Party Philosopher Andrew W.K. Reminds Listeners: You're Not Alone

Kari Stark
photo by Nina Ottolino

I sometimes feel like a walking contradiction. I feel emotions very strongly, yet rely on logic to make sense of the world around me. I’ve always struggled with verbalizing my emotions as there are rarely words or logic to fully capture my feelings. Like that feeling of joy and excitement you get when a friend tells you she got a new job and she can finally quit that terrible one she’s been working at for way too long. Or that sinking feeling of sadness in your gut when your mom tells you your grandpa passed away. This to me is why music is so powerful. There’s comfort in knowing another person has felt the way I have felt. That I am not alone.

Andrew W.K. is much more skilled with words than I am. In a few questions, he manages to sum up these ideas perfectly. As you read the wise words of Andrew below, I hope you can connect with them in the same way I have. And remember, as Andrew W.K. titled his latest album, you are not alone.

KEXP: At KEXP, we do a day called Music Heals: Mental Health and people write in and they share stories about songs that have helped them through dark times. And I know that you do this kind of for yourself, to help you find the joy in life. Do you want to talk about that a bit? 

Andrew W.K.: Oh for sure. I mean, I don't think that the purpose of life is to be happy or to experience the emotion that we would call happiness. But I do think that finding a meaning in life has the added side effect bonus of a type of deep joy and a sense of clarity and direction in a very chaotic and beautifully confusing world. And so there are these parts of life, these phenomena that we can encounter and experience that really seem to tell us that there is some hope. And for me, nothing has been as reliable and as powerful and as consistent in that regard in providing me with hope than music. And it's in a way that I'm sure everyone else can relate to: it's in a very profound, deeply intense way. 

It is not just, "it puts an idea in my head," "I feel a slightly different mood" — it's a physical, transformative encounter. It's a confrontation with a feeling so strong that it changes the way your body feels physically. And that proves to your mind that maybe all those doubts aren't justified. Maybe there is a glimmer of meaning even if we can't understand what that meaning is. The meaning of life is staring us in the face and screaming at us in our ears and bear hugging us. But because it's so confounding and so confusing we write it off but just because we can't understand the meaning of life doesn't mean that it's not there and that we're not already experiencing it. And I think music is hinting at that in a really dramatic way almost you know like poking at us Hey this is what life is. 

There's always that kind of a spiritual feeling to it. I remember in a motivational performance that you had, you talked about being "diagnosed" with a devilish side. You've had your own experiences in mental health circles or with therapists. What are your thoughts on that? 

Well, one of the great and powerful aspects of the mind is it can be turned around on itself. 

There are ways to wrest control over mental processes. And talking with a professional allows you to learn how to think: learn how to think in a different way, learn how to think just in an alternative way, learn how to think about the thoughts you have differently. Now, a person can learn this through disciplined and rigorous effort from all kinds of ways including just from the trials and tribulations of life. But there's nothing to be gained from keeping oneself from insights into your own life. There's nothing noble about that. You deserve and your own life deserves to be treated with as much care and respect as you can give it and you should be as interested in what it is to be you as you can. It's not as self-centered narcissistic kind of self-interest. It's a worshipping of the fact that you've been brought into existence and to that miracle whether you want to think of it as your parents or blind luck or whatever. But one thing we do know that we there's no doubt about is that you exist in some way and it seems like a pretty good if not challenging reaction to existing to try to make it the best you can be the best it can be. So I mean I don't know what else there is to do? What else are we to do? Just try to you know kind of fulfill ambitions. The greatest ambition should be to prove yourself worthy of having been born a human. That's the greatest ambition. "What can I do to make this life count for the best good of all humanity?" That's a high ideal. But even one step in that direction is an absolute good. 

The "Music Is Worth Living For" song. I think I can relate to that. I know a lot of people that work here can relate to that. What songs help you celebrate life or to change your mood or make yourself feel better? 

There's just infinite, infinite numbers of songs and music and there comes a time and I imagine people can relate to this where you really are able to experience all songs as a sort of one song. All compositions are sort of one piece of music. That it all is music presenting different sides of itself. That there's like this orb of musical intensity and it's shooting out all of these different little bursts of itself in this genre, through this singer, through this composer, through this kind of arrangement, through this completely other radical, totally different kind of arrangement, but yet it's still all emanating from music. The one song. That's how it feels to me. It's like having a best friend that's always there. Music is what introduced me to life, basically, I think to this idea of life as a discrete and quantifiable thing. Because we're so immersed in life it's hard to get enough distance to even look at and say, "What is this thing that's going on?" But music gives you that new lens. 

You know you can be listening to music and walking on the street and everything takes on a new significance. The tree and the building in the car going by it seems they all mean something and that's just an incredible an incredible partner to have in life it's like man's best friend it's got to be music. No disrespect to dogs. 

Andrew W.K. has just wrapped up a world tour in support of his latest album, You’re Not Alone.  

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