AWK: The Svenhunter Sees Inaugural Free Form Lecture @ Madame Jojo's

From Playlouder I arrive late and there’s a split second where Andrew seems to be explaining how he auditioned for the part of Andrew WK, and that the role existed before he came to fill it. And then I’ve missed that bit, and worry, momentarily, that I’ve missed the most important part of the evening. The Internet is certainly full of bizarre explorations of the man’s purportedly mysterious past. Is Steev Mike AWK pre rebranding or the first AWK that the AWK we know and love followed on from? Does it matter?

If any other rock star disappeared for several years and then suddenly announced that they were going into motivational speaking you might think they’d lost it: that there was some sinister subtext involving scientology or lizard people. With Andrew WK, however, it sort of makes sense. Sort of…

I seem to recall viral YouTube videos of frat boys invading dorms with ‘Party Hard’ pumping out of ghetto blasters, recruiting conga-lines of revellers indulging in fun for fun’s sake. I also seem to recall them being more popular than his albums ever were.

Not to say his albums weren’t great; they were. ‘I Get Wet’ was a heavy pop punch in the nuts and ‘The Wolf’ was even better, if, inevitably, less of an event. The third (was it ever even released in the UK?) went unnoticed.

Never mind though; Andew WK has not let his seismographical rise and fall dent his endearingly dumb/clever, clever/dumb philosophy on life. The nuggets of wisdom he offers to the dense, tense crowd in Soho’s Madame Jojo’s tonight are about as practical in the real world as lines like “Don’t you try and deny it, there’s going to be a party tonight!”

“But Andrew, I’ve got exams tomorrow and I’ve got to study real hard…”

“Party hard! Party Hard!”

“But Andrew, I just got the carpet cleaned and I had to have my stomach pumped last time, and I maxed out my credit card…”

“Party till you puke! Party till you puke!”

“Oh, c’mon Andy…”

“Don’t call me Andy!”

Sorry. That last one was from his third album…

Anyway, tonight’s major lessons are two:

1) We should not make definitive statements in the negative. E.g. “I am awesome” = good. “She is a fat bitch” = bad. More acceptable, and more positive for our development as awesome people, would be to say something more along the lines of “She has, in the past, been an unkind person who has overeaten, but may well improve her ways in time.”

You get the picture.

2) You are perfect. You are awesome. Everything you have done in your life has led to this moment of your awesomeness, and you should never regret anything.

Not exactly high philosophy, but with Andrew’s enthusiasm you can enjoy it, whether or not you believe it. His slightly awkward but undoubtedly entertaining ramblings, delivered whilst gradually removing garments (much in the spirit of the ex-cabaret venue), are really a precursor to the Q&A session, which takes up the main part of the talk.

Andrew seems much more comfortable bouncing ideas off people like this than he does in lecture mode. The Q&A section on his website was always an hilarious and ultimately uplifting read, and this exchange is no less so, though he is perhaps slightly more challenged here by some more serious questions concerning the marriage of his rather optimistic philosophy and the mundane reality of day-to-day life.

Advising one individual to immediately quit his job is a brave step, but then, he does "fucking hate it", and as Andrew points out, decisions made when drunk are still entirely valid as you made that choice to get drunk in the first place. The party hard aesthetic is not without accountability.

Perhaps one of the most touching moments is when Andrew is asked a question more about personal history than philosophy: how he felt with his super-mega debut ultimate-party album coming out shortly after the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001. He admitted some doubts as to how well ‘Party Till You Puke’ and ‘Don’t Stop Living In The Red’ would sit with the weeping families around Ground Zero where once stood the World Trade Centre towers. But what better time to blast out the defiant and jubilant ‘I Love New York City’?

With this, as with other questions of real depth, it’s hard for Andrew to give a straight answer while also selling his schtick, and his response is simple, autobiographical and honest. Whether Andrew WK would truly make a great cult leader, as has been suggested by conspiratorially suspicious detractors, I’m not sure. But if he got that dude at the front who hated his job to quit the next day, I hope (and expect) it was for the best, because AWK, like him or not, is a force for good.

When he invites the devotees in the front seats to join him onstage for a karaoke rendition of ‘Party Hard’ I am left wondering how different the effect of an Andrew WK motivational lecture and an Andrew WK gig really are. Regrettably, I imagine both require a degree of open-mindedness and enthusiasm that are less contagious than they would be in an ideal world.