On first glance, Andrew W.K. doesn’t seem like a deep thinker. Easily recognizable by his mucked-up all-white uniform and infamous bloody nose, he’s gained fame by being a party-rock superhero. When he’s on stage, thrashing about while belting simplistically ebullient anthems (“Party Hard,” “Party Til You Puke,” “Party Party Party”), he’s the human equivalent of a cymbal-banging monkey toy.
But then you hear the guy talk. He’s subdued, contemplative and spiritual. It makes you realize why W.K’s become a modern philosopher of sorts. Recently, he’s been making motivational speeches at Ivy League schools, penning an upcoming book (The Party Bible), providing guidance in a Village Voice advice column, and — most bizarrely — hosting a free-form radio show about life on right-wing pundit Glenn Beck’s network, The Blaze. He’s a man with a message: live fully, laugh loudly and rage against the dying of the light.
Partying seemed like the most expansive yet direct way to get into the mindset that life was good.
Why are you so obsessed with partying?
I suppose no particular reason other than it seemed to be the most fun thing I could think of doing. Partying seemed like the most expansive yet direct way to get into the mindset that life was good. It’s really not so much a particular action as it is a mode of being.
Do you think we live in an anti-party era, where excess is frowned upon?
Not any more or less than ever before. There’s always an aspect of culture that’s looking to restrain and sometimes those are great things to consider, you know? You don’t have to turn away other points of view, even if you don’t agree with them. If your point of view is something you believe, then you should be able to consider other points of views because it will just ultimately reinforce why you choose to live the way you want to. That, in itself, is a worldview: to have many outlooks and to give people the freedom to think the way they want to think.
That reminds me of one of your Village Voice columns. A young man wrote you saying he couldn’t stand his dad for being “a right-wing asshole.” You told him he was failing to see his father as a human being.
Well, it can be easy to get lost in those ideas, those outlooks, those ways of life. You get so caught up with how you’re looking at life that you forget you’re actually looking at life at all. It’s like being obsessed with binoculars. Which pair do you have? Is it the newest, most hi-tech pair? Is it the fanciest? What colours can I get them in? You forget you’re supposed to be looking through them at something — and that thing is there whether you use binoculars or not. So, again, it’s important to get perspective, reset and try to return to a very pure place of general appreciation and respect for life itself. And then you can build back up.
I find it interesting — and perplexing — that you’ve got your own radio show on Glenn Beck’s network. You don’t seem like the type to work with a right-wing blowhard. What’s up with that?
I was just invited to do it. I usually go where I’m invited and I wasn’t invited to do a radio show at any other place. I was very thankful for the opportunity. It actually seemed pretty wide open. Thoughts I have heard expressed on [The Blaze] have been pretty far ranging and focused — to my own surprise — in a pretty inclusive tone. Certainly, if they’re willing to include me, they have to be inclusive because I don’t know anything about most the stuff they’re talking about. My show isn’t about governmental politics; it really isn’t even about what I’d consider current events. It’s trying to get to more basic, elemental topics about life in general.
You’re such a hyper-positive dude. Do you ever get depressed?
Oh yeah. Quite often, I’ve struggled with all kinds of moods and emotions and feelings and outlooks. My main motivation has been, and continues to be, to try to overcome those feelings. My personal relationship with my work — whatever this is — is that it cheers me up. It makes me feel better about life and hopefully someone else out there gets that feeling from it. To me, life has always felt simultaneously like the best of times and the worst of times. Just consistently. For as long as I can remember up to today.
What’s at the root of that feeling?
I just think a terror and overwhelming reaction to the intensity of existing at all. Being alive is very intense and some people are able to navigate it very gracefully. Some people are completely destroyed by it quite quickly, and many folks are in a situation like mine, where it’s a bit of both at the same time.
Do you believe in God?
You don’t have to turn away other points of view, even if you don’t agree with them.
Well, I didn’t make all this happen. No one knows where this life comes from. It’s emerged from something. I guess it depends how you define God. But actually, in a very real way for me, death and that unknown — that’s God. And I don’t mean it is God as this being, it is God as being itself. The ability for anything to be; God is another word for that. It doesn’t need to be a person. It’s beyond comprehension. Some folks say it’s offensive to even try conceiving what the nature of God could ever be. It is all things and no things. Really, it’s a word to sum up all that can’t be summed up. It’s so beyond even the furthest extension of what we could ever possibly imagine and that’s just a beginning of a reflection of a shadow of a speck of what it really is. So, whether it’s the vastness of the universe or whether it’s the forces that are allowing all these laws that we experience to occur, it’s a great placeholder word for all that is bigger than yourself. It can be music, the way you feel when you’re in love, eating good food, looking at a puppy dog or rolling around in soft grass. Something that makes you feel very certain that it is good to be alive. And in a world that can seem very meaningless and very accidental, it is there, if you choose, to get a sense of purpose and destiny to this otherwise chaotic experience.
Well, what would you say is that purpose then? What’s the meaning of life, if there is one?
To find it in yourself, and you have to trust that it is in you. One of the strangest things about finding that meaning and that truth is actually believing that it’s already there. It’s so easy. It’s like the taste inside your own mouth. It’s so familiar that you almost don’t taste it anymore. So this part of yourself that is so familiar and so true and so pervasive, that’s the part of you that will teach you everything there is to know. And learning to trust in it and unleash it, and to amplify and to nurture it, I think is the path we’re meant to take; using all outside experience and all material experiences, all the day-to-day processes of life to build that inner-you. And to party very hard is the best way I’ve found to bring that about and stay strong. Even when it seems impossible, just keep going. Make a promise to yourself to not stop, because even when life is very hard, it doesn’t mean it’s bad.