Andrew W.K., the self-proclaimed “King of Partying” and musician-turned-motivational speaker, seems to be on a different wavelength than the rest of the world. But then, the most interesting people usually are. The human dynamo has taken the notion of partying and applied it to a state of mind, a concept for the masses that doesn’t revolve around getting drunk and going wild. In his world, partying is a means to commemorate the one thing we all have in common — life.
Currently in the midst of his Power of Partying 50 State Speaking Tour, which hits the Paradise Rock Club in Boston tonight, Andrew W.K. is intent on spreading a message of positivity and partying to the far corners of the nation. Presented by the Party Party, a so-called “political” party that encompasses the concepts that Andrew W.K. preaches and aims to free us from our divisive two-party system, the tour is “an intimate celebration of discussion, a pep rally for the inner spirit, and an optimistic look at the overwhelming intensity of life.”
So… what exactly does that mean? We sat down with Andrew W.K. a few weeks back — and notably, before Election Day — to discuss the purpose of his tour and why he chose partying as his vessel to connect with others.
Cara DiFabio: Tell me a bit about how you got started in music.
Andrew W.K.: Started with piano lessons around age five, continued those until around age 13. It was an early primal skill, it was just something I could do that brought me a lot of personal joy. As I got a bit older I really began to appreciate how music provided me personally with this very consistent, very reliable source of energy. It made me feel glad about being alive. I could always count on it. And I realized that that feeling, that life was worth living, I wanted to make that my whole life. I wanted to make focusing on that feeling and conjuring up that feeling my purpose, and devote myself to it like a mission. I figured since music was the most effective method of getting to that feeling, for me, that I would focus on that.
And so began, 17 years ago, my efforts as Andrew W.K., professional partier, and party music musician. So through that, I met a lot of people who were also very interested in this enthusiasm about life who wanted to focus on that, who were searching for themselves, but they didn’t like my music or what I had to offer, and I certainly couldn’t blame them, it’s an acquired taste, for better or worse, but I wanted to still party with people too. And we realized that talking and language and cheering each other on could also summon up a similar type of optimism, an enthusiam about life. So I thought, “Well, I’ll just add this to my arsenal.” Everything I do is a means to an end, and that end result is hopefully this raw energy that someone can take and apply to their life. So it’s not just music, it’s not just talking, even myself, I’m just a tool, I’m just a mechanism to be used for joyful ends. And hopefully these lectures and this tour is another humble attempt to summon up that excitement about existence.
It seems like you’ve kind of shifted the views of partying — most people associate with going out, getting drunk, being wild, and you’ve turned it into this kind of life-changing concept, so where did that idea come from, what was the impetus?
That word — “party” — really appealed to me because it was so simple, and I figured anybody, even if they didn’t like partying, they still understood what was the heart and core of that word, even if they didn’t relate to what that they thought the word meant. But they knew that people did those things to get to a certain feeling, and it was a feeling that, again, made you glad to be alive, and maybe made facing other challenges in life a little easier or give us the energy to do that. So I focused on that word as a very one-dimensional concept that could be applied to a state of mind across the board, so you could look at this adventure of life as a celebration of existence itself. And it does require a type of faith, or perhaps, blind optimism in a way, because we don’t know that being alive is good. It’s just as valid as thinking it’s a horrible mistake. But I figured if we’re here, we might as well try to trick ourselves into thinking it’s enjoyable, because it makes it a lot more fun to not be dead.
You don’t really have a choice, so might as well make the best of it.
Right, we didn’t choose to come into this world, but we can choose what to do while we’re here.
So taking a step back, I read that you were accepted into college in Chicago, but you decided to move to New York City. Do you think your life would’ve taken a different path had you gone to school in Chicago, and do you think it happened for a reason?
Certainly moving to New York and not going to college — maybe it was a huge mistake, there’s no way to know. I’m trying to make the best of it now. I definitely give New York City a lot of credit for the opportunities that it provided me. I’m very thankful for all of the things that happened while I was there. It was so much good luck that it really did seem like destiny, in a way, and there’s something about that where we’re often thinking about our dreams in terms of pushing toward them, reaching toward our dreams, and working toward our dreams, but sometimes our dream pulls you toward it. Sometimes the dream dreams you. And it’s reaching toward you. So I feel like sometimes I’m at the mercy of my own destiny, whether I like it or not.
And you’ve been doing motivational speaking for a while now?
It’s actually been 10 years, exactly. The first lecture I ever was asked to do was at New York University in 2006.
What was that lecture about?
I had thought that the New York University students that had invited me to speak wanted me to talk about the music business, and maybe I would speak to an entertainment industry class or something, but they specifically requested, almost demanded, that I not talk about the music industry in particular, and that I instead talk about life in general. And I was really excited about that, I was really flattered to be asked to speak at all, but especially excited about this idea to talk about life, not about my life, but this one thing that we all have in common: trying to exist. And that’s what got the ball rolling — it was a very liberating experience.
And it was from there that you kind of took it and ran with it.
People liked it. Some people really got something out of it, and I certainly got a lot out of it, talking about this stuff cheers me up. All my work I do, I do because it’s literally saving my life, every day. I don’t know that I would be alive anymore had I not found this cause to devote myself to. I had to find something bigger than me, and that cause was this joyful excitement. And the thing about that is that it boosts you up too, and believe me I need it as much or even more than anybody, because I’m not a naturally positive person.
Going off of that, there’s so much negativity in the world and in the news right now that I’m sure having your motivational message brings hope to people.
Well that would be wonderful if someone gets that out of it. That would be very worthwhile in a very beautiful way that I don’t take for granted at all. The thing about that is it makes me feel like I’m not in it alone, and I’m working on it with other people, not for them, but with them. That we’re side by side, going through this test together. There’s a way to even look at negative situations or dark situations in a positive light, in that it’s an opportunity to really see how strong we can be. Can we pass this test? Can we maintain our faith in humanity? Can we hold onto that shred of light and retain our dignity? Can we even grow from this experience?
“It’s very hard to fix the world in a bad mood. It tends to go a lot better in a mood of optimism. A mood of partying.”
So how do you find speaking to people as opposed to performing for them? Are there certain aspects of one you like better?
It’s strange, now that I’m being asked that, I’ve never thought about it that way. I probably was learning how to talk around the time I was learning how to play the piano. I could certainly speak by age five but my grasp of language wasn’t that advanced, but these two skills developed in tandem. There are things that music can do that no amount of language can ever describe, and there are things that language can do that music doesn’t really try to do. Both are very valuable, and music is a language in itself and vice versa, language can be musical — the whole thing to me falls under the same umbrella, and I try not to compare and contrast them too much. I’m doing one thing — and that is celebrating existence, even if it’s a hard process, sometimes partying is very hard.
You have a pretty solid social media presence and you interact with your fans on Twitter. Do you find that social media is a good outlet for doing that, for connecting with fans and giving them guidance?
I’ve always loved the computer as a communication tool, not because it replaces interaction in any particular way, but it facilitates a type of interaction that isn’t that easy to have. It’s a type of interaction that allows us to connect in a real way. In the case of social media, if I’m having a challenging time during the day, I will try to cheer myself into some kind of head space and write it down and put it up there, and maybe someone else will relate. Maybe they’ll be dealing with a similar thing in their day and that little idea will give them a boost. So it’s not really an authority; I feel like I’m on a team with other people – if we thought of ourselves as all being on the same team, it would really help connect us in a way that we have a common goal. The one thing that we do have in common, is we’re all people.
And that kind of goes along with the platform of the Party Party, right?
Absolutely, it’s trying to find our common ground, and acknowledges differences and encourages differences. There’s a wide range of opinions and beliefs, but mostly an extreme, almost aggressive open-mindedness and the realization that we can all still party together, maybe not everybody, but we can maintain the ideal that we can party together despite our differences. Because otherwise, we really won’t make it. We know that. We know deep down inside, that if we only look for reasons not to get along, and there’s usually dozens, hundreds, thousands of reasons, that we won’t make it. But if we focus on the one or two or three reasons that we can relate to one another, maybe, just maybe, we will be able to make it.
Were you ever involved in politics before or is this sort of your first involvement in it?
Well, I’ve never been involved in anything formally, and even this, I’m just attempting to take additional governmental interpretation of politics and set that aside to focus on the partying. So it’s a political party with a focus on “party,” and less focused on politics. But at the same time, politics, in its very pure form, removed from government, is just human interaction on a socially civilized level. An exchange of ideas as a sense of our entanglement with one another, and how to manage that. And so in that way, partying is a very valid mechanism by which to explore politics. Hopefully in a way that brings out their best, because politics tends to bring out our worst.
This election is definitely an example of that.
The real red flag for me, is that all of the sudden, in this atmosphere, you can find yourself feeling as though you can hate someone, that you’ve never met, and probably never will meet. And you can feel as though certain ideas or issues or discussion points are of life and death importance, when you know that they probably aren’t. And we’re made to feel that these people who want to be in power, if they are in power, our life could be over. And they’re the ones that can fix things for us. But no matter how adept any political leader is, we know ultimately that the work of living, actually living, can only be done by each one of us individually. We have to fix our situation and ourselves from the inside out, no politician can do that for us, no matter how badly they wish or we believe that they could. If we all just did the best we could for ourselves first, and not in a selfish way, but in a way that involves an honest integrity, maybe we wouldn’t even be in half of the problems we’re in right now.
What are you looking forward to on this tour?
It’s the first time I’ve ever done a tour where I’m literally going to every single state. All 50 states. It’s quite an undertaking. I’m looking to boost my own attitude, I’m looking at this adventure as a way to to build my own character, and I want to connect with the whole country personally, for my own sense of love. I don’t want to want to be divided from people, and this is a way to join up, hopefully with as many people as possible.
What are you hoping, ultimately, that people take away from your tour?
I hope, most of all, they have a sort of physical sensation when they leave that room. I hope we all walk away with an energized enthusiasm that we can feel in our bodies, not just an idea, not just a mood, it’s a real energy that we can then go out and apply to our own individual situations and our collective situation, and actually have that energy, that strength and optimism, that allows us to explore our problems, to address these issues. Because it’s very hard to fix the world in a bad mood. It tends to go a lot better in a mood of optimism. A mood of partying.