Interview: Andrew W.K. Just Wants To Do Right By The Party Gods
andrew w.k.

Andrew W.K. releases You’re Not Alone, his first new album in over a decade, out today, March 2nd.

The 16-track album consists of triumphant, high octane rock anthems interspersed with spoken-word reflections. Lead single “Music Is Worth Living For” sets the tone for the album, one that acknowledges and celebrates the twists and turns of life, and embracing all that it means to be alive, even “In Your Darkest Moments,” and how one can move through those moments by maintaining a “Party Mindset.”

You’re Not Alone symbolizes music as a life-line, one that has gotten Andrew W.K. through some of his most difficult moments. Through his songs he hopes to share the transformative power of music with his fans. His actions have been making an impact: Andrew W.K. was recently named ‘Person of the Year’ by the American Association of Suicidology in recognition of his nearly two decades of positive and celebratory entertainment.

Culture Collide spoke with Andrew W.K. about some of the inspiration behind You’re Not Alone, tapping into life-force energy, and doing right by the party gods.

Andrew W.K. takes his party on tour beginning with SXSW (including COLLiDE x Dr. Martens March 15). See full list of tour dates below.

Your lead single is titled “Music Is Worth Living For.” In addition to music what else makes life worthwhile for you?
Andrew W.K.: The song was written out of a desperate feeling of looking for something completely absolute that I could, without a shadow of a doubt, say made life worthwhile. Music was the first thing that came to mind for better or worse. I could also say that about certain family members with the same level of clarity. But families change and grow and enlarge and contract over time, but music has always been consistent.

Some would also say the challenge of trying to make life meaningful is a worthy endeavor, and trying to become worthy of your own life, not the particular endeavors that you might pursue within that life, but the chance to have come into existence at all.

It’s kind of like you have to pay back destiny or the powers that be for bringing you into being. Even if it’s your parents. Whether you even wanted to come into being or not, you didn’t get a choice some would argue, but you want to try to make the best of it so that it can become a worthwhile pursuit. But that can feel quite heavy, like a heavy load to bear, so things like music, to me, are very uplifting and very energizing and gives me personally, and I think a lot of people, the fuel and resilience to approach this great effort called making life count. So that’s how I was thinking about it at the time.

Are there any particular artists or songs that make you feel especially amped up?
AW.K.: Countless, countless. From a very young age I realized music was this magical, reliable phenomenon that changed the way it felt to be me. It made me feel better than I did before I started hearing that song, before that part in the particular piece of music came in. The first few times that happened I actually kind of thought it was a fluke. I didn’t even know what that feeling was.

The first memory I have where music wasn’t this passive experience was around age four. It reached into me, and physically altered me. It wasn’t just a mood or an idea; it was an entire physical change. And it was a bit orgasmic – these waves and chills and kind of butterflies in the stomach and the whole feel. Like ‘this feeling is telling me if I can feel this good while being alive, than there has to be something to all this.’ I just wanted to stay close to that. I think of music as one thing with many forms, many manifestations. I enjoy looking at it as one big song. Like all the pieces of music in the world, including all the ones that haven’t been written or recorded or performed yet, they are all a part of one endless song somewhere. One big melody.

How did you decide on titling the album You Are Not Alone?
AW.K.: That came very specifically from my manager Pete Galli. He was listening to some of the songs as I had been working on them, and as much as we have worked together for almost 13 years now, I never had him respond so strongly to anything I’ve ever done. Sometimes I even wondered if he even liked anything I was doing. I mean that sort of as a joke, but part of it is sincere. But he responded very passionately and in a very personal way and I hadn’t been prepared for that. He said it made him feel like he wasn’t alone in his struggles and he suggested that as an album title.

At first it never occurred to me to think about a title like that or that the album would communicate that kind of feeling, so I was really taken aback, and then I realized that phrase “you are not alone” is one of the main lyrics in a song that I was working on for the album, which he hadn’t heard yet. In fact I wasn’t sure about even including the song on the album.

When he said that it was like okay, this is all meant to be. You look for those kinds of synchronistic intuitive directions to reveal themselves and then you hope you have the courage to follow it.

What made you decide to also include spoken-word, motivational tracks on the album?
AW.K.:  I hope people get this feeling of possibility of a kind of irrational optimism, of renewed sense of strength. Those tracks – that’s what I’m telling myself throughout the day. I want people – I want you who’s reading this – to understand that I’m not coming from some place of achievement or authority where I’ve mastered this. That’s me talking to myself, trying to cheer myself on and trying to say, “Come on Andrew, you can be better than this, you can be stronger than this” because I’m constantly trying to rise to a better level of behavior. So I’m right there with the listener, and I might actually assume that they might be even more evolved than I am. Odds are they are. So it’s not me telling you to do this, it’s me telling myself first and foremost.

Do you feel like you had your fans in mind when you were writing this album in wanting to send out a positive message?
AW.K.: The goal has always been quite simple. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt at odds with the world so I always wanted to work on something cheerful, and focus on good feelings, as a way to experience positive emotions that I wasn’t really feeling otherwise. So it became my life’s work just almost to save my own sanity.

And the craziness in a strange sense is kind of okay too. These are problems that we’re worthy of solving, but I think that we have to infuse ourselves with a joyful life force in order to go out and responsibly address these issues on a personal and on a much larger level. It’s very hard to save the world or save yourself in a bad mood and I have a lot of experience with that firsthand, so my work is always about trying to get in that cheered up space. To have that life force energy to go out and spread the good vibes.

You’ve done a lot of things over the span of your career. You’ve reported the weather on Fox, you played the keyboard through David Blaine’s body. What do you consider one of the craziest things that you’ve done up until this point?
AW.K.: I feel very fortunate that I’ve been given the opportunity to try all these various activities. It’s all part of getting this feeling out there, and whatever I do, as long as I’m there to represent that feeling then it’ll work out.

I would never have the nerve to go up to David Blaine and say “Hey, I want to play keyboard through you using electricity.” He invited me. I would never have the nerve to ask Cartoon Network to let me host a kid’s game show where we blow up school buses and then build robots out of them. So I’m amazed people have given me the chance to experience so many things and have these adventures.

I can say that all those opportunities and how hard it was to turn them down was one of the reasons that it took me over ten years to get an album out. Time flies when you’re partying very hard and I was shocked when I realized it had been over ten years since the last album. There’s a fatality awareness that creeps in when you start to see how quickly time goes by. Four years back in high school meant a lot. Four years now means something much different and I definitely feel an urgent need to do as much as I can and not waste time. Time is very valuable.

If you could party with anyone alive or dead who would it be?
AW.K.: I’ve never been able to really answer that question, but its always fun to think about. I’ve always chosen historical figures like Benjamin Franklin and my great great great grandmother or someone like that, someone I never had the opportunity to get to meet or know about. At the end of the day I just want to do a good job at all this…I want to do right by the party gods.

You once went on Conan O’Brien and danced with him. If you were ever approached, would you do Dancing With The Stars?
AW.K.: Anyone who has seen the clip of me dancing with Conan O’Brien I think would agree that the skills, or lack of skills, I exhibited in the dancing with him would not necessarily translate well to a show like Dancing With The Stars. I’ve been told by many people, that I am a very poor quality of dancer by nature. Something about my hips not being correct. I think they’re probably right about that. 

Maybe your type of dancing is missing from the show.
AW.K.: Yeah clunky, sharp…it’s not a fluid style of dance. I see people too, who are bigger than me and carrying more weight, and they’re much more limber and light and have this amazing flow. Everything with me seems sort of “ahhhhh,” and I’ve accepted that. If I was asked to be on the show, yeah I would try my best.

Again it’s whatever the party gods tell me to do.

Andrew W.K. Tour Dates:

Mar 01 – Brooklyn, NY – Rough Trade
Mar 02 – West Babylon, NY – Looney Tunes
Mar 03 – Cambridge, MA – Newbury Comics
Mar 04 – Chicago, IL – Shuga Records
Mar 05 – San Francisco, CA – Amoeba
Mar 06 – Los Angeles, CA – Amoeba
Mar 14-17 – Austin, TX – SXSW
Mar 15 – COLLiDE x Dr. Martens
Mar 21 – Boise, ID – Treefort Music Fest
Apr 13 – Cardiff, Whales, UK – Great Hall
Apr 14 – London, UK – 02 Forum Kentish Town
Apr 15 – Birmingham, UK – 02 Academy
Apr 18 – Norwich, UK – Waterfront
Apr 19 – Portsmouth, UK – Wedgewood Rooms
Apr 20 – Manchester, UK – 02 Ritz
Apr 21 – Glasgow, UK – Garage
Apr 28 – Jacksonville, FL – Welcome to Rockville Festival
Apr 29 – Tampa, FL – The Orpheum Theatre
May 01 – Pensacola, FL – Vinyl Music Hall
May 03 – Birmingham, AL – Saturn
May 04 – Concord, NC – Carolina Rebellion Festival
May 05 – Atlanta, GA – Shaky Knees Festival
May 08 – Louisville, KY – Diamond Pub
May 09 – Indianapolis, IN – Hi- Fi Lounge
May 10 – Grand Rapids, MI – Pyramid Scheme
May 11 – Maquoketa, IA – Codfish Hollow
May 12 – Chicago, IL – The Vic
May 13 – Somerset, WI – Northern Invasion Festival
May 15 – Rochester, NY – Montage Music Hall
May 16 – Toronto, ON – Opera House
May 17 – Boston, MA – Paradise
May 18 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza
May 19 – Columbus, OH – Rock On The Range Festival
May 20 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
May 21 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
May 22 – Millvale, PA – Mr. Smalls
May 24 – St. Louis, MO – Delmar Hall
May 25 – Pryor, OK – Rocklahoma

photo by: Gigie Hall