Born in California and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, W.K. -- whose initials stand for everything from "White Killer" to "Women Kum" to his parent's surnames, "Wilkes-Krier" -- began classical piano lessons at age four at the University of Michigan School of Music. During his teenage years, he played in numerous punk, metal, and noise bands around Southeast Michigan and by 17 was recording his own songs. After moving to New York City a year later, his demos were passed around to various labels, including the indie Bulb Records, which issued W.K.'s debut EP, Girls Own Juice, in early 2000 followed later that fall by the Party Til You Puke EP. The buzz around W.K.'s hedonistic, so-dumb-it's-smart rawk resulted in album deals with Island/Def Jam in the U.S. and Mercury in the U.K.; his first major-label release was 2001's anthemic Party Hard EP.
In particular, the U.K. fell in love with his distinctive image and sound, which inspired critical raves from NME and Kerrang! as well as hysteria at his live shows; he was hospitalized after a fan head-butted him while he crowd-surfed during his London debut at the Highbury Garage. W.K.'s full-length debut, I Get Wet, arrived in late 2001 in the U.K., followed in spring 2002 by the U.S. version, where cuts from the album began to appear in commercials, video games, and television shows, eventually leading to a performance on Saturday Night Live. His reputation grew through extensive touring both on his own, with Ozzy Osbourne's Ozzfest, and as part of an MTV 2 package tour. He followed it up in 2003 with The Wolf, a bigger, lusher album than his debut, which earned mixed reviews. After hosting an advice show on MTV 2, Your Friend, Andrew W.K., he resumed his busy tour schedule, releasing the concert film Who Knows? in early 2006. W.K.'s third album, Close Calls with Brick Walls was released that year in Japan and South Korea, with a U.S. vinyl-only version appearing on Load Records in 2007. That summer, he also appeared as a guest star on Kathy Griffin's television show My Life on the D List. Stretching out into production, he also helmed the 2007 Lee Scratch Perry album Repentance and played many of the instruments on it.
Andrew W.K.'s career only became more eclectic as the 2000s drew to a close. In 2008 alone, he co-founded a Manhattan nightclub called Santo's Party House, toured with the Calder Quartet, and released a collection of J-pop cover songs, as well as publishing I Will Change Your Life, an anthology of his advice columns for Japanese music magazine Rockin' On. He also became a member of the group Current 93, contributing bass, piano, guitar, and vocals to their 2009 album Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain and performing on the band's tour that spring. Around that time, W.K. released Damn! The Mixtape, Vol. 1 and his Cartoon Network live-action demolition show Destroy Build Destroy premiered. He also became a frequent guest on other TV shows, appearing on Conan O'Brien, MSNBC, Fox News, and several different VH1 series. In late summer 2009, his album of "spontaneous solo piano improvisations," 55 Cadillac, was released on Ecstatic Peace and the Skyscraper Music Maker labels, the latter of which also intended to give Close Calls with Brick Walls a U.S. release on CD. Around that time, W.K. also issued Gundam Rock in Japan, which featured his versions of the music to the classic anime Gundam to commemorate the series' 30th anniversary.
Close Calls with Brick Walls finally appeared on CD in wide release in 2010 as part of a set with a disc of rarities and previously unreleased tracks called Mother of Mankind. The following year, W.K. released a Japan-only EP, Party All Goddamn Night, which featured a mix of new and previously released material; in 2012, he celebrated the tenth anniversary of I Get Wet with a Deluxe Edition featuring an extra volume of live and unreleased songs. After writing a weekly advice column for the Village Voice and hosting a weekly self-improvement radio show for the Blaze network, he spent part of 2016 on a lengthy national speaking tour titled "The Power of Partying." In March 2018, Sony released You're Not Alone, which mixed the massive full-bore sound of his first two albums with short spoken-word motivational pieces. He and his band promoted it with a world tour that took them through the final days of 2019. ~ Heather Phares & Timothy Monger, Rovi
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