Born in Palo Alto (Jerry Garcia country) in 1979 Andrew Wilkes-Krier enjoyed a stable and prosperous middle-class academic upbringing. He took piano lessons (always useful), studied jazz keyboard and joined various local punkish metal teen bands around Detroit. Noise rock was an obsession and once he moved to New York aged18 he hooked up with NYC outfit Wolf Eyes as a remixer and decided that his schoolboy nickname Andrew W.K. would be a fine alter ego. So it proved with his own debut EP, Girls Own Juice (1999) and the follow-up "Party til You Puke" where electronica reigns rather than standard hard rock. Undeniably in the same ballpark as The Beastie Boys the underground buzz led to Island Records. I Get Wet (with a controversial cover featuring AWK bleeding from the nose) divided critical opinion because it was deliberately overhyped, mainly so that when Andrew actually met the press he could disarm them with all the deft skill of a bomb disposal expert. By way of a diversion to the meaty metal on view there is also the lovely “She Is Beautiful” to contend with. The cut “We Want Fun” was featured in Jackass The Movie Soundtrack by which time our boy is up and running.
But Andrew didn’t follow the standard career path of the average rock and roller, leading some to think – meanly – that he was a creation of the corporate folks whose hand he was surely biting. Those who got it first time around, and it may have taken a while for it to sink in, were unanimous in praising I Get Wet and it is still highly regarded as one of the best hard rock experiences of the 2000s. Check it out. Two years later we get The Wolf (aka Blow Your Bone), another frat boy party extravaganza featuring W.K. and his pals Ken Andrews, Jimmy Coup, Erik Payne and Frank Werner on axes, and another glorious mash of the insanely dumb – “Long Live the Party” and “I Love Music” and the arcane – “The End of Our Lives “ and “Victory Strikes Again”. Decent sales and a Top 100 place on the Billboard chart kept him current but Close Calls with Brick Walls, though released to grand clamour in Japan in 2006, didn’t actually make it to CD in the rest of the world for another four years, largely due to a legal dispute over the ownership of his name that we won’t bore you with here. Despite the initial eighteen tracks this is a short and sweet slam-dunk of Noo Yawk rock that is available as the expanded 2-CD version with second disc Mother of Mankind bringing him up to date. If you like Cheap Trick you will love this set.
55 Cadillac is a total departure from all the above given that its ambient, new age nature and piano driven melodies are the main ingredient. Surprising for sure, but then he had just produced Lee Perry’s Repentance album, a Grammy nominated affair featuring Moby, Don Fleming (well known for working with The Posies, Sonic Youth, Hole and Teenage Fanclub) and actress Sasha Gray, also The Slits’ late great Ari Up. Gundam Rock and The Party All Goddamn Night EP were made for the Japanese market but are available on import.
In the current decade Andrew has concentrated on his other life as a motivational speaker, a TV jingle writer (he re-wrote Kit Kat’s “Give Me A Break” slogan as a theme song in the US) and even created exclusive ringtones for UM Japan’s mobile phone market. He has also opened a nightclub in Manhattan, Santos Party House, situated in the TriBeca – a state of the art entertainment complex – and become a successful journalist with a think piece and Q&A column for The Village Voice.
Very much-grounded in New York now his most recent venture is to remix some tracks from The Dictators’ debut classic Go Girl Crazy! for their 40th anniversary celebrations, called The Next Big Thing EP. A cat lover and a man of style Andrew W.K. isn’t simply a maverick, we’ve got plenty of those. He is a one-off: kinetic, smart and always liable to surprise. We respectfully point you to his current discs for your discovering delight. Let the party begin again.
Obliterating the concept of guilty musical pleasures, I Get Wet turns hair metal hedonism, punk energy, and pop melodies into an instant, insistent blast of fun with all the power of a beer commercial. From the opening anthem, "It's Time to Party," to the excellently named finale, "Don't Stop Living in the Red," the album is all climax -- the blasting guitars, blaring keyboards, and Andrew W.K. himself are all turned up to 11 throughout. W.K. is a one-man manifesto, dedicated to spreading the way of the party with songs like "Party Hard" ("We do what we like and we like what we do!" could be "Dirty deeds done dirt cheap" several generations down the road), "Party Til You Puke," and "I Get Wet," and the fact that he looks like the stoner bully from high school only adds to his cred. Guessing whether or not Andrew W.K. is a big joke or not is almost beside the point; he comes on so strong that he either really means it, maaan, or he's got his tongue stuck firmly in his bloodied cheek. Either way, there's not much fence-sitting with his music -- you'll think the big, dumb, cartoonish "Girls Own Love" and "Ready to Die" are the stupidest songs you've ever heard, or you'll love them because they're the stupidest songs you've ever heard. Even I Get Wet's sensitive "She Is Beautiful," which is about being too shy to talk to a pretty girl, is about as subtle as a high schooler's after-shave -- and just as awkwardly charming. While the album has a certain sameness due to the frenetic beat that drives nearly every track, it's the perfect complement to W.K.'s party-centric vision. Refreshingly simple and cleverly stupid, I Get Wet is a great big bear hug of an album, and resistance to its hard-partying charms is futile.
Words: Heather Phares
Andrew W.K.'s debut album, I Get Wet, certainly seemed like the ultimate expression of his party-hard, don't-stop-livin'-in-the-red philosophy. But if he was supposed to be a one-album phenomenon, no one bothered to let him know: The Wolf, his second album, arrives just a year and a half after I Get Wet was released in the U.S. So, how do you top a debut that was already turned up to 11? By cranking it up to 12, of course. The excellently named album opener "Victory Strikes Again" does just that, and serves as The Wolf's sonic statement of intent -- it's all fist-in-the-air, exclamation-point climax, with Baroque metal guitar lines, insistent keyboards, and massed, shouted vocals that sound like an army of Andrew W.K.s ready to fight the good fight (or party the good party). "The Song," and the rest of the album, are so arena rock-ready that they sound like they were recorded in a stadium. At once lusher and heavier than the already massive I Get Wet, the album's expanded sonics match its larger sense of purpose. Andrew W.K.'s debut found meaning in partying, but The Wolf sounds like a party about finding some meaning in life. Celebrating friendship but being independent enough to go it alone, giving it your all, and never giving up are just some of the themes W.K. tackles on the album. And if lyrics like "Long Live the Party"'s "The more that you can give/Then the more it will be" and "I want you to remember what you came here to do/I want you to remember that I'm talkin' 'bout you" from the rousing finale "I Love Music" seem clichéd on paper, Andrew W.K.'s enthusiasm makes them sound heartfelt and infectious.
Words: Heather Phares
Andrew's third studio album first released in 2006 includes 'I Came For You', 'Not Going To Bed' and 'Pushing Drugs'.
Andrew W.K. has done a lot of unusual things in his career -- not everyone can have a Cartoon Network show and be a member of Current 93 (not to mention run a club, release an album of J-pop covers, and publish a book of advice) at the same time. Still, 55 Cadillac may be one of the most unique additions to his body of work: it's a collection of "spontaneous solo piano improvisations" -- or "SSPIs" as W.K. calls them -- inspired by his car. It's also, like most of his projects, kind of ridiculous and kind of amazing. He's completely committed to the concept, and he has the skills to pull it off. After all, W.K. is a classically trained pianist who began taking lessons at age four, and his keyboard chops added fizz to I Get Wet and Close Calls with Brick Walls and majestic heft to The Wolf. That prowess is the focus of this album; on his Steinway & Son Model D concert grand piano, Andrew W.K. weaves classical, jazz, rock, and experimental elements together with an accomplished ebb and flow from piece to piece and within each track. The fantastically named "Begin the Engine" (why merely start an engine when you can begin it?) is overtly classical-influenced, kicking off with the sound of crickets and a motor roaring to life before W.K.'s dazzling arpeggios and otherwise deft playing take over for nearly nine minutes. Shorter tracks like "Seeing the Car," which tosses hints of '50s-style rock into the mix, and the lunging, jazzy "Central Park Cruiser" are more immediate and nearly as impressive. Only a couple of moments on 55 Cadillac sound anything like Andrew W.K.'s previous albums: "Night Driver" ranges from atonal boogie-woogie to W.K. tapping on the piano's edge (which might be the piano equivalent of a drum solo) and has an anthemic quality that's fully realized by "Cadillac," which boasts drums and laser-guided guitars that bring the album to a satisfyingly over the top close. Fans of his louder music might not play this often, but 55 Cadillac is another step toward Andrew W.K. putting his stamp on every art form.
Words: Heather Phares