Partying By Instinct; an interview with Andrew W.K.

For Andrew W.K., the party never stops. Literally. He’s always partying, and partying hard at that. Ever since he took the world by storm in 2002 with the iconic anthem “Party Hard,” his upbeat philosophy has propelled him into worlds beyond rock stardom. He’s made a name for himself as a motivational speaker, writer, TV host, and an overall advocate for positive living. It’s earned him quite an amazing reputation, even being recognized as Person of the Year by the American Association of Suicidology.
But it all still centers around the music. Which might seem like an odd statement seeing that it’s been more than a decade since he’s released a new album. But with his latest album, You’re Not Alone, we get a sense of where his creativity has been taking him over those years. And Andrew acknowledges that there is some catching up to do.
“One of the reason it took so many years for a new record to come out, is I didn’t even realize that many years had gone by. I had not intentionally stopped, formally taken a break, or done anything different than I normally had been doing things which was in a chaotic, celebratory, very partying hard mode. But when you are partying hard, time can slip into a vortex and you can be shocked (as I was) that it had been ten years since 2006, and I hadn’t even thought it had been two years.
“Time often to me feels like a solid block, a solid moment that is broken up by events; even simple things like going to sleep or the sun rising and setting. My sense of time passing has always been very distorted for better or worse. So, it all just seemed very close to me. And since I hadn’t stopped recording, there was no way for me to really start recording. I’m still just working on things constantly. There are songs on this record that are almost 9 years old.”
Andrew also says that because of the long stretch of time for these songs, he had not planned an official concept for this album, or even an overriding emotional state or feeling. “Even the album title and cover artwork had all been created in dissociated states from one another and from the album itself. It was all done on instinct, and with a real lack of regard for logic and rational creative direction. But out of this chaos or instinctual approach emerged something that was to my complete shock and in some ways even my dismay much more cohesive than I had ever planned on or even desired.”

The songs that make up You’re Not Alone are full of Andrew’s trademark philosophy of partying hard and making your life the best it can possibly be. However, many of the lyrics take a much more personal tone this time around. This is as much a record about Andrew W.K. as much as it is a record by Andrew W.K. But in my conversation with him, I got the idea that maybe that’s always been the case.
“Going back to the start with a song like ‘Party Hard,’ it would be easy to assume that the person who made that song was feeling that way and was expressing the way that they felt. As maybe you could understand was the exact opposite of how I felt. I felt awful. But I wanted to be in that party mindset so I made music that was the opposite of how I felt with the hope that focusing on those feelings, or working towards them, or even just singing about them would allow me to feel those positive emotions. And in fact it did. But it’s an ongoing dilemma. And a song like ‘Ever Again’ is not about someone who has reached enlightenment and is sharing that experience. In fact it’s someone imagining being enlightened and learning to be stronger. So it remains an aspirational fantasizing of hope. It’s not a cynical view of those things, it’s me trying to elevate myself to the highest mind I can, coming from a deficit of those thoughts and perspectives.”
There are moments on You’re Not Alone that integrate other aspects of Andrew W.K.’s career, mainly motivational speaking. Scattered throughout the album are brief spoken tracks with Andrew simply laying out his philosophy of positivity and partying hard. There’s a lot of depth to these tracks and rather than breaking up the flow or rhythm of the album, it ties everything together, even if there wasn’t a general theme/concept. However, according to Andrew, there wasn’t a lot of forethought put into the idea.
“That was an idea suggested, like many ideas are that come into all the work that I do, by an amazing woman that I work with in my management team named Karen Glauber. It was suggested as a way to pull together all the disparate activities that I’d been engaged in for the past 10 years doing motivational speaking, lectures and writing. It never would have occurred to me to record these very dry, sparse motivational speaking tracks within an album. In fact it was quite challenging to wrap my head around it, although my heart immediately realized that she was right. It was a great idea and I was very thankful for it. But I was still so terrified of the idea that I put it off until the very last possible second, at the mastering studio as we’re about to set the final track order out to the manufacturer. I asked the engineer if he could set up a microphone, which he said nobody had ever asked for, and for good reason. It’s actually quite inconsiderate of me to put that on a mastering engineer whose job is not be recording at that stage in the process. Their job is to make the final mixes sound the best that they can and put the tracks in order. And it wasn’t part of some great creative strategy, I had just been procrastinating. But I think I did know subconsciously I could take myself out of doing it, so I had to burn my own bridges so that I couldn’t retreat. Essentially, those tracks are what I was telling myself about all the challenges of making the album, even down to recording those tracks. The go-to pep talk/sound bytes that I would repeat in my head and would see me through the difficulties I had. They’re quite self-referential in a way. The music that I make, the work I do and the presentation that I try to offer is someone who is bolstering themselves with every possible thing they can to feel as strong, triumphant, and incredible as possible. So if the music is as loud, full blown and epic as I can make it, the visuals are headed towards that maximalist aesthetic, and those tracks are in complete diametric opposition to that which I ended up embracing. I like on this album that there are a lot of polarities and opposites that end up ringing equally true.”
What initially gets your attention the most from Andrew W.K.’s records is the cover art. His debut I Get Wet is probably the best example of this, a close up photograph of his face with a bloody nose. It makes as intense of a statement as one possibly could. The artwork for You’re Not Alone matches that intensity, but not in as graphic of a manner.

Well known fantasy artists Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo were chosen to create the cover art and according to Andrew, it was just another part of making this record that was left to fate. “The album title hadn’t been chosen as that painting was being done. Even some of the songs hadn’t been finalized or selected for the album. So I had no sense of the painting relating in any coherent way to the feelings of the album. All these things emerged on their own terms. I didn’t have any hope that they would resonate. Because the image is quite static. There’s a stillness in the scene for many reasons. Not the least of which is that there is no sense of motion being expressed. There’s a tension, but it’s a quiet tension. I can’t explain that. I really had faith in the artist when we were talking through many different concepts and themes and we ended up settling on this one. And I was surprised they embraced this final concept as much as they did. I thought they might think this was underwhelming and based on a lot of what they’ve done thematically in the past it doesn’t necessarily use a lot of the skills that they’re most highly regarded for. But, Boris himself said ‘this is going to be a very powerful painting’ and was sure of it before they had even started. And when I look back at all the album covers they have this same kind of intense stillness.”
Out of all the chaos and uncertainty, the end result is probably the strongest record Andrew W.K. has made. And despite not having an original theme or concept, the intensity of the entire process ties it all together. “It’s humbling when the statement you made wasn’t a statement you thought you were making. It was being made through you. So I’m an audience member as much as a lot of other folks would be. It’s almost as if when you’re doing the work, there’s an entity out there in the ether that is looking for an entry point through which to manifest. And if it sees a locale of intense activity, especially activity that is without form at the moment or rather amorphous, it says “ah, this is a perfect place for me to insert my message.” And it saw an extraordinary amount of activity, physical labor even, and an extraordinary unconscious type of atmosphere surrounding that activity and it said “alright, I’m going to take this over and tell my story through this guy because he has no particular story that he thinks he’s telling, so I’ll have him tell mine.”
Andrew W.K. Tour Dates:
Apr 19 – Portsmouth, UK – Wedgewood Rooms
Apr 20 – Manchester, UK – O2 Ritz
Apr 21 – Glasgow, UK – Garage
Apr 28 – Jacksonville, FL – Welcome to Rockville Festival
Apr 29 – Tampa, FL – The Orpheum Theatre
May 01 – Pensacola, FL – Vinyl Music Hall
May 03 – Birmingham, AL – Saturn
May 04 – Concord, NC – Carolina Rebellion Festival
May 05 – Atlanta, GA – Shaky Knees Festival
May 08 – Louisville, KY – Diamond Pub
May 09 – Indianapolis, IN – Hi- Fi Lounge
May 10 – Grand Rapids, MI – Pyramid Scheme
May 11 – Maquoketa, IA – Codfish Hollow
May 12 – Chicago, IL – The Vic
May 13 – Somerset, WI – Northern Invasion Festival
May 15 – Rochester, NY – Montage Music Hall
May 16 – Toronto, ON – Opera House
May 17 – Boston, MA – Paradise
May 18 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza
May 19 – Columbus, OH – Rock On The Range Festival
May 20 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
May 21 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
May 22 – Millvale, PA – Mr. Smalls
May 24 – St. Louis, MO – Delmar Hall
May 25 – Pryor, OK – Rocklahoma

Aug 18 – Las Vegas, NV – Psycho Las Vegas
Sept 04 – Phoenix, AZ – The Crescent Ballroom
Sept 05 – Los Angeles, CA – The Fonda Theatre

Sept 06 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore

Sept 07 – Portland, OR – Revolution Hall

Sept 08 – Seattle, WA – The Showbox @ The Market

Sept 09 – Vancouver, BC – Imperial

Sept 11 – Calgary, AB – Dickens Pub

Sept 13 – Winnipeg, MB 
 The Park Theatre
Sept 14 – Minneapolis, MN – Varsity Theatre
Sept 18 – Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s
Sept 19 – Kansas City, MO – recordBar

Sept 21 – Dallas, TX – Tree’s

Sept 22 – Austin, TX – The Mohawk

Sept 23 – Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall Downstairs

Sept 25 – Nashville, TN – The Basement East
Sept 26 – Durham, NC – Motorco
Sept 27 – Atlanta, GA – Terminal West

Sept 28 – Orlando, FL – The Beacham

(Photos: Publicity)

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