Andrew W.K. is best-known for writing positive, pumped-up rock songs that make you want to party till you puke. In the realm of partying, he’s called both a King and a God. In the realms of strictly horror, you might recognize him from a role in DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III.
He’s also renowned as something of a motivational speaker. An avatar of positivity (though very candid about his struggles with depression), Andrew has spent years preaching the power of partying, and how it can be utilized to deal with some of the overwhelming existential terror that seems to be part and parcel of being human.
When I reached out to interview The Party God, I wasn’t really sure what the tone would be. I was imagining the interview being something like “The Monster Mash,” I guess; a spooky party. Instead, this writer was fortunate enough to have a sincere, insightful, and somewhat emotional conversation about horror movies, the nature of fear, and depression
FANGORIA: Were you familiar with FANGORIA before we reached out for this interview?
ANDREW W.K.: Yes! I’m very familiar with it, and that was a really exciting thrill when you reached out, because of my familiarity. Going way back, I probably first saw it when I was seven years old, when I was first tall enough to see that section of the magazine rack at the grocery store.
And then pretty quickly, that was the one thing I looked forward to about going to the grocery store. Looking at FANGORIA and also GOREZONE magazines. I was not allowed to rent those movies at the time, for obvious reasons. But getting to page through these magazines, and see these photos and still from the movies, and also sometimes behind-the-scenes makeup process, involved in creating these special effects, was just extremely interesting and inspiring. And sometimes really disturbing.
I remember seeing some photos, I actually don’t even know what movie it was from, but a woman was holding her own brain out of her ear, in like a long strand. And I’ll never forget that. It really turned my stomach. Even though I knew it was not real, I mean, it was from a movie, a make-up effect… I think that was actually just as disturbing, in a way to imagine these adults, these makeup artists, this whole team of people working in this industry, who would put so much effort into creating something that was so upsetting on so many levels. And to have it have that kind of impact, I was just really fascinated by it, and really inspired. I really got into that whole mindset of gore, just sort of the most gory things you could imagine. Specifically when it was a drawing, or a painting, or a makeup effect.
Now, with the internet of course, it’s easier to access actual gore photos. Which in a way are less exciting– Well, obviously they’re very upsetting, but also they have a more hollow feeling. Knowing the creative process that went into the building of these effects and these visions, from nothing, that was always the appeal. But anyway, I never imagined that I’d get to talk to FANGORIA because I’m not someone who works in the horror movie industry, so this is really personally meaningful to me, going all the way back to those early years.
FANG: I’m glad to hear it! So, first real question for you: Are horror movies party?
A.W.K.: Oh, absolutely! I think movies in general are extremely valuable ways of not just entertaining ourselves or occupying our time, but provide a lot of insight into just about every area of the human experience. And I’ve yet to encounter a genre of movie that competes with the horror genre in terms of that. It’s strange because horror movies seem like a very narrow genre, but that narrow opening, once you squeeze through it, there’s a very vast universe on the other side. And you can pretty much encounter any version of thought, any kind of philosophy, and of course nothing’s more horrifying than existence itself. And maybe, you know, gore specifically is sort of a small shred of the real horror of just being a human being. It’s a very intense and overwhelming experience, and I think horror movies explore that in a really, really, really wonderful way. That few other genres have the creative license to. There’s places they can’t go.
FANG: You said nothing is more horrifying than existence. Can you elaborate on that a little?
A.W.K.: Well, any time we’re confronting the limits of our own knowledge and understanding, it tends to be what you would describe as an unsettling feeling. And the deeper you dive into these unsettling feelings, the more unsettling they get. Until they can result in a full-blown feeling of horror, where there is no answer, there is no comfort, there is no solution to the riddle. Instead you just get lost in a state of such anxiety about what it is to be alive, about what happens after you’re alive, about where you came from, about the vastness of space, about the cold black desolate nature of the unknown. You know, that’s the ultimate horror.
FANG: Man… I can really relate to that feeling. Actually, I wanted to say, as someone who has suffered from depression for a lot of my life, I really appreciate you being a public figure who’s outspoken about struggling with depression. That’s really cool.
A.W.K.: Well, I appreciate you saying that. It’s funny, on one hand I’m glad you can relate, but also I’m sorry you can relate. And maybe you can relate to this, too, but in a way those “bad feelings” are the worst thing and the best thing in my life. They’ve contributed to a lot of suffering, but they’ve also been at the root of a lot of motivating decisions, and a lot of the best things that have ever happened to me. So it’s a strange kind of relationship.
They’re a strange creature, because I hear people say you don’t want to glamorize these emotions, and there are certain things to work to overcome, but it’s very hard for me to imagine life without some of these flavors in it. And that’s an odd thing, when I start to think about this kind of feeling, or this side of life that, on one hand, I think “Oh, I wish I never felt like this. I wish life wasn’t like this.” But on the other hand, I can’t really imagine life without it. And then I start to think that all of these feelings are positive, in a way. Even the ones that don’t feel positive. Because they must have some reason. That’s just my personal view, but I don’t think they’re always a defect, or something that is a mistake, or a problem that needs to be solved, or some kind of a misthought. I think sometimes after the joy of overcoming a problem, it’s hard to say that you wish you didn’t have the problem. At the same time I wouldn’t wish anyone to have these struggles just for the sake of having them. But I’m not entirely convinced that removing all strife from life is possible or even healthy.
FANG: It’s sort of like, “I couldn’t have become the person that I am, without the grief.”
A.W.K.: Yeah. And in that way, it kind of goes beyond judgment. It kind of falls outside of our ability to say it’s a good feeling or a bad feeling, or I’m glad that it happened or I’m not. We’re trying to evaluate ourselves so often, and trying to evaluate whether we’re feeling the right way, or living the right way, or being the best person we can be. Sometimes life just completely makes a mockery of our ability to do that. It’s beyond opinion, it’s beyond criticism. It just is what it is. I know that a lot of the best things I’ve ever done, they started as a motivation to feel better when I felt bad. So if I always felt good, where would I have wound up? Why bother doing anything?
I understand a lot of drug addiction, and how that can arise. If you’re always in a state of orgasmic pleasure, what reason is there to do anything? Just exist in this state of pure euphoria, and you’ve made it. But if you have to and do something to get to that euphoria, like play a song, or make a movie, or write something, or travel, or whatever it may be… Maybe that’s the whole point. These things are supposed to spark us. They’re supposed to make us so uncomfortable that we have to do something to change. To live.
It’s easier said than done. You know, it’s easy to say that now, but tomorrow if I’m bummed out, I’ll be like “Ah, what was I talking about?”
FANG: Well, I’m feeling that right now. And apparently you are, too, so we can be grateful for that.
A.W.K.: Yes, sir.