- Roe Etheridge
Andrew W.K. is back, and he's bringing the party with him.
After playing a raucous show for Best Friends Day in 2010, the man who worships at the altar of the party gods is finally returning.
W.K. — which stands for Wilkes-Krier — first hit the national spotlight in 2001 with his rock album "I Get Wet." Songs like "Party Hard" and "She Is Beautiful" became instant party anthems and commercial themes. Since then, W.K.'s repertoire has grown to include working as a motivational speaker, television host, late-night personality and he nearly became a cultural attache for the U.S. State Department.
Speaking from his beloved New York, the man known for his long hair and inexplicably bloody nose is excited about his current tour, where he has left his band behind to perform solo, aided only by a keyboard and drum machine.
"The Human Party Machine Tour is about me challenging myself and stepping out on my own," says W.K., adding that this is the first time he's performed a tour like this in the United States. "I really have to entertain at the height of my abilities."
With songs like "Party Hard," "Long Live the Party" and "Party Party Party," you could say there's a common theme in W.K.'s music.
"It was the most fun thing I could think of," explains W.K. "If someone said if you could do anything with your life to have fun, and party just sprung into my head very quickly and very organically, and most summed up the way that I feel."
In addition to some interesting musical side projects — including albums of solo piano songs and tributes to anime music — W.K. also found time to play host to a children's TV show called "Destroy Build Destroy," where teams of kids demolished objects, rebuilt them and used them to compete against each other.
"Cartoon Network wanted to do a game show which had never been done before, and they certainly achieved it," W.K. says. "There had never been explosives and weapons and such destructive force and children put so close together."
W.K. says the show was wildly successful, but was canceled after parents complained that the show was inappropriate for children.
"I thought if anything, explosions should only be used for fun and excitement and entertainment," he says. "Not for hurting anybody."
But perhaps the weirdest occurrence of his career has been the offer from the State Department last year to serve as a cultural attache to Bahrain. W.K. says his role would have been to travel around the country, talk to students and give motivational talks.
After jumping through all the logistical hurdles and working with the government of Bahrain to create an itinerary, the State Department canceled W.K.'s visit. As best he can surmise, someone working under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pulled the plug on the trip.
"I guess [he] hadn't been aware of the details of my trip and decided to cancel the whole thing because he thought I was an inappropriate person to represent the country," W.K. says. "I was very disappointed. It kind of hurt my feelings that they would judge a book by its cover. I was going to do a great job."
He might not be traveling to Bahrain any time soon, but W.K. is staying busy, working on a new "rock 'n' roll party album," and fronting the Ramones tribute band Blitzkrieg with Marky Ramone. When he comes to Richmond, W.K. hopes the small setting will make the show all the more intimate.
"You're going to be part of a party, [it's] not just a presentation being shown to you by people on a stage," he says. "That whole room and everybody inside that room will become one giant band together." S
Andrew W.K. will play at 10:30 p.m. on June 6 at Kingdom, 10 Walnut Alley. Tickets are $15. Kingdomrva.com.