course you are Andrew. He's actually here celebrating ten years since the release of I Get Wet, but potaytoe-potaato.
If there's one thing Andrew has perfected it's giving the fans what they want, and I can tell today will be no exception.
I move on, asking him about his relationship to fame and how it has changed him. Oh, I should clarify that if there is one thing Andrew likes to do, it's talk, so I will serve you up the choice bits. If you just imagine everything interjected with 'and yeah, I just want to party', you'll pretty much have the exact same experience as mine. He tells me that he finds fame 'humbling' although he was never one to 'buy into it' in the first place. That is to say when I Get Wet erupted he never had a sense of superiority or bought into the idea that he deserved it, or it was owed to him, instead he just felt 'eternally grateful'.
One crucial part of this philosophy is being 'cool' (in the 'not in an asshole' sense, not the fashion sense) to everyone else, being respectful and sharing in everyone's party experience.
Amusingly, Andrew tells me that one major change is he is getting older (I had already guessed by the jeans) something that I couldn't imagine this timeless jester would ever concede to. On prompting him about how that makes a difference, he is off, at full speed ahead on the Andrew WK philosophy that if you are fan you will know well. If you don't, the breakdown is:
Partying isn't about getting fucked up (though I don't know what sort of person you are if it isn't), and is instead about feeling good. 'You can 'party' by reading a book' he tells me emphatically with his wide perfect smile, and party preferences can change with age and style.
One crucial part of this philosophy is being 'cool' (in the 'not in an asshole' sense, not the fashion sense) to everyone else, being respectful and sharing in everyone's party experience. Without this, Andrew say 'NO PARTY'.
He tells me about this at great length, and with such little prompting that I am almost disappointed. It's the kind of stuff that most interviews include, and stuff that as a fan I already knew.
Not content to let it lay there, I pushed him, as seriously as I could, I told him about my personal experiences of his music, of finding myself in New York at his venue Santos Party Haus and bribing the bouncer for some info on him. I wanted to see a different side of the Andrew everyone knows. I asked him how he felt about his experimental album and its reception, about whether any new music would experiment or whether he would stick to the party tunes even though now he is feeling the pitch of age? 'I will make what sounds good at the time, but it will definitely be music to party to'. I try again, this time asking whether he worried about endorsing young people to 'party', what that meant for his opinion on say, drugs and drinking, and whether as an icon he felt he needed to be responsible. He chose his words carefully saying in effect all he does and can endorse is 'happiness and the pursuit of that', giving me a) very little to go on and b) also dashing my hopes of getting fucked up with the AWK-dawg (yeah, I said it).
Andrew WK is not a man for the mind, but a man whose infectious energy is for the wordless soul
I close the interview with amiable exchanges, chit-chat about Batman and the Olympics and am almost saddened by the experience. On the tube home I wonder if this dude, now into his thirties would be stuck on loop forever, like one of those dolls with the drawstrings you can pull for them to speak the same stock phrases forever and ever. I wonder how we can retain his audience as we get older unless and I begin to wonder if Mr. WK is becoming a tragedy.
It's only when I get home and have a relisten to the album that I realise I'm barking up the wrong tree. Andrew WK is not a man for the mind, but a man whose infectious energy is for the wordless soul. Look for anything else and it's you who is the fool, but look to this cartoonish kind icon for a bit of ecstatic joy, and that my friend, is partying, and partying hard.
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