Five years after thrusting himself face first onto the world with aggressive rock songs about partying, and partying hard, Andrew W.K. is touring the country in a Cadillac and—what?—giving lectures?
Yes, the man who wrote the refrain, "Let's get a party started/Let's get a party started/When it's time to party/We will party hard" is now on the lecture circuit—kinda. He's traveling around holding events that are a cross between discussions, lectures, and motivational speeches. In a way, it's not surprising. Despite the comical—and loveable—jock rock of his music career, Andrew has a reputation of being extraordinarily philosophical (almost overwhelmingly philosophical) about life and performance, sounding like a Dr. Bronner for the Jackass generation. For Andrew, "partying" is code for "living life to its fullest."
On the other hand, sometimes "partying" just means "partying." The Dub K is also hosting a series of parties—Portland's one of the few lucky towns to see a lecture and party from him in the same night—April 7. I tracked Andrew down in New York just before he left for his road trip, so I'll just let him explain it. If the words stop making sense, try feeling them instead of reading them.
MERCURY: How, or maybe why, did you come up with this lecture idea?
ANDREW W.K.: The thinking was, is there a way to take what I'm doing—what anyone's doing—and make it broad enough and vast enough to include all types of experience and expression, all different kinds of methods of creative statement? I've been thinking about this a lot. For a while I was confused and a little depressed about some of these ideas because I thought, "No, no. I can't. I can't do what I want. I have to do what I'm supposed to do," and that whole idea of what you should do or what people say you have to do versus what you want to do or what you feel most deeply inside.
It can be very confusing.
There was a time in my life when I thought I had to order and prioritize my life in some kind of series of levels. I used to think it had to all come down to music, or that it had to all come down to performing—one thing or the other. Then I thought, what if the only thing it had to come down to was me, in terms of my existence? And anything I do is part of that consistency? In that way, you approach your creative work in a Renaissance style, in every direction, so that there's no limit or focus except for the feeling you're trying to get across. And then you use all these different ways to get that feeling across.
With music being only one of them?
Yeah, but that's not to belittle the music or replace it, but to add to it. It doesn't need to be ordered and we don't need to make top 10 lists—but an all-surrounding experience that emanates from all directions, and it'll be emanating from me. And since I can be that much more open, hopefully more people than ever before are able to receive some of that emanation. It was a little scary at first to stop focusing on that kind of control. Some people were telling me I'm crazy, that this is career suicide, that all that matters is a song or an album or press. Each time something was phrased to me that "All that matters is blank," it took me back to all that matters to me is what feels good and expressing that good feeling.
What, exactly, are these lectures all about?
What's been most exciting to me over these last few years is working in a way—or existing in a way—of putting things out that are specifically about not summing things up. Maybe that's the summation, to not sum things up and not have a focus—except on these sensations that we decide are good. I got so excited about talking about things and I thought, "Maybe this is valid in itself." I don't need to be doing something in order to talk about it—talking about it is doing it. That is good enough, that is content enough, just as much as music. The conversations I was having with my best friends casually—the way we were connecting and the ideas that we were discussing—were just as thrilling, and hit just as close as the feelings I get from the music. It doesn't take away the need for the music, but it was exciting to me that I was getting that much excitement.
Are there, like, topics?
The idea has been to allow for some amount—if not a huge amount—of spontaneous experience. I don't want to be talking to people, I want to be speaking with people. "Lecture" is just an easy way to describe this, but they've been turning into these discussions and sometimes I don't even need to say anything, it's people in the audience talking. And then I'm the audience and they're the lecturers. That's the most exciting for me. When I don't have any idea what's going on, then I'm positive the audience doesn't have any idea, and we're both in that space on the edge of our seats. That energy of potential, of what could happen and what will and what did, that to me is about as good as it can get for creative collaboration. These kinds of get togethers are real collaborations—everybody who's there is collaborating, even if they don't speak, just being there in that room is creating a tone that takes all of us to make. They're coming to see me as much as I'm coming to see them.
So how does that compare to the parties you're throwing? There's a seeming contrast of the cerebral and visceral, but your description sounds like they're more similar than dissimilar.
I do like the seemingly contrasting qualities to the lecture and the party. It's like having a foot simultaneously in both of these states of existence, or states of curiosity, where you're very excited about what some might call the surface, and very excited about the depth that has to be behind the surface in order for there to be a surface—because you can't have a surface unless there's something underneath it.
The party is meant to create an energy through its difference with the lecture, to create a friction so that there's energy behind both of them. The parties are going to be very similar—a situation where we spend time together in an open environment of possibility. I don't have any idea what's going to happen. I can participate as a member of the audience, which is becoming more and more interesting to me, to not be on the stage, to interact with people on more even levels. They're excited to see me, I'm excited to see them—it takes that excitement from both sides to make it powerful.
Andrew W.K. will be speaking at Ace Hotel, 1022 SW Stark, on Saturday, April 7 at 4 pm ($10), and then blowing up Rotture, 315 SE 3rd, with a massive party at 9 pm ($10). Tickets available at Jackpot Records and at brownpapertickets.com.