Penthouse Retrospective

by Christine Colby Originally Published: May, 2011

Andrew W.K. | 10 Years Ago This Month

We were talking about the future. He said, “Man, if you ever blow up, girls are just going to love you.” I was really confused, because all the stuff I was doing, it seemed like girls would specifically not like it. There’s blood, and I’m kind of dirty, and the music is really intense and aggressive. It seemed much more masculine. But he said, “No, that’s why they’ll like it. It’s very masculine, very intense, but you’re really nice and you’re being really sweet. They’re going to like that.” And when we started, it was primarily male audiences. But over the years, it was more girls and more girls and then beautiful girls! Now, in this past year, we might be at a 60/40 split, 60 male, 40 female. I think it happened over time, with women realizing that this was okay to like.

I was always really uncomfortable with performers trying anything that didn’t seem to come naturally. There are some performers who are very naturally sexual people, and that just comes out and you can’t really hold it back. It would be awkward to hold it back. But someone who isn’t that sexual naturally, trying to be — that always weirded me out. So I would never go without a shirt onstage or try to do something that was too provocative in that sexual way. I just let it come out through the intensity of the performance. Maybe people envision, If he’s headbanging like that, would that be what it’s like if he’s having sex? I dunno. But I’m grateful for any female fans that we have. They’re taking a big risk and really going out on a limb to like us.

At the other end of the spectrum, you also host a kids’ show, Destroy Build Destroy. You literally build things and destroy them?

Yeah, on a massive scale. These are Hollywood-level explosions — like a 500-foot fireball. You can see it from a mile away; it leaves a mushroom cloud with a ring around it. It really is completely over-the-top. When the show was first described to me, I asked, “Are the explosions going to be pretty impressive?” Because I just couldn’t imagine them mixing kids with that type of power.

Right, it seems like a really bad idea. Like, let’s get Andrew W.K. to work with a bunch of children. Awesome. Then we’re going to give him fire and explosions. This is a terrible idea!

TNT! TNT! Well, that’s the thing; this was unprecedented — the combination of teenagers and explosions. I realized that this was going to be a fantasy. We have episodes with the top monster-truck drivers racing around; explosions going off; me, a rock guy screaming his head off through a megaphone — it’s archetypal fantasies of a young kid. Maybe specifically of a young boy, but we always have girls on the show and they seem to love it. And then to work on a team ofl00 people in Hollywood, so you get the best of the best-I mean, just the level of absurdity is so high that I can safely say that this is what it’s all about. This is what you work toward in life, so you can have experiences like that. It’s really one of the greatest things I’ve ever gotten to do. It’s so ridiculous and so over-the-top, and yet it’s so fun and loving and exciting. This is the best thing you can ever use explosives for. It’s much better to do this than to blow up a country with them. Just blow up a bunch of garbage and then build something with it, with young kids. I’ve always said that I hope that someday the only weapons used will be in Hollywood for special effects. We’re trying to buy up as many as we can to use on the show, to take them off the market.

Okay, so you’re about explosions and monster trucks and screaming, but you play classical piano, you went to prep school, you’ve had speaking engagements at Yale. It’s kind of a weird dichotomy. I’m guessing you’ve turned out a little bit different than some of your classmates.

Yeah, I have some amazing classmates, though. I went to a very special school full of amazing artists, so it’s no surprise that they’re doing amazing things. But no one, I guess, has done exactly this.

“I would never go without a shirt onstage or try to do something that was too provocative in that sexual way. I just let it come out through the intensity of the performance.”

I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s an easy definition for how you use the word “party.” A lot of people, when they say “party,” mean drinking beer and doing coke or something. I get the feeling that could be part of what you mean but maybe not all of it.

To celebrate is to revel in the moment. It’s been presented to us that it’s only appropriate to do that at certain times. On the weekend, or at night. You can only celebrate once a year, at New Year’s or on someone’s birthday. Why wouldn’t we just appreciate being alive every day? To me that’s a state of mind. Every day is a reason to celebrate, and everybody has his or her own way of celebrating, just like a little kid wouldn’t necessarily go out and do a bunch of drugs and drink, but he can have a party that is just as genuine, just as meaningful to him. It’s amazing how many very open-minded people I’ve met in terms of politics and religion, in terms of letting people follow their own path, people who don’t like oppression, who don’t like people to be picked on — these same people say, “You’re not partying the right way. You’re supposed to party like I want you to party, the way I do.” To me that is the biggest pile of BS in the world. It’s the same as trying to tell someone that they’re not cool because they listen to the wrong kind of music. The alternative is to do your thing and let everyone else do their own. And that’s partying. And partying hard is simply doing it with every bit of energy and passion that you have.

I noticed on your Twitter feed that you said, “The whole point of everything I’m doing is good times, good feelings, and good living. That’s all I care about.” It’s a great summary of everything you’ve said, but is it difficult to maintain such positivity?

I don’t try to, I guess. I used to be a lot harder on myself about being in a certain mood al the time, but then I realized there were times when; for example, I would watch a sad movie and it might make me well up with tears or something, but is that not part of the full range of human experience? I realized I don’t want to cut myself off from feelings just because they’re not making me smile, basically.

One may safely presume that an individual calling himself the "God of Partying" will tend to have an entertaining personality. Meet Andrew W.K. as we did, like a slap on the back from a long-lost friend.

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