From the looks of his debut album‘s front cover — the one with the photo of a bloody-nosed, wet-longhaired Adonis — the 23-year-old superstar-in-waiting Andrew W.K. has been fighting for your right to party. And judging from the record’s song titles (”It‘s Time To Party,“ ”Party Hard,“ ”Party Til You Puke“) and relentlessly anthemic music, it appears he’s won.
Easily the strangest big-budget big-label debut in some time, I Get Wet (to be released March 26 on IslandDef Jam) is stadium-ready rock for Generation Red Bull: 12 good-times chant-along songs for attention-deficit-disordered teenagers raised on Raw Is War pro wrestling and first-person shooter video games,Ritalin and Ecstasy, Spice Girls and aggro-rap-metal. The lyrics are simple, the hooks are broad, the pop-rock keyboards and horns kinda cheesy, and best of all, there‘s zero rapping. This is rescue music for the kids, rhythmically and melodically echoing some of the best kinda-dumb rock of all time (Slade, Sweet, Meat Loaf, the Ramones) — party-time rock & roll that people older than 30 might remember.
So who is this guy and where did he come from? The ever-changing bio says that Andrew W.K. was born in Los Angeles, raised in Michigan, and spent the last few years in New York before relocating recently to Florida. He was piano-trained as a child, and can play guitar and drums as well. He writes and arranges all of his own music. He released two 12-inch records on weirdo underground label Bulb Records (home of such ”stars“ as Quintron and Wolf Eyes) in the late ’90s. And in the years before he was signed to Island, he gave bizarre one-man shows up and down the East Coast.
Andrew W.K. will be bringing a full band — composed mostly of Florida death-metalers — this week to the Whisky for his first-ever L.A. show. I spoke with the man apparently in touch with his inner moron a couple of weeks ago when he called in from London, en route to a series of Japanese dates. He came across as earnest and determined: a kid brother of Jake and Elwood Blues, a hedonist with a work ethic, a Zen-zone existentialist, a DIY backyard wrestler. Ladies and gentlemen and teenagers of all ages, here‘s Andrew W.K., the Anthony Robbins of Rock.
L.A. WEEKLY: What can the L.A. audience expect at your show?
ANDREW W.K.: Expect nothing, hope for the best. Come knowing that what you’re gonna see is seven or eight people doing what they love to do, which is play these songs and put out an honest effort to include everybody. My goal is to make people happy, whatever it takes. So: Please come to have fun, and be happy, and know that things are going to be okay.
What do the W and K stand for?
Why is your face bloodied on the album cover?
My plan was, I had a little piece of a cinder block, and the backup plan, I had this blood I got from a butcher‘s shop. We took some pictures, and then I said, ”Okay, I wanna do this,“ so I hit myself in the nose with the brick. My nose bled a bit. I was very disappointed, because my nose used to bleed a lot when I was younger, so I was imagining I’d be able to get a good bloody nose. But it only bled a little bit, and of course it hurt really bad. So I used the animal blood, put some in my nose . . . There‘s no message or a hidden attachment that go with it. I don’t like that!
What does ”I Get Wet“ mean?
In the ocean of life, you can stand on the shore or you can dive in. I choose to dive in and get wet. Let me say this: The word party includes more people and more things and more possibilities than any other word I can really think of. It‘s about celebrating everything you see in front of you, everything that you see behind you, and everything that ever has existed, could exist and does exist. It’s about being not mindlessly happy, but in fact solidly okay, and feeling good about everything. Everybody is invited to this party, unconditionally, without any guidelines. We‘re celebrating the excitement of being alive and the potential that all humans have to do and be great things.
Where is all this philosophy stuff coming from?
Philosophy?! I see it as the truth. Let me explain it like this: When most people are young, the world is full of mystery, and it’s exciting. Then you become a teenager, you realize you don‘t know everything and you can’t control everything, and everything is sorta out of your immediate grasp. ‘Cause what you see is a big black hole, and you’re like, ”Wow, that big black hole looks like Nothing — it‘s just empty and black.“ And you hold on for dear life. Well, as I got older, because I realized I couldn’t know everything, I fell into that void, and it turns out that the black hole contains everything! Is everything. All things. And what an exciting thing, to let life be big and exciting. I wanna let it wash over me like at the ocean, to be endlessly deeper and more expansive.
The current generation of rock seems preoccupied with angst, anger, depression, fear. Is your music a reaction to that?
I hear some of that music — ”Nobody understands me“ and that sort of a thing — and it seems okay to me because that‘s people dealing with real feelings. Sometimes, especially in this country, we’ve strived so hard to make everything good and okay, but that complacent merriness of existence is one-dimensional. The truth contains happiness and excitement as well as anger and fear and feeling alone. These are natural human responses, and sometimes we almost have to create situations to feel that way, ‘cause otherwise you’d never feel that way. I think that‘s excellent.
The verb ”kill“ shows up a lot in your lyrics. What do you mean when you say that?
”To kill“ has many meanings, and I’m not using it one way or another. The song ”Ready To Die“ is saying, Tomorrow may never come. Imagine this scenario: If we both died right now, and we went to someplace afterwards and we continued our conversation, we‘d go, ”Wow, guess it’s all over now. That was a fun life. But, man, all that stuff I didn‘t do ’cause I was so afraid, I wish I had done that, not spent my time on Earth dwelling on these other things.“ So if tomorrow never comes, I wanna know that I‘m doing everything I can today, and be ready to go.
How about the song title ”Girls Own Love“ — what does that mean?
It’s about being frustrated about going out of your way to be kind to a girl and she really could care less, and that you never really get back anything that you‘ve given. It’s about how frustrating it is to be what you think is a good person and have the other person prefer someone you think is not a good person. It‘s very basic, real stuff. I love words. I can’t wait to use more words.
The music you make sounds unlike anything that‘s coming out right now.
People compare it to sooooo many different things. When people say, ”Ah, you know what, it makes me feel like this, it reminds me of this,“ what they’re actually doing is remembering when they felt really excited about music. They‘re talking about times when they felt really good. The world, I describe it as a treasure chest, or a buffet. If someone opened the treasure chest and said, ”Here, this is yours, this is life, this is yours,“ just say, ”Wow! Look at this beautiful gold. I want this! Put it in my pocket.“ That doesn’t mean that I can‘t say, ”Ooh, diamonds, I want to have these, too.“ Everything that can be experienced by human beings, that can be made by humans, is acceptable to me. I want to savor it all. ’Cause I like liking things.
How much caffeine do you drink a day?
Almost none. I prefer room-temperature water. I just want to be the best I can be for the music and for everybody else. Whatever it takes. I want to be strong enough that people can feel strong about me. Invincible. Anything I can do to further that, I feel furthers the whole thing. It‘s not about being weak, you know what I mean?
Andrew W.K. performs at the Whisky, Wednesday, March 13.