INTERVIEW: “Being Alive Is Terrifying” Andrew Talks With XOJane

Andrew W.K. Parties With Us! The XOJane Interview

This is not the Andrew W.K. interview I was expecting to give you guys. It’s so much better.

By Tynan Sinks | Above photo by Torry Pendergrass

I love to party.

That’s why, when I heard that Andrew W.K. was coming to town, I knew that I had to see him live, if for no other reason than to say I had seen the omnipresent spirit of every party, live in the flesh, once in my lifetime.

On Sunday, the night of the show, I was sitting on my couch, working on an xoJane article, actually. And then, in a totally random whirlwind of excitement, caps lock, and Twitter, I had an interview lined up with him. And then I panicked.

WHAT would I ask him? I just sort of jumped at the mere chance to talk to him without really thinking about what we would talk about. Forethought and I have never really been acquainted, after all. I had only a couple hours to prepare before meeting him after the show and I was worried that I had bitten off more than I could chew. And what would he be like?!?

The show was insane in the best way. Andrew W.K. is touring the U.S. with just a keyboard and a hype man — but don’t think that this tour is anywhere near unplugged. It’s jam packed with the headbanging, mosh pit, party action we’ve all come to expect from an Andrew W.K. show.

Headbanging at the keyboard.

When I got to the green room, however, he was the farthest thing from what I anticipated. Spent from the show, Andrew was calm and quiet. He spoke slowly and deliberately, granting me an interview that was as much informative for me as it was introspective for him. This is not the Andrew W.K. interview I was expecting to give you guys. It’s so much better.

Oh, and, he loves Jane! He gave me the best Jane soundbite EVER. Read on.

Tynan: What’s it like to build a career around partying? There are certainly worse things you could build a career around.

Andrew W.K.: Exactly! And that’s kind of how I thought of it as well. If I’m going to dedicate my life, my energy, and myself to something, I would like it to be a cheerful endeavor. I would like it to be something that not only makes me feel good, but has the potential to make other folks feel good. I thought about what was the most fun thing I could think of doing, if I was going to do something forever? The most fun thing I could think of was to party! That started it all, I guess. It seemed very unlikely, but one way or another it has worked out.

T: What would your idea of a party be?

AWK: It’s always changing, that’s the most interesting thing about it. It is a hard thing to pin down, this idea of “fun,” of what is enjoyable, what constitutes a good time, what defines celebration. The best way I can sum it up is just, awareness. Being aware that you’re not dead, and trying to do something about it.

T: What was it like at the point in your career when you started incorporating being a motivational speaker into your rock career?

AWK: It was actually very specific. New York University asked me to give a talk in 2005. I figured, at first, it was going to be about the music business, and they explained that they preferably didn’t want me to talk about the music business at all. They wanted me to show up and talk about whatever I wanted. I was very excited, and inspired by that openness and that freedom and realized, after that talk, that that was a way to get to that kind of spirit as well.

There’s many ways to get to that feeling of possibility, of energy, of potential, of cheerfulness, and I’ve met a lot of folks that, for whatever reason, god bless them, they don’t like loud music or rock music or my music. You don’t want to leave them out of the party either. You want to find a way to get to them.

T: Do you think it’s beneficial to put your message of positivity in such a rock and “metal” package?

AWK: I don’t really think of myself as that heavy, there are so many bands out there that rock harder. I wanted to try to do what I thought I was supposed to do, against some common sense and against other options. There was something deeper. There was some kind of intuition or instinct that told me I was supposed to do this particular thing, even if it wasn’t the toughest or coolest thing to do, or even the thing that I thought was the best thing to do. And that’s the strange thing about your destiny or your fate, you own life, your true will, sometimes it will really surprise you.

T: I’ve heard you talk about “true will.” Can you explain a little bit more about what that means to you?

AWK: Well, I’m still figuring it out myself. There seems to be a place for everyone in this world, and by world, I mean this version of reality, and if you try to do that thing, it seems to help everybody else do their thing. And it can be very confusing because what you think you’re meant to do can be actually very different from what you’re intended to do by your own will. It can be very frightening and very unpredictable and challenging, but also very rewarding.

I wish everyone the resources, the opportunities, the foundation, the encouragement, and the support, to do what they’re supposed to do. Unfortunately, it’s been somewhat rare for everybody to be able to do that. We’re working to change that, you know?

T: I had no idea what to expect coming in tonight. When you came out, it was one of the more intense shows I’ve seen. Do you ever worry about the crowd not responding, or them not receiving you when you’re up there alone?

AWK: That’s performing. You want to have something to give yourself over to.

I’m trying to kind of destroy myself in those moments, that kind of ego death. I don’t want to think about anything else in those moments. Just singing that song and playing that keyboard and just being there.

I’ve always just been very afraid of being alive in general, it’s a very intense experience. It’s just very frightening on all sides. Unfortunately it’s only getting more frightening as it goes on. Everybody here tonight was trying to relate to one another in that fear and not only support each other, but boost each other, cheer each other on. And I just hope that those moments of joy and very pure physical pleasure are what you get from music or a show like this. I want it to be an orgasmic experience. It’s a healing feeling.

T: Switching gears a little bit, just for the sake of my own curiosity, can you tell me a little bit about the Santos Party House?

AWK: Yes! Absolutely. The Santos Party House is primarily a dance club, but also the best, in my opinion, the best rock and roll venue in all of Manhattan. And by rock and roll, I mean anything that is worth seeing. This is a club that my friends and I opened in 2008. We worked very hard, and we wanted to make our own venue. We gathered together with support from not only New York City but the world, really. We actually built a place from scratch in New York City. It was the first time in over 20 years that a new place had been built from nothing in downtown Manhattan. It was probably the most satisfying, most challenging, and also the biggest project I’ve ever been a part of. There’s a show going on there right now!

T: I noticed very randomly this spring, you tweeted about Jane Pratt. Have you met her?

AWK: Oh, I would love to meet her. I have not. I mean she’s just an icon on so many levels. I heard about her through my first girlfriend who was an avid fan of her writing when she was the editor of Sassy, that was in high school for me, in Michigan. And, you know, she’s just a real bad ass. Just someone who paved a new way, created a space not just for herself, but for everybody. A place where you could think the way you want to think about things and also still engage in other areas. Just a visionary. She’s, to me, just an American icon. She’s fantastic, I’m just very, very pleased to have anything to do with any of her publications.

plot twist: he’s a total babe.

I asked if we could do a photo, and he goes, “How are you with selfies?” If he only knew.

DO YOU LOVE? I do. Is it what you expected? I’m reeling. Let’s talk in the comments.

Tynan is partying on Twitter: @TynanBuck.