When Andrew W.K. first launched his music career, he did so with little more than a feeling in mind.
“I wanted to reach that state of confusing excitement,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I can only describe it by comparing it to other times I’ve felt that way: On the last day of school before summer vacation; I always got that feeling at amusement parks and on carnival rides; early sexual experiences or dating experiences had that feeling; UFO sightings.
“It’s this feeling where you’re very aware and very alive, but also very perplexed, and it feels like life is full of possibility.”
W.K., born Andrew Wilkes-Krier 34 years ago, has spent the last decade-plus trying to inspire this feeling in others, first as a musician, and then later as a motivational speaker and, temporarily, the U.S. Cultural Ambassador to Bahrain. It’s a career arc that must have been unthinkable to most when the singer first surfaced covered in blood on the cover of his 2001 debut album I Get Wet, a fist-pumping marriage of it-goes-to-11 guitar riffage and party-obsessed lyrics (the track list includes songs with titles like “It’s Time to Party,” “Party Hard” and “Party Til You Puke”).
Interestingly, W.K. has managed to endure not by distancing himself from these party-obsessed roots, but by embracing them to an almost comical degree. On Twitter, the musician serves as the Martha Stewart of the party circuit, doling out tidbits like, “PARTY TIP: Laughter and giggles are necessary nutrients for optimum health and wellness.” And in conversation he continually extolled the benefits of the party lifestyle, saying, “Partying is just having fun, and I figured if I was going to spend as much time as I could doing something it should be having as much fun as possible.”
Despite his outwardly upbeat appearance, W.K. has withstood his share of turmoil, including a legal battle that temporarily brought his career to a halt. From 2006 through 2011, a period best described as his lost years, W.K. released little in the way of new music as he found himself caught up in a legal dispute regarding the creation of the Andrew W.K. character.
“I wasn’t allowed to use my name in certain areas of the U.S. entertainment industry,” he wrote in a 2009 essay published in The Guardian. “And we were in debate about who owned the rights to my image, and who should get credit for ‘inventing’ it.”
Even now details from this time remain murky, and when asked about other parties involved his words turned to smoke: “Other forces. Other people,” he said. “It’s hard to define. Some people call it god.”
Despite these hurdles, W.K. persevered, carving out a side career as a motivational speaker and releasing an album of solo piano music entitled 55 Cadillac. In recent months, however, there have been rumblings of a new Andrew W.K. album in the works, though there are still no firm plans to record. While this might have caused the musician great consternation in the past — “I always thought you had to … inflict your desire on the world to get anything done,” he said — in recent years he’s learned to adopt a more laid-back attitude stereotypically associated with his California birthplace.
“When it’s meant to happen it will happen,” W.K. said. “Hopefully next year, but who knows? Who knows what will happen next week. As long as I keep working and keep partying as hard as possible it seems like everything takes care of itself.”
Photo credit: Jonathan Thorpe