I Went on a Date with Andrew WK, the Party God, and We Mostly Talked About Depression
Maybe he's the saint that new age philosophy has been waiting for?
I’ve been fascinated with Andrew WK since 2003. It all began when I clicked onto someone’s Myspace profile and, through the family computer speakers, came a tinny version of his 2001 beer can-crushing anthem "Party Hard". Shortly after, I would buy Get Wet on CD from HMV and thrust around the house grunting “She Is Beautiful” at my mum.
The obsession grew when I read the weird conspiracy theories that he’s a corporate product; that he’s not the original Andrew WK and that Dave Grohl is behind it all. His bizarre side ventures - like writing the jingle for Kit Kat, designing the pizza axe and speaking at a My Little Pony convention - only made me fall deeper under his spell. As soon as I started reading his touching and life affirming column for the Village Voice, I knew it. He was the one. I mean apart from the fact he's happily married, he's definitely the one.
We arranged to meet at Ace Hotel, possibly the most sterile, air-coned setting imaginable. Ten minutes in and I could only find his publicist. She was lovely, but not the love of my life. But it was a Thursday and "party hard", right? So I ordered a margarita and him a Diet Coke because he doesn’t drink, and waited.
Eventually, he turned up; a little on edge, bringing a strange energy with him, but spilling out eloquent, exhaustingly lengthy answers from the outset.
Noisey: Hey, Andrew. This is a first date, not an interview, okay? Just in case you find the latter fatiguing.
Andrew WK: No, quite the opposite. They’re this official space set aside with a professional person there to speak with you. It’s like a therapist or psychologist. Someone whose whole purpose is to have a conversation with you. It’s always really excited me to speak with a professional talker or writer. Even if they didn’t really like me or were just assigned to do it or whatever, it’s still a chance for me to talk to someone without them being able to get away.
Yeah, I’m literally not going anywhere. Forget the music, let’s do therapy.
People have never been interested in talking about the music with me which is fine. I’ll always try and open conversation out. I’ll never say, “We can’t speak about that.” I’ll talk about anything at all.
Anything at all?
What’s the craziest thing someone’s asked you?
People ask me to punch them. They think it would be fun to get the bloody nose and possibly believe it would be an intense experience for them - and I’m sure it would.
Since I’m a fun gal, I’m going to put a dampener on our date and ask you about depression. It’s great that you’re so open about it, by the way. Was there an incident that made you decide you would “come out”?
There’s an American football ex-player personality who is now a commentator called Terry Bradshaw. He’s very animated and amped up; very likeable on camera. I remember him coming out with this testimonial about 10 years ago; coming clean about suffering with depression. I met musicians all the time that had it - and I was actually really exhausted of thinking of myself as just another person in the creative field who has these moods. Seeing someone who had nothing to do with that: it was very liberating and exciting to think this is a human situation. And him having courage in his field where it’s more unacceptable - not manly, for example - to have these feelings. I think when you’re in the arts, it’s about sensitivity, these feelings are almost encouraged.
Since then it’s seemed like part of the thing I am supposed to do. It’s always been part of the motivation for my work; to cheer myself up so maybe someone else can feel like that too. [Pause] I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone that story.
Well, thanks. I can’t get my head around the contradiction of your party persona and this depression that you’ve said comes and goes. Some might think it makes the Party AWK fraudulent. How does it work?
I was thinking about that earlier today. The whole idea of partying was a way for me to force myself to look at the world in a way that felt good. Having a very tight conceptual theme like partying made it easier. It started to reprioritise things. It didn’t mean I felt differently but it gave me something to work towards, like a mission statement, that helped me rise above those feelings. For about 15 or 16 years that was the real focus of commitment.
It’s not that I think what you call the ‘persona’ is the real me. Even if I’m only there at that highest level only 1% of the time, that 1% is me being truly myself. The other 99% is still lost in darkness and struggling with low feelings and hatred and depression and resentment. Even if I’m feeling like that most of the time I know that that isn’t real, that’s not who I really am. In the old days I wouldn’t have thought this was the real me. At least thinking this way, there’s a clarity that one is more genuine than the other.
Is this a depressing first date?
I always used think talking about depression was depressing, but it’s not. I wish more people would ask me about it. I can safely say at this point I feel better than I did a few minutes ago in the elevator.
I guess we’re learning about each other, which is the point.
You’ve been very patient with the ongoing rambling. Also, I haven’t asked you much about yourself at all. I should have let you talk more.
Have your other first dates been like this?
I don’t remember very much because I was in a state of total terror. Out of body experiences. Too scary to really be there. I almost had to transport myself out of them because they were so overwhelming.
What about when you were first getting to know your wife? Who for the purposes of our future attachment I should not be referencing.
It was a different feeling with her. That’s the first time it wasn’t like going on dates with someone, you know what I mean? It wasn’t like, okay, this is a girl I’m dating, it became this individual and I don’t mean that with any disrespect to any of the other girls that I dated. You hang out with a lot of girls and then you hang out with the one girl, who isn’t really a girl anymore. It’s this person; it’s your person. It’s Cherie. It’s like meeting a family member. You realise all these other experiences are irrelevant to this situation because you’ve never been in this situation; you’ve never met your soulmate before. Everything gets really thrown off.
That sounds lovely. How old were you?
I was about 25.
Do you think you can ever be too young to find your soulmate? I mean, I guess I’m not yours judging from previous comments, but I’m 23. Too young?
No; for some particular reason it works out the way it works out. I’m thankful I met her sooner rather than later because then you get to go through the whole thing with that person. That’s the best thing of all. When you’re younger, there’s a lot of really brutal stuff coming up and you won’t have to go through it alone. If you do physically go through it alone, that spirit or person is always with you once you’ve encountered them. Maybe they were always there to begin with.
I don’t know if everyone gets to experience that; you’re very lucky. Let’s open out the therapy session. Being in your twenties is weird, AWK. Please give me and my friends advice on how to deal with the bizarre pressures permeating everything we do.
Try to have some kind of blind trust in the path that’s being presented to you. The times when I’ve felt most unhappy or most unuseful was when I was plotting things out and trying to control things and responding to those pressures in a very aggressive way. I would meet a lot of disappointment and feel anxiety surrounding all the things that happened - even all the good things.
My twenties were very intense for sure. I used to try to achieve things. I’d work and scheme. I thought that quality of character just happened eventually or you worked on it a little bit, but I didn’t realise it was the most important thing. You think you’re growing up by discarding this and focussing on other things because you’re getting strong and confident but really you’re not. I used to feel like not being selfish would mean I was going to lose at life but I had to realise it’s the exact opposite. Becoming a good person is harder than anything I’ve ever done in my life and I’m barely done trying to do it.
You’re just on your way.
I’m just someone going through it.
At this point, Andrew is getting clearly anxious about the time. He mumbles something about needing to go to the rehearsal, and having to leave with the PR.
I tell our photographer Jake I want to get a photo of him and Andrew, because they look like brothers. As I look through the lens, Andrew transforms into the party king, his face cracking into a wild grimace. And then off he goes.
We go out the side exit to avoid the awkward second goodbye and watch him from across the other side of the road. He cuts a strange figure. Bulging muscle from a dirty white shirt. Sun glinting off his long, untamed mane like a halo. Listening in calmly and attentively to the PR, nodding in understanding. He actually looks a bit like...Jesus.
He’s not Christ of course. That’s silly. But let's look at the evidence: he’s imparting positivity as a way of offering escape from modern-day problems. An advocate of self-improvement. A willing speaker, whether that be in the public or one-on-one, who not only desires but facilitates discussion on big, important issues. His teachings are an aid for all those already on a journey of personal and spiritual progression. He’s actually spent the last few years writing a book called The Party Bible? Not to mention all his forgoing basal worldly pleasures (margaritas).
Maybe he’s the saint new age philosophy has been waiting for? Maybe, just maybe, I went on a date with the messiah.
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