For the love of fun

Andrew Wilkes-Krier is no ordinary man. Looking as if his hair has not seen a good wash in days, he sports his signature off-white jeans and a T-shirt with his name on it, fake blood seeping from the neckline. Haphazardly tattooed, dark green slits adorn his arms, and he speaks with the vocabulary of an Ivy League scholar — all the while exhibiting a refreshingly sincere interest in what other people have to say. Not only does he politely address the questions asked of him, but he also asks for a perspective on them, making the pre-lecture meeting less an interview than a chat between friends.

Having completed Close Calls With Brick Walls, his first non-solo album, in addition to a Japanese and South Korean tour in 2006, Andrew W.K. has been riding the wave of fan support and critical recognition. Despite the acclaim that his boisterous onstage antics and party anthems have garnered, he remains appreciative, introspective, and insightful. He describes his series of lectures “not as lectures, because that is too confining.... I’ve been thinking that it’s more like a happening, a pure event where all that is set is a time and location.” Without preparing any particular topic for discussion, he travels from place to place, college campuses and clubs, engaging his audience in discussion to promote “true creative collaboration.”

Displaying unexpected modesty, given the success of his career, he hoots with surprise when asked how he feels about being compared to Jack Black, eagerly inquiring, “You’ve heard it more than once? Is it mostly a physical comparison?” and adding, “I think he’s got a great vibe!” The conversation soon veers off the topic of his reason for being at Carnegie Mellon, indicating his preference to speak about the human experience rather than his career. Wilkes-Krier aims to involve his audience in a discussion of life, love, people, and general subjects that allow for in-depth verbal examination.

When it comes time for the lecture to begin, the audience, comprised almost entirely of college students, cheers and chants for the anticipated party-rocking idol. Wilkes-Krier calmly takes the stage and thanks everyone for coming, adding, “I’m just going to do a few moves and ... see what happens.” Next, he goes into an animalistic craze, arms flailing and head banging wildly while he swings a stool around and roars into his microphone. Without transition, he opens the seminar with a discussion of his reluctance to use definitive statements. Standing next to the stool that he had been brandishing feverishly moments before, he brings up the linguistic fault inherent in using words like “know” when speaking of people or ideas that cannot be absolutely defined. The audience quickly jumps in with its members’ own opinions, contributing to a conversation that focuses on linguistic disparity and the perception of life as malleable and subjective, summated by Wilkes-Krier’s observation: “Words in fact color some portion of our experience.”

Through the philosophical discussion engendered by Wilkes-Krier, the audience was able to learn about its speaker, the man in the faux-bloody T-shirt who sings about partying and getting wasted, a state he describes as complete displacement from oneself, not just being intoxicated. A certain profundity underlies his philosophy of embracing life and love; he proposes, “A state of love allows for maximum fun.” At the end of the discussion, Wilkes-Krier asks the audience members to only think and speak about things they love, and afterwards signs posters and speaks with his fans without coming off the least bit jaded.

Unconventional and unrestricted as always, his quasi-lecture brought up a number of questions regarding the human experience. With the intent of opening his mind to the ideas that the audience members aired, Wilkes-Krier’s discussion grew tense when disagreement brewed within the crowd, so he closed the talk by reuniting the audience in song. Demonstrating his fondness of harmony and connecting with people, he said, “I’d like to look at differences [among people] coming from a place that says we’re the same, first and foremost, in that we’re human.”