In 2002, I interviewed Andrew W.K. about his debut full length, I Get Wet, famous for its cover shot of his hemorrhaging nose and ubiquitous hit single, "Party Hard." Back then, AWK was trying to bridge the gap between his slavishly loyal fans and the numerous critics who dismissed him as a mildly talented yet ultimately derivative headbanger.
Both camps had a point; AWK's fierce energy was exemplified by a positive perspective that outshone Norman Vincent Peale, but he also typified a tradition of party-hearty Pop Metal and Big Dumb Rock that was great fun but perhaps not entirely original.
For his part, Andrew wasn't concerned, evidenced by this great observation: "I can work hard enough to include every single person on earth, even the people that don't want to be included. I'll scoop them up on the next go-round. Everybody is invited here and we're only as far forward as the last person in line."
It's been rather rough sledding for AWK since then; his subsequent albums, 2003's The Wolf and 2006's Close Calls with Brick Walls, sold moderately well while 2008's The Japan Covers, 2009's Gundam Rock and 2011's Party All Goddamn Night EP were Japan-only releases.
That period also included the much-maligned but fascinating improvisational solo piano release 55 Cadillac, proof of AWK's childhood Classical piano lessons.
AWK’s remained active on the road, as a producer (he helmed Reggae legend Lee "Scratch" Perry's 2009 Grammy-nominated Repentance) and on television as the host of Cartoon Network's Destroy Build Destroy, among other gigs. AWK also took a shot at motivational speaking, appearances that often erupted into spontaneous parties, and he spoke at 2012's My Little Pony convention in Strongsville, Ohio.
AWK's legal issues have been cryptic and legion — the Steev Mike affair, disputes over who created and owns Andrew W.K.'s persona — and he was briefly the Cultural Ambassador to Bahrain. AWK recently sang lead for Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg, a Ramones tribute, and his current show, The Human Party Machine Solo Tour, is a one-keyboard/one-mic frenzy of, as he puts it, "blood, love and courage." Get there, get set and get wet.
ANDREW W.K. plays Sunday, May 26 with The Protomen at Madison Theater in Covington. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.