A conversation with Andrew WK is many things – hysterical, frenetic, continually off-topic, and more than anything, highly disorientating. The all-American hard rock singer (and part-time motivational speaker) is dripping with energy when we speak to him, oscillating between nonsensical commentaries on the mixed nuts he’s just eaten and quite genuine, sober remarks about the importance of staying positive. Introduced to punk rock by other kids in elementary school, where they shared “the most mind blowing stuff we could find”, he soon found himself latching onto older kids, the ones who held “the secret knowledge” of music. Andrew WK remembers their first and last names and rattles them off, the Jims', Fred’s and Twig’s of his high school who revealed it all. Since then, he’s released six studio albums including a J-Pop cover album, performed in the experimental collective To Live and Shave in LA, opened a nightclub and started a record label, all in his trademark white tee. We spoke to him pre-gig in the early days of his current world tour.
Andrew, you’re speaking to us from Boston right now – what are you doing to prep for tonight’s show?
We have just been making sure everything is sounding good and having a bite to eat; some cheese, some chicken breast, some ground beef, some beans, some water and some milk. And now I’m here to speak with you.
So specific with the food lists there…
Yes. The food I had today was mixed nuts, a combination of walnuts, brazil nuts, peanuts, macadamias, cashews, almonds and there were some pine nuts in there.
What’s your favourite nut?
Oh I don’t have a favourite. It’s too hard to pick … Now can I ask you a quick question?
Have you heard of an ice cream called Hoboken Toffee? Hoboken is a city in New Jersey. When I was in Australia, I went to the convenience store and they had an ice cream with [that] flavour. I’d never heard of such a thing, of any toffee being made or sold or eaten in Hoboken at all. On the side of the ice cream container it said “I still remember that first fabled trip to New Jersey, where we walked the streets of Hoboken, and the sweet wafting smell of their famous toffee completely enraptured and entranced me. Now many years later, I’ve brought that sweet flavour of that tender, tender legendary Hoboken Toffee to the Australian shores.”
You remember that label pretty well. I’ve never heard of it though … Was it great?
It was actually the worst ice cream I’ve ever had. It was freeze-dried ice cream, it was sort of fluffy, dusty, dry. It had the consistency of ashes. It was extraordinarily salty. I basically puked on the first bite. You could take this ice cream in your hand, grind it, and it would fall away into sand … I actually wrote a song about this.
I’m going to move away from the nuts and ice cream, because I do want to know about your music … what’s your weirdest on-tour experience?
Hoboken Toffee, that was pretty strange. But the whole venture these last 14 years – doing Andrew WK has been a surreal, almost out of body experience.
And a lot has changed since you first released the album I Get Wet, like you’ve become a motivational speaker. How did that come about?
We wanted to find a way I could reach folks that didn’t like rock music … We decided to embrace that and find a better way to talk about the important feeling of joy without having to use music.
If you could give an aspiring young creative any piece of advice, what would it be?
Work very, very hard.
You were in a band as early as 14 … Where do you play at that age?
We played at our high school a couple of times. I went to a very cool high school in Michigan. We’d also play in people’s houses and basements, sometimes on the street, or in someone’s car. They were renegade performances. The idea was to do whatever you could, whatever way you could do it.
Is there something you’re yet to do on stage that you’ve always wanted to?
I’ve always wanted to exert myself, and I’ve done that every night, right up until last night. Sometimes I exert myself too much in terms of digestion.
Thanks for sharing … Last up. In one song you offer to take a girl to the potential date locations of outer space and third base. What would be your top date locations?
I like sandy shores and tender beaches, general forests, soft parks with grasses and trees ... Billowing bushes and hopping birds and chirping squirrels … Maybe I’d take a girl to a store, a restaurant, or a place where you can get up and run, like a gym, or maybe a place like a spa, where you can sit down and rest. It’s pretty open as far as I’m concerned.
It seems you’ve got some really specific locations in mind.
Yeah. Really, really generally specific.
Catch the enigmatic Andrew WK on the Australian leg of his world tour from May 4-17.