Singer, songwriter, keyboardist
Although Andrew W.K. incorporates bits of other people's music into his sound—the layered keyboards of 1980s synth music and the all-out aggression of 1990s speed metal—the shrieking, aggressive singer sounds like nobody else. He also acts like nobody else. In concert, W.K. wears a white T-shirt, white jeans, and white running shoes, aggressively jumping, whirling and banging his head to his backup band's catchy death-metal music. Many of his songs are devoted to the subject of partying. His first major release, 2002's I Get Wet, contains three songs with the word "party" in their titles.
Andrew W.K. makes fast, loud, boisterous, and overwhelmingly happy music despite the layers of heavy-metal guitars and harsh, guttural singing on his albums. He is also one of the more happily talkative performers in contemporary rock music, delivering stream-of-conscious interviews to any reporter who will listen. A typical happy rant on his official website reads "THIS IS MADE OF YOU AND ME AND EVERYONE ELSE WHO BELIEVES IN IT, AND EVERYONE ELSE TOO. And we can keep it going and we can keep it moving and spreading, so that even if we stop, IT NEVER WILL! WE NEVER STOP! It is formed from the unbreakable bonds that are made through our true love of life and the feelings that come with it! We will never let down! And we will love it until the end! AND BEYOND!!! WOW!!!"
More concisely, as he told the Los Angeles Times in 2002: "There's no other option. That's how music should be. The world is big, huge, loud, exciting, slamming, beautiful, magnificent and grand. Why would I whisper when I can scream? Why would I not use everything that I have at my little hands to make something that says how excited I am about life?"
Born Andrew Wilkes-Krier on May 9, 1979, in Los Angeles, he moved from California to Ypsilanti, Michigan, when his father took a job at the University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor as a law school professor. Some have speculated that the W.K. stands for "Wild Kid" or "White Killer," but the singer told the Los Angeles Times, "The only thing I've ever said is this: Who knows?" He took classical piano lessons beginning at age four and switched to drums in his teens. After hanging around Ann Arbor-area music clubs, he began recording his own music at age 17. In 1999 he convinced Bulb, a small, Michigan-based record label, to release his debut EP, Girls Own Juice.
The Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl discovered Girls Own Juice and invited W.K. to open for the band on a few tour dates in 2000. By then, W.K. had moved—first to New York City, then to Seffner, Florida, because he liked the death-metal scene in the Southeast—and assembled a band of his own. He tracked down Donald "D.T." Tardy, former drummer for the influential Florida band Obituary, and convinced him to join up. After several rejections from major record labels, Island picked up the band after hearing one of its demo tapes.
I Get Wet, Andrew W.K.'s 2002 major-label debut, overflows with enthusiastic excess. The songs are fast and loud, in the spirit of Motörhead and the Ramones, the lyrics are simple ("I love New York City! Oh yeah! New York City!"), and the keyboards and guitars are arranged in thick, abrasive layers of electronic sludge. "Thousands of hours were put into making sure that the songs didn't sound like they had thousands of hours put into them," the singer told Rolling Stone.
Some critics have interpreted the lyrics on I Get Wet, with their hard-partying themes ("Party Til You Puke" is one of the album's song titles), as Spinal Tap-style heavy-metal parody. But in a 2002 Newsday interview, W.K. began one of his lengthy tangents by saying, "'You're a poseur, you don't get it'—that doesn't exist here. There's nothing you have to do or say to like this. You are loved, really loved, by the music." In concert, he physically throws himself into the music, head-banging, leaping, and kicking his legs in the air with so much force that his long brown hair, white T-shirt, and white jeans are dripping with sweat.
"There are a couple very specific things that I got bummed out about that really shaped my attitude about all this," W.K. explained to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2003. "One of them is that, when I was younger, I went to a concert and I remember the band being very harsh to the audience, like swearing at them and calling them names and giving them the finger. Now I know that bands might do that for fun, but at the time I was just destroyed by it. It was like, 'How could he hate us so much? Why is he being so mean to us?' It just hurt my feelings." The performer continued, "I took it upon myself with this music to do the complete opposite. I want to show people how happy we are to be there with them, and I want to make the music sound like we're psyched and that we want nothing more than for the people who are there, who believe in us, to know that we appreciate them and we value their presence."
The Wolf, W.K.'s 2003 follow-up to I Get Wet, is more of the same ("Totally Stupid" and "Long Live the Party" are among the song titles). This time, though, the songs are a little longer, and the concept is starting to seem more like a formula. The earlier I Get Wet, while it did not make Andrew W.K. a superstar, has made his presence felt in pop culture. W.K. has appeared numerous times in MTV specials, placed songs in commercials for Coors beer, Target stores and Kit Kat candy bars, and performed on Saturday Night Live and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
For the Record . . .
Born Andrew Wilkes-Krier on May 9, 1979, in Los Angeles, CA; son of a law professor.
Member of Detroit area death-metal bands, 1990s; released solo debut, Girls Own Juice, 1999; formed band with former Obituary drummer Donald "D.T." Tardy, 1999; signed with Island Def Jam, 2000; released IGet Wet, 2002; released The Wolf, 2003.
Addresses: Record company— Island Def Jam, 825 8th Ave., New York, NY 10019, website: http://www. islandrecords.com. Website— Andrew W.K. Official Website: http://www.awkworld.com.
W.K.'s most personal victory took place shortly after I Get Wet was released. According to the Newsday interview, W.K. explained that his father had been dubious of the commercial potential of his son's "noise music" for years, until W.K. returned home for a Detroit concert after a long absence. After the concert, which his father attended, W.K. was talking to some people backstage and his father interrupted. "He said, 'I'm sorry to interrupt, I'm just so excited!'" W.K. recalled. "[My father] said, 'I don't think you understand but this is one of the most exciting things that's ever happened to me in my whole life.' That was one of the most moving things my dad has ever said to me. When I can give something to my dad after all he's given to me—when I can inspire him, it's really amazing."
Girls Own Juice, Bulb, 1999.
I Get Wet, Island Def Jam, 2002.
The Wolf, Island Def Jam, 2003.
Ann Arbor Observer, April 2003.
Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2002.
Newsday, April 12, 2002.
Rolling Stone, April 11, 2002.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 4, 2003.
Village Voice, March 12, 2002.
Washington Post, March 31, 2002.
"Andrew W.K.," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (December 8, 2003).
Andrew W.K. Official Website, http://www.awkworld.com (December 8, 2003).
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