By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
But Andrew W.K. hasn't always had such a large audience for his anticsand he didn't always have Universal Music Group's bank account behind him, either. In his teens, he played drums in several obscure punk and metal bands in Detroit. When he was 18 in the late '90s, he moved to NYC, where he gave new definition to the term "odd job," working for a year as a bubblegum-machine salesman, among other things. At a time when the '80s had not yet become "hip," and when thrash and glam-metal were nothing but a faded joke-of-a-memory, Andrew had long since stopped his clock, ignored the FM dial, stayed true to his teenage record collection, and worked hard at evolving his sound without the interference of outside influences.
It was during that time that he wrote, played every instrument on, and recorded what was to become the adrenaline-fueled, over-the-top, loud-as-fuck, anthemic speedmetal-powerpop-punk EP Girls Own Juice. Bulb Records, a tiny Michigan indie best known for avant-garde puppetmaster and Drum Buddy inventor Quintron, had the foresight to release it in 1999, and then the equally incredible Party Til You Puke EP the following year, but have you ever heard of them? Perhaps you were one of the lucky few who caught Andrew on "tour" back thenat a local Starbucks, equipped with only a CD of his recorded music blasting through a boom box behind him, a keyboard, and microphone through which he sang/screamed, Karaoke-style.
But how did he get from Starbucks to MTV, a hit single in England, and a top-10 album on NME's year-end critics' list? Well, it doesn't hurt when Dave Grohl somehow gets a copy of your tape and flies you out to California to open up two shows for the Foo Fighters. W.K.'s one-man show floored the sold-out crowds there, and as a matter of fact, Mr. Grohl couldn't write melodies half as catchy.
None of that really matters now, though. W.K.'s message and his music are all about living in the moment anyway, and at the moment he's touring behind an album that could rouse even Ozzy to kick the camera crew out of his house, grab a bottle of Jack, peel out of his driveway, and head out on a quest for the nearest kegger. After one listen to I Get Wet (out for months now overseas, due March 26 here on Island/Def Jam), you'll swear you've heard it before . . . but somehow, you've never heard anything like it. Sure, AWK's influences are blatantly presentQuiet Riot, Misfits, Billy Idol, Slayer, Queen, Ministry, even Prince for Christ's sakebut nobody has ever fused these sounds in quite the same way. "Party Til You Puke" starts off like a sped-up, new wave version of "Let's Go Crazy" before exploding into a chorus that carbon-copies Fear's "Let's Have a War." "Party Hard" could be "Dancing With Myself" until Andrew's WWF vocal outbursts (multi-layered and with effects, as always) kick in and the guitars carry it off to Survivor-wrestling-the-Ramones-on-crystal-meth territory. AWK's relentless keyboards (he's been playing since he was four) and the furious rock energy of his new backing band (death-metal veterans Donald "D.T." Tardy, formerly of Obituary, on drums, guitarists Jimmy Coup, E. Payne, and Sgt. Frank, and bassist Gregg R.) on songs like "She Is Beautiful" and "It's Time to Party" make your chest swell with adrenaline and euphoria.
W.K. supposedly stands for "White Killer," his father having allegedly named him after a serial murderer when he was born. I don't buy it, of course, but I like the idea. And it would be naive to think that "White Killer" isn't aware just how seductive his publicity campaign is. But it's a moot point, because what separates Andrew W.K. from the scores of other acts that mainly write about partying and girls, from all those bands that have referenced the '80s of late, is that, unlike most of them, AWK convincingly keeps his tongue far away from his cheek. "Guilty pleasure" isn't part of his vocabulary. Whether he means it or not, you believe him when he sings, "We do what we like and we like what we do." His music has nothing to do with parody or nostalgia; it's more like re-creating your first orgasm, or Christmas Eve as a kid, or skipping school. It's about remembering how, the first time you heard Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It," it seemed to shift the chemicals in your body, and you couldn't stop moving, and you felt ecstatic and lucid and strong and couldn't get enough. Andrew W.K. isn't trying to take music back there; he's simply trying to bring that feeling up hereand it's working.