Known for hits “Party Hard” and “She Is Beautiful,” Andrew W.K. is a singer, musician, writer, motivational speaker and DJ whose lifeblood is bringing the party to the masses. With his bone-straight brown hair and all-white outfit, the 6-foot-3 rock star can be spotted from a mile away creating good vibes wherever he goes—and his DJ residency at the Hard Rock Hotel’s Center Bar is no exception.
“It’s great to focus back in on songs that maybe wouldn’t go over so well in other settings—they’re really embraced in the Hard Rock,” W.K. says. “People really go there, I think, more than any other casino, as music lovers and as rock music lovers.”
He debuted his “The Partiest Mix of Party Music You’ve Ever Partied To!” set in February, and describes his DJ nights as “upbeat, fun-loving and party-rocking,” fueled by classic hard-rock hits like Dio’s “Holy Diver” and Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” to longer tracks like Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell.” Though W.K. is no stranger to setting the ultimate party vibe, his definition of “party” might come as a surprise. “It’s just an outlook that says, as far as we can tell … we exist in this particular way right now, and that if we’re thankful for that chance to exist, we can celebrate.”
No wonder people call him the real-life party god.
Your first DJ set at the Hard Rock was a couple of weeks ago. How did it go? I enjoyed it very, very much. I didn’t get the chance to speak to every single person in the casino, but I hope that it didn’t drain from their party experience in any way. I hope it contributed to the atmosphere. It’s an interesting situation because it’s in the Center Bar and of course one of the great things about the Hard Rock casino that really does set it apart from the other notable casinos in Las Vegas is that it is a more intimate space. And since I was DJing in the Center Bar, the center of the casino, the music was able to be heard and experienced by more or less everyone in the casino … There’s something very unique about being out in the midst of all the casino excitement, which for me actually is the most exciting thing. I was really thrilled, I was really happy that anyone came out at all. Specifically, there were people there that traveled a great distance or made their trips coincide with the DJ set, which certainly meant a lot to me.
What kind of stuff are you spinning? Well, in keeping with the theme of Hard Rock, I’m playing hard rock. It’s a vast mix. I enjoy free-form DJ sets that don’t necessarily adhere to any one style for the most part, but this is a great chance for me to really focus in on mostly rock songs, which I usually sprinkle in when I DJ any kind of traditional party, but I’ll also play longer dance songs and I guess, disco, or hop-hop. It’s great to focus back in on songs that maybe wouldn’t go over so well in other settings, they’re really embraced in the Hard Rock. People really go there, I think more than any other casino, as music lovers and as rock music lovers, specifically. Being a rock music lover myself, it’s very satisfying to play songs you love, knowing most likely the other folks there are going to really love them too. I was [brought in] to be there as an ambassador of traditional hard rock, rock ‘n’ roll music, and to be able to dive deep into that. The last time I DJ’d a rock-centric set was on my tour DJing for Black Sabbath … and I got to focus in on heavy metal. Here I kept it up beat and fun-loving and party-rocking, you know?
One of the ones that went over the best, and people were very thankful to have heard was Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell.” That’s a song that I usually wouldn’t have the audacity for in a DJ set, but again in the Hard Rock environment people were just overjoyed because they don’t get to hear that song that often. I don’t really curate it, I just go in with my CDs and make it up as I go along.
So you do everything on the fly? Yeah, and I have my roster, so when I go back for the next one I’ll probably play most of the same artists but some different songs of theirs.
Why did you decide to take on DJing in the first place? It’s one of those things that’s really easy to do. If you like music, you most likely enjoy playing the songs that you love listening to. Most of us are DJing for ourselves all the time. If you have a record collection or a collection of MP3s or anything, you’re essentially DJing. I say that with all due respect to what I would call professional, skilled, traditional DJs that are actually mixing music, especially dance music—matching beats, record scratching—that is a true art form. I have some of those abilities in a very small humble way and it is fun to change the tempos, to use filters, to add extra beats or delays and echoes and things like that, although with rock music it’s a bit less penetrable.
People asked me to DJ over the years so I just did. My friends and I opened our own dance club and music venue in Manhattan [Santos Party House] and that’s probably where I learned the most about DJing, from DJing there and watching my friends do it.
You don’t drink, and a lot of people feel that they need to be under the influence to party. How did you become the king of the party when you’re not under the influence of anything? Well, I’ve done alcohol and I’ve done plenty of drugs and things. I started off straight-edge initially and hadn’t had any experiences with anything—I guess everyone starts off that way. Most of us are starting with a fresh slate, so you do tend to accumulate some experiences and when you haven’t tried things you want to eventually. What’s strange is with more experiences under my belt, I’ve noticed it doesn’t seem to really make that much of a difference. Even when I was very frightened with something and I thought drugs or alcohol would make it less frightening, it never really did. It never really changed anything. I wanted it to, I wanted sometimes to obscure the feeling of being myself or just existing in a way that I thought would make it easier, but I was never really able to reach down that deep to effect that core part. All I could really do was alter the surroundings. I have nothing against any of these things either, they’re powerful and can be very enjoyable and exciting, but it just doesn’t really change much. The most powerful thing is music to me, in terms of feeling high, dancing, smiling, strutting around like a goofball. That tends to have more ability to impact my mood than any particular substance. The substance just changes the physical feeling but it doesn’t necessarily change your spirit.
Do you ever get tired of being the party guy? What do you do when you don’t feel like partying? I just party. The best thing to do when you don’t feel like partying is to party, and when you feel like you can’t party anymore, that’s often times when you have just started partying, so it’s a great expansive mode to operate in. That’s why I chose to do it, because it can include any activity, it has room for any part of your life. You can do or be whatever you want and be partying, and that way there’s really no pressure. And if there is pressure, it’s the best kind of pressure to have, which is to make the most out of life.
What does partying mean to you? Like, for example, I can’t just sit here and party at work right now. If you say so. It’s a mindset. I’m not saying you should want your work to be a party, but if you did, all it would take is a shift in perspective. It’s just an outlook that says as far as we can tell, we’re not dead, we do exist in this particular way right now and that if we’re thankful for that chance to exist, we can celebrate. This idea that celebration has to be reserved for these very particular moments, I think, is potentially flawed. I think it doesn’t just have to be the weekend, it doesn’t have to be on a birthday or a holiday or New Year’s. If you are thankful to exist, even in spite of difficulty, in spite of challenge, we can still celebrate that. It’s an overall pervading mindset that we want to make the chance at living count for something. It’s active gratitude.
You did a collaboration with the blog The Talkhouse for Valentine’s Day where you recorded clips of covers like “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers and “Only Women Bleed” by Alice Cooper, on Instagram. Do you have any plans to release full-length versions of those songs? I hadn’t planned to. I was a bit surprised by how enthusiastic people were. I also didn’t realize until I began posting that you could only post 15 second clips. So that [was] discouraging for me as well because those songs I love all the way through. I don’t have any plans to do a covers album; maybe I’ll record a full-length version of that the same way, on my phone or something and put it up since people liked it. They already exist, that’s the good thing.
You recently tweeted something about the importance of following your dreams. What dream are you following? To party as hard as possible at all times, forever. It’s one of those dreams that’s perpetual, that even when you feel you’ve achieved it, you realize there’s more to go. And I’m actually very thankful for that. It can feel frustrating or overwhelming, that it will never come true, but it’s sort of coming true and not coming true all along, and I think that’s good because you can keep going for it.
Vegas is the party capital of the world. What’s your favorite thing about it? I like the atmosphere, most of all. I like all the effort that goes into creating that space. There’s no other place like it. The means to the particular ends are very interesting. I like the highs and the lows, the winning and losing. It’s very dynamic, it’s very intense and you know it when you’re there, that’s for sure.
Lastly, I’d imagine that as a pizza lover, you’ve eaten a lot of it in Vegas. What’s your favorite pizza joint here? Actually, all the pizza I’ve had there is very good, so it sort of comes down to which style you like. I definitely appreciate what would be considered traditional or authentic styles. New York-New York goes out of its way to offer New York pizza that is really good. I also like the wood-fired pizzas a lot of places are offering now, especially the personal, smaller size. It’s always nice to have your own pizza, although I could make an extra, extra large pizza my own pizza as well. I like the delivery; you can get very, very late night delivery. But most of the hotels that I’ve been in have room service pizza available, so the fact that pizza is front and center as a food option there means a lot to me. There’s a lot of foods that could have been put on that pedestal in Las Vegas but the fact that pizza is so well represented is really encouraging and inspiring.
Andrew W.K. Hard Rock Hotel’s Center Bar, March 5, April 2 & June 4, 11 p.m.