This interview first appeared online on Austin’s That Other Paper on March 14th, 2007
Andrew W.K. is coming to Austin to give a lecture called “Party for Life” this Friday at the Mess with Texas party. According to the website, AWK will discuss “pure fun” and “total love” — both of which no doubt involve variations on the theme of partying (and doing so fitfully hard). He’s also hosting the Midnight Scavenger Hunt later that night.
Tell me about this scavenger hunt you’re hosting?
The scavenger hunt has been organized by an amazing man named Sean, and he invited me to come be a part of fun. He’s come up with all kinds of wild challenges and dares. He’s really got a knack for putting together a banging night on the town – just running around like crazy, doing fool crazy stuff. I just can’t wait to see what people are actually going to do!
The grand prize is $1,000 cash and a 20- minute slot (if you’re in a band) to play on stage at a real concert party on Saturday, at the venue “Red Seven”. The cost to participate in the scavenger hunt is $2 per person, and the way it’s organized, the event can’t sell out, no matter how many people come – everyone is invited and everyone can participate. So definitely round up all your best friends and come out to freak out. We’ll meet at 9pm and every team that signs up will get the master list of 50 challenges to hunt down! This is all about having a good time and I’m honored to be there.
It sounds like it will be fun. What do you do for fun?
That changes all the time. At one point, just curling over and doubling up was about as much fun as I could imagine having – but I was an infant, so it made sense. Now it’s supposed to be all about the best cigars you can get – that’s supposed to be fun, and I’m thinking, “Cigars? You mean, I have to smoke that thing?” I even heard one guy talk about a chocolate flavored cigar. They taste like they’ve been dipped in honey milk chocolate with a mild vanilla coco butter swirl – and that’s tobacco! That’s a flavor that’s supposed to be fun, and I can understand why they exist. Thinking about existence in general has been a fun thing for me to do.
What’s your opinion on recreational drugs?
Wow, what a question! I’ve heard people call tobacco a gateway drug, especially the cigars and very rich pipe tobaccos – they say the pipe holes sort of lull you into a vulnerable state, and the stem relaxes the jaw and temples. The forehead and under-brow can easily be relaxed with a pipe-smoke bath, and it doesn’t burn, contrary to what many people expect. You work the smoke into the temples and then the deep well cleft above the eyebrow. The smoke dries and soothes the areas, releasing tension. This process eventually opens a gateway, which leads to a recreational drug.
I think a drug can alter perceptions in a valid way and offer new ways to think about essential parts of day-to-day experience. I also think there are other ways of achieving altered states that don’t involve doing a drug. I don’t think either way is better or worse – it’s for each person to decide as they go along, and then it becomes a case-by-case scenario. As usual, I don’t think generalization allows for the nuances in individual personalities and their accumulated experience. The idea of changing our mind is an essential part of human nature. Whether we choose to change it or not, we can’t help but to always consider “other” ways of feeling. What would it be like to feel a new way? To feel a favorite way – to feel nothing because it’s different, to feel everything the same way, at once, without being able to stop it?
People spend a great deal of time grappling with the ideas of good and bad. What do the words good and bad mean to you at this time?
Right now good and bad means a general pair of opposites that I can use to identify certain sensations or experiences. These words are like bookends of judgmental understanding, and when they are used to declare our position or opinion, like: “I thought that movie was good.” they can help to communicate and express a whole slew of personal feelings and secondary opinions that would take more time to explain one by one. When they are used with less responsibility they seem to exaggerate and misrepresent reality, and suggest that a statement like, “That movie is bad.” is not just a subjective personal opinion, but a truth that is everlasting and authoritative.
So if we’re looking at “good” and “bad’ as two bookends, they must hold some content between them, even if it appears to be nothing, for they sit on either extreme of some kind of space, declaring the quality of the object or experience. What is it about the space between the extremes? What about the colored area between black and white? What would it be like to examine the entire spectrum between “good” and “bad” and try to simply be aware of all of it, without necessarily deciding definitively whether it’s one or the other. It could be many things to many people, and we can imagine what it would be to examine something – ourselves, perhaps – from someone else’s perspective and decide whether it is “good” or “bad”, or whether it just… is. Can we experience without decision making of this kind? Can we comprehend without needing the object of our comprehension to be “good” or “bad”? Of course we can – the question is whether it’s more fun to do it or not.
Would you say that it would be a good idea for someone to prepare for the scavenger hunt in someway? How can people prepare?
I’ve been thinking about the ideas of preparation, and what it gains us. I wonder if preparation is the same is just thinking and imagining the event. Some people call that visualizing. I think we should all prepare by simply visualizing the amazing fun night we’re going to have. Some time ago, I used to think that we should “hope for the best and expect the worst”, but now I’ve been thinking, “hope for the best and expect the best” – take responsibility for making the night the most fun ever and really believing that it’s possible. If we all decide in advance that this hunt will be pure fun, it will be pure fun. I’ve made up my mind: pure fun.
You’re in good physical shape. What’s your secret?
They say that exercise and a good diet are a key to mental well-being. What advice would you offer to someone who’s depressed?
From personal experience, I can certainly agree that exercise has made me feel good. And there have been times when I’ve eaten a junk meal and got in a bad mood afterwards – although, I can’t blame the food entirely, nor can I say exercise “made” me feel good all on its own – in both cases, I made myself feel whatever I felt, and I chose to do what I did to make me feel a certain way, and then I chose to feel it.
When it comes to depression, I would first wonder if the feelings were being generated by someone not doing what they really want to be doing, and then see if they had ideas about what they would really like to do instead. And then, upon doing what they wanted, I think their feelings would shift towards what they wanted to be doing, and their attention would no longer be on doing what they didn’t want. As I’ve said for a long time now: do whatever you want. All we can ever do is whatever we want – it can be no other way.