Andrew W.K. – A Manufactured Mystery Man

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March 26, 2012 by zdueck

This past week I began listening to Andrew W.K. while biking to work and, aside from getting me to work a couple minutes earlier every day, I was reminded of how incredibly fun and enjoyable the man is. Andrew W.K. has always held a special place in my heart as the first CD I was given by a friend whose musical tastes were far more developed than mine (keeping in mind this was somewhere around grade 7 for me, so ‘developed’ is a pretty relative term here). That being said I have always been fascinated by Andrew W.K. because of how incredibly manufactured he is. I mean if you break down any one part of his music whether it be the music itself, the instrumentation, the musical/tonal depth or really any single element you can think of they tend to fall short of anything amazing… But because of the way in which he then takes these seemingly mediocre attempts at music making and combines them all together a product emerges that is so thoroughly enjoyable that the rest doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The individual elements meld into a fantastic whole that makes you forget about it’s imperfections… And that’s just the music, even Andrew W.K. as a persona has been manufactured as a complete product extending far beyond the mere music we hear. Andrew W.K. has talked a decent amount about his creation from the committee he was on which created ‘him’ to his auditions to become this hypothetical super-frontman, in general outlining an entire process focused on creating his product. As an Artist, Andrew W.K. was never actually Andrew W.K… Which is always something I find incredibly interesting when listening to music as it opens a whole new window of experience. Instead of breaking down the music to understand what this person was attempting to get across to their audience, now it becomes an attempt to understand the purpose of the creation… Since the person Andrew W.K. may not care about the message of the persona ‘Andrew W.K.’ the purpose behind the music suddenly becomes a much more interesting question to ask in my mind. Does Andrew W.K. really care about the party? Or is he just creating a means to better enjoy our lives through musical expression of an event? Everyone who has ever seen the man at Ozzfest seems baffled at first by how full of joy this artist is, bringing a ray of sunshine to an otherwise dark and dreary festival (they’ve even thrown bottles at him for being to happy at these festival, but he just keeps going full of his zest for life). The intent behind everything is suddenly more important than the simple meaning of a song here and there, or the coherency of an album.

Not only are these questions about the creator vs the creation of Andrew W.K. fascinating, but whenever someone like this is created we eventually get to the moment when the persona wishes to become the person again. Recently Andrew W.K. has started releasing new material that is starkly different from his older stuff that are either written by him or covers he has chosen to do instead of songs made by a writing staff… So what happens when you want to be known for you and not your persona? In his case legal battle broke out over who owned this ‘creation’ known as ‘Andrew W.K.’ (although Andrew W.K. claims the battle started over his friend falling into financial troubles and then deciding to take that out on him, it seems interesting that the second the battle ends we see such a stark change in his music style).

There have in fact been several changes I have noticed, each one as interesting as the last. Aside from the one above the other most interesting one I have found has been the change from “I Get Wet” to “The Wolf”. While there is definitely a musical difference, even just comparing the two covers side by side makes you realize that the two people on the covers seem to look like two completely different people (though that could partially be from the brick he smashed into his face to get that first shot). And Andrew W.K. has even gone on record saying “I’m not the guy you’ve seen from the I Get Wet album… I’m not that same person. I don’t just mean that in a philosophical or conceptual way. It’s not the same person at all.” Which begs the question, Is the Andrew W.K. of I Get Wet even Andrew W.K. at all? I have always felt that everything since ‘I Get Wet’ has fallen short of the raw energy and entertainment value that the first epic album delivered…

Andrew W.K. – Party Hard (I Get Wet)

Andrew W.K. – Never Let Down (The Wolf)

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it was actually a different person performing as Andrew W.K… And later he said, in a different interview (and a much more public one at that), “I am Andrew W.K., the same that has been here from the beginning… I am… I am, I am the same Andrew W.K. at this appearance as at all Andrew W.K.-related appearances.” So which is it, Is the first Andrew W.K. also the most recent one? Or is there more going on here? Is he just saying stuff to ignite our imagination, or has there legitimately been more than one Andrew W.K. over the years? Is this just another part of the product, an attempt to twist the story maybe? It’s all so fascinating. But perhaps in the end it’s best if you judge for yourself… So here’s three playlists so that you can hear the differences yourself;

I Get Wet – contains the entire Japanese release of ‘I Get Wet’
Manufactured A.W.K. #2 – contains selections from ‘The Wolf’, ‘Close Calls with Brick Walls’ and ‘Mother of Mankind’
The Real Andrew W.K. – contains selections from ’55 Cadilac’, ‘Gundam Rock’ and ‘The “Party All Goddamn Night” EP’

I Get Wet

Manufactured A.W.K. #2

The Real Andrew W.K.

So there it is, Andrew W.K. in all his many iterations (I left out his little affair with Japan because in this digital age everything being released on that side of the Pacific is still pretty accessible to us). But love him or hate him, you can’t help but be intrigued by him (or at least I can’t).

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