I just saw something that blew my mind. I’m a follower of Andrew WK. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan, having got off the train after I Get Wet, but I find Andrew WK the man to be endlessly fascinating. The endless is-it-real-or-is-it-staged debate for me has always been on the side, though. I know what Andrew WK is. I figured that out a long time ago, and I’m just here now cos I want to party. But what I saw is impossible to explain to anyone without a finely tuned sense of humour and experience in following Andrew WK. Here goes.
At the end of his weekly party chat, Andrew WK forgot to turn off the webcam and had a candid phone call with one of the group of people managing his every move. He was visibly upset, telling them repeatedly that he’d done all they’d asked him to do. He said that he’d done what they asked him to do about whatever came up today and that none of his fans cared about any of it anyway. What he was referring to was Steev Mike and the associated controversy about Andrew WK’s realness. It blew my mind because it is a perfect demonstration of the Idiot Filter in effect, and also hilarious.
The Idiot Filter is a term I first heard used by Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist of The Hives, referring to his band’s immaculate style. He said that people who get hung up on the suits his band wears are the kind of people he doesn’t want to buy their album. The kind of people he wants listening to The Hives are the people who listen to the music and find it appealing. And once I heard that term used, I began seeing its applications everywhere. The Hives play loud and fast punk music, but they don’t want punks who are only in it for fashion’s sake to listen to them. Those would be the idiots they’re filtering out.
In It Might Get Loud, Jack White explains the performance philosophy behind The White Stripes in such terms, without ever saying the exact phrase. After playing Son House’s “Grinnin’ In Your Face”, he talks about how The White Stripes have always had a very definite aesthetic: red white and black, peppermint candy, brother and sister band, childish behaviour almost to the point of being cartoon characters. He says that he did all of that with The White Stripes to distract from the fact that all they’re really trying to do is play “Grinnin’ In Your Face”. He did it so that no one would talk about them as if they were another white-boy blues band. It’s the Idiot Filter at play again.
So how does this apply to Andrew WK? Let’s see if we can examine his public persona in terms of the Idiot Filter. Andrew WK the songwriter has always been about one thing and one thing only: partying. If we were to examine his songs, we would see that all they are about is partying. This is not a lie. Read the titles to the songs on his first two albums. 95%? Partying. Now how is Andrew WK the songwriter/performer different from Andrew WK the public entity? This is where it gets interesting.
There have always been rumours floating about his head that he is a fictional character, constructed by a panel of music industry executives who go by the collective name of Steev Mike, credited as executive producer in the liner notes to his first album. Andrew WK is an actor hired to portray Andrew WK in public and in party chats designed to keep his fanbase interested. He has never been Andrew WK, there has never been an Andrew WK–Andrew WK is all a lie. It is a myth constructed by music industry executives to keep his fanbase buying CDs, buying fast food and buying buying buying.
All of this? And I will stake my reputation on this, but all of this is an utter fabrication–by Andrew WK himself. It’s an Idiot Filter. There are people who will listen to his music, find it appealing and follow Andrew WK wherever he goes because of it. These are the kind of people that this filter ignores. They don’t care about the conspiracy rumours because it’s separate from the music and separate from partying. The people who are caught by this, the people who don’t listen to the music because they think Andrew WK is a fabrication? Those are the exact kind of people who Andrew WK does not want attending his live shows. They would drag down the atmosphere of partying.
You know what else a successful Idiot Filter does? It drums up free press without having to have a massive audience. Andrew WK serves a niche quarter of society. His fanbase isn’t the kind that is accessible to everyone. It’s mostly college students, pro wrestling fans, Jackass fans and people who appreciate high-brow performance art to enable low-brow bubblegum metal. His fans are the kind to be enthusiastic about his music, but everyone else would likely ignore it. So, what better way to get people talking about you than to insist, vehemently, that you are not and have never been part of a vast corporate conspiracy and are in no way shape or form an actor or a fiction? Especially if those accusations never initially came from anywhere but yourself denying them.
Andrew WK tells his fans about people calling him fictional online, it’s a free write-up by some tool with a blog. All of a sudden, despite not having a hit song in ten years, everyone is talking about whether Andrew WK is real or not. News shows have him on as a guest because he’s always good for ratings for people hoping to catch him slipping. Deliver motivational speeches, but dedicate one spot on the tour to talking about how you’re an actor–and then deny it. This is a perfect demonstration of how to keep your name in the media, your music exclusive to your fans AND connecting to fans across a world-wide base of communications. Even if your fans aren’t the kind of people to hang out with other fans, they’ll know who you are because Fox News is wondering aloud whether you’re a corporate construction.
His music stands as his music, but his public persona is a deconstuction of the very lifestyle he writes songs about. It’s brilliant. Poetic, even. A fiction worthy of Alan Moore or George Orwell. And, most importantly, it keeps idiots from listening to your records.