Andrew’s new kids show, Meet Me at The Reck, premieres on Maker.tv on October 4th, 2014 and GQ rode the ferris wheel with Andrew at the Toys “R” Us in Times Square to find out all of the party details! Read the full article below or by clicking HERE.
Andrew Wilkes-Krier has a role model: Santa Claus. Just like his hero he shows up wearing a bright red jacket. (Well, a red flannel button down shirt.) He’s carrying a sack. (It’s actually a large white plastic bag from LOT-LESS CLOSEOUTS, a discount retail chain, in which he quickly shoves his flannel shirt, a baseball cap, and sunglasses to reveal his famously all-white ensemble of dingy white Levis with a matching dingy white t-shirt and a pair of dingy white sneakers.) “Santa Claus is a go-to guy for good times,” he explains, standing inside the most North Pole-iest place you can think of—the Toys “R” Us in New York City’s Times Square.
After that, it may seem less surprising, obvious even, that this 35-year-old metal dude, better known as Andrew W.K. and famously known for partying hard—see: his wildly popular first single, “Party Hard,” which sounds exactly as you’d expect—is the host of a new family-friendly web series for Maker.tv, titled Meet Me at The Reck. The show, which premieres Saturday, is why we’ve met up at this Wonkaesque multi-floor playpen. It’s a kids’ show, he describes, in that kids are, you know, on the show but it’s really for kids of all ages. Promoted as “Sesame Street for a new generation,” Meet Me at The Reck engages with its audience through exploring a goofily entertaining imaginary world that includes Jack Black and Zach Woods with Andrew W.K. as your guide, playing recess-friendly games, and, most essential to the show, completing DIY craft projects.
It all makes sense as we browse an aisle packed with wackily outfitted WWE wrestling action figures—much more realistic-looking today, he points out—and flashy kid-sized championship belt replicas. His favorite childhood toy was a lot less ostentatious than the ones we’re surrounded by. “I liked building blocks a lot,” he says, “Wooden blocks that you could really use for whatever.” As a kid in Ann Arbor, Mich., he’d use those building blocks to make mazes and haunted houses for his younger brother and his friends, even making little tickets for entry. “I had to try to really convince myself that this really was legitimate,” he says, “It was just very depressing and discouraging to think, No one cares about this. It’s just in your basement. So everything I could do to try to make it seem like it counted in the world, I would do.” Half the time it worked, and half the time his brother refused to play along. “And then we would start to fist fight, basically—Go in the funhouse! GO IN THE FUNHOUSE!”
If you know anything about Andrew W.K., you know that partying is really important to Andrew W.K. For him, partying doesn’t exactly mean what you think it means. For example:
GQ: What’s the best party you’ve ever been to?
Andrew W.K.: “Probably right now. You know, just existing. I don’t really remember not existing, so it’s hard, I guess, to compare, but I can imagine what it would be like to not exist, and it’s very boring. So I just assume that this is as good as it’s going to get. Even earlier today I was feeling struggled, just that feeling of stress, and all I could do is say, ‘OK, I’m just going to just continue on.’ There’s a real relief in just not quitting. You’d think it would be almost the opposite. But it’s sort of beyond hard or easy, it’s just nice when it’s what you do. You don’t quit. That, to me, is the spirit of partying. It’s not even necessarily just a positive mindset. It’s taking it all in and trying to have the strength to appreciate the hard stuff, the easy stuff, the good stuff, the bad stuff, all as part of this experience.”
You get the sense he could probably talk about this party philosophy all day but he trailed off just then to count the number of floors in the amusement park-sized toy store from our view in the Little Tykes-shaped car on the famous Toys”R”Us Ferris wheel.
And that’s just what it is: a philosophy. It began as “a very personal endeavor to cheer myself up.” But it became a calling of sorts: “I wanted to have something big to dedicate my life to that wasn’t necessarily just a pursuit for my own self, a cause that maybe other people could then get chewed up by,” he says. “That was the idea: to be glad that you’re not dead was a reason to celebrate every day. Even if things get very, very hard or dismal in every other way, just the fact that you could still exist was enough to keep pushing forward. And to encourage us to stay in touch with that kind of very direct happiness that we can access for ourselves and for others.”
It should be noted here that none of this comes off as bullshit. As he speaks, Andrew W.K. looks just off to the side of you, somewhere above your head, almost as though searching for the right phrase rather than trying to recall a script, as the words naturally spill out. His speech is oratorical, his hands randomly gesturing or clasped in front of him, as though delivering universal truths to a sea of followers rather than a sea of neatly stacked Lego sets under the shadow of a mechanical Tyrannosaurus Rex with whom you can take a souvenir photo with for $8.70.
His commitment to partying hard is obvious, not to mention consistent, despite any questions of authenticity. A few years ago, a series of rumors, accusatory Internet comments, and a website hacking amounted to a claim that “Andrew W.K.” was really just a character created by music executives for which he was cast. It was a “very complicated and confusing ordeal,” he says, looking uneasy for the first time during our afternoon together. His brow furrows, his gaze toward the floor like a kid feeling uncomfortable, as he thoughtfully albeit ramblingly talks about the “ordeal.” “Those were choices that I had made in the past—it’s even challenging for me to say it that way, because a lot of my frustration came from feeling like I had been taken advantage of or tricked in ways or sort of manipulated,” he says. “But, you know what? I put myself in that position to be tricked. I still want to take responsibility for everything that happened. And I can’t be mad about it, because I’m doing this now. It all worked out in a roundabout way. And in that, I’ve turned myself over to my destiny on both sides, what’s already happened and what will happen.”
There are probably other things he can’t say, or won’t say, that would explain all of this in a more digestible way. But would it matter? Probably not. He’d still be, it seems, the same guy: The unexpectedly sweet rocker who’s here to bring us positive vibes. See: his advice column in the Village Voice. Sympathetic, reflective, and often lengthy letters that respond to any range of queries, from relationship troubles to contemplating suicide. So who cares about a “persona” if it functions as a way of spreading this philosophy?
Take, for instance, the book he’s writing. You can probably guess the name: The Party Bible. It isn’t an instructional guide to partying, as you might guess though. “I’m not expert on anything, I’m barely an expert on my being a person at all,” he explains, “It’s just, like, Let’s think about this. Not proving any point; I have no position I’m trying to argue beyond an open heart, open mind.” Plus, anyway, the only main rule to partying is “don’t party in a way that makes it impossible for someone else to.”
That, and you’re never too old—or too dad—to party. (Turns out Andrew W.K., married to performer and fitness pro Cherie Lily, has kids of his own but he doesn’t talk about them publicly to respect their privacy.) “From my limited experience, and from seeing other friends and family and from my own upbringing, it seems actually quite crucial to be able to play, as an adult,” he says, “Growing up isn’t about getting serious or cutting yourself off from even nonsensical happiness. It’s about getting better and more able to engage in that at a deeper level.”
And, you know, what could be more nonsensically happy than Santa Claus? “When I think about Santa I just feel a good, like, Ah Santa! So yeah, I would like to help him in his cause of cheering up kids, but kids of all ages.”
By Jen Ortiz | Photos by Jace Lumley