Andrew WK is a party-metal messiah. Dressed in the papal robes of white T-shirt and jeans, with black shoulder-length hair flowing, he preaches a gospel of partying, partying hard, and partying with positivity. He believes partying is the solution to what ails us, be it making sense of our inner turmoil or healing deep societal rifts. His music is a high-octane, high-fructose concoction that distills the excesses of hard rock into a life-affirming tonic. Drink it, and you’ll be transported to a world beyond parody and cynicism, where joy and self-realisation prevail. Party hard enough and your dreams might just come true.
Born Andrew Wilkes-Krier, the musician and now motivational speaker has written advice columns for Japanese music and culture magazine Rockin’ On and the Village Voice in which he answers questions such as “How do you find your passion?”, “How do I become a good person?” and “Does heaven exist?”. While Wilkes-Krier baulks at the suggestion he’s a writer as well as a musician, his columns are eloquent and empathetic; heartbreaking and warming in equal measure.
Wilkes-Krier will soon take his message to crowds at the Melbourne Writers Festival when he delivers the event’s opening-night address. He's also in Sydney playing a show at the Maning Bar and the following night he'll be on Tonightly With Tom Ballard at the ABC Studios in Ultimo. Ahead of his tour, Broadsheet asks him for some writing tips.
Most writers, at some point, experience the despair of “imposter syndrome”. It comes on when the blank page looms, or an impasse appears half way through writing a story. Wilkes-Krier avoids paralysis by embracing his insecurities.
“I suppose I was always very much at peace with the fact that I wasn't a writer,” he says. “Much like someone might not be a gardener, but they can ask to accompany a friend to a garden and next thing they know they're digging in the dirt and working on it. I think of myself as a professional partier and an amateur human being.”
But even when it comes to his life’s work – spreading the transformational power of partying – Wilkes-Krier, who wields pizza- and taco-shaped guitars on stage, still experiences self-doubt. He has a simple remedy: “Party that much harder.”
Achieving a career as a writer, or in any artistic field, is not easy. Sometimes passion and drive can lead you to neglect other areas of your life. Time with loved ones can be sacrificed and sleepless nights can take their toll mentally. Some people often have to work second jobs to pursue their passions.
“If we have dreams, if we have desires … [we] force them on the world, and you manifest your will through might. That works for some people, sometimes at great expense to themselves and others,” says Wilkes-Krier.
But he suggests there is another way to achieve your goals. Remain open to what life throws at you, and when something aligns with your passion grab it and don’t let go.
“Attempt to align one’s self, and one’s calling, with destiny. Rather than pushing and trying to force your will on the world, the world calls to you and your dream pulls you towards it,” he says. “If you do feel you have a calling … there's something that's emerging from beyond you, that you're reaching out towards, you either answer the call or you don't.”
Releasing your work to an audience can be an anxiety-inducing experience. But Wilkes-Krier doesn’t dwell on his work once it’s released.
“Usually, working on an instinctual level, I have already accepted that most people won't like it [my work], and most people won't even hear it,” he says. He can separate the work, and its reception, from his own sense of self-worth, which in part involves staying open to criticism from different circles.
“I think, ultimately, trying to develop the courage to consider as many different points of view as possible, at least to encounter them and not shield ourselves unnecessarily from the minds of others, is a good thing,” he says. “To stay extraordinarily open about oneself [is important] as well.
Wilkes-Krier believes the success of his work relies just as much on the openness of the audience as it does on the skill of the creator.
“It’s asking an extraordinary amount of that other person to just take the time to read what you've written. For them to allow themselves to feel something at all, anything, is another big step. That it’s something they enjoy, it's almost like a miracle,” he says. “I'm just really blown away to be able to reach someone and [for them] to … allow [me] access to stimulate their spirit.”
Exhaustion, underpayment and rejected pitches can sometimes leave a creative wondering if pursuing a career in writing, or any creative field, is really worth it. But Wilkes-Krier insists that the most important thing is to celebrate and indulge your passions.
“The joy that I get from piano – just playing music for its own sake – nobody can take that from me. I can't fail at that relationship. I think we all owe it to ourselves to remember that.”
Hear Andrew WK on Sunday, August 26 at Manning Bar backed by a six-piece band. Tickets are available here. He's also being interviewed on Tonightly With Tom Ballard at the ABC Studios in Ultimo on Monday August 27. Tickets are available here.