Getting to know the real Andrew W.K.
Tense. Distraught. Anxious. These are not words you’d normally associate with the Prince Of Party. And yet, on an unsual encounter in Chicago, we found a man finally facing down his demons
Even with a baseball cap pulled low over his face, the man walking into the room is unmistakable. White T-shirt. White jeans. Shoulder-length dark hair. The only thing missing is his trademark bloody nose.
Andrew W.K. arrives alone today. No manager, no publicist. He reaches out his hand and politely greets us, before making himself comfortable on an old chest in a quiet corner of this chilly photo studio a couple of hours outside Chicago. We ask if he wants to sit on the high chairs in front of the flashbulb-studded vanity mirror. He declines. We ask if we can sit next to him. He declines again; he prefers to sit opposite interviewers. What follows is an exceptionally intense couple of hours – unexpectedly so for an encounter with the self-described King Of Partying.
Bursting onto our screens in 2001 with his riotous video for Party Hard, Andrew W.K. split opinion. To some, he was the crusading idealist we needed, creating anthems that encouraged people to let go. To others, he was a joke figure who was ruining heavy music. Yet his career expanded into new realms: he co-founded New York club Santos Party House (though it’s since closed), hosted the children’s gameshow Destroy Build Destroy, DJ’d on Black Sabbath’s 2013 tour and became a motivational speaker, even giving a talk at the Oxford Union. Now he’s poised to release his first true rock album since Close Calls With Brick Walls – 12 years ago. But he is worried.
“You realise that time can go by very quickly – especially when you’re partying very hard,” he deadpans. “And for better or worse, so much of what I’ve had the privilege of doing has been presented to me as opportunities, meaning a lot of what I’ve wound up doing, I didn’t choose to do in the traditional sense of coming up with a particular project. You start to realise that some of the best things that you’ve ever done have very little to do with you. You just showed up for the assignment.”
He is visibly disturbed, his body tense. At the same time as getting these amazing breaks, like partying with the godfathers of heavy metal, there was some unsettling static in the background; something intangible and unnerving. He feared he was failing to take control of his own destiny.