The Real Andrew W.K.
We caught up with Andrew W.K. on the road in Germany from his I Get Wet 10th anniversary tour. Photographed in New York City’s Santos Party House, a venue he opened in Chinatown, W.K. knows how to keep the party going.
Photographs by Miko Lim. Behind-the-scenes photos courtesy of Dave Pino.
“This place is of dreams,” Andrew W.K. said, while in Hamburg, Germany, the latest stop on his I Get Wet 10th anniversary tour. “The venue we’re playing in tonight is a WWII era anti-aircraft bunker. It’s one of the strangest buildings you could ever see—let alone play a concert in,” he said. “I had crazy strange dreams last night, but when I woke up and looked out the window, what I saw was even more crazy.”
And that’s saying a lot for the 32-year-old artist, whose first album, I Get Wet, quickly garnered press for the shock-inducing cover art featuring W.K.’s face drenched in what’s seemingly his own blood (“Well, it’s not ketchup,” he told us). While I Get Wet did make it to the number one spot on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, the album wasn’t for everyone—that same year, Pitchfork rated it a mere “0.6” out of 10, calling it “hopeless.” But ten years later, the fact that W.K. is still playing sold out shows around the world must mean he’s on to something.
As a music producer, nightlife entrepreneur, and hard-partying impresario, Andrew W.K. is a veritable enigma. Accused by some of being a self-impersonator or character comprised of corporate interests, W.K. (short for his given name, Wilkes Krier), seemingly furthers such accusations by referring to himself in the third person. For example, when asked about his wardrobe choice on tour (all white, from his Fruit of the Loom tee-shirt to his Levi’s jeans), he cryptically replies, “Andrew W.K. always has worn white, and I’m here to maintain what he’s established. It wasn’t really an option.”
Though W.K. grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he still considers New York City home. And with nary a hint of irony, he cites the nearby Forever 21, Sephora, and Port Authority as his favorite “local” hangouts. “The Forever 21 on Broadway in Times Square is a beautiful store,” he says. “It used to be the Virgin Mega-Store but now it’s a Forever 21, which is a bit better now for what I’m interested in— people watching.
And when he’s taking in the local attractions, W.K. is likely knocking back a couple rounds of Powers Whiskey (doubles, with a water back) at a nearby midtown bar—but only those of a certain persuasion. “The best bars in midtown are all Irish pubs, because they never say shit,” he says. “They don’t make fun of you, they don’t look at you funny, they don’t make a remark about what you drink, and they don’t make a comment about how fast you drank your drink! I want to go to bars where people drink alcohol: That’s why I go to a bar.”
W.K.’s self-professed drinking particularities may have been the impetus behind his involvement in the opening of Santos Party House, a bi-level dance and concert venue that opened downtown. “We wanted to create something that was pure joy, pure excitement, and very, very loud,” he says of the space. But pigeonholing Santos into any sort of nightlife genre would be futile, according to W.K. “I’d like to think that Santos is the absence of a niche.” As to whether or not he has plans to open up another Santos elsewhere, he was cagey at best: “Well, I have a lot of dreams, but I keep them to myself—those are best to keep locked up inside your soul and let them manifest that way.”
While W.K. has been recognized for his high-energy live shows and head-banging ways, he surprisingly isn’t one to bemoan the upsurge computer-produced electronic music, a genre whose mass appeal has begun to supersede traditional rock music. Even Santos Party House has become somewhat of a mecca for club kids in search of bass-thumping house music and minimal techno played out into the wee hours.
“Between DJs and dance music, that’s where it’s at,” he says. “I’m obviously a huge supporter of the computer—all of the Andrew W.K. music has been recorded exclusively on the computer. I don’t personally have any allegiance to the idea of a band recording music in a room together. The more computerized, the better!” —Charlotte Steinway