Andrew W.K. is here to help you through this fraught time in American politics, when the countdown to November 8th has understandably thrown nerves across the aisles into a frenzy of emotional chaos and upheaval. Now maybe more than ever, we need the radically positive “Party Hard” singer to lead us out of these divisive times and into an uncertain future. And you can be sure Andrew W.K. will do his damnedest to help make America party again.
Rock ’n’ roll’s most empathetic emissary rang The Daily Beast from the road on his own 50-state “Power of Partying” campaign tour, a few days after delivering an empowering address to a throng of revelers at a music festival deep in the California desert. The core messaging of his celebratory mission across America, he describes, is to foster compassion for others and counteract the toxic impulses of an increasingly combative society. He is, one might argue, the anti-Donald Trump.
“The goal is to amplify the essential life force spark that seems to reside inside of every human being,” he said, quietly contemplative over the phone. “And maybe conjure up a similar sort of excitement outside of ourselves, or together—to harness that and use it to fuel our optimism.”
W.K.’s been giving his brand of pro-partying motivational speeches ever since NYU first invited him to host his own open forum. He’s an avowedly apolitical public figure, columnist, and sometimes commentator who’s been welcomed with open arms by media outlets across the political spectrum, including Fox News, Breitbart, and The Village Voice, where his popular advice column ran for two years, offering surprising and spiritual solutions to lost souls in need of guidance on a variety of subjects.
Around the time of his Village Voice sermonizing, W.K. tied with then-future presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in a highly unscientific but nonetheless revealing Washington Post survey asking who people would most like to hear speak. A year later, in one of her last paid speaking engagements before setting her sights on the Oval Office, Hillary took a cue from the Andrew W.K. school of thought, lamenting to a gathering of sleepaway camp professionals that “we have a fun deficit in America.”
When it was announced, in 2015, that he was getting his own radio show on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze network, eyebrows were understandably raised. He replied to his fans on Facebook to crystallize exactly where he stands politically, which is nowhere exactly. “I’m not right-wing. I’m not left-wing. I’m not political. I’m just party. I even party with people who are very different than I am… I don’t only want to party with people who think like me.”
It’s been 15 years since W.K. released I Get Wet, the album that punched his name onto mainstream rock’s radar and made famous that trademark image of his face, intently gazing forward with a shock of blood streaming down it. The singer-songwriter, keyboard wizard, music producer, motivational speaker, and party icon continues to record and release his hard-charging hedonist tunes, but it’s his Zen missives on positivity and partying that have made him, for the better part of a decade, into a non-theistic spiritual icon.
“It comes from a long lack of that feeling inside me personally, right up to this very moment,” he explained. “I guess it’s a desperate need for that kind of positivity myself, or a desperate desire for it, or a severe lack of it. It’s probably one of the most motivating and compelling driving forces behind anything—for example, if you don’t have water you’ll do just about whatever it takes to get to that water. That’s probably the best way I can describe my situation, being someone who has really struggled with extraordinary darkness and anger, frustration and rage and despair, just an overriding feeling of hopelessness and meaninglessness.”
“It’s been very inspiring,” he added, “trying to turn those feelings into their opposite.”
The charismatic W.K., 37, has a gift for connecting with fellow humans, whether he’s sharing in the holy communion of rock ’n’ roll with other sweaty devotees at his concerts or bonding over deep thoughts and LSD trips with Deepak Chopra in the author’s own kitchen. He wants us to feel less alone in our frustrations with modern life by embracing the angst-inducing dualities of existence. He wants us to know it’s OK to feel the bad vibes, because at least that’s more productive than ignoring they exist. Spearheading a movement bigger than himself is, he confirms, a form of self-therapy for battling his own demons.
“The word I’ve been using is ‘embracing’ it because we’re often told to numb out those feelings, to overcome those feelings, to escape those feelings—if we face those feelings, to somehow squash them,” he said. “I think it’s about trying to reorient ourselves towards those feelings, or to even reinterpret them as not being bad. They’re all part of a larger spectrum, and what we think of as bad or negative is often part of another shadow side to the light, to the goodness. We can embrace it and use it for good in a way that seems contrary or maybe even impossible, but is actually quite natural. I think what would be exhausting is spending all that energy trying to eliminate these feelings rather than put them to good use.”
Some of his darkest demons, he says, “are the best things I’ve ever had. They propelled me to do the best work I’ve ever done, at least the work most worthwhile in doing. And in that way it does get a bit puzzling because it does leave you in a rather strange confusing kind of bliss—you see the entire phenomena, the entire thing, this whole chance to be alive…. And everything that comes with it, even the pain, even the suffering, is part of that goodness, in a way that we may never fully understand.”
His voice hushed, an introspective contradiction to the outsize onstage persona he ramps up in his shows when the crowds of like-minded strangers feed and fuel his own energy: “I get more out of this than probably anybody does. I don’t think I could be motivated to do this if it wasn’t to save my own life.”
There is Andrew W.K. the musician, the motivational speaker, the persona, the figurehead of a movement. And there is Andrew Wilkes-Krier, the private citizen whose own political views you very deliberately may never hear, lest all that other noise of personal politics interfere with the delivery of the message he serves. He politely declines, for example, to comment on either presidential nominee, or their platforms, or any sort of divisive social issue whose answer might turn someone away from the power of partying. But he has been closely following the election, watching Hillary and Trump spar in the increasingly hostile series of debates.
“For my own personal reasons as a citizen of the United States,” he offered, “I follow it as closely as possible. It doesn’t really work into my work, for better or worse. I don’t tend to address any specifics in terms of politicians and policies because I don’t feel that’s the best use of my skills as an entertainer, as a performer, or as a public figure.”
“What I’m trying to present can also get very obscured by personal opinions of my own,” he continued. “I feel like it’s a small but hopefully precious window into some version, even in a very obscure way, of truth—that’s what music can be, and hopefully that’s what these ideas are trying to get at. And if I get too much of myself involved, my tastes, my preferences, my opinions that day, how I’m feeling—if I’d let myself get too involved I probably wouldn’t have done any of this. Because I’m trying to sort of eliminate the parts of myself, or rather clear out the way, so I can represent something beyond me, that is bigger than me. I try to keep that space a sacred, clear space and not clutter it up with anything, including my feelings about all kinds of stuff.”
The Michigan-raised W.K. will, however, proudly declare his love for his country. The Land of the Free has allowed him, after all, to pursue his own unique American Dream. “I’m very thankful for the opportunities that I’ve had here,” he said, still very serious. “To be a professional partier… I don’t know if that would even be legal in a lot of other countries.”
Addressing his recent political endeavors, W.K. regretfully reports the sad demise of The Party Party, the alternative third-party “for the rest of us” that he launched this year, on April Fool’s Day, with a tongue-in-cheek joie de vivre that nevertheless was no joke. Contacted by lawyers representing a nonprofit using the same name, W.K. says he and his cohorts had no choice but to suspend all Party Party activities, despite the fact that fans are still tweeting their intention to write W.K. in on their ballots and vote Party Party in November.
“My first instinct was to join up with them in some way, but they have not given me that opportunity yet,” he lamented. “So we just had to dismantle the entire project, unfortunately. But in the end I think what it looked to accomplish, it did. It was just a very small effort to point out that we’re all human beings and we have to figure out how to put that first. The spirit of the Party Party was always there, and always will be.”
Indeed, the Party Party’s official account hasn’t tweeted since shortly after debuting in April. But its platform lives on through W.K., and the party’s party-centric mission statement, still posted on a website featuring photos of W.K. pressing the flesh and working with his cheery staffers, offers the following message:
“The Party Party is simple in its mission: to free the American people from the dysfunction that is our two-party system. At best, partisan politics has created an insurmountable divide that has separated the people into two categories of Democrat and Republican. The Party Party aims to provide an alternative to the divisive labeling of our current system. Most people have become too caught up in the bickering of our news cycles to realize that we ultimately desire the exact same things: reliable access to education, health care, and a sense of social equality. If enough people are willing to liberate themselves from choosing left or right, a third voice can emerge with a much more powerful message. A message that will open the eyes of our representatives and help them see that this “Us versus Them” mentality has kept our country from providing its people with a REAL sense of freedom. If we open our hearts and approach the problems we face with an open mind, real change can be achieved. We hope you will join us on this journey.”
Applying the Andrew W.K. school of thought to the current election cycle, The Party Party would have been the most accountable party in the history of politics. While he won’t sound off on specific issues facing the country, many of them come to mind as he carefully expounds on his views on how we govern ourselves and try, in our own lives and perhaps by extension, in legislature, to also control how other people live.
“I think every person should have the right to become themselves,” he offered. “You can’t have this idea of liberty and freedom without going all the way. It’s nice to have these ideals, but you can’t like the ideas and not like the complexity of what comes along with them. Liberty’s not supposed to be easy. Freedom is a very messy, complicated, ever-changing, growing thing. It will never be so manageable and rigid as to make sense. Liberty is, really, having the freedom to figure out what life is—and to figure it out for yourself, not have someone tell you what is right, but to feel that from the inside out.”
“What I don’t like is a very easy litmus test, that when these good ideals start to divide me from my fellow man I can tell something’s wrong,” he continued. “That’s when I can tell that something is askew—either the way that I’m interpreting this or the way that I’m approaching it. And I don’t want to engage in anything that seems designed from the very beginning to tear me apart from other people. It doesn’t mean that I agree with them, and it doesn’t mean that I like them. But I have to be able to respect and appreciate their right to exist.”
He cautions against the impulse to rage against those we disagree with, especially as the days whittle down to the election and our national anxieties ripple out into our individual relationships. Don’t, as he advised in a column to one liberal fan at odds with his conservative dad, get mad and flame out on Facebook on your uncle or that one kid you went to high school with back home because you can’t see eye to eye in a heated moral debate.
“While it is very tempting, perhaps more than ever before, to lash out at other people who are living a way that we think is wrong or behaving in a way that we don’t approve of, we realize that rather than trying to make them act or think differently it’s really an opportunity to clarify our own minds and say, ‘How have I been acting? How have I been behaving? How can I improve myself and use this as a chance to take action personally, and be the best that I can be?’”
“If more people actually did that,” he said, “we probably wouldn’t be dealing with some of this conflict at all. Because a lot of it has to do with each of us wishing someone else was doing something different rather than us turning more inward, not in a selfish way but in a self-aware and humble way. This is a great moment of reckoning in that way. I think rather than this causing lasting harm, it’s a painful rebirth and a painful growing experience that will ultimately bring us to a new level of goodness. And that’s what we’ll have to do to survive. It’s going to either bring out our worst, or it’s going to bring out our best. And I have hope that it will bring out our best.”