Flavorwire | By Tom Hawking
A couple of months back, Perfect Pussy singer Meredith Graves published an essay wherein she recalled a meeting with Andrew W.K., and the striking difference between Andrew W.K. the performer – loud, flamboyant, fond of partying – and Andrew W.K. the person. Graves suggested that his party-centric persona was about hiding unhappiness, rather than expressing it. At the time, this struck me as a rather unfortunate misreading of what the idea of Andrew W.K. was all about. But whether you agree or disagree with Graves, her piece was just the latest installment in a long history of theorizing about what Andrew W.K. means. The best person to talk about this, of course, is Andrew W.K. himself, which is why I was delighted to get the chance to have lunch with him in New York last week.
It turns out that one meets Andrew W.K. for lunch at Odessa, an Eastern European institution on Avenue A most often visited after 2 AM and under the influence of perilous quantities of alcohol. He is, in fact, in the midst of a publicity push for a popular liquor brand. And more interestingly, he’s smart enough to realize that Andrew W.K. is a valuable brand in itself: a recognizable aesthetic (even today he’s in his trademark white T-shirt and jeans), a sense of what that aesthetic represents (partying!), a sense of continuity and consistency. “I don’t like using the word ‘brand’ usually to describe what I do,” he tells me. “But with that question in mind: I’m a brand too!”
He also speaks about how advertising fascinates him, which perhaps isn’t entirely surprising given how much of the Andrew W.K. project is about image construction. “I like things that you can identify and say, ‘That’s this thing,’” he explains. “When I think about people I like — Trix’s rabbit, the Lucky Charms man — those are appealing characters to me. I don’t know exactly why. Or even something like Mickey Mouse. You know, it’s reliable. You can turn to it time and time again. And it provides you a consistent offering. It’s very vast in that, but it’s sort of a doorway, an entry point. You can go to this door to get at this certain thing and go to this certain place.”
There have always been people who’ve dismissed the whole idea of Andrew W.K. as being contrived, accusing his persona of being “fake” and even suggesting that multiple people have played the role. The thing is, though, that the man himself has never been anything but forthright about the fact that, yes, Andrew W.K. is a performance. Today, he describes the idea as follows: “In Times Square, or in Las Vegas, for example, there are these very flashy, bright signs and entryways into a casino or a movie theater or a business or a place, where they want you to come in. So I wanted to create something that was loud and clear, so you could say it cut through everything, or maybe it adds to the noise, but where you say, ‘Oh, if I go to this thing, this is what I’m going to get.’ I wanted that thing, that once you walk through that — that maybe a very tight door, a very specific door — that you could really go anywhere. If I was going to do something, it should be able to be about everything. And that’s a tall order, but I figure I might as well try to go for it.”
In other words, the entire Andrew W.K. project — the music, the shows, the parties, the aesthetic — was a vessel for an idea. I’ve written before about how you can trace a distinct and coherent philosophy underpinning pretty much all his work, and joked that someday someone will write a PhD thesis about him. As it turns out, though, they mightn’t need to, because Andrew is writing a book himself: The Philosophy of Partying, due out some time next year. “It’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. It’s not about my life, it’s about life, in general, and that’s just a big topic,” he observes, laughing. “So it’s the culmination of everything…. [and] it’s been overwhelming in ways that I never, ever would’ve expected. It’s like, ‘Well, I’ve been writing this advice column… it’ll just be like a thousand advice columns!’ But it’s not. It’s like one giant — it’s not even an advice column, it’s not even advice, it’s sort of beyond or before advice. At least that’s what I’ve tried to do, and sometimes it seems very embarrassing. Why should I have even thought of doing this, because I’m not very educated in the traditional sense? And I don’t have a lot of experience talking about this stuff that I’m trying to talk about. But I think everybody does [have] an experience with being alive, so [I’ll] work with that and hopefully people can relate to it.”