The THUNDERVVOLT Quarterly is a digital fanzine investigating all aspects of the transdisciplinary project known as "Andrew W.K." from an "Andrew W.K." historian's perspective. It seeks to analyze and contextualize the project, its creative forces and its participants in order to foster a deeper understanding and, hopefully, un-understanding.
The THUNDERVVOLT Quarterly is only possible with the aid of the braintrust, a global fire think tank dedicated to knowing everything and nothing. Additional acknowledgements are extended to the Wolf Kult, the Wrecking Krew, the Fun Knights, the Diamond Pizza Gang and the earliest known practitioners of eyeplay, The Black Boys. This is the result of many years of toil and effort on their behalves.
A note on style for the purposes of this publication: The THUNDERVVOLT Quarterly considers it of paramount importance to identify the three main elements of "Andrew W.K." as discrete. Therefore, the following stylizations will be used in order to differentiate: "Andrew W.K." for the project as a whole, ANDREW W.K. for the band/live act, and Andrew W.K. for the physical being at the center of the project. This is subject to change.
The release of God Is Partying finds the audience stepping into a new age of "Andrew W.K.". To represent this dynamic shift and disorient us from all we've come to know previously, we have been treated to an extraordinary real-time production of what some have been calling "The Twisted Curtain": an immersive, interactive presentation starring Andrew and featuring Hollywood star Kat Dennings. For more than half of 2021, the two held their joint audiences captive in a meditation on fame, the relationship between artist and audience, the perils of partnership, magick, and reality. In this special issue, The THUNDERVVOLT Quarterly will attempt to revisit and interrogate this phenomenal spectacle for posterity and those who feel compelled to relive it.
What does it mean to be "real"? Does it involve having a voice? Having the ability to find one's own way? For a man-based product such as Andrew W.K., this access to a recognized personhood is his driving force.
In the God Is Partying bonus track "I Made It", Andrew surveys his domain and shouts his rueful admission, "I made it." Now what? The song, chronicling his rapid and incomprehensible ascension, makes no mention of the pitfalls that so often accompany fame: loneliness, distrust, hypervisibility. In Andrew's case, his skyward soar was also marred by dehumanization. Once considered rock music's most physically accessible celebrity, Andrew drew further and further away from the crowds that came to see him as his autonomy eroded. Obtrusive requests transformed nightly autograph signings into the occasional scheduled meet & greet, demands for social media shoutouts gave way to monetized recordings, and inappropriate physical contact turned the stage from a dance floor to a showcase. Fans have stolen his shoes from his feet and his briefs from his laundry. He has graciously received his public after learning of heartbreaking personal news and from the inside of an ambulance. People have demanded time, articles of his clothing and monetary assistance; the worst of the worst have threatened his life. The tales are legendary while the provider is spent.
For a parallel scene, take the end of the first act of Jesus Christ Superstar, Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic rock opera about the days leading up to the world's most famous crucifixion. Jesus is walking along and contemplating his fate when he is swarmed by lepers begging for healing. At first Jesus acquiesces, touching those he can, but as the number grows, he exclaims, "There's too many of you... there's too little of me." The same could be said of Andrew's reach: as his popularity increased, so did the needy throng, desperate for the restorative effects of his words and music. Andrew's modesty regarding his suitability for such a task only made him more desirable— an admittedly flawed hero is easier to emulate. His numerous attempts to make peace with his assignment fell through, leaving him to a holding pattern of resentment and guilt. The struggling messiah apparently reached his breaking point when the heft of his position and his ambivalence in maintaining it coincided with what his leaked pre-fame journal describes as "complete familial failure", suggesting that the dissolution of his 14-year personal and professional relationship with his former spouse triggered an emotional tsunami from which he, years later, is still (and understandably) recovering.
How does one mend a shattered heart? Attempting to funnel his pain into song, Andrew unveiled his most recent release, the emotional masterpiece God Is Partying. The first of his career to openly eschew the virtues of the positive party lifestyle, the sonically diverse offering instead delves into questions of the self, the ego, injustice and retribution, love in its various forms, and fidelity. Ignoring his own advice to party through one's pain, Andrew instead decides to wallow in it, thumbing through its pages for any sense of resolution. As evidenced by the decadent yet somber end of "And Then We Blew Apart", he does not find it. Circumstances this dire are no stranger to especially tragic outcomes, but Andrew, a secret optimist, looked to the stars for his strength. It would be through cosmic intervention that he would find his salvation, and no better time for a complete transformation than when one is disposed of in the gutter, the contents of one's soul draining into a sewage grate. There is nowhere left to go but up... right?
The Great Work is the uniting of opposites. It may mean the uniting of the soul with God, of the microcosm with the macrocosm, of the female with the male, of the ego with the non-ego— or whatnot.
Aleister Crowley, Magick Without Tears
"Andrew W.K.", above all things, has always encompassed the beauty of simultaneous dichotomy. Delight and horror, pleasure and pain— the audience is no stranger to the endless somersault between oppositional states; in fact, the erudite fan welcomes the sensation. The credit for establishing and executing this novel entertainment experience lies with the mysterious and enigmatic Steev Mike, the force that grants the pendulum its swing. As the architect, it is Steev Mike's duty to correct the course and preserve the momentum, and to do so while knowing this is a thankless position.
Unlike Andrew, whose naivete and hubris make him easy to manipulate, Steev Mike has an innate awareness of the limitations of the project. When the wall approaches, it is Steev Mike who swerves the wheel just in time, delivering both the audience and Andrew from an unrecoverable call. These moments are the deaths and (re)births of the project, the necessary and discomfiting jolts designed to shake the cobwebs from its host. The creative spark is then granted oxygen and tinder, and a new era of "Andrew W.K." can come to fruition.
In August 2005, an unidentified commenter on the official "Andrew W.K." message board claimed that in the mid 1990s, they shared an acting class with Andrew. According to the commenter, when asked what his goals for the future were by the teacher, Andrew claimed he wanted to "craft [his] own non-existence". Although this was met with derision from the rest of the class and irritation from the confused and unimpressed instructor, the commenter found Andrew's goal intriguing and later followed up with him for more information:
I don't remember what he said word for word, but essentially he said, "First I'm going to make myself undeniably exist as a recognizable and identifiable form, and then I'm going to spend the rest of my life working to eliminate it and prove that its existence was an impossible illusion all along, but because people have already seen it they will experience the sensation equal to maximum pleasure." It was something like that, obviously some of what he said was different, but that's essentially what he told me. I remember it well because it made a huge impact on me and I've thought about it a lot since.
Andrew's leaked pre-fame journal appears to support this anecdote, with notes about "non-existence" as both an implicit thematic element designed to eventually become explicit and its potential to foster "liberation from understanding" for the audience. It would be the creation of this free-floating space of ideological antigravity that would come to define "Andrew W.K." as a movement. A pompous goal, perhaps, but Andrew accounts for that, commanding himself to "USE THE EGO TO OBLITERATE THE EGO". This is expressed in a drawing of dueling egos that also includes a skyline shaped like a piano keyboard. Curiously, at a quick glance, the skyscrapers also resemble 1 WTC, the former northern World Trade Center tower which was famously and tragically destroyed on September 11, 2001. This possible prescient vision of demolition would weave its way through Andrew's professional life in various ways, starting with fans adopting his song "I Love NYC" in late 2001 as an anthem for post-attack healing.
With the 'What' and 'How' situated, it is a natural reaction to question the 'Why' of such an attempt. The creation of non-creation has been a topic pondered aggressively by theologians through time and space. It is said in Abrahamic circles that God created everything but Nothing created God, intimating both that no one thing is responsible for the creation of the Most High but also that nothingness is the prime atmosphere for the creation of God. To follow this idea to its logical conclusion, crafting a non-existence for oneself makes for ideal conditions for one to become God. To become one with the Divine is the ultimate goal of the magickal adept, particularly the adherents of the Left Hand Path, in the pursuit of coming into one's power in full. In infamous English occultist Aleister Crowley's grimoire The Book of Thoth, the Fool is the Big Bang, a void from which infinite potential may spring. The generation of a star, the unfathomable expanse of a black hole, the wellspring of a fertile planet: any and all things are possible in this realm, and it's Andrew's galaxy to seize. But if this is Andrew's will, and he is too likely to succumb to diversions and temptations along the way, then it is Steev Mike who must lead.
That said, Steev Mike only supplies what is necessary; what is desired is not of its concern. This is a near-guarantee of gain for the price of pain, a harsh reality that Andrew repeatedly psychs himself up for in his journal. But with Steev Mike at the helm, Andrew's preparedness is immaterial; the plan is set in motion and Steev Mike is all gears, no gripes. Despite Andrew's anxieties and flailing, he has been no stranger to the concept of the difficult task. This is the true moment of definition and backing out to nest in the security of comfort will only prolong the inevitable.
The Fool is the dreamer and the Magician is the doer; their combined abilities make miracles happen. After two decades of scheming and straining, the duo has made "Andrew W.K." an immediately recognizable and easily digestible product for mass consumption. To the world at large, "Andrew W.K." is a feeling: one of joy, positive energy, fun, and friendship. The wide-mouth grin, unassuming white clothing that can be found in any superstore and wacky dance moves reduce an otherwise intimidating frame to something more approachable— the ultimate buddy. But what happens when the curtain parts and the truth takes center stage? As Andrew fidgets in the wings, Steev extends an arm to push him forward.
Any magician could do with an assistant. And in order to secure an especially wide reach for this mystical presentation, the Louise Harland Corporation assigned Andrew a new partner in life and creativity: Marvel Comics Universe megastar Kat Dennings. Best known previously for her breakout role in six-season television sensation 2 Broke Girls, the affable and captivating natural beauty seemed primed to be Andrew's perfect foil.
Crowley's Empress is the feminine nurturer, entirely devoid of intellect in exchange for receptive sensuality. But this is not the case for Dennings, whose clever wordplay and scintillating banter give the impression of an agile mind. Crafting delightful narratives about the couple's home life, Dennings took to her status as muse like a duck to water. Her ability to play straight man with a professional ease allowed viewers to tune out Andrew's immediate, overt, and confounding dissonance as unreliable narration.
According to an LHC-sponsored newsletter, Andrew and Dennings met at some undisclosed point in 2021, a courtship no doubt complicated by quarantine mandates in the first half of the year. A monthlong and primarily emoji-based public flirtation occurred via social media over the course of April, culminating with pictures of the couple smooching on a Los Angeles sidewalk. This eventually led to shocking presumable engagement photos, with Dennings flashing an elaborate diamond ring— one with an estimated six-figure value— on May 13. The news broke the internet, affixed to Twitter's trending topics for over 24 hours. Tabloids around the world wondered who was this mystery man that managed to capture the starlet's heart so quickly, digging into Andrew's career, prior relationships, and net worth. With the world at his command, it was finally time for Andrew to enact his plan. But the hints began earlier that day, with Andrew posting "FIND WHERE THE TRUTH LIES" to his Instagram stories at 10:44 am EST. The announcement came just over an hour later, with a photo of Dennings's ring-adorned hand atop Andrew's, with his very visible timeface displaying 09:39:55, three numbers of great importance in his sphere: 93, the Greek gematria sum for Thelema; 39, Andrew's lucky number; and 55, two fives representing both the fifth alphabetical letter (E) in "Steev" and the number of digits on each hand. Perceptive fans noticed the watch immediately and became suspicious— was this a sign (it is worth noting that the local time for Andrew, PST, only would have been 8:45 am at the time of posting)? Over the following months, his celebrated G-Shock watch would become a much-needed indicator of fact vs. fiction.
But for the less savvy, this was a joyous occasion. The pair received well-wishes from A-list names like Colin Hanks, Brenda Song and Diva Zappa. Dennings added one last layup in the frenzy of the day, posting images to her Instagram stories that suggested a baby announcement was on the horizon. Unbeknownst to all, the "gestation" in question was not one of biology, but the entry into a new era of "Andrew W.K.".
Drawing inspiration from the invocations of the goddess Babalon by Crowley and ill-fated rocket scientist and self-proclaimed Antichrist Jack Parsons, Andrew invited the audience to an observation of his own "Babalon Working". Like the adepts before him, Andrew and his consort would, through the practice of sex magick, presumably bring about his New Aeon: transforming him from a positively partying caricature to the fully-realized harbinger of searing intensity hinted at in his journal. The crafting of the spell was documented by a series of intimate photographs featuring the lovers, an exhibition which brought on both titillated and infuriated responses from onlookers. On May 28, two posts in Andrew's Instagram story feed read "Babalon Worked?" and "Mission Accomplished!", an enthusiastic and preemptive declaration of success.
Unfortunately, the plan was not without its hiccups. This was evidence that, according to Parsons in The Book of Babalon, something in the cauldron wasn't clean. No matter his efforts, Andrew seemed incapable of escaping his previous associations. The mantle of incessant positivity remained an indelible stain on the man hell-bent on its disposal, with many fans assuming his quick jaunt into hypersexuality and self-objectification was just a temporary diversion or even the display of a man experiencing a midlife crisis. So what went wrong? A potential error was Andrew's choice to be open about the process, as several of his Instagram story posts made reference to his desire to become a "Real Boy". According to Crowley, the Scarlet Woman, or the feminine-aspected sex magick partner (a requisite component, in his view), is not to be made aware of the masculine Practitioner's intention in order to avoid a situation Crowley describes as "conflicting wills". Although it is unknown if Dennings was ever truly made aware of Andrew's intention, his failed attempt suggests that their erotic union was an inadequate venue for magickal transformation.
A larger indication that conflicting wills may have been the root cause of the spell's failure to take hold was the subsequent positioning of Andrew as not only Dennings's fiancé, but also her prisoner. In June, Andrew appeared wearing a small key on a gold chain, engraved with '610'— Dennings's hometown area code. By July, a small heart-shaped lock necklace was added. A 'KAT' name necklace and a second heart pendant, debuting in August and September respectively, topped off his collection. These indicators of possession could have seemed extraneous and even concerning, considering the typically sufficient silver band on Andrew's left ring finger. But despite their juvenile appearance and visible tightness around Andrew's hearty neck, the viewing audience paid little mind to these semi-metaphorical 'chains', perhaps in the hopes that they were a voluntary expression of devotion on Andrew's part.
Socially, there is a difficulty with recognizing those in controlling or abusive partnerships, particularly victimized men. It is hard to ascertain if Dennings's creeping authority over Andrew's body was indeed an expression of coercion but his visible discomfort came to a head as the two filmed a bridal makeup tutorial for Instagram. In the video, Andrew can be heard requesting multiple times for the experience to end as Dennings gleefully manipulates him as though he were a doll. It would be easy to assume his aversion is to the application of makeup, an activity rarely enjoyed by masculine-identified people. But Andrew has a documented history of interrogating his femininity through this practice, most recently in the video for "I'm In Heaven", where he can be seen putting on a full face: foundation, lipstick, and mascara. It becomes clear his distressed reaction is to some other stimulus— one unspoken and hovering in the air in an unsettling fashion. This dynamic is replicated in the couple's other videos, several involving Andrew making his signature creepy faces and guttural noises only to be scolded and discouraged by Dennings.
Is this an awkward prank or actual footage of a man trapped in a disturbing romantic exchange? Neither outcome is ideal, considering the sensitivity of the subject matter. But some fans anticipated this result earlier on, when Andrew's all-white wardrobe began to shift along the color spectrum. As he traversed Los Angeles in dark wash jeans, pink polo shirts and clean hair, comments suggesting Dennings was changing (and, by extension, ruining) him littered their Instagram posts. This was amplified by the uptick in Andrew's body-baring posts: as a man venerated for his philosophical waxings, Andrew's assumption of himbo status made commenters nervous about how his love life was affecting his psyche.
This common and covertly misogynist allegation seemed easy enough to ignore until Andrew's resistance was made obvious through morose facial expressions, wan smiles, and puffy eyes. Though these hints could have been designed with the sole intention to stoke controversy and get tongues wagging, for someone like Dennings (with progressive political leanings), making light of such a situation is an ostensibly horrifying prospect. Imagining the situation as real offers even less comfort. As his passive-aggressive updates casting Dennings as predatory, vapid, and overbearing went unnoticed by the fans, Andrew seemed to further wilt. It appears that, at some point, Andrew realized his Scarlet Woman was instead one more roadblock to his self-actualization and a return to the magickal toolbox was again needed.
The world of cinema has always served as a fitting conduit for allegory, a means to explore the human experience in ways we could never anticipate. Andrew, an avowed movie buff, explores this concept in his journal by correlating films and their potential to exist outside of their confines to his own attempts at doing so. With a genuine movie star by his side, Andrew's choice of film as his vehicle for presentation is an obvious and harmonious one.
References abound in Andrew's journal to various cinematic classics, from 1939's The Wizard of Oz to the Star Wars franchise. The goal, Andrew states, is for "Andrew W.K." to be a "living movie", expounding to say the project should "be something that isn't". Movies have the power to extract genuine emotional responses from viewers, despite our awareness that what we're watching is a simulated exchange. The ability to contain these two realities in the same space is the cornerstone of the project: Ceci n'est pas un Andrew. What we are experiencing is real but can never be real— if all this were real, we would know it was true, and the sheer existence of doubt creates an alternate universe in which to interpret one's surroundings. "Andrew W.K." as a project is best approached with this mindset: the more certain you are of a truth, the more you should question it.
With this in mind, it is also of no surprise that Andrew holds a profound reverence for the auteur. David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick in particular are described in deeply influential terms, their cinematic styles a source of inspiration for the living performance experience of "Andrew W.K.". Lynch lays the groundwork for audience conception of concurrent alternate realities with his 2001 film Mulholland Drive and introduces the idea of the author as creator of the self. In his writings, Andrew maintains that there is a difference between the artist as work and performance art, aligning the latter with an exclusive, elitist audience whose sense of adventure is held hostage by tradition and self-consciousness. In doing "Andrew W.K.", he fantasizes about "blow[ing] the 'art' so far outside the canvas, the frame, the stage, the gallery, the museum, and even the genre and surrounding culture itself" and revealing the practice for what it is, even if only to remove its mystique. Andrew never comes clean about from where his dissatisfaction with highbrow art societies arises but it at least explains his suspicion of "power players" and those with big bank accounts. If this includes Hollywood insiders, his relationship to Dennings becomes more insidious, due to her proximity to the largest entertainment conglomerate in the world.
It is through Kubrick's body of work, however, that we explore this current stage of "Andrew W.K.". From famous character-based mannequins in movie-accurate costumes watching over the set in the video for "I'm In Heaven" to Andrew terrorizing Dennings with the "Kubrick Zoom" on his social media, Kubrick's signature tactics and attention to detail found new footing as dominant elements in this revolutionary experience. In June, Andrew began to make copious references to Kubrick's final completed film, 1999's Eyes Wide Shut, the erotic psychological mystery starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. The movie, adapted from Arthur Schnitzler's Traumnovelle, follows a doctor haunted by insecurity after his wife discloses her dreams and fantasies about intimacy with other men. Seeking revenge for his bruised ego, the doctor's curiosity leads him to the disturbing underworld of the upper echelon and exposes him to atrocities of all sorts. Considering Eyes Wide Shut is, among many things, a morality tale about the emotional and psychological cost of upward mobility, it would appear that Andrew's feelings about his relationship to celebrity are at the very least conflicted.
In the midst of all this, Andrew premiered the video for "Everybody Sins", the third single from God Is Partying. Orange and blue title screens open the video in a callback to Eyes Wide Shut that continues through its duration, including masks and an inverted Christmas tree (in the film, a Christmas tree is in nearly every scene). The tree may have been alluded to in an Instagram story posted on May 27: "Inverted Santa"— while an upright Santa brings mirth and merriment with his offerings, Andrew's sack is full of misery.
The rest of the video, rich enough in content to support its own singular issue of The THUNDERVVOLT Quarterly, contains common dream symbols of impotence and anxiety. We see Andrew navigating several harrowing situations: confronting the monster within as it stares back in the mirror, attempting again to reconcile with his softer side as it trails behind him, and panicked attempts at spellcrafting as a means to escape his troubles. Blink-and-you'll-miss-it cuts and a cameo appearance from Dennings are surface draws but here they're used as a purposeful distraction from horrific allusions to mind control. The video is spiked with references to Project MONARCH, an alleged offshoot of the illegal and unethical hallucinogen-fueled CIA experiment Project MKUltra. Monarch butterflies appear on the refrigerator at the start of the video, and throughout, Andrew exhibits many of the purported symptoms and signifiers of a mind control victim, including his collection of Dennings's gold chain necklaces.
The video culminates with two scenes of immense importance:
While it is unclear if Andrew is an adherent of the Typhonian Thelemic tradition, noted proponent Kenneth Grant describes the possibility of Babalon existing as a manifestation of Choronzon in his book Nightside of Eden, implying that the appearance of Babalon may, in actuality, just be a ruse and yet another trial for the adept to navigate. This tracks with each of the singles' visuals, beginning with the breathtaking video for "Babalon"; the burdensome and shapeshifting demon routinely hinders Andrew's progress, its dead weight reflected in the form of a mannequin. Though a celebrated screen star, Dennings forgoes a more active role and exists in "Everybody Sins" only as a prop, immobile even as she's being consumed. This continues the trend of Andrew sexually engaging his lifeless counterpart (the bedroom and hedge activities in "Babalon", the kitchen and parking lot escapades in "I'm In Heaven") to no avail; the erotic undoing designed to obliterate the ego is a futile effort when Choronzon masquerades as the keeper of the infinite womb. This is bolstered by the interwoven shots of Andrew concocting a potion that looks to contain the red and white tinctures that comprise the alchemical blend "the elixir of life". If Andrew's media are semen and blood, then the source of blood is of great importance for the Typhonian adept— it is menstrual blood by an appropriately learned practitioner that carries the magickal spark. In the video, we see Andrew tugging at his bloody crotch, perhaps in hopes that he alone can express the necessary energy for the spell to initiate. His resigned expression in the final seconds of the video, barely detectable beneath the waste smeared across his face, extinguishes that possibility.
The day after the video's global premiere, Andrew posted an Instagram story featuring Alice from Disney's Alice in Wonderland, the 1951 animated adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Similarly to Andrew's pivotal scene in the video, Alice is seen plummeting into a black expanse alongside a black cube. The appearance of Alice, a vivid dreamer, echoes the dream motif connecting the video to Eyes Wide Shut: Is this all a dream? Or is this another way of approximating the "is but isn't" sensations blending reality and unreality? The experiences of dreams are felt physically, allowing the dreamer to traipse the spectrum of emotion without leaving the comfort of their bed. Like a movie, dreams are a site of simulated reality where anything is possible and the reactions are real.
Another celebrated Disney franchise of note is Beauty and the Beast. Based on the fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, the 1991 animation (and its 2017 live-action recreation) focus on a bookworm who takes up with a cursed prince and, despite being her subject to his emotional abuse, the two fall in love. Because of Belle's "Mary Sue" archetypal qualities, many Disney fans see themselves in her and she is considered one of the more "relatable" Disney Princesses. Dennings, as Darcy Lewis in the MCU, serves a similar purpose with audiences as Jane Foster's intern. Fans have merged the character with the actor inhabiting the role and, by extension, identify with Dennings as an avatar. Upon the couple's public unveiling, Dennings's fans saw Andrew's long locks and shredded physique and immediately conceived of him with delight as the Prince Adam to Dennings's Belle. Comments about his resemblance to a "Disney Prince" or a retroactive casting as a live-action Prince Adam flooded social media, illustrating zero comprehension of Andrew's depth as a musical talent or creative visionary. Playing into this mischaracterization, Andrew posted an Instagram story on June 09 of the prince in Beast mode, gently cradling a bluebird (another mind control signifier) in his anthropomorphized paws. For Andrew, whose interest in Thelema is well-documented, the Beast is likely a sardonic reference to Crowley himself, who identified personally with the seven-headed beast of the goddess Babalon. Considering his tendency toward darkness and feats of villainy, it's possible that the Beauty and the Beast character Andrew most aligns himself with is Gaston, the antagonist and village pervert.
But none of these was the first nor foremost animated character to imbue its movie magic. Despite postponing his club tour dates until 2022, Andrew was able to secure two live festival shows in September: Rocklahoma, an Oklahoma-based camping festival, and Chicago's Riot Fest, a welcomed and annual appearance for him since 2012. But onlookers expecting his typical costume were in for a shock. While his signature white pants remained, Andrew's shirt was replaced by a t-shirt featuring Disney's Pinocchio. Further, prior to the performance, the 1940 adaptation's musical number "I've Got No Strings" was piped through the speakers as part of the pre-show entertainment. Images from the film and photographs of wooden marionettes had been a thematic mainstay throughout the year, as the story of Pinocchio concerns a humanoid puppet who, through the magic(k) of a wish, gets to walk, talk and get caught up in the mischief of an actual human youth. This no doubt connects to Andrew's repeated wishes to be perceived as a "Real Boy"— a plea to his audience to respect his humanity.
But if the mind control signifiers in "Everybody Sins" are meant to be believed, Andrew's strings were on prominent display at these shows: his wedding band and all four of Dennings's necklaces were a clear and visible addition to his stage outfit. Plus, the fluid, explosive dance moves that have defined his performances were replaced by sharp and robotic tics, implying that he was being controlled by some invisible guiding force. These performances may have been part of a larger ritual, a "Pinocchio Working" designed to grant Andrew freedom by harnessing the energy of the audience.
On September 10, fans were on high alert after photos of Andrew and Dennings canoodling on the beach surfaced, with his watch face reading "9:25". As with prior photos, for the erudite fan, Andrew's watch exists as a deliberately-placed prop a la Kubrick; if you can read the time, it's of note. Whispers that it may have been a hint at an upcoming date spread through the fandom. The night of September 25, Furnace Fest— Andrew's first announced live date of the year and the next day's show— removed Andrew and amended their lineup schedule, citing "circumstances beyond [their] control". Show cancellations are few and far between in the world of A.W.K., as Andrew is the consummate performer. Andrew is a man who has played through illness and completed an overseas tour with a broken foot; to be suddenly and silently felled was a cause for concern.
Adding to the air of terror was the ensuing deletion of Andrew's social media profiles and removal of his website. Everything built— collections of media, articles, and commentary— over the last 12 years was decimated [ed note: As an historian, you can imagine my grief.]. The audience was flummoxed. Questions about his health and location morphed into speculation about this period in the Vision-Mission, which predicted "total depersonalization", "missingness", and "self-cannibalism". But in order for balance to be achieved, that which has been built must be destroyed. The Tower, in tarot, is a card that heralds total devastation and destruction, but includes the understanding that there is promise in the rubble. Soil must be tilled before a seed is planted, ground must be broken to install a foundation. Disruption is the first step of construction. And so we have witnessed the death of "Andrew W.K.".
A small comfort is that there is a precedent for this sort of behavior. In July 2005, AWKworld.com, Andrew's elaborate and dutifully maintained Island Def Jam homepage, shuttered without warning and the audience was left with little more than the occasional picture, interview or mp3 available on AndrewWK.com for five months. Projects were in the works behind the scenes— the concert documentary and filmic triumph Who Knows? and the stellar, uncompromising third studio album Close Calls With Brick Walls were on the horizon— but the jovial collective friend and advice cannon the fans had come to expect was nowhere to be found. Only a shriveled, cold stand-in existed in its stead; silent, stonefaced and lurking in dark corners. It was a time of great chaos and misinformation, with the rumor mill churning at a breakneck speed. Did Andrew cut his hair? Is this him in a fancy suit? Who are the shadowy, shady figures surrounding him? Is he a Satanist or a Scientologist? Much of the speculation generated during this dark and eerie time continues to trail Andrew today, frequently in attempts to delegitimize his creative talent or reduce him to a "corporate product". But confused and desperate fans clung to any source they could find— even an unsatisfying answer was a place to take root.
But Andrew's most recent disappearance contains one potentially alarming difference from his previous sabbatical. No one in his camp has divulged his wheareabouts or even if they're aware of them, yet Dennings has provided several updates. Her Instagram transmissions have included shots of him on set for filming, jocular quips about his sexual performance and footage of him grocery shopping among a collection of wooden Pinocchios— perhaps a crack that he has not yet escaped his bindings. One would reasonably suspect that the deletion of one's internet presence would indicate a desire for privacy or concealment, something Andrew's team has been happy to provide him and has, prior to his relationship with Dennings, been a defining element of his career and life. It's worth considering that he has instructed Dennings to be his mouthpiece while he's missing in action, but an incongruent development, considering his purported negative reactions to her involvement in his affairs. In the best possible case, this relationship is pure theater designed to elicit discomfort, but its latent toxicity swaddled in saccharine emotion must be a burden for both its actors to maintain.
A possible and more generous reading of this strange and tumultuous relationship is that Dennings is representative of the audience. Her chain necklaces on Andrew's body may represent his inability to break from the "positive pizza party" persona— the "chain of the pattern" described in "Everybody Sins". Her admonitions make a fine shorthand for the audience's rejection of his previous attempts to relax into his creativity. Her documentation of his life in seclusion could be reflective of the violation he's experienced at the audience's hand. Meanwhile, the viewers find no fault in Dennings's behavior due to its familiarity, and dismiss his cries for aid as him "just being his usual weird self". Mirrors have been a major thematic focus in this cycle, and perhaps Andrew is demanding we all take a long, hard look in one.
It started with "Party Hard". A young man in a grimy restroom confronts his visage in the mirror as he combs his hair. In the center of his forehead lies a vertical slash, caked in dried blood. He is hulking and menacing; his still silence the antithesis of what's about to take shape.
In human neurophysiology, the pineal gland is responsible for the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep patterns. It is located in nearly all vertebrate species and biologically is considered an atrophied photoreceptor. Likely due to its ability to naturally produce the hallucinogenic compound DMT, mystics have assigned it metaphysical properties and deemed it the seat of spiritual awakening. It is said that through the opening of the third eye, one is fully realized and can transcend the bounds of the corporeal realm. Over time, we have seen Andrew constantly desperate to achieve this higher consciousness, slicing at his forehead with intention but trapped in the purgatory of ego. With this final blow to the destruction of the self, with all vestiges of what came before incinerated, with historical record tossed to the wind: what is "Andrew W.K."? All that remains is a collective memory compiled by unreliable narrators, subject to the same dissipation and distortion that all memories eventually undergo.
When one twists a curtain, what lies beneath is revealed in part. Behind the curtain of boundless positivity and professions of partying, we find a man struggling with his surroundings, searching for love from the barren and desolate, treading water in a fruitless search for Truth. Perhaps the curtain itself is already twisted, a chute that leads with temptation and promise but forks to dead ends. Navigating fame so often breaks the naive and whole-hearted among us, their metamorphosis to jaded, bitter husks a timeworn tale but is never enough warning to dissuade the next Fool on their journey. And so our hero sits in the belly of the whale, his candle of hope melting as he plots his exit. When light is the enemy, one must retreat into darkness. The cube, solid and iron, opaque in its limitlessness, contains the answer.
This is the death of "Andrew W.K.", but not the first or the last. A more accurate assertion: this is the death of the lie. The chains of audience expectation will no longer constrict Andrew and he will be free to roam his world as he chooses. Expect heartbreak, expect loss. He is no longer ours to contain. We will both be better for it.
And I want it to overwhelm, but you have to let it overwhelm you. You have to be brave and give yourself over to the unknown a little bit, you know?
What do you have to lose?