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May 18, 2018

Andrew W.K. and the politics of partying

The entertainer reveals the realities of trying to run for president as a celebrity

Performers Interviews
Andrew W.K. Courtesy of Paradigm Talent Agency /for PhillyVoice

"When it's time to party, we will party hard," says Andrew W.K.

With a hyper-hard brand of sugary speed-metal, positivist TED-talking lyrics and a performance artist’s twitchy oversight, Andrew W.K. comes on like a cross between The Ramones, Dr. Oz and Laurie Anderson. Add in his ever-present all-white T-shirt and jeans uniform, his long, black hair, and his party-all-the-time aesthetic – his thing since 2001’s “I Get Wet” – and the picture is complete. W.K.’s new album, “You're Not Alone,” may be his first recording since 2009, but he was hardly quiet during that nine-year period. 

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Instead, W.K. started advice columns at The Village Voice and at VICE, gave live motivational speeches and launched his own political party, The Party Party, for a brief presidential run in 2016. W.K. will appear at Union Transfer on Monday and jumped on the phone to discuss all-the-above.

A.D. Amorosi: Several stories about you being away from the recording studio make it sound like you’re a slacker. But, hey, nobody rushed Picasso through “Guernica.” Did you have to change your dynamic without product to promote?   

Andrew W.K.: Wow. Being dragged into the legacy of Picasso in association with any low art offering of mine is really something. I’m quite confused about this entire period where I have been away from the studio and that eventually led to this album. But “You’re Not Alone” is a result of that confusion and chaos on many levels. The themes that wound up inserting themselves into the songs certainly reflect such disarray. Still, you got to play the hand you were dealt. There were all sorts-of circumstances that were wonderful, challenging and terrible that went into the album. When all is said and done, you make peace with the process.

Courtesy of Paradigm Talent Agency /for PhillyVoice

Andrew W.K.

A.D. Amorosi: Was that confusion a personal or a professional thing or are those things one and the same at this point?   

Andrew W.K.: They appear to be inseparable, and that is by choice. It would be too stressful to divide up my life, too violent and painful to splice yourself into a fractured idea of a person. Everything seems to run into the other when it comes to partying.

A.D. Amorosi: Since you mentioned partying, you spent the last few years espousing your party philosophy in various ways. Explain. 

Andrew W.K.: I was amazed at how similar aspects of the political landscape are to show biz. It’s most of the superficial aspects – cameras, lighting, make-up, scripts – and you’re out there promoting a set of policies. It was, however, really distressing to realize how extraordinarily intense the stakes and the emotions are in politics. In the arts, you are liberating yourself to enjoy emotion, to explore what it is to be alive in a benevolent and life-affirming way. Politics is not that liberated space. The most impact I can ever [have] while singing about partying is to make someone feel excited and happy, or irritated enough to cover their ears.

A.D. Amorosi: Since you dropped out of the presidential race, what do you think of the irony that an entertainer did wind up as president?   

Andrew W.K.: I believe we all have to use the situations facing us as tools to bring out our best. No matter how formidable our enemy might appear to be, they are not as formidable as the challenges that rage within ourselves. The real hard work of living comes down to how each of us behaves and how we use situations, good and bad, to bring out our best.

A.D. Amorosi: As someone who has crafted genuine advice columns and motivational speeches, did you hope to do some real and honest good?   

No good party should be so strict as to allow only one emotion. No good party is one dimensional."

Andrew W.K.: If I have done any good by anyone's standards, it is because of their perception. In order to be inspired by someone or something, you have to find qualities within yourself. You have to find the good inside of you to recognize the good outside of you. Never give too much credit away. You can even find inspiration in something mean or nasty. You can harness the bad for the good. It’s just like the alchemy of turning lead into gold.

A.D. Amorosi: For all of your positivity, one of the most powerful songs on the new album – “Ever Again” – touches on a not-so-rosy picture of one’s dark side. How did that get in there? Is that autobiographical or something you witnessed?   

Andrew W.K.: Both, I suppose. Music has always been very aspirational for me. I’m focusing an idea, a feeling and a wish of who and what I would like to embody and represent. I’m not always coming from a place where positivity is a natural feeling. Those emotions can be fleeting for me. So shaping a project focused on the experiences of positive emotion can allow even my most negative emotions to have meaning and value. That is hugely powerful for me. You have to let the full spectrum of behaviors find a place in that party. No good party should be so strict as to allow only one emotion. No good party is one dimensional.

Andrew W.K. appears Monday, May 21 at Union Transfer