Andrew WK Wants A Reaction From You

Last Friday, Andrew WK was at Concordia to help ring in the Art Matters celebrations.

Andrew WK wasn’t always real.

I don’t mean that as in, he didn’t physically exist. He clearly does, as his hulking frame, long hair, unkempt beard and trademark white duds are sitting in front of me in a small office in the Hall building’s seventh floor, and will shortly take the stage in front of a rapt audience of over 300 Concordia students (several of whom will be given hugs by the rock star/DJ/motivational speaker).

And I don’t mean that he doesn’t exist in the “Andrew WK is a character played by several actors and is all orchestrated by a mysterious man named Steev Mike” conspiracy theory way either.

Andrew WK is in fact a real dude who was born Andrew Wilkes-Krier. But he wasn’t always Andrew WK.

“I wanted to feel excited and I wanted to feel happy and confident, and I wanted to feel cool,” he said, leaning back and propping his feet up on a filing cabinet (his shoes, it should be noted, fit in with the overall white motif of what appears to be the only outfit he owns).

“So I just thought about what would the coolest person in the world do in this situation? Or how would the most strong, awesome dude act if this happened to him? And I just started thinking of things in those terms, almost like a superhero,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s someone that isn’t me, I think we all have the potential to be the greatest thing we can imagine.”

In town to give one of his patented motivational speeches—his first formal one at a Canadian university—and perform a DJ set in honour of the opening of Art Matters on March 4, WK seems incredibly content with where his career is at the moment.

True, he’s no longer at the same level of success he was when his debut I Get Wet came out in 2002, but he’s maintained a cult-like audience for his upbeat punk/metal/rock/sheer joy mixture.

WK’s career has spun off in many weird directions, like hosting the kids show Destroy, Rebuild, Destroy on the Discovery Channel and the aforementioned speeches and DJ gigs. But it’s all just varied manifestations of that conscious creation that has become Andrew WK.

“It’s all coming from the same place, which is what makes it possible to do different activities, I find,” he said. “Being busy or having a lot of different activities or interests, it can fracture your attention, your power and ability to dilute them. Or it can actually amplify them and enhance them. I’ve been trying to follow an organic route to the various paths I’ve chosen, so they all feed off each other.

“I want to use every possible outlet for creating this feeling of excitement and intensity and raw energy.”

Of course, it’s not all work and no play. That would make the proverbial Johnny a very, very dull boy.

“Taking anything too seriously, especially life itself and any pursuit you can do in life is a big mistake. Life, existence, the universe as we understand it, reality, it’s very absurd, it’s a very strange phenomenon. Our lack of understanding should not be so stressful or crushing or depressing rather than liberating or inspiring.”

If you doubt WK’s sincerity about the absurd, all you had to do was sit through his lecture. Topics ranged from why Mick Mars was the best member of Mötley Crüe to how to build the perfect turkey sandwich (the secret: slightly wilted lettuce and thin meat that you can fold to create “ripples” and air pockets).
This is a man who finished a speech at a prominent university with a several minute long treatise on why wet dog food is infinitely tastier than dry (the latter tends to give you cotton mouth).

So how do you reconcile the mad man famous for such so-dumb-they’re-genius songs like “Party Hard?” Who boasts of enjoying canine cuisine? Who is a well-spoken man who spoke effortlessly about the concept of identity? And who has garnered a reputation for being one of the smartest people in rock and roll (a charge he dismissed by saying “The only person that I care about thinking that I’m smart is me, and I don’t even think that I’m that smart)?”

It’s actually pretty easy. He’s in it to elicit a reaction—any reaction.

“I want to give people a physical feeling, and that’s really what’s most important, not whether they think I’m intelligent or clever, but whether I gave them some kind of real sensation they could experience,” he said.

And if you ever find yourself feeling the crush of your human insignificane, which, as WK said, is “very very very very very VERY VERY” depressing, listen to your inner voice.

“Listen to your inner-most voice that goes beyond likes and dislikes,” WK said at his lecture. “Feel it fearlessly, because, what else are we working for?”

In other words, in an often-dark world, sometimes there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re ever lost and trying to find your way, don’t be surprised if that light is just a blindingly white t-shirt. He’s here to help.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 25, published March 8, 2011.