November 29, 2012


Andrew WK to State Department: "I Have All Kinds of Questions"

Michael Bezjian
Michael Bezjian

If all went as planned, rock star, motivational speaker and self-proclaimed (but probably true) "partiest man alive" Andrew WK would have been on a plane to Bahrain next week as a Cultural Ambassador for the United States State Department. Earlier this week, though, more than a year after the department originally invited him to the country, the trip was revoked, leaving the "Party Hard" star with many questions. He spoke to us from London about partying with the State Department, how far up the chain of command this went and why the Garden of Eden was the "first party that started it all."

So had this trip happened, what specifically would you have been doing as a "Cultural Ambassador"?

The way it was described to me by the State Department representative was that I would have been there to foster positive impressions about the United States and the culture of the western world. I was very excited, humbled and amazed that I was given this opportunity and taking it very, very much to heart. I understand that me going there might be seen somehow as offensive, but it seems to go against the very ideals of the United States to doubt themselves. It's not a very confident look. The whole spirit of America is being open-minded, inclusive and free, especially when it comes to culture and expression.

On a scale from "Biggest Bummer" to "Best Party Ever," where does this incident rank?

Well, I'm still partying, so this is a party despite how difficult it may be to believe at first. There is good stuff to be learned from this experience. It reminds me of how important it is for people to keep their promises. When you agree to do something, you don't change your mind at the last second. The outpouring of support from so many people, including those from the Middle East and Bahrain, has been extremely powerful, moving and unexpected.

Now that it's been canceled, I have all kinds of questions. The subject of the first email that we ever received about this from the State Department was "State Department-Sponsored Trip for Motivational Speech in Bahrain." They might have heard about my lectures more than my music. I wasn't going there to play a concert; I was going there to speak to students and to see the city itself. It was definitely more a cultural trip.

So let's say I'm the guy who canceled this trip. What would you ask me?

Why did you first invite me? Why did you change your mind? Why did you think it was okay to change your mind after you had already committed to something? What was "inappropriate" about me going? I want to know that. It almost seems like once people were interested in my trip, that's what inspired them to cancel it. But I'm trying to keep a very open mind and not take it personally or take it as a bad thing. For all I know, they were protecting me. Maybe it was a security issue and in my own best interest. But the whole situation is, we just don't know and haven't had our questions answered and have only been told, "It's not appropriate." That doesn't make any sense to me.

So are you going to join the Tea Party now? That's got "party" in it.

[Laughs] It's funny because someone joked that the State Department must have had their own crazy party one night and everyone got completely out of their heads when they came up with this idea. The next day, as they're sobering up, they realized they made a horrible mistake.

Maybe they were listening to you when it happened, making this whole thing ironic.

Yeah, they were rocking out to "Party Hard." But I don't think I'm alone in wishing that that type of unbridled enthusiasm and inspiration was present in the State Department or U.S. government in general.

What do you think an actual State Department party is like?

[Laughs] I doubt at this point I'll ever find out.

Have you seen V For Vendetta?

Yes, of course.

Are you planning any similar takeovers against the government?


Bahrain is known for two things: A possible spot for the Garden of Eden and the Guinness World Record for Largest Simultaneous Coin Toss. Which is more party?

Depending on how you look at it, none of us would be here and this conversation wouldn't be happening if the Garden of Eden didn't exist. And of course, the Middle East is the origin of civilization. Bahrain was at one point part of Iran and the birth of binary, spiritual concepts were created in this amazing land. So I think the Garden of Eden is as party as you get. That was the first party that started it all.

What Guinness record would you have wanted to set when you were there?

I think I'd be the person who said the word "Party" the most ever in Bahrain. It's a very party place.

Do you ever wonder how far up the chain of command this went? I'm picturing the War Room in Dr. Strangelove debating "Party Til You Puke" versus "Party Party Party."

My gut instinct is that someone very high up—possibly even higher up than the State Department—saw that this was about to happen and that people were interested in it, which was the entire point of a cultural ambassadorship, but canceled it thinking it would all go away and didn't quite realize that this was a bigger deal than they thought. As much as I'm not in politics, I do have friends and have appeared on enough news shows that these worlds cross over sometimes, and apparently this was debated at higher levels than I would have ever expected. The whole thing seems like some kind of dream.

Does this make you more or less inclined to enter politics?

Part of the political world is centered on insanity and I have enough of that to entertain the idea, but I don't know if I'm completely insane enough yet to ever go full into it. I feel pretty confident that the best work I can do is done through things that have very little to do with politics.

What's the status of the situation now? Are you going to continue to fight this?

I'm not fighting anything. After the press conference that the State Department had on Monday, they explained things very differently than what we thought. I just want to tell people what really happened and stand up for myself and express my confusion and disappointment, but also to reconfirm my dedication to partying and that this doesn't get us down. It just makes us party harder than ever.

So the ideal ending is for the State Department to reinstate the trip?

That would be incredible and I would be truly blown away and moved and appreciative if they did that. But even an explanation would suffice. I don't really care about an apology. There's a lot of folks out there that would like to understand what's happening. It's not so much about me; it's about making a promise and then breaking it and this country, which is supposed to be so confident, why that wasn't acceptable.

You could almost argue that if your pursuit of happiness is partying, they've denied you an inalienable right.

I agree! They tried to deny it and the beauty is they can try to stop the party, but the party rages on with even more passion than ever before.