The world has seen a plethora of pop culture icons that bring something unique and memorable to the table. Everyone from Elvis Presley to Hulk Hogan, Marilyn Monroe to Albert Einstein, there is just that “it factor” that a name has that can take them from fame to immortality. Music has countless figures that are spoken with reverence whether it be because of a particular look, sound, influence, event or a combination of them all. I’ve discovered many that have inspired me for different reasons, but there is one who has changed my life in a way that none of the others could have ever dreamed of.
I was a curious thirteen year old who had yet to have a defined taste in music. I had songs I enjoyed listening to when they came on the radio, but I was not drawn to many bands at the time. While watching television one night, there was a commercial for Jackass: The Movie. Though I was stunned by the visual of the characters performing ridiculous stunts, I will never forget that the song playing throughout immediately captured my attention. For four years, however, I put that thought on hold and continued to focus my priorities on interests outside of music. But then a moment came in my life right when I needed it, but I didn’t realize how much it would change my life for a number of reasons. I was over a friend’s house one night and he had Jackass: The Movie on DVD. I loved the movie so much that I asked to borrow it so I could check out the special features. While looking through and finding extras such as deleted scenes and that trailer from years ago, I found the option to view the music video for We Want Fun by Andrew W.K. I quickly realized that this was the song that I had been searching for and it felt like everything came together all at once. The music video consisted of an outdoor party with the Jackass crew and Andrew performing on stage, the ultimate combination! I feel that a song can mean that much more to someone if they discover it through an experience. I was getting more and more into Jackass as I began to evolve from curious teenager to free spirit.
We Want Fun continued to be a staple on my iPod, but I remained curious about the man behind the hit track. In another moment, which I feel was a result of fate, my dad and I were watching the 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs on VH1 Classic. Though at times, the list contained a lot of anthems from the seventies and eighties, guess who made their way onto it? It was time for number 89 and right away I heard, “When it’s time to party, we will party hard”. It was a huge adrenaline rush all at once because I saw Andrew W.K. on my screen, his limitless energy and high intensity during the Party Hard music video and I was immediately turned onto that song. I headed over to YouTube and was in awe over this incredible song.
It wasn’t just the music of Andrew W.K. that would make its way into my life during this time. Twitter was becoming more and more popular and I had yet to be convinced at the time that it was beneficial to me. I continued to wonder what Twitter would bring to the table that Facebook hadn’t already. I had followed some celebrities that I looked up to, but the tweets weren’t particularly memorable. I need to be sold on the site and help was on the way. I discovered that the party leader himself was on Twitter. I originally didn’t think anything of it because I had generally seen tweets be used for promotional purposes and to show everyone what people had for breakfast. Then this one account just kept capturing my attention with these thought-provoking tweets. I think you know who I’m talking about here. I saw tweets like “Your life is a movie. You’re the writer, director, & star. So you better write yourself an amazing script.”, “Think about what you love. Forget about what you hate.”, “You’re alive, so you might as well have a blast. What else is life for except giving your all and having a ball?” and “The negative voices in your head are wrong. Listen to me and keep my voice in your head, and believe me…You are awesome”. I was blown away by how incredible this all was. Behind that famous bloody noise, long hair and all white clothing lies a beautiful soul with a heart of gold. I remember that this was during a stressful point in my life and going as far back on his Twitter as I could just made me feel better than anyone else’s advice ever could. I can even recall getting a text subscription to his tweets on my phone so I would get notified whenever he would post something new. I honestly never knew that someone so genuine, warm and fun could exist. But the discoveries didn’t stop there.
Several months later, I put on the I Get Wet album for the first time and it just felt like this adventure that words cannot describe. The songs just felt so unlike anything else that I had listened to before. It was heavy, it was punk, it was the companion that I had truly desired at the time. Though some are misinformed and confused over Andrew’s meaning of the word “party”, it began to make sense to me. Throughout this album, he was singing about some of the best things in life. I Love NYC. Party til You Puke. She Is Beautiful. Party Hard. Over the years on Twitter, I’ve seen him talk about his many, many interests and his passions in life. This is a man who has a completely open mind and loves everything from Mister Rogers to My Little Pony. He did a non-stop drum session for twenty four hours. He danced with Conan O’Brien on Late Night. Many claim to grab life by the horns, but Andrew lifts life over his head and bench presses it. The Andrew W.K. definition of “Party” is so fascinating and really makes you think. He was quoted as saying, “The very nature of partying is to provide a life-saving release from the constant pressure to “take things seriously.” and “Partying is fully immersing ourselves in the best and most immediate aspects of this incredible gift called “being alive.” Joy brings out the best in us. Partying allows us to experience the best of that joy and be truly ourselves. Partying allows us to be close with other people that we wouldn’t necessarily connect with in other circumstances.” That’s the party that I will always RSVP as “attending”.
It’s not just Twitter where he has made a difference. He has become a force throughout all media. I remember that someone made the suggestion that I should check out “Your Friend Andrew W.K.”. I looked it up online and was very glad that I did. The show revolves around people writing letters to Andrew. He answered some on air, but he went one step further for other questions. He traveled to where the person lived and helped them out one-on-one. And the theme song just made the show even better. The show was introduced with Totally Stupid off of The Wolf. I have to take a moment to share the beginning lyrics of it, “Life’s too short, so do what you want. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. So everyone just do what you want.” It’s an uplifting song accompanied by visuals of Andrew having a blast with those he visited. I knew I was in for a treat. And what a charming show this was! It put a smile on my facing seeing Andrew visit a fan who wanted to be just like him as they busted out dance moves in the basement and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There was the time when he visited a college radio station to help make a student’s show more kickass. But then you have the emotional moments such as where he helped a shy fan break out of his shell.
Since Twitter can only fit 140 characters per tweet, Andrew took it a step further earlier this year. Ask Andrew W.K. debuted online on The Village Voice, a weekly column where he would give advice to those who wrote in. What changed my life a couple years earlier on Twitter was now being continued on a bigger platform for more people to get inspired by. With the power of articles constantly being shared online and becoming viral, Ask Andrew W.K. became huge. I recall looking through my Facebook feed and finding people sharing a link that talked about Andrew W.K.’s epic response to a song complaining about his right-wing “asshole father”. Though I do not have much knowledge regarding politics, I was amazed that his reply started with, “Go back and read the opening sentences of your letter. Read them again. Then read the rest of your letter. Then read it again. Try to find a single instance where you referred to your dad as a human being, a person, or a man. There isn’t one. You’ve reduced your father — the person who created you — to a set of beliefs and political views and how it relates to you.” Though that gave me goosebumps, there was one reply in particular where I felt like he was speaking to me directly regarding my issues. A shy writer was looking for advice on overcoming social anxiety and the fear that comes with asking a girl out. I can recall nearly being reduced to tears when I read through Andrew’s reply. Here’s part of it that I would like to share with you: “For some reason, shyness has gotten a really bad reputation. This is unfortunate. What is negatively defined as “shy” is actually just a different, and often more thoughtful personality. Someone who may be more quiet, or who prefers solitude over constant social stimulation isn’t a lesser person.” “Being able to keep yourself company is a great skill that many more “out-going” people never learn. There are people who experience extreme anxiety if they have to be alone for any period of time. They need constant interaction, and oftentimes the interaction is specifically there to distract them from interacting with the contents of their own mind — the person they least want to spend time with is themselves. This is not a helpful trait. So don’t be too hard on yourself for being shy. Besides, asking out a girl is usually pretty intense for everyone anyway — even the guy who seems the most brave. And always remember that some of the best girls like shy guys specifically. And I should know — I’m shy too.” When I finished reading his reply, it just felt like time stood still. I had all these realizations going through my head. I didn’t think it was possible to like Andrew any more than I already did, but it reached new levels on that very night.
Seeing his thoughts on my computer screen and listening to his music through speakers were both great, but it was time to take things to the next level. I was determined to see my hero live. I regretted the fact that I wasn’t able to see him in 2010 because I was out of the state that weekend. In 2012, things were going to be a little different. Though I would have traveled to New York City to make this a reality, something even better happened. I read that he was going to be at the Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun, an intimate stage in the center of the casino floor of Mohegan. (Speaking of casinos, I highly encourage you to listen to the criminally underrated track off of Close Calls with Brick Walls; Las Vegas, Nevada) It was all finally coming together! The one issue that I dealt with prior to the show was that I didn’t have anyone to go with because all of my friends were unavailable that night. Though I was bummed over standing in line by myself at first, I quickly had an epiphany. I did have a friend that would be there with me that night. And he was going to be on the stage! It got closer and closer to the show starting and I was letting go of that negative energy. As a matter of fact, I began to “PAR-TY! PAR-TY! PAR-TY!” chant that many joined in on. It was eventually time for the best part of the night to begin as Andrew with his full band got on stage. I could not get over the amount of energy that was surrounding me from every angle. When the first song on the setlist is It’s Time To Party, you know that’s exactly what time it is! Allow me to paint a picture for you, the Wolf Den is a generally relaxed environment where casino-goers (generally on the older side) stop by to enjoy a drink and watch a band perform while sitting at their assigned booth. That was far from the truth on this magical night. There were no casino-goers here, just party-goers. The floor in front of the stage was packed with fans who worshiped the Party King. In a first that I have ever seen for this stage, there was moshing, there were fans getting up on stage and there was stage diving. And here’s what separates Andrew from other musicians out there, when the first fan got on stage, rather than pushing him off or calling security, he asked right away, “Hello sir, what’s your name?” He carries no such rockstar ego and is true to himself each and every day. As it goes for the music, I Get Wet was being performed in its entirety in honor of the ten year anniversary tour for that legendary album. And how could I forget about his famous pizza guitar? That was a sight to see. To top it all off, he closed his set with We Want Fun! Talk about coming full circle.
The best memory that I have of Andrew W.K. ties into this very site. I took my dad to see Andrew W.K. perform on his solo tour in Hartford, CT for his birthday. And again, this was far from a traditional concert venue. This night was to be held at Arch Street Tavern, a restaurant with live music. I had never been to this spot before and once I got inside, I was intrigued by how this would all be pulled off. It was even more of an intimate setting than the Wolf Den. I had a couple hopes for this show, that it would be just as good as the last one and that my dad would enjoy the overall experience of seeing him for the first time. What started out as the two of us eating dinner at a table eventually turned into a completely packed house with very little room to actually get around. I get easily intimidated by big crowds and I was standing right in front. Andrew made his way on stage and once again, the first song of the night was It’s Time To Party. Following that intro guitar riff, the place went insane! I was getting bumped into left and right and there was no such way for me to move to another spot. Fans began to make their way on stage, and though this wasn’t something that I was planning on, it ended up happening. Getting pushed around in a sea of rowdy fans, I had two choices. I could either continue getting pushed into the barrier and potentially get injured or I could finally get some space…on stage. That’s when I manned up and joined a small crowd on that very stage. I can just recall Andrew moving around and I was standing very close to him. In case I was ever curious, I found out what his hair felt like that night through his headbanging and dancing. I had this surge of energy when the song, Ready To Die, was starting. This was one of my absolute favorite songs of any artist and I could recall singing along in the car to it many, many times. In a moment that could have taken place in a movie, he pointed the microphone in my direction and I proudly sang a line of the song! It was a dream come true. A night that I will never, ever forget.
I was so moved by this special night that I wrote a concert review for JOAF. Around the same time, I had submitted an e-mail request to interview Andrew W.K. for the site. Being brand new to the scene at the time with a small roster of interviewees, I never thought that this could happen. Along with the request, I sent over the concert review that I did. Not only did Andrew’s publicist say that it was an amazing review, but he said he would share it with him as well. Two days later, I received the offer of a lifetime. I was going to be interviewing my idol for this very site! People often ask me my proudest accomplishment for JOAF, and though there are many events I could choose from, it is this one in particular that will remain my favorite. And that is because this was my first big break with Andrew taking a chance on me and opening the door of opportunity. I can honestly say I don’t know where myself or the side would be had it not been for this experience. I had a wonderful interview with him and he was completely candid, giving me detailed and memorable answers. I was so proud of myself that I interviewed Andrew W.K.! I was so grateful and it gave me the confidence to keep pushing forward with pursuing interviews.
Now how can he take it a step further? What bold new chapter could he take on? How about fronting Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg on a 2013 tour as they perform thirty two hit Ramones songs on stage? It honestly felt like a combination that made perfect sense. After getting over the initial shock that this was going to take place, the next part was to find out where they would be playing. It was all confirmed, New York City at Santos Party House. (Fun Fact: Andrew co-opened Santos Party House, a critically acclaimed music venue and night club) The entire night was just pure magic. It was such a fun and unique experience with the perfect soundtrack to take me on a journey. Though Joey Ramone passed away in 2001, his spirit lived on in Andrew W.K. Joey Ramone is far more introverted on stage than the consistently energetic Andrew W.K., but they both perform the Ramones songs with heart and their special take on it. During our interview, I asked him what he enjoys about the music of the Ramones and he replied by declaring, “I want to be charged up and just have that feeling like you’re standing on top of a mountain with your arms raised in the air, that you’re going down a roller coaster on the last day of school with the girl of your dreams, or boy, or person of your dreams, whatever it may be and just that there’s unlimited possibility and excitement and you see the world for what it truly is, which is a miraculous adventure that we get to be on. That’s how The Ramones songs make me feel.” He also told me how grateful he was to have been blessed with this opportunity and he certainly made the most of it.
There is just so much to Andrew W.K. and I love every part of it. His music. His Twitter. His advice column. His motivational speech tours. His live shows. It all comes from this brilliant individual who is like no other person that I have ever seen before. It’s no wonder that he is beloved by many people from all walks of life. There has never been someone quite like Andrew W.K. and there will never be someone like him ever again. Such a warm, friendly and inspirational individual who loves life and genuinely appreciates people for who they are. I genuinely appreciate Andrew for everything he has done, including changing my life forever. And that is what Andrew W.K. means to me.