The Quest For Ecstatic Euphoria

25 April 2012 | 8:00 am | Benny Doyle

Fuck S Club 7 – there ain’t no party like an Andrew W.K. one-man party. Ready to celebrate his birthday with the beautiful people of Brisbane, the wild man of rock wipes the blood from his mouth to chat with Benny Doyle. Photos by Leila Morrissey

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If you ever want your day started on the right foot, simply jump on the phone line and get Andrew W.K. talking; 20 minutes later you will feel ten-feet tall and bulletproof. A parody; a maverick; a hero or just utterly insane; whatever you call the 32-year-old Brooklyn-based musician, producer and presenter, you cannot deny the engulfing energy that seems to emanate from everything he says or does.

W.K. quickly rose to notoriety in 2001 following the release of his debut LP I Get Wet. The album was unabashed in its glorious stomp and shout simplicity and instrumental density. Listen to the record and you can hear layer upon layer of guitars and synths, stacked to the ceiling, all set to a senses bludgeoning volume, W.K.'s authoritarian vocals the only thing climbing above the melee. The American has divided audiences ever since; some following him like a Neanderthal piped piper; others decrying his music as the death of rock'n'roll. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, however, there is no denying W.K. as one of the most unique and genuinely electrifying performers on the planet. Calling in from Boston, Massachusetts, a month out from his eagerly anticipated one-man party tour, W.K. wastes no time in professing his love for the land Down Under.

“Australia's been a constant source of joy and power and high energy, but also a place showing extreme kindness, extreme enthusiasm and a deep love of high-energy music,” W.K. gushes. “I think that really spreads across the entire continent as far as I can tell, I've never met someone in Australia that, (a) I didn't like, and (b) that didn't like rock'n'roll music – it's one of those places. It reminds me of Japan where there is a real importance put on excitement, celebration and a free-spirited revelry, and there is just so much incredible music made in Australia, performed in Australia and enjoyed in Australia – it's such a unique place in the world. If you're someone that likes rock'n'roll music, there really is no better place.”

The cynic in all of us might question the unbridled sincerity of such glowing sentiment from anyone else. But with Andrew W.K., it's obvious everything is given from the heart. He recalls his past tours around the nation with the same intensified levels of fondness and gratitude.

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“All my friends and members of my team that do this party adventure, we were consistently surprised and delighted when we'd find more than a few folks here and there that also believe in this physical feeling,” he admits. “Because it really is; it's not so much an attitude or a personality type, it's more a sensibility that pushes you to find this kind of physical joy in your surroundings.”

W.K. then takes it back even further; opening up about what first grabbed him off his piano stool and shoved a guitar in his hands as an impressionable young man in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he was raised.

“What I liked about rock'n'roll music was that everything was more intense,” he states. “The sound, the performance, the delivery, the style – everything was more intense. It wasn't about comforting you – it wasn't about placating or soothing or making someone feel safe. It was about blowing your mind and stirring up your soul, and that's what I look for in culture and the outside world. I have plenty of comfort from within myself. Once you find that comfort then you get to enjoy all the extremes of culture and the radical, mind-blowing, disturbing, freaky, crazy feelings it can conjure up.”

Although the white-shirted knight was last in the country as part of the 2011 Big Day Out tour, it's been over four years since he brought his one-man party show to these shores. Watching clips of his rapturously received slot at that year's Meredith Music Festival, one thing is glaringly obvious. These shows really provide the best platform for the performer to develop rapport and get the crowd more responsive in a shorter period of time.

“It's a very different type of show,” he explains. “I've got my keyboard, sometimes a drum machine, of course a microphone. It's more reduced to a pure understanding that we have this time together, whether it's in a room or a festival environment, but we have chosen to be in this particular geographical location for this particular amount of time, and we have to extract the maximum amount of excitement and joy out of this moment as possible. So there is a level of gratitude, appreciation and intent, a very clear focus, that we are here to feel this way, and we are going to make this feeling, we are going to conjure up and manifest this feeling no matter what. So there becomes this moment of camaraderie where the audience becomes the band for me – we're all making this,” he drives home.

Which begs the question – what does a one-man party mean to Andrew W.K.? It's almost an oxymoron...

“If you can't have a party by yourself and enjoy your own company, then you're probably not going to be a very good partier when it comes to mixed company or celebrating with other folks around,” he levels. “You want to be your own best friend, you want to find security and strength within yourself and find it in the world around you. Ultimately, you want to be not only a one-man party, but a one-woman party; a one-man army, a one-woman army; an entire universe unto yourself – and everybody is. But realising that can be challenging at times.”

“If you can't have a party by yourself and enjoy your own company, then you're probably not going to be a very good partier when it comes to mixed company or celebrating with other folks around.”

Challenging, even for Andrew W.K. Rewind back to 2002 and that gloriously in-your-face debut I Get Wet was handed arguably one of the harshest album reviews ever written on Pitchfork, a 0.6 out of 10, direct from the founder of the website Ryan Schreiber. Incredibly, even with passages like “This is about as empty as rock music gets...”, W.K. still manages to find positives beneath the knives.

“Sometimes people are confused and sometimes they wake up in a certain mood that day – maybe his Mum died that day? God forbid,” he says, managing to balance sarcasm and concern in equal measures. “It's pretty easy to forget about people's own personal experiences; their own life, colours, perceptions. That's been an exciting thing for me. Every single opinion, every single critical review, everyone's perception of what I do or what anyone does is valid and it's fun getting to play with those different perceptions. For the most part I only get to see through my eyes. But getting to see through other people's eyes, especially when you get to see yourself, it's something else – it's very entertaining and at its best completely revelatory.”

That album review did nothing to derail the direction of W.K. though, the young man following his debut with similarly gregarious rock fare in the way of The Wolf (2003) and Close Calls With Brick Walls (2007). Since then, the albums that W.K. has released haven't exactly been your typically hard partying fare, the musician appeasing his rabid Japanese fanbase with J-pop and anime music interpretations (The Japan Covers, Gundam Rock) , as well as returning to the ivories with the freeform piano album 55 Cadillac. However, with talk in the media of a new record, is this year going see a return to the hedonism?

“There are definitely no returns, and I don't think it will come out this year,” W.K. states matter-of-factly, “I'm going to continue recording it [the album] as soon as I get back to New York in June after this world tour.” The extrovert won't let on as to the working title of the release thus far, but goes on to hint at the mental bearing that his musical compass is set to. “We're always pushing forward to new horizons of joy and new forms of pleasure and trying to find exciting ways to get to that ecstatic euphoria that I think all of us are searching for in music or whatever else we are coming across in life. Music just happens to be a very sure fire and proven way of getting to that physical state of pleasure, and rock'n'roll music especially delivers upon that promise. I'm on a path that was predetermined and I'm following it as best as I can. I certainly have the freedom to interpret it and react to it along the way as I see fit, but when you are doing what you were born to do, you relinquish some of that control in favour of your destiny.”

The irrepressible Mr W.K. concludes by offering his tips to those eager to party solo. Expert instructions no less, from the man who all but encompasses the mantra Party Hard.

“Bolster, water, stretch and tenderise your hamstring – it's a four-step process,” he educates in a Zen-like mantra. “You must tender that beautiful muscle running up and down the back of your thigh; I want you to stretch, bolster, tenderise and water the hamstring. Just water it; whether it's pouring water on it, you can pour water onto the skin of course and hope that it absorbs using thick lotions and oils. You can actually inject water into the muscle tissue; you've got to be very careful about that one, but otherwise you can just massage and enjoy that tender, tender tissue fibre and make sure you're a loose goose and ready to go.”


Although he's now a happily married man who divides his time between music, motivational speaking and children's television programs, W.K. still assures us that when it's time to party, he will always party hard. Drinking, drugs and debauched living is part of the rock'n'roll code and a true rite of passage for the real believers. Let us look at a few of the greats:


Guns N' Roses were one of the most elegantly wasted bands of all-time, and Slash was their depraved commander-in-chief. When he wasn't prepping one litre cups of vodka and juice next to his bedsit for breakfast, you could find him running naked around golf courses covered in blood and glass – as you do.

Anthony Kiedis

Kiedis' danced on and off with Mr. Brownstone for the better part of two decades. It inspired some of the Red Hot Chili Peppers greatest musical triumphs and almost tore the band apart. Mixing high-grade girls, with higher-grade class A, Kiedis is Los Angeles personified.

Jimmy Barnes

When Barnesy partied, he didn't do it in halves. His vodka consumption is the stuff of legend and in Cold Chisel's heyday, the wild frontman was known to knock down a bottle of Russian water without breaking a sweat. Booze, drugs, girls, venues; Jimmy destroyed them all, his volatile reputation helping Chisel establish themselves as the most dangerous band in the country.

Ozzy Osbourne

Want to clutch to the edges of reality for over three decades? Right, simply get a boatload of acid, consume tabs, repeat continually for a year. Batshit crazy? Yep, and that was before he even bit the head of a rabies-filled critter. The sheer fact that Ozzy can still stand and speak, let alone perform, is a modern-day miracle.