Musician, producer, actor, Village Voice columnist, lecturer with the ear of politicians, My Little Pony fanatics and all-in wrestlers – it’s hard to know where to begin with Mr Andrew Fetterley Wilkes-Krier, born in California but raised in the heavy metal hinterland of Ann Arbor, Michigan – think Iggy and the Stooges, think The MC5.
Motivational sums him up in a way. He’s a light bulb of intelligence in a world of darkness. Some think Dave Grohl created him but while he opened for Foo Fighters and enjoyed Dave’s influence for a while, W.K. is no puppet. His main albums, mostly released in the Noughties, include the hit disc I Get Wet, a fiendish blast of fun, satire and killer rock that fuses Wagnerian metal to punk rock and glam. The synth attack of his successful tracks “Party ‘Til You Puke” and “Girls Own Love” are evidently AOR in the best possible sense and there are satire and pain in the grooves.
Described as one of rock’s great philosophers (he’s up with Sandy Pearlman and Adny Shernoff) his mid-period discs, The Wolf and Close Calls with Brick Walls are far too good to remain best-kept secrets and if you like your rock stars with iconoclastic edges then discover these for sure. Andrew has also built a fan-base in the Far East and released several albums and EPs for the Japanese and South Korean markets and they’re also worth hunting down. You want fun? You want to party hard? But you also like a good book? Here’s your fella…
Born in Palo Alto (Jerry Garcia country) in 1979 Andrew Wilkes-Krier enjoyed a stable and prosperous middle-class academic upbringing. He took piano lessons (always useful), studied jazz keyboard and joined various local punkish metal teen bands around Detroit. Noise rock was an obsession and once he moved to New York aged18 he hooked up with NYC outfit Wolf Eyes as a remixer and decided that his schoolboy nickname Andrew W.K. would be a fine alter ego. So it proved with his own debut EP, Girls Own Juice (1999) and the follow-up “Party til You Puke” where electronica reigns rather than standard hard rock. Undeniably in the same ballpark as The Beastie Boys the underground buzz led to Island Records. I Get Wet (with a controversial cover featuring AWK bleeding from the nose) divided critical opinion because it was deliberately overhyped, mainly so that when Andrew actually met the press he could disarm them with all the deft skill of a bomb disposal expert. By way of a diversion to the meaty metal on view, there is also the lovely “She Is Beautiful” to contend with. The cut “We Want Fun” was featured in Jackass The Movie Soundtrack by which time our boy is up and running.
But Andrew didn’t follow the standard career path of the average rock and roller, leading some to think – meanly – that he was a creation of the corporate folks whose hand he was surely biting. Those who got it the first time around, and it may have taken a while for it to sink in, were unanimous in praising I Get Wet and it is still highly regarded as one of the best hard rock experiences of the 2000s. Check it out. Two years later we get The Wolf (aka Blow Your Bone), another frat-boy party extravaganza featuring W.K. and his pals Ken Andrews, Jimmy Coup, Erik Payne and Frank Werner on axes, and another glorious mash of the insanely dumb – “Long Live the Party” and “I Love Music” and the arcane – “The End of Our Lives “ and “Victory Strikes Again”. Decent sales and a Top 100 place on the Billboard chart kept him current but Close Calls with Brick Walls, though released to grand clamour in Japan in 2006, didn’t actually make it to CD in the rest of the world for another four years, largely due to a legal dispute over the ownership of his name that we won’t bore you with here. Despite the initial eighteen tracks, this is a short and sweet slam-dunk of Noo Yawk rock that is available as the expanded 2-CD version with second disc Mother of Mankind bringing him up to date. If you like Cheap Trick you will love this set.
55 Cadillac is a total departure from all the above given that its ambient, new age nature and piano-driven melodies are the main ingredients. Surprising for sure, but then he had just produced Lee Perry’s Repentance album, a Grammy-nominated affair featuring Moby, Don Fleming (well known for working with The Posies, Sonic Youth, Hole and Teenage Fanclub) and actress Sasha Gray, also The Slits’ late great Ari Up. Gundam Rock and The Party All Goddamn Night EP were made for the Japanese market but are available on import.
In the current decade, Andrew has concentrated on his other life as a motivational speaker, a TV jingle writer (he re-wrote Kit Kat’s “Give Me A Break” slogan as a theme song in the US) and even created exclusive ringtones for UM Japan’s mobile phone market. He has also opened a nightclub in Manhattan, Santos Party House, situated in the TriBeCa – a state of the art entertainment complex – and become a successful journalist with a think piece and Q&A column for The Village Voice.
Very much-grounded in New York now his most recent venture is to remix some tracks from The Dictators’ debut classic Go Girl Crazy! for their 40th anniversary celebrations, called The Next Big Thing EP. A cat lover and a man of style, Andrew W.K. isn’t simply a maverick, we’ve got plenty of those. He is a one-off: kinetic, smart and always liable to surprise. We respectfully point you to his current discs for your discovering delight. Let the party begin again.