One of the oldest and most well-known sayings in the English language is that time is a great healer, and there’s no place that rings quite as true as within the pantheons of heavy metal.
Andrew W.K. And The Art Of Partying
On 9 May, Andrew W.K. is 35. Metal Hammer celebrates his birthday with this feature, originally published in issue 229
In the mid-90s, the likes of Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe were being treated as universal laughing stocks when they released underwhelming and critically ridiculed albums such as Yeah! (the worst album title in human existence) and Generation Swine respectively, finding themselves in small clubs across the globe and generally being as relevant to that time period as Soda Stream makers and Betamax tapes.
Likewise, Limp Bizkit went from ruling the world to being derided as a joke, and the whole nu metal genre was giggled at for being as cutting edge as a bread knife. And yet at Download 2009, Bizkit were given a heroes’ reception and the evening was headlined by nu metal’s reluctant fathers, Faith No More. It’s with this in mind that the cult phenomenon that surrounds Andrew W.K. becomes so fascinating.
If you cast your mind back to the release of Andrew’s now seminal party holocaust, I Get Wet, in 2001, he was treated with the same level of suspicion that’s allegedly reserved for Harry Redknapp’s accountant. While touring the album, there was a night at the London Astoria where well over half of the crowd left the building following a support slot from future Download headliners, Lostprophets. There were rumblings that he hadn’t written any of his songs, that his band had been manufactured for him and, worst of all, that he was nothing more than a product of a major label; a hairier, partying pop star being marketed at our tribe by suits who specialise in packaging music to mass markets, as they currently do by offering up Lana Del Ray and Adele as ‘emotional’ music to those who don’t have the mental capacity for genuinely emotional music.
All of these claims were utter bollocks, of course, but it meant that the overall quality of I Get Wet got completely overlooked as everyone seemed far busier trying to pick holes in the man and his music than they were doing shots of tequila and enjoying the tunes in the carefree manner that was intended.
“I remember reading a review in London after we had played our first ever show as a band at The Garage, and a writer had written that I was a misogynist and that I was this evil person and that the record company had me auditioned, and that aroused a lot of suspicion. It was hard to read that about myself when I knew it wasn’t the case,” says Andrew, momentarily lapsing from his usual non-stop flurry of unwavering positivity. “It was all about perseverance and carrying on. When music is your life, you just get on with enjoying it and hope that people like what you’re doing. When people said mean things about us, it would hurt, but it would also motivate me and us to come back next time and hope to change people’s minds and make them have a good time if they ever saw us again. It’s better to face adversity and build yourself up than be given the world and let it grind you down.”
Fast forward to the year 2012 and that initial tsunami of negativity is something of a long, distant memory. A few years ago, rock clubs began to play Party Hard and people would go batshit bonkers in a manner that was usually reserved for Killing In The Name or Angel Of Death. It has slowly but surely become the undisputed heavyweight champion of party anthems. Fuck the Beastie Boys, Party Hard is the call-to-arms that truly makes you believe in fighting for your right to party. It taps that same vein that We’re Not Going To Take It hits and makes you feel like you should always fight for what you believe in, no matter who tries to stand in your path. But in this case you’d be fighting for a round of shots as opposed to anything more substantial.
On the back of the rise of this tune and the pant-wetting news that he will be playing the stunning album it materialises from in its entirety on his upcoming UK tour, Andrew also saw two of his three dates upgraded in size on the day that they went on sale, and the likelihood of those dates not selling out is virtually zero. This isn’t to say that everyone is going to be punching the air like a champ and spraying fizzed-up cans of lager at each other when they reach this page of the magazine and see Andrew’s ecstatic smiling face staring back at them. He’s had a rocky ride of it over the years, and it’s totally understandable that some find it difficult to be accepting of songs that are so joyous in their theme and sound, especially existing within a world that’s overtly fuelled by anger and aggression and is better known for addressing hard-hitting social and personal issues.
Bands such as The Darkness have been treated with the same level of scorn and disdain for these exact same reasons. We could try and make a case for the man and his work or attempt getting you to lighten up with a heartfelt plea here, but when we asked him at what point he felt that the tide was turning and that people were starting to be accepting of his art form, his answer tells you everything you need to know about Andrew W.K. and his diehard affinity with our community.
“I started out as a grindcore drummer and it means very much to me to be accepted in the world of heavy music,” he answers with impenetrable sincerity. “We make cheerful music and I didn’t want the heavy metal population to be disgusted by what we were doing and not support it because that’s the world that I came from. There was a day when we played Furnace Fest in Birmingham; we played with Hatebreed, Mastodon, The Black Dahlia Murder and a lot of heavy, heavy bands, and we were unsure of the reaction we would get. It turned out to be one of the most positive reactions we ever got, and I remember coming offstage and that meaning so much to me and feeling like a real turning point in the career of our band. It felt that people, the people I considered to be the world that I came from, had accepted what we were trying to do. We had a circle pit the size of a football field and, from that moment, I always felt like we could make an impact wherever we went.”
It’s easy for those who like to use entertainment as a means to make them feel more intellectual to sneer at something like the rise of Andrew W.K. and his status as one of modern rocks biggest cult icons, and dismiss it as people liking him ironically and “for the lolz”, but to do so would be missing the point entirely. Andrew is doing something unique and has been doing so for over a decade. There are millions of bands out there helping you deal with emotions or bringing down the evil powers of the world, but how many bands out there offer nothing but unwavering positivity, pointing your head towards the brighter side of life and just trying to make your day better?
“I still have the capacity to be an angry person like anyone else, but rarely is anything good going to be processed by those feelings,” he continues. “If people can gain positivity through anger and it helps them with their day, that’s a great feeling, but it’s often when people get those feelings that fights break out or wars happen. Feeling good within yourself tends to make your day more positive, and if everyone’s feeling that way, it makes the world more positive, and that’s a good concept to work from. As long as people get some kind of pure emotion – whatever that emotion is – through the music, then it’s served its purpose.”
“The songs I’ve created are just meant to bring about that feeling of the last day of school or going on a rollercoaster or going on a date with a girl for the first time and being excited about her afterwards,” Andrew explains. “The songs I’ve written over the years still make me feel that way so, for me, they’ve stood the test of time. It’s like you won’t ever get tired of your favourite food or your favourite movie. I’ll always be in the mood for pizza; I’ll never reach that moment where I think I’ve had enough pizza for the rest of my life, and I’ll always get the uplifting feeling that these songs were meant to give other people and myself. I wrote the songs and left it up to the party gods to see if people wanted to join the party, and the party gods seem to have facilitated that wish.”
It’s worth remembering that this isn’t a guy who disappeared and has returned to make a quick couple of reunion bucks; Andrew’s been touring the globe with his band for the past 11 years, and when he couldn’t get his band over to the UK, he would just come over to play shows by himself with a piano, headbanging like the motherfucker was in Obituary all the while. This is the first time in seven years that he and his band have been on British soil, and if social networks on the day of the show’s announcement are anything to go by, these dates are going to be more than just shows – they’re going to be events, and the most insane party you’ll end up going to all year.
“It’s exciting to have expectations to meet and hopefully exceed like those that are riding on these shows,” says a humble yet excited Andrew. “The shows are a violent level of happiness. It’s the most aggressive amount of joy that you’ve ever seen. We want to create euphoria in the way that you usually get anger created from a heavy metal show. The passion that will be in each venue is something that that will be in each venue is something that I can’t wait to experience and cherish,nd I hope we can bring that power and that energy into people’s lives and give them a night that we’ll all never forget.”
When he said, “it ain’t a crime to be good to yourself”, Paul Stanley put it best and missing out on the Andrew W.K. experience would be an act that is truly criminal.