Andrew WK: On Partying
The rock musician and motivational speaker explains his philosophy ahead of Belfast's October 16 Output conference
You're coming to speak at the Output creative industries music conference in Belfast October 16. What can we expect from your speech?
Well, I'm a professional partier so I focus on the power of partying and how it's allowed me to have a lot of fun, of course, and how it can enable anyone to have fun if it's applied to a daily mindset. This is a music conference where the focus is on the music business, so I wanted to be able to include elements of my experience in the entertainment industry. That framework has allowed me to explore and enjoy so many other areas of the world.
To me it's still such an exciting industry to work in. I don't even like to call it an industry because you're manufacturing an experience, and I still find that a very futuristic, ahead-of-the-curve realm to work in compared to manufacturing material goods. More and more, we're seeing humanity focusing on experiential goods.
Whether it's a movie or a TV show or a song, it's the sensations that people get out of their encounter with something that they value. And with the explosion of the computer, we see that even more. So it's very exciting to think that maybe the future of humanity will be based on experiences as the primary commodity that's valuable to people.
You have been involved in different types of music, performing and producing, as well as TV, public speaking and much more. How do all these things relate to one another?
They don't, really. My main goal from the very beginning and to this very day has always been to generate a feeling. Initially, that was for me – I just wanted to feel cheered up. I wanted to feel energised and excited and basically better. I wanted to make myself feel happier about being alive and the thing that was always the most immediate and effective for me was music. It always made me feel better no matter how down I was. So I decided to focus on that.
I wanted to have something I could commit myself to – a life mission – and I decided, 'What if I made the pursuit or the creation of that feeling my whole life's work?'. And as anyone gets better trying to master their life's work, you find other ways to get that feeling across. One of the things I'm most grateful for in entertainment or showbusiness is that there are so many different ways you can entertain someone.
When your entertainment is focused on getting a cheerful feeling or boosting someone's spirits, it's really limitless. I want to take advantage of every mode of expression or communication or entertainment to get that good feeling going. I don't really like the idea that there are all these different things – to me they are all just one thing, which is Andrew WK trying to get an energetic feeling out there into the world. It's all connected to that sense of partying, which is really just that you're glad to be alive, and celebrating it.
How did you come to focus on the idea of 'partying', specifically?
From very early on, that was the word that I felt most encapsulated that sense of cheerful energy. The word was big enough and direct enough to communicate that feeling to any kind of person. Each person had their own way of celebrating and having fun, and certainly understood what that excitement was. The way I feel is that there's no time to not be in that mindset.
It doesn't mean things are always easy or always feel good, but there is an inherent goodness in being alive to experience anything at all, and we're celebrating the opportunity to be here and make it as good as we can.
I liked how inclusive it was, I liked that it felt inviting. It had an urgent excitement that I always felt when I thought about or heard that word. I wanted to feel that way as much as I could, and I feel very thankful to have that be my main focus. Partying is the most fun thing that I could think of doing, so I decided to make that my whole life.
Did your dedication to partying come from within, or was it inspired by anything you had read, heard or seen?
Well sure, I was inspired by all kinds of stuff and all kinds of people. I wasn't sure for many years exactly what I wanted to do in life. I just wanted to have something big to commit myself to, something bigger than myself. Some kind of mission or cause or ideal, where all my effort and all my interests, and all the feelings that I have about life could somehow be valuable and useful.
I wanted to have it feel like a team effort, something I wasn't alone in. That came from all kinds of inspiration. Sometimes it came from things that I was really upset about or didn't like. I've learned as much about partying from seeing what people do and not doing it as I have from seeing how people party and wanting to emulate it.
I always tried to notice when that feeling of excitement and energy and possibility would find me. From a very young age, I realised that music did that for me. That was an almost failsafe way to get that feeling. You notice it when you feel it, you can tell – anyone can.
'There's that feeling, it feels good to not be dead right now!' It's very obvious. How can I hold onto that feeling? How can I make it happen again? How can I make it reliable, so I can always turn to that? And I wanted to be that thing myself, be that feeling. So that people could even just think of me and somehow get back in touch with that feeling of excitement.
When you first emerged, you were seen as something of a novelty act. All these years later, do you feel like you are taken more seriously now? Do you care?
People take it however they want to take it. The idea of it being taken seriously or not is not as important as it just being taken. I want people to be able to encounter what I can offer, and use it however they want. Taking things seriously is not always that beneficial in general – serious things sometimes shouldn't be taken seriously.
I just want people to take the energy out of it and apply it to their life in a way that feels best to them. I'm not here to impress people or show them that I'm even worthy of their time, I'm here to party. I'm here to have some fun, you know?
You are still inextricably linked to the song 'Party Hard', 13-years after it came out and in spite of all the other things you have done since. What is your relationship to that song now?
That song is everything to me. That song is like my national anthem. I enjoy it more now than when we first made it, and I never would have expected that. That's the rocket fuel that launched this whole party into space, and it's still somehow burning. It's like a perpetual source of fuel and I'm extremely thankful that it exists. I sort of don't even think of it as a song any more.
If you had to sum all this stuff up, that song does it and I'm very thankful that I have something like that. That's the thing, anything that works to get that feeling across, I'm extremely thankful to have in the arsenal. Some people really connect with that song and I'm so glad that it helps them get to that feeling.
Other people don't like any of my music at all, or even rock music in general, and maybe they read this interview and get something out of it, or maybe they read something I wrote and they connect with it and get that feeling. Even the idea of presenting an option to someone is part of the spirit, and to realise that it's not about one particular thing. It's about the feeling overriding all – all of it is a means to an end. If someone just thinks of 'Party Hard' and that works for them, I couldn't be happier.
Earlier this year you spoke at the Oxford Union. How did you find the experience?
It was incredible. I just can't believe that that kind of stuff would happen, or even that I would get to go anywhere around the world, that I get to see places like Oxford. I mean, we had played concerts there before but if someone had told me the last time we played there, which was probably 10 years ago or something, that I would be coming back and speaking about partying...
That's the kind of unpredictable destiny that blows my mind, probably more than anyone else's. But I also really appreciate these opportunities and try to really make the most of them and I tried to offer something of value to Oxford and the people that came to that. It was incredible. I was excited, I was nervous, I felt like I was really alive and I felt very lucky.
So thank you to Oxford and thank you to everybody that relates to this. I really do feel like it's not something that I'm doing by myself. I feel like this is a team effort, and if you feel like you have any part of it, any good feelings from it, that you should consider yourself a crucial member of the organisation – of the party. And to please invite other folks, because it's more fun to party when other people are there.