In Andrew W.K.’s heyday, songs from his smash debut LP I Get Wet were all over the radio. The mainstream co-opted his relentless party anthems such as “It’s Time to Party,” “Party Hard” and “Party Til You Puke” often as drug- and alcohol-fueled bender soundtracks. It’s an image that the bloody nose portrait on the album’s cover didn’t help dissuade. But the truth about Andrew W.K.—born Andrew Fetterly Wilkes-Krier—isn’t quite so reductive. He doesn’t drink, and he defines partying quite differently than you might expect.
In Andrew W.K.’s world, daily experiences can be events unto themselves, or “parties,” if you will. Over the phone on a January afternoon, he recalls a recent “breakfast party,” explaining how even a mundane meal can be exciting. “If you’re hungry, eating food is a very exciting event,” he says. “It sort of fills your periphery, and there’s not so much that you can concern yourself with. I think that in those moments, a lot of people talk about joy and a true life experience being centered around this sense of living in the moment. Being able to fixate and throw yourself into the midst of an event that’s all-consuming has that kind of transcendental experience that helps you celebrate your own existence—it helps you fully realize you’re alive.”
W.K.’s clarity of vision in his own life can easily be confused for insanity, but the more you speak with him, the more his perspective comes into focus. So much of his philosophy is rooted in pragmatism that only seems kooky when removed from its context. His style palette isn’t quite blank, but certainly sparse; you’d be hard-pressed to find him in public wearing anything other than his trademark white shirt, white jeans and a new pair of sneakers. He says he was looking for “something that was very basic, easily accessible to myself and anyone else,” he says. “Easily found, easily maintained, easily recreated and easily identified.” It also quite literally helped him stand out; often finding himself in a sea of people wearing all black, he shone in all white. On stage, he stood out against the black background, light reflecting off of his clothing at a high magnitude.
Well into his second decade as an artist and performer, W.K. has long since concluded that his aesthetic and philosophy are fully evolved. “I may have been fully actualized as a person approaching becoming a human,” he says. His life journey may not be over, but his vessel? That’s taken care of. “[Say] you’ve built a rocketship,” he posits. “Who knows where you’re gonna go explore? You’ve built the vehicle with which to explore the world, or life, or yourself.” Though he’s part owner of a Manhattan nightclub, and has a perpetually forthcoming book project called The Party Bible on the horizon, these days, W.K. seems focused on these transcendental experiences, like eating and going to the bathroom. “I’m not really working on anything in particular, just partying, really,” he says. “Through that process of partying, things will manifest.”
W.K. has been upfront about his struggles with depression, and how his party philosophy is essentially his artful way of living with it. But far from wanting to alleviate the pain of daily existence, he chooses to embrace it. “There’s a strong sensation there,” he says. “Sometimes we think that removing pain or difficulty or challenges from our lives will make our lives better. We think if life was easier, then it would be better. But if we really think carefully through what that would entail, it might surprise us.
“I would think that partying is a way of facing the pain. Perhaps even embracing the pain of existing … reveling in it. Not necessarily seeking out more of it, or trying to amplify it, but certainly not to turn away from it, to try to become strong enough to actually withstand it.”