When Stoli recently named Andrew W.K. “Professor of the Party,” the 35-year-old Michigander was pretty humbled. It’s not every day that a booze company just phones you up out of the blue, hands you an honorary degree in partying and tells you to run with it.
“The bizarre thing about being the ‘Professor of the Party’ is that you’re a student and a professor; you have a Ph.D., [and] you’re constantly re-earning it,” the rocker explained over some mid-afternoon liquids at Doc Holliday’s, one of his favorite NYC dives. The academic title goes along with a campaign the vodka brand is doing called ScenebyStoli, which kicked off on Avenue A in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood and will take AWK across the country, exploring locales that have pioneered the party throughout the decades.
We know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute. I party just as hard as this guy. Why isn’t Stoli hooking my ass up?” Hey, maybe they will one day. Just follow these simple steps: First, write a catchy album about partying hard in New York City that Pitchfork first pans and then recants years later (seriously, when does that ever happen?). Front it with a now-iconic photo of yourself bleeding out of your nostrils a la Little Mac on the ass-end of a run-in with Mike Tyson. Call it I Get Wet and watch as it cracks the Top 100 on the Billboard 200 album charts. Score a breakout Top 15 hit in the U.K. with ‘Party Hard,’ which has numerous second lives Stateside. Tour the world, get famous in Japan, marry an über-fit hottie, have a kid. Get a contract from Simon & Schuster to write a book tentatively entitled The Philosophy of Partying. Yup, that should just about do it.
“There was a student that got severe bloody noses in my elementary school just from dry weather. And it made a huge impact on me, because all of a sudden you’d look over, and this guy would have blood streaming out of his nose.”
Meantime, we thought ‘Party Hard’ would make the perfect addition to our growing Oral Hit-story series, because it’s not your average rock song: It’s equal parts Black Flag, Springsteen and White Zombie; it came out at the polar opposite of a partying sort of time in American history (see below); and it was largely assembled in the same Brooklyn neighborhood where the author is writing this story right now.
So without further adieu, here is Dr. W.K. talking ‘Party Hard.’ Which we highly recommend dusting off for New Year’s Eve…
Will: Vodka strikes me as something you might brush your teeth with…
Andrew: I’ve never officially brushed my teeth with it, but I have drunk it in the morning instead of brushing my teeth. Probably much to many other people’s dismay when they smelled my unbrushed-teeth breath. Vodka was always my favorite [liquor]; I don’t know if it was because it was clear or it mixed the best with things. Actually, I never tried any liquor until I was 21. The first time I ever drank alcohol out was on my birthday in Los Angeles, at 21, right before we made my first album, I Get Wet. And we drank vodka. So it was kind of ‘stick with what you started with.’
W: So this Stoli ‘Professor of the Party’ thing brings it all full circle.
A.W.K.: I actually took it as a good omen when Stoli reached out to me to do this project. I don’t really know why I made this decision, but it was the vodka I always chose on my tour rider. I think because of the bottle. I liked the design, and it just seemed like it wasn’t really associated with anything.
W: Right, like, it’s not being chugged by Jimmy Page in any famous pictures.
A.W.K.: It was it’s own thing. It wasn’t promoted to me to be for a certain kind of person or lifestyle.
W: ‘Party Hard’ dropped in 2001, just a month after the terrorist attacks on September 11th. What was it like playing to NYC crowds so fresh off that awful day?
A.W.K.: It was very confounding and confusing and it was every kind of emotion. There was this real sense of questioning, at least for me: Like, “What am I doing?” Because it made you reevaluate everything. It put everything into a painfully stark place, where your perspective was so shifted. It was almost like Judgment Day for your own self and your interests and pursuits, and I thought, ‘Does any of this even matter? Why am I even doing this?’
And then, shortly after, I actually felt more glad that I was doing this than anything else that I could be doing. Talk about needing to be cured and keep yourself going and have some kind of joy, [because] I could really devote myself to this with even more commitment. To question it was healthy, but then to come back and reaffirm that feeling happy is OK [was] maybe even more valuable.
W: Tell me about the recording process for ‘Party Hard.’ Which studio did you produce it at? Was there beer all over the control panel after it got cut?
A.W.K.: So I was 21. No, there was never any… I don’t think most studios actually even allowed alcohol in the control rooms. Most of the people I worked with were very strict about not having alcohol. I think it made them feel like the people got tired. You used to have to work very long hours. But that really wasn’t an issue either way. For better or worse, all the songs on the album were recorded in many different studios. So it was never in just one place.