ANDREW W.K. 31, MIDTOWN
ANDREW W.K. 31, MIDTOWN
(Photo by Axel Dupeux)
WORD ON THE STREET: When’s the last time you failed?
ANDREW W.K.: Well, I guess it depends on how you define “failure.” I try to set things up so that failure, in a traditional sense, isn’t an option. You hope to have many attempts to master something. It shouldn’t be hard for me to think of a time when I failed but it’s rare that I’m in a situation where it comes down to a one-shot deal. I think there’s always a chance to redeem myself by trying again and improving. Some people are just as afraid of success as they are of failure—both are very intense potential outcomes that put a lot of pressure on a person. I just tell people to be about doing. Always be improving. Failures and successes can be valuable life experiences. In that way, I think they’re all successes. The satisfaction, for me, is in the ongoing process of expanding and exceeding myself—having an adventure.
Despite the people who are watching.
Some people might really care about the opinions of their family or friends. Some might care about the opinions of their peers, the people they work with. Some people might care about the opinions of people they never met, gauging themselves according to consensus. I think it’s certainly helpful and very fun to have an interaction with people and to learn from their points of view of the world. Just don’t take them any more seriously than you would anything else.
Then how do we learn from people?
There’s the idea that it’s bad to listen to other people and care what they think but obviously we do. Someone might have great advice, even though listening to it might seem painful at first. Also, it can be very easy to go into the mindset of “I don’t listen to anybody and if you don’t like that you have to deal with that! I never change! Love me or leave me!” That’s not a fun person.
People seek your advice about how to function as human beings.
Yeah, yeah. I think people want advice from people they feel good about… like someone who makes songs about things they like. As fans, we feel close to them. If [as an entertainer] you take that seriously and sincerely consider them and respond—that’s a satisfying interaction. It’s a very nice thing to be asked what you think.
What’s the most recent criticism you took to heart?
A critic, in describing my general vibe, wrote that I yell too much and that I confuse volume with wit. At first I was really angry with that but then I came to the conclusion of well, you know, I’m not very interested in wit because wit, to me, is reserved and it’s not the space I want to work in. Volume, to me, is much more exciting. At the same time [the observation] was helpful because it’s something to remember: Yelling doesn’t always have more impact than speaking very softly. That’s the thing about commentary and critical reviews—all you’re reading about is one person’s experience with a book, or a song, or a TV show, or whatever. As long as we remember that these things are subjective, it takes the pressure off. We get to enjoy these crazy characters in the world and all the different ways they look at things.
When was the last time you felt really misunderstood?
Hmm… When I first started performing as Andrew W.K., the stylists at photo shoots were always really concerned about my clothes being dirty. I would say, “No, I’m going to wear them like that. I’ve made these choices according to what I want present here today.” I knew my hair was greasy and that I hadn’t shaved in three days. Those were very frustrating times. I wanted to tell people, “Hey! My ideas are cool! I want you to be excited this guy showed up all dirty because it’s different than the last person you worked with.” A lot of the most stressful situations I’ve been in involved worrying about whether people thought I was smart or cool. It’s very liberating to let go of that. But I used to—and still do—make snap-judgments about people. You want to have flexibility and open-mindedness that allows you to not assume to know what’s going on about everything and everybody.
Have the Scientologist/Illuminati rumors about you been laid to rest?
About me? I think so. I think a lot of it is silly. The people who believed that stuff are probably too far out to even reason with. But I don’t have anything against Scientology, either. If anything, [the rumors] made me even more curious about it because it’s like, “Wow. People already think this about me, maybe if I start doing it, I’ll go up to a super-level or something.” But I’ve never been a Scientologist, officially.
Do you live here in Midtown?
Yeah, I chose it because it’s the best. It has always been my dream to live in this part of town. I just worked my way to this area, over the years, until I could afford it. I love the skyscrapers and the way the streets are laid out in the grid. I like being by all the mass transportation hubs like Grand Central, Penn Station, and the Port Authority. I like being relatively close to 57th Street and Central Park—that whole vibe there.
What’s the vibe on 57th Street?
It’s just one of the great roads. You’ve got 42nd Street and 34th Street, and to me, that’s where it’s all going on. I like seeing a lot of people. Some look like me, some don’t. Some people live here while some people commute here. Some people are visiting for their first time. I like to be around people who are excited about being in New York and, in their state of wonder, everything seems very fresh. That makes me remember how lucky I am to live here–these other neighborhoods and boroughs are just icing on the cake. Midtown makes my soul sing, and I want to be right in the middle of it, as intense and as full-blown as it can possibly be.