Andrew W.K. is a force of positivity.
Throughout his career as a rock musician and as an inspirational writer, speaker and overall guru, W.K. (real name: Wilkes-Krier) has dedicated his attention and efforts to partying as hard as possible and as often as possible. The kind of partying he’s talking about doesn’t involve drugs or drinking, though. To him, it’s a term that covers a lot of ground: optimism, self-affirmation and the hard work of making the best of life. From his own struggles with depression, he knows this isn’t easy – it isn’t even easy to him – but he won’t give up.
“I am trying to continue my ongoing mission, I suppose, which is to make the best of things, including this chance to be alive,” W.K. says.
Tuesday, W.K. brings his “Power of Partying” speaking tour to the Carrboro ArtsCenter. These evenings aren’t designed to be teaching or learning experiences, he explains, but are more like pep rallies. It’s an unscripted evening that starts with his own distinctive version of motivational speaking. He speaks for a bit about the power of partying before opening up the floor. These events can last four or five hours, he explains – as long as people want to talk, he’ll stick around.
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W.K.’s contributed weekly advice columns to the Village Voice, which recently moved to Vice, are where he addresses straightforward topics like pressure, Autumn and bread. He can also be found on Twitter, where he tweets regular affirmations in the form of “party tips.”
When we talked with W.K., he was kind enough to come up with a party tip specifically for this News & Observer interview.
Q: You wrote columns for The Village Voice for quite some time and now you’re with Vice. How did the Vice column come about?
A: Brian McManus, who is my editor at Village Voice, he started working at Vice. He asked if I would like to do an advice column, that was about three years ago.
Q: When you write a column or answer somebody’s question, how do you come to your answers?
A: I try to imagine what a really smart person would say and then just write that down, basically, just close my eyes and imagine that somebody else was telling me what to write and trust that that person was really advanced. It’s sort of like imagining I was talking to a wizard or something and I say, “what do you think about this?” And I try to write down what they would say.
Q: You struggle with depression yourself. Is it an ongoing effort to maintain positivity in your own life?
A: It’s been pretty consistent. It’s hard to sum up these feelings sometimes. Some of these words in one way seem to overstate the condition, and in another way seem to not even get close to expressing it. It’s like a word like “consciousness” – how do you begin to describe this feeling of awareness? Or something like “life” – how does a word like “life” even begin to express what being alive entails?
To me, it’s a sense of hopelessness, despair, meaninglessness, an inherent wrongness about most things – that’s how it felt to me. It’s a very rigorous effort every single day to transform that feeling into something more optimistic or more hopeful or more joyful or at least to sublimate it. I’ve never gotten any better at it. It’s just always there. I don’t think it’s even something I necessarily want to overcome or numb out, because anything good I’ve ever gotten to do was really motivated by that feeling in a very real way. If I felt down, it made me take action to do something that made me feel up.
Q: Does spreading positivity through your work help at all with lessening your feelings of depression?
A: Yes, that’s exactly why I do it.
Q: The way you use the word “party,” it almost becomes one of these undefinable words. What does the umbrella word “party” mean to you?
A: It was the most accessible, inviting and straightforward word that I could find that summed up the kind of irrational optimism and celebratory mindset about the entire experience of being alive. You don’t just need to celebrate the occasional happy moment or Friday night or holiday or birthday, but you can celebrate the entire adventure of getting to be a person.
That isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s a worthwhile effort. By creating this all-pervasive mindset that reminds you that you are alive and that it must be a good thing, despite the depth of challenges, the difficulties; to take that leap of faith and decide that existing has to be good; to essentially worship that goodness, to try to become worthy of the chance we have to be alive and to celebrate it one way every day, and not necessarily in a carefree way, but the opposite – a very careful way, a way that’s full of devotion and tireless effort.
Q: Do you have a party tip for the News & Observer’s readers?
A: Party tip: devote more energy into questioning than answering.
What: Andrew W.K.: The Power of Partying
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: The ArtsCenter, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro