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Sitting in Webster Hall’s tiny greenroom, Andrew W.K. is two hours away from celebrating the 10-year anniversary of his debut, the party-metal landmark I Get Wet, with his adopted hometown. For a city that parties damn hard, the expectations are at a fever pitch for a show that will leave revelers’ brains dripping from their nostrils. AWK is in that calm-before-the-storm place. He’s sporting dirty white jeans and a stretched-out white(ish) T-shirt—the outfit that has become his second skin. On his head, there’s a black baseball cap with “Party Hard” stitched into it. Wayfarer-like sunglasses with iridescent lenses hide his eyes for the duration of our interview. On stage, he’s a maniac Mozart, but when not rabidly conducting his smitten minions, the dude is really shy and polite. “Is it too loud in here?” he asks while a cluster of photographers snap away. “Is this private enough?” Hands in his lap and with perfect posture, he sits beside me.
“I couldn’t be more grateful and more amazed by the incredible offerings, dedication, energy, and support that everybody else who isn’t me has given this [project],” AWK says. “That’s the one thing that you realize more and more and more: It’s not only that you never did it on your own, but what truly gives meaning and value to any long-term effort is the other folks.”
The endurance of AWK’s party is one of the most remarkable aspects of this whole phenomenon. I Get Wet has never left my regular rotation; I can’t even say that I’ve revisited the album because I never put it away in 10 years. The reason has something to do with the physical response the music imparts: being positively fucking psyched simply to be inside my own skin. My kitchen calisthenics inspired by “Ready to Die,” “She Is Beautiful,” and “Fun Night” would melt the spandex off Richard Simmons. Unlike most albums of the past decade that I loved, I Get Wet is more effective at making me lose my shit now than it was when I first heard it.
For AWK, what really blows his mind to smithereens is the way both fate and serendipity engineered his path to partying. “There were so many ways that the road could have split off at any one time,” he says. “That it went this route is miraculous.” Born in California in 1979, Andrew Wilkes-Krier was raised in Michigan and moved to New York City in 1998 to make music. “As soon as I ever heard about a place called New York City . . . there’s those moments in life where it’s not a dream or a hope or a desire, it’s your destiny speaking to you from the future, saying: ‘The reason you’re so excited isn’t because you want to go do it. It’s because you’re going to do it, and I’m getting you excited.'”
He signed to Island Def Jam and recorded I Get Wet, which finished at number 28 in the Voice‘s 2002 Pazz & Jop poll. AWK’s giddy mix of thrash metal’s riffs, hardcore’s drumming, and Mannheim Steamroller’s symphonic jubilation relays a joy that is palpable and irrepressible. There’s so much bleeding-heart sincerity in every note, it renders the album’s mindlessness moot.
“There was no thought to a lot of that music,” AWK says. “It was just a feeling and a drive to get to a feeling. If it made me have the energy to get through the rest of the workday, then that was good enough.”
Back then, his workdays were spent building the interior displays at Bergdorf Goodman, and it was there that the album title first entered AWK’s lexicon. “I was just marching through the hall and just started thinking, ‘I get wet, get wet,'” he says. “It was one of those ideas where there really wasn’t any idea to it at all. At the time, I probably would have been more embarrassed about that. . . . But I’m more fascinated now.”
More than any other factor, the spirit of New York City has been the divining rod. When AWK attempts to ruminate on this, it momentarily leaves him speechless. “Everything that happened since I got here . . .” he says, “it’s completely devastating in the best way. I’m just completely devastated.”