He stayed up till noon experimenting with “the mechanics of experience” and recording material for his new album. I called at 3 p.m. and woke Andrew W.K. up. Or I woke someone up.
For a variety of reasons, debate regarding the identity (and mission) of this Andrew W.K. has raged across the internet from the moment his frenzied, bloody-nosed debut I Get Wet came out of nowhere and kicked 2001 in the balls. The third automatic Google search suggestion for the term “Andrew W.K.”?
“Andrew W.K. conspiracy.”
One theory (complete with photographic comparisons) suggests that the Person on the Phone is just the latest successor to the dirty white jeans, blood-stained white T-shirt, and bad-boy reputation of what might only be an idea, a character — the Dread Pirate Roberts of rock ’n’ roll (“Dread Pirate what?” he asks).
Another suggests that Andrew W.K. is some sort of Robo-Hesher (the sweat looks so real!) programmed by a secret society within the recording industry to head-bang (and now college-lecture circuit) its way into the hedonism-hungry hearts and pockets of American youth (there’s a YouTube video to that effect — Lady GaGa is supposed to be his “female” counterpart). His seemingly super-human stamina certainly doesn’t lend itself to the contrary, nor his almost third-person detachment when discussing it (“You build up strength and durability, but when I first played the Andrew W.K. shows it was really overwhelming”), nor his new gig instructing kids on how to blow shit up with bazookas as host of Cartoon’s Network’s Destroy, Build, Destroy.
Of course, you could simply take him at face value: Andrew W.K., rock star; Andrew W.K., party animal.
Or D. — all of the above.
I figure that now, after just three hours sleep, while he’s still groggy, might be my best chance to uncover the truth.
So Andrew W.K. — what’s this I hear about you not being real? About you being an actor selected to mime the music of Dave Grohl? About you being on the grassy knoll?
“That’s just a lot of misunderstanding,” he yawns. “It’s nothing to take too seriously.”
`Most of the rest of his answers are hedged with similar – and vaguely robotic – charm.`
If unleashed today, would the Andrew W.K. phenomenon have the same impact that it did in 2001?
“It could be more, it could be less. There’s no way to know. I wouldn’t have had it come out any sooner or any later. Fortunately, it came out when it did. Maybe to the public it looks like an out-of-nowhere, overnight kind of success, but I had been working pretty hard for about four years by that point, maybe even longer depending on how you look at it.”
Have you ritualized the preparation for your famously manic performances? Do you psych yourself up with special prayers? Do you carbo-load?
“Not really. I mainly just stretch. I try not to rely on routines.”
How did you achieve the “sound-stacking” effect prevalent in your early material?
“It was a mixture of things.”
`A word of advice to interviewers: Simple, specific questions will get you nowhere with the Person on the Phone. To reach the soul of the being universally considered to be the living, breathing, windmilling embodiment of the sound and lifestyle, you must swing for its broad, metaphysical fences.`
So, Andrew W.K. – what’s the secret to rock ’n’ roll?
“Hmmm… wow, well… I don’t think there is any one secret,” he says, processing, processing. “It’s pretty wide-open. There are probably a lot of secrets. It’s a mystery. That’s what keeps it interesting.”
`For instance, while the Person on the Phone cryptically describes his first and most enduring single “Party Hard” as “designed to be a celebration and to help create a certain feeling out of thin air,” he can’t say for sure what makes it and other Andrew W.K. hits, like “She Is Beautiful” and “It’s Time to Party,” great songs. (He listened to the cascading chord progression in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” play over the radio in a New York restaurant last night — he eats! — and tried to figure out the same thing.`
“Again, it’s part of that mystery. What’s the secret to having that tingly feeling? What’s the secret to finding it not just in music, but in any place possible? Where does it come from? What does it mean?”
`He keeps going, excitedly.`
“Recent studies into the mechanics of experience and why certain notes do certain things suggest that it seems to relate back to some kind of fundamental frequency reverberating in us and the world around us. That’s the mystery and the joy of music. It has the ability to cut through to the heart of what it’s like to be alive, what it is to be a human being, what it is to be a real person.”