The rocker returns with his first album in eight years, and it's loaded with advice to live by.
Andrew W.K. doesn’t just "Party Hard" anymore -- he parties all the time, 24/7, 365. It’s a lifestyle that sounds exhausting, but after listening to his latest album, "You’re Not Alone," and talking to the rock star for about an hour, it’s apparent partying means much more to him than just guzzling down booze and staying out late on a weeknight. Perhaps lifestyle isn’t even the right word; it’s a philosophy. And a surprisingly deep one.
"My understanding of partying has developed, because I’m always trying to understand it better," he told TooFab while chatting about his eighth album, which is also his first record release in eight years (his last being 2010's "Mother of Mankind"). As much time as he spends singing about partying, or talking about partying in his motivational speaking career or to curious journalists like us, the trick seems to be not thinking about it too hard. "It’s not meant to be pinned down, and I think that’s one of its defining characteristics," he continued. "It’s quite fluid and it’s quite chaotic, and there’s a joy that’s inherently found in that type of, almost out-of-control freedom."
W.K. broke into the national consciousness back in 2001, a time when MTV’s "TRL" still mattered and helped introduce his brand of heavy, yet catchy and melodic rock to teenagers hungry for energetic party anthems. "Party Hard" and "She Is Beautiful" were the breakout hits from his debut studio album "I Get Wet," which was also memorable for it’s eye-catchiing cover art -- back when cover art still mattered, too -- featuring just a closeup of his face with a bloody nose. But he’s not just a force of hard rock. In fact, he told TooFab he doesn’t "even know" if he’s a rock musician (he prefers playing piano to electric guitar and wishes there was more classical music at the Grammys). But one thing is for sure: He’s a hurricane of positivity, which seems to be the root of the gospel of this American party god.
"It is a mindset," he said. "If one is looking for a way to party at all times -- 24/7, 365 -- as I was, it had to be a mindset. It had to go beyond action, and it had to become a way of perceiving and existing. It’s essentially developing layers of perspective that allow you to look at what’s going on around you and also what’s going on inside of you, and appreciate it."
But don’t confuse appreciating something with enjoying it, because the party won’t always be a pleasure in this life.
"You can appreciate something -- appreciate the importance of something, appreciate the intensity of something -- allow it to make a mark on you, to notice what is going on in your life, especially when it’s intense," he told TooFab. "The lower impulse is to block it all out or numb it out or run away from all of it."
It was a point in our conversation that echoed his new album’s fifth track, "The Feeling of Being Alive," which is the first of several spoken word tracks on "You’re Not Alone."
“If you ever feel like something is very, very wrong -- wrong with life, wrong with yourself -- I understand, I have that feeling, too,” W.K. tells his listeners on the record. "But in actuality, that feeling isn’t wrong. That feeling is just being human. That intense feeling inside is the feeling of existing, of being alive, of being a person. It’s a mountain to climb, it’s a test to pass, it’s a challenge we are ultimately worthy of. And rather than dread or resent this challenge, we can embrace it, we can learn from it, and we can celebrate it. Life is very intense, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Understanding this is what partying is all about."
"You’re Not Alone" is the first time in W.K.'s long, eclectic career that he has merged his motivational speaking with his music on a record. Though one could argue his songs are basically vehicles of motivational messages for his fans, and he did tell TooFab he considers speaking engagements and concerts to be the "means to the same end."
"They’re both tools that I’m using to carve out this feeling, or carve away and expose this intense life force feeling that I can’t really define or describe," he explained after revealing the spoken-word tracks "were recorded at the last, last, last second" after a suggestion from Karen Glauber, a member of his management team.
"Never would have had that idea. I would have talked myself out of that idea immediately if I had it myself, because it would have been so many doubts. It’s such an exposed feeling," he said. "There have been times I’ve thought about doing a motivational speaking album, but I never would have thought about putting them up against each other. In the end, I really liked that because of the contrast."
The music, W.K. said, is loud, proud, heavy and huge for a purpose: "I’m trying to make it as full-blown as possible, trying to create this feeling of power and strength and grandeur and immensity."
Then he casually admitted a somewhat surprising insecurity that is one of the driving forces behind his unique brand of operatic hard rock music. "It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I’m trying to compensate for not feeling that way on a personal level," he told TooFab. "It’s very aspirational music for me, first and foremost. This is how I wish I felt. This is the music I want to relate to and identify with."
"You’re Not Alone" is certainly just that, as you may have gathered from the title. The 16-track album kicks off with cinematic instrumental "The Power of Partying," which invokes imagery of a house party crowd parting in silence to welcome the party god, triumphantly walking in slow motion toward the keg in the kitchen. "Music Is Worth Living For" should make the endangered species of headbangers do what they do best, and they can keep on banging those heads through the album's first single, "Ever Again" (music video below) and "I Don’t Know Anything," which is among the catchier tracks on the album, thanks to a simple roar of a chorus that is, you guessed it, W.K. screaming, "I don’t know anything!"
The album, which also features aspirational tracks titled "Party Mindset," "The Party Never Dies," "Keep On Going" and "Total Freedom," is basically the musical equivalent of a Tony Robbins self-improvement seminar, featuring material W.K. has been writing and recording sporadically since 2005.
Before launching into ballad "The Devil Is on Your Side," W.K. gives his fans a meaningful piece of advice in another spoken word track, "In Your Darkest Moments."
"Never forget that you can and will make it through. Never forget the hard times that you already have made it through, and understand that in the future there will be more challenges, but also more rewards. And all of this counts as life. It’s all part of true joy,” he says. "These ups and downs aren’t here to hurt us, they’re here to thrill us, to make the rollercoaster ride of life even more interesting and spectacular."
Keep that in mind the next time your life takes a stage dive to rock bottom.
And if you want to sound like a sage beyond your years while comforting a friend in a time of need, memorize the second half of W.K.'s message: "Darkness and shadow, those are not our enemies. They’re as necessary and natural as the night time is to the day. The dark isn’t bad, it’s simply the light casting a shadow. Our ultimate quest is not to destroy the shadows or our demons, but to learn to hold hands with that side of life -- to party with our demons."
"Life is a test," W.K. told TooFab during our deep dive into his party philosophy he’s been perfecting for two decades now. "That's a really uplifting way to look at those challenging moments, and even the good moments, too. They’re all tests to see if we can pass onto that next level, to get initiated to that higher version of ourselves. Not because getting there will get us anything, it’s almost just the dignity that we are meant to show to life, to try to become worthy of being born a human."
If that’s the lesson that can be learned from Andrew W.K.’s music, we hope more humans discover it in these troubled times.
"Life is going to be intense whether we want it to be or not," he concluded on the subject. "And partying and looking at it as a joyful, celebratory thing that we can be grateful for is supposed to imbue us with more resilience so that we can have the strength to not only withstand the intensity, but revel in the intensity of life."
Andrew W.K's new album "You're Not Alone" is out now wherever you buy or stream your music.