There’s a good chance that, as you read this, Andrew WK is next-level tired and nursing a sore arm. The musician and gonzo motivational speaker very recently completed a 24-hour jam session, thus entering the Guinness Book of World Records by playing the World’s Longest Drum Session In A Retail Store. Why on Earth would he do such a thing? Because someone asked him.
Andrew WK is a dude who says yes to almost everything people ask him to do. It’s a philosophy and guiding principle that has led the singer–who first entered the public consciousness with 2001 novelty rock hit “Party Hard”–to a decade-plus career as an entertainer. It provided him the opportunity to host the Cartoon Network reality show Destroy Build Destroy; to produce a record for reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry; to
form the band Demolished Thoughts with indie rock royalty Thurston Moore and J. Mascis; and to speak at a 2012 My Little Pony fan convention in Ohio.
Those sort of opportunities only come your way, though, if you live your life in a way that makes people want to offer them to you. The multihyphenate artist spoke with Co.Create recently to explain how he does so.
“People used to say, You’re going to burn out,” WK says, but he found for himself that the key to not burning out was to keep a very full calendar. “I’ve seen people who choose not to live this way, and it just seems very safe, and it seems like their life becomes a sort of nine-to-five job. They have other interests they’re passionate about, but then the bulk of their energy or time goes into something that’s just there to pay the bills, so they can have free time to do what they really like. I vowed I would never live like that.”
The desire to fulfill that vow–and his memory of what his life was like beforehand–are what helped Andrew WK decide that he was going to be the guy who says, Yes.
“The goal of my work isn’t to have a ton of free time,” he says. “When I had free time in the past, while working at a job I really didn’t like, I spent all of that free time doing this. Now all of my time is spent doing this, and I want it all to be blocked out. I want every day to be full of some new adventure, and to think that people are drawn to me enough to have an idea for me, let alone to think, Let’s go to Andrew WK, or He’s the guy who’ll do this–that’s extremely meaningful to me. It’s a privilege to be thought of as someone that people can turn to for anything.”
Andrew WK is a relentlessly positive person. When he talks about the dreams that have come true for him, he lists “Doing this interview with you right now” alongside the three seasons he spent hosting Destroy Build Destroy. He’s so sincere that it’s hard not to wonder if maybe he’s really just messing with you sometimes–so it’s a surprise when he mentions the frustrations that come with his philosophy.
“There are times that I think I’m supposed to do something,” he says. “Like, for example, record an album. I wanted to record a new album in 2006, but then something like touring with Marky Ramone will come up, or an opportunity to make a TV show where I get to blow things up with kids, or produce a record for Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.” There have been certain frustrations, and even second-guessing, in his career about whether taking those opportunities was the right thing. For instance, there hasn’t been a new album of pure Andrew WK songs since 2006’s Close Calls With Brick Walls. However, the artist says that he recently came to think of what he does in a different way.
“I’ve had conversations with people I really respected who told me that I need to focus, and just do one thing,” he recalls. “And at times, I would think that maybe they’re right, and I’m just sort of flailing around and not really committing to anything. But no: I’m doing something very specific, which is being Andrew WK. Nobody else is doing this exactly, or could, because it’s me. My work is being me, and having this adventure, and all that fits together very nicely into something that is very specific and very focused. Once I looked at it like that, it took away the pressure of ‘You’re only supposed to record albums and go on tour.’ What you’re supposed to do is be alive and have the biggest and most intense adventure that you can during this life. I just stopped fighting it, like, This is going to delay another plan I had. I have no plan.”
On September 28 of last year, Andrew WK was in Strongsville, Ohio, at the Holiday Inn. The singer and multipurpose entertainer–whose first album cover is a photograph of him with blood pouring out of his nose–was a guest of honor at the Canterlot Gardens My Little Pony convention, giving a presentation on Pinky Pie, a hard-partying pony with which he’d been associated by the “Brony” fans of the series. It was obviously kind of a weird place to find the guy.
The appeal, Andrew WK says, was in doing something so far outside of his comfort zone so as to destroy the very notion of having a comfort zone. “You’re constantly building a certain type of confidence: that I can go and do this, having never done it or experienced anything like it,” he says. “There’s definitely something to be said about doing something over and over again and developing that skill, but what my skill is becoming is doing something that I haven’t done over and over. Doing something that I haven’t done is the thing I’ve done a lot.”
It fits into his self-conception of what Andrew WK is supposed to represent to the world. “That’s kind of what Andrew WK is,” he says. “It’s this guy who, through the power of partying, can do anything. More even than I think I can do.”
Despite the relentless positivity and seemingly boundless energy (I repeat: 24-hour drum session), Andrew WK acknowledges that this frenzied approach to life can cause stress. “There are times that have caused me very basic and pure forms of anxiety, but it’s not nervousness or intimidation,” he says. “It’s a feeling of being rushed and of not having enough time to do a good job.”
He likens the experience to watching cooking shows. “You’ve seen those cooking shows on the Food Network where it’s a competition and they’re running out of time? It’s just such a shame, because if they only had 10 more minutes, or whatever, then they could have made the dish perfectly. It was just a matter of not having enough time. It wasn’t their skill. It wasn’t that they didn’t have the right ingredients. It wasn’t that they didn’t have the right energy. It was because they didn’t have enough time,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to make sure that I had the right time to do the best I could for the opportunity.”
When you say yes to everything, sometimes people are going to ask you to do something that you’re not sure you’re capable of, but if you just agree to it, you’ll get the chance to push your own limits, whether you planned to or not. Take, for instance, the drumming.
“That was something that someone came to me with,” he explains. “I wish I could say I came up with the idea, but I’m there to execute.” The performance came about after MTV, VH1, and CMT nominated Andrew WK for an O Music Award for his Twitter account; he reached out to the awards and asked if he could participate in the show in some way.
“They said, ‘It’s great that you reached out, because we’ve actually been looking for someone to drum for 24 hours as part of this challenge,’” he laughs. “That was another situation where I didn’t really think about it. I said, ‘Yes, absolutely, of course.’ It was only the next day when I thought, Oh, my goodness, this is actually going to involve playing drums for 24 hours. What the heck? This is really going to be challenging. But at that point, that kind of pressure is going to be good. . . . [What going to] get me through tomorrow is that I did step up to a bigger challenge. But again, it was their idea. I’m just there to say yes to it.”