Everything rocker Andrew W.K. does is informed by a singular philosophy: "the power of partying." Whether it's tweeting daily party advice, delivering motivational speeches, owning a nightclub, shilling for Taco Bell or offering the soundtrack to Playtex Fresh + Sexy Wipes commercials, W.K. does everything with a remarkably upbeat attitude.
Andrew Fetterly Wilkes-Krier, 33, is a California-born musician who moved to New York City when he was 18. In 2001, he recorded the iconic I Get Wet. Behind the somewhat disturbing bloody-nose photo on the cover is an album of fiercely joyful rock anthems, from "Party Hard" to "Party Til You Puke."
I Get Wet never spent much time on the Billboard charts, but W.K. took its simple message and turned it into a global Party King brand. He now speaks at Ivy League colleges, preaching his positive philosophy and often inviting the crowd to get up on stage and boogie with him. He's also a Twitter maestro, dispensing daily advice like, "PARTY TIP: Do something sexual," and "PARTY TIP: Thursday is Friday-Eve, so you can party really hard right now!"
His perpetually cheerful outlook even earned him the notice of the U.S. Department of State, which contacted him last spring about becoming a U.S. cultural ambassador to Bahrain. He went through months of background checks and paperwork, but in November, a few days before he was scheduled to leave, someone at the State Department pulled the plug. (He says he was "disappointed and frustrated" by the decision.)
Other artists might be criticized for capitalizing on their success and selling songs to national ad campaigns—especially to something like a post-coital wet wipe—but Andrew W.K. seems to endear himself to even the crabbiest of punks. Perhaps it's the contagious joy contained in his messaging or the fact that he comes across as approachable and down-to-earth. The Party King is actually someone you would, in fact, want to party with.
We caught up with W.K. while he was getting ready to head out on tour to talk about the origins of his upbeat nature, his philosophy and, of course, partying.
What can people expect on this tour?
Andrew W.K.: I'll be playing many of my party songs that people may be familiar with, so it'll be a more dance-electronic show because I don't have any guitars with me. It's as high-energy and spirited as I can make it ... I feel like, whoever is in that room with me, they become my band. I've always felt like it was kind of like hanging out with your friends, singing songs together, almost in your room. It's really intimate and colorful. I hope people enjoy it as much as I will.
Do you plan on releasing new music any time soon?
W.K.: Absolutely. I'm continuing more work on my rock 'n' roll party album—been working on it for a while. There's been so much partying that time to record all the songs and finish them has been a bit fleeting. I'm not proud of that. But I have confidence that the gods have a plan for me and the album. I'm constantly writing riffs and ideas and melodies. There's just been so much excitement. You just have to go with the flow, like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream.
Let's talk a little about your partying philosophy. I was wondering when and how that came about.
W.K.: Like so many folks, I struggled with being sad or angry, or just not feeling good sometimes, like when I was in high school. And it occurred to me that there's gotta be a way to feel better than this. Maybe it's possible or worthwhile to feel good as much of the time as possible. I wanted to dedicate my life to doing something that would make me feel good, make me cheerful, hopefully make other folks cheerful as well. I was thinking about times when I felt most energetic and enthusiastic and hopeful, and those were moments of celebration, grand moments of gratitude that you were thankful for. Be it the weekend, you're thankful for a friend's birthday, thankful for the new year or a holiday. I'm thankful to not be dead every day of my life. That was the way I could justify partying every single day of my life, by an active expression of gratitude—celebrating life in a very literal way.
I think people sometimes hear that you're the "Party King" and they immediately think that just means a kegger.
W.K.: Everyone has their own idea of what fun is or how they like to celebrate or how they enjoy themselves. Clearly a 4-year-old child will party in a different way than maybe my 94-year-old grandmother. It's all about getting yourself in that zone, where all you're doing is physically feeling excited to be alive right then and right there.
It feels like you've managed to extend your career by doing a lot of creative things. I was wondering if you have advice for musicians trying to get their name out there.
W.K.: Do what you want to do. Do what you enjoy, do what feels good to you. I've been very lucky to have a lot of things I never would've expected come my way, opportunities I never could've dreamed of. Say yes more than no, and you'll end up doing more stuff. Never compromise your integrity, always follow your heart, but don't give into fear or doubt. I want to have an adventure when I'm alive and have fun. So I want to find all the different ways I can—in life and entertainment—to get to that feeling of excitement and fun and joy. For me and as many people who I can get to come on this venture.
Andrew W.K. plays KBGA's Fool's Night Out Fri., April 12, at 9 PM at the Palace/Badlander complex. $12/$10 in advance at the KBGA office and Ear Candy.