About Andrew W.K.
Andrew W.K. was born Andrew Wilkes-Krier, in Stanford, California, on May 9th, 1979. His mother is Wendy L. Wilkes, and his father is Professor James E. Krier (legal scholar and co-author of the widely used Dukeminer & Krier casebook, “PROPERTY”). When Andrew was 4 years old, his family moved to Michigan, and Professor Krier began teaching at the University of Michigan Law School, in Ann Arbor. Andrew had begun piano lessons shortly after this move, and by age 5, was studying at The University Of Michigan School Of Music Pedagogy program. By his early teens, Andrew had exhibited great enthusiasm for musical, visual, and performing arts. He spent his high school years playing drums and keyboard in an almost endless variety of short-lived, but passionate southeast Michigan groups. By the age of 17, Andrew had graduated from high school, one year early, in an effort to dedicate all his time to creative work in the arts. At age 18, he was accepted to The School Of The Art Institute Of Chicago. After visiting the school, Andrew decided to move to New York City instead, and pursue his creative vision independently.
Upon arriving in New York, Andrew found odd jobs in art galleries, department stores, avant-garde fashion boutiques, selling opera tickets, and eventually as a gumball machine salesman; any job to support his primary interest: making the most exciting music he could. He pursued this goal day and night, putting all of his abilities and resources into the writing and recording of his own material. Shortening his name from Andrew Wilkes-Krier to Andrew W.K., he set out on a mission to have his music heard not only in New York City, but also around the world. His focus was to create music of great physical power and sensation, without meaning beyond “happiness” and “pleasure” in its most pure form. Andrew made efforts to remove his own personality from the context of his presentation, and at the same time contradicted the idea with the singular tone of his image, and the alarming amount of intentionally strong visual content. His earliest press photographs featured him battered and bruised, bloody with cuts, a bandage on his nose, contrasted by t-shirts with the word GUESS? printed in large letters – prompting the viewer to wonder, “Who? What? Why? Where? When?”, and keeping the music, and Andrew himself, free of the constraints of certainty, and full of limitless possibility. The themes of questioning, and enjoying life to the fullest, continued in Andrew’s approach. Andrew described it as: “I want the other person, to add their imagination to the experience and allow me to do the same with them. It’s a way for us to play together, all the time; in life in general.” In early press interviews, when asked what the W.K. in his name stood for, Andrew would respond, “Who knows?”
Without a band or even a partner, Andrew began performing solo concerts, vowing to play any show, anywhere. Using only a keyboard, a drum machine, and his voice, Andrew played shows up and down the east coast, including New York City, New York State, New Jersey, South New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Rhode Island. Quickly the word spread of the energy and raw excitement of the music. After performing several shows with friends and fellow New York performers, Fishcerspooner, Andrew was invited to play two engagements at a Belgian Arts Festival called “Over The Edges”. Also during this time, Andrew recorded and released his first songs on two EPs called, “Girls Own Juice” and “Party Til You Puke”. Both of these recordings were released with long time friend, Pete Larson, of the Bulb Records label.
In 1999, Andrew decided to refine his presentation and prepare for the release of his first full-length album. Pushing even further away from the ideas of context and genre, he attempted to make himself “a blank slate”, without any visual meaning other than himself. He wanted to give the world love, fun, and energy, and was convinced the sound and feeling of the music was all that was needed. He traded the GUESS? anonymity for an even more basic outfit: white t-shirts and jeans, running shoes, and a watch (What time is it? It’s Time To Party). This outfit allowed Andrew to, “Go crazy and not worry about ruining my clothes, plus it’s easy to get replacements, and if anyone else wanted to, they could easily dress like me.” At this time, Andrew also took a series of photographs with his friend, photographer Roe Ethridge, which resulted in the infamous “bloody nose” image: which shows Andrew with a large stream of blood running from his nose, down his chin and onto his shirt. This cover art caused a controversy in Europe, as it was seen as endorsing cocaine usage. This was not the effect that Andrew had intended; in reality, Andrew has stated that he created the nose bleed with a self-inflicted blow from a brick. There are also other stories regarding the creation of the cover art, such as a story that the effect was created through the use of animal blood, or that the nosebleed was inflicted by an over-enthusiastic fan at an Andrew W.K. live performance. The truth, is a mixture of the above theories, and Andrew has explained little about the nature of the photograph.
Andrew signed a recording contract with Island Def Jam Records/Universal Music, and began recording his debut full-length CD. Titled I GET WET, the album’s release in 2001 caused a widespread and diverse wave of reaction, landing Andrew on the covers international music magazines, like England’s NME, which featured him not once, but twice on the cover of the same issue (adding an additional page to accommodate the double image). More press followed. Magazines worldwide discussed, dismantled, and deconstructed and the point of the music, the intensity of the entire experience, and the “true” nature of Andrew and his motives. Articles appeared in GQ, Rolling Stone, Spin, Q, Mojo, New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, Jane, The New Yorker, FHM, Playboy, Oui, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Alternative Press, i-D, The Face, Dazed & Confused, Bizzare, Newsweek, The New York Post, Stuff, The Washington Post, The Village Voice, and dozens and dozens of others.
Now that Andrew W.K. appeared to exist, it was time to take the music to the stage, and Andrew began the process of forming a live group. Instead of auditioning random applicants, Andrew decided to write a letter to his favorite drummer, a man named Donald Tardy, who plays in the group Obituary. Andrew sent Donald the music and asked if he would join his band. Having no expectations, Andrew was shocked when Tardy wrote back and agreed to play the music. After Donald came an additional 7 musicians, including Gregg Roberts (bass guitar, vocals), Sgt. Frank (guitar), Jimmy Coup (guitar, vocals), Kendall A. (guitar, vocals), E. Payne (guitar, vocals), John Sutton (guitar), and even a second drummer, Richie Russo, who played on stage next to Donald, in perfect synchronicity. Andrew relocated to Seffner, Florida in order to rehearse with the band and prepare the music for live performances. Immediately following the release of I GET WET, Andrew W.K. and his newly formed band began a world tour, which would continue for 3 years and over 500 concerts. Major U.S. tours, including highly coveted Ozzfest and Warped Tour dates, as well as countless hall and arena shows with everyone from Aerosmith, to The Locust, gave the music even further exposure. Major network television appearances on Saturday Night Live, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Last Call With Carson Daly, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, CNN, Fox Sports, Access Hollywood, Top Of The Pops, VH1, and MTV led to an eventual T.V. series of his own, entitled Your Friend, Andrew W.K. The show featured Andrew giving personal advice to fans who wrote in asking for his help. MTV2 presented the series, along with countless other appearances on MTV, VH1, Much Music, and FUSE.
In the midst of this non-stop schedule, Andrew recorded and released his second album, THE WOLF, which brought an entirely new wave of reactions by both fans and the media alike. The album was recorded much in the same tradition Andrew established with his earliest songs: Andrew himself playing every instrument, and recording track after track of music, with each song tracking at least 90 individual instrumental parts, if not 200 or more individual tracks. The final result has the sound “of one hundred instruments, being played by the same hand, playing the exact same part, in a hall of mirrors”. Andrew and his band took the new album to the stage and performed tours across the globe, including festivals in Reading, Leeds, Tokyo, Osaka, and Taiwan. During this wave of shows, Andrew broke his foot on stage while getting tangled in his own microphone cable. Rather than cancel the rest of the tour and heal at home, Andrew decided to continue the tour, and play the remaining 60 shows in a wheelchair. One of these performances was filmed at the Spike T.V. Video Game Awards. Earlier in the year, W.K. had sustained a head injury during the filming of his music video, We Want Fun, with director Spike Jonze, for the Jackass Movie soundtrack. Despite these physical setbacks, the music continued and the party continued to spread, one person at a time.
At the close of 2004, Andrew began work on the massive WHO KNOWS? live-concert movie. In it, more than 300 hours of live concert footage, spanning 1992-2004, was condensed into a rapid-fire viewing experience. The film was edited using a special multi-track video process, in which multiple performances can be synchronized and layered together, with the audio and video overlapping to create a seamless sequence of shots from different concerts. The layering process of the video is similar to the layering process Andrew used to record his music. The movie was screened at sell-out shows in New York City and Hollywood, where Andrew performed in-person piano solos after the movie. WHO KNOWS? was released on DVD by Music Video Distributors / R. Jayne / R.C.U. Video. The DVD was produced by GRATA Video.
In his early years, Andrew had signed an agreement with his creative manager which contractually bound him to certain terms, including the rights to the ANDREW W.K. name, and music. Due to an uncongenial parting with this manager in late 2005, Andrew was contractually prohibited from releasing CDs of his new music in the United States. Subsequently, ANDREW W.K. released its third album, entitled “Close Calls With Brick Walls” exclusively in Asia, in Spring 2006. Andrew toured both South Korea and Japan extensively in 2006. In the US, a vinyl-only edition of the album was released .. Records in August 2007 (vinyl being a convenient way around the USA compact disc restrictions). Of the album, The UK Observer said: “Close Calls With Brick Walls takes this ‘more is more’ philosophy and blows the doors open with it.” They also called it “one of the most ambitious American rock albums this year.”
Andrew has spent increasing amounts of time performing piano, keyboard, and drums with other musicians, including the groups “Hanson” and “To Live And Shave In LA”. Andrew has also played piano with songwriter Will Oldham (aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy), on his 2006, Conan O’Brien debut T.V. appearance, and in 2007, at the Donau Music Festival in Austria.
Andrew was also asked to play electric bass guitar with the musical group, Current 93, lead by David Tibet. He’s been invited to perform with the group in Krems, Austria, at the Donau Festival, and at 2007’s All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Minehead, England.
Andrew has continued to expand his performance to include new modes of expression. The 2007 New Year brought these elements into Andrew W.K.’s live shows. He accepted invitations to speak as a free form lecturer at both New York University and the Cooper Union School in New York City. He continued with a series of solo appearances – sometimes incorporating live music and spontaneous dance – and has declared this to be a natural extension of his performance.
These “happenings” have become unpredictable events.
Andrew’s additional lecture performanes at Yale University, Northeastern University, Western Missouri University, The University of Wisconsin, the Carnegie Mellon Institute, the First Unitarian Church in Philladelphia, the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, a special lecture tour of Australia, a lecture in London, plus a series of three hour events in New York City, solidified this new frontier.
In March 2007, Andrew appeared as a guest on the Conan O’Brien show, for his second sit-down interview. Andrew talked about his new “motivational performance” style and demonstrated some of these moves with Conan’s help.
Andrew was also the focus of a 2007 New York Times feature article. The piece was published on the front page of the Saturday Arts section and discussed the developments and contradictions in Andrew W.K.’s career as a performer.
2007 also saw the first Andrew W.K. solo party tour, in which Andrew drove a Cadillac through the west coast of Canada and the US, all along the way stopping in each town to have a nightly party. The “High-Way Party Cruiser Tour” went to Los Angeles, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Calgary. In addition, Andrew appeared at blow-out parties in Boston and New York, including The Misshapes Don Hill’s party, where he gave special solo performances.
In addition to producing his own music on the albums “I GET WET”, “THE WOLF” and “CLOSE CALLS WITH BRICK WALLS”, as well as other ANDREW W.K. music, in 2006 Andrew decided to expand his musical output to include producing and mixing music for other artists. Andrew says: “I avoided working with other people for many years, partly out of paranoia, and parly out of an earnest desire to stand on my own. After a while, I got tired of thinking that way, and it just seemed natural to do the opposite of what I had done before. I like making music with other people. I can still make music by myself too.”
Andrew’s earliest production work for music other than his own was with the group Wolf Eyes, on their now out-of-print 12″ EP “Fortune Dove”. Since then, he’s chosen to work on only a select and seemingly random set of projects, most recently completing production and mixing on the album, “Through The Panama”, by Brooklyn, NY based three-piece psychadelic rock band, SIGHTINGS. The album was released on October 28th, 2007 by Load Records and Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label.
In 2007, Andrew put his own music recording on hold again in order to accept an invitation to work on a new album for legendary reggae pioneer, Lee “Scratch” Perry. The two had met when Andrew interviewed Perry for television on DirecTV, including for Andrew’s own upcoming, “Smokeshow” program. Soon after, Andrew was invited to record and mix the new “Repentance” album with Perry in California and New York City. The album was released in August, 2008. Andrew was invited to be a guest on the Fox News T.V. program, “Red Eye”, where he discussed recording with Lee Perry. After his first appearance on the show, Andrew was invited back for subsequent episodes and has since become a regular on the show.
In spring of 2008, Andrew and three partners opened a two-level 8,000 square foot dance club and music venue in downtown Manhattan, New York City. The space is called SANTOS PARTY HOUSE, and is located at 100 Lafayette Street, in the heart of Chinatown and Tribeca. The club has quickly become a haven for dancing and partying – seven nights a week, until 4am. Call the Santos Party Hot-Line: (212) 714-4646.
In November 2008, Andrew W.K. and Universal Music International announced the release of three new Andrew W.K. collections. The trio of releases consists of a “Best Of” collection (including a new song!), an album of Andrew’s ringtone recordings of Japanese pop hits, and a 2-CD “Premium Collection”, with the “Best Of” AND ringtones. The albums are available strictly in Japan only.
In November 2008, Universal Music Japan released an Andrew W.K. greatest hits collection called, “The Very Best So Far”, as well as a Andrew W.K. lives in Manhattan, New York City.
Steely Dan delivered the first “Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)” in 45 years during the third outing of their five-night residency at New York City’s Beacon Theatre.
Trey Anastasio offered up a solo acoustic debut of “Sanity” and more during his concert at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee on Friday night.
Umphrey’s McGee busted out “Transdermal Celebration” during the second night of their three-night run at the Georgia Theatre in Athens.
The JamBase 20th Anniversary 20 For 20 series continues with a list of 20 Fan Sites launched in the past 20 years.
Spafford released audio from their recent show at The Bluebird in Bloomington, Indiana which featured two completely improvised sets just in time for this week’s ‘Full Show Friday’ column.