Pin It
Andrew WK
Andrew W.K.Photography Nina Ottolino

Why Andrew W.K. loves watching slot machines & cigarette reviews on YouTube

The world’s hardest partier opens up about his online obsessions for our Faves series

Dazed Faves is the series where we talk all things online – that surreal meme account you’re obsessed with, weird conspiracy theory subreddits, ASMR YouTubes or slime Instagrams.

Andrew W.K.’s career has seen him pursue one noble goal: to party hard. In his world, partying is a way to uplift the human spirit, a path to self-actualisation.

Prior to the release of You’re Not Alone – Andrew W.K.’s first album of purebred rock’n’roll songs for over a decade, and one featuring some truly ridiculous technical musicianship befitting of the virtuoso – we sat down with the artist at his record label offices in London for our Faves series, which explores the online browsing habits of artists, musicians, and other creative individuals.

There’s a consistency and humanity in his choices – they all have a meditative pace and are focused on enthusiasts who broadcast their work on the internet not for money or fame, but simply because they enjoy it.

FAVE VLOGGER: @NICKTHESMOKER

Andrew W.K.: NickTheSmoker appears to be a relatively young man. He films himself doing reviews of cigarettes, which he smokes in front of you as part of the review. He’s often in what looks to be a workshop or shed, and I think sometimes it’s cold in there because you can see his breath, which mingles with the smoke. At other times he’s in his car – I actually prefer those ones, although they both have their own charms.

He’s quite low-key. His passion is subtle. If you’ve only watched one of his reviews, you’d almost think he was underwhelmed. Of course, over the course of watching many, you pick up that he’s quite enthusiastic by a slight raise in his voice, or an opening of his eyes a bit wider. These are the details that you, as a viewer, end up fixating and zeroing in on.

There’s something undeniably and almost mysteriously addictive about watching someone – or, to me specifically, this guy – talk about cigarettes. I have smoked before, and I really wish that at the time I was smoking I had access to NickTheSmoker, or someone as passionate as he is about smoking.

What I truly love most of all is that there’s no shred of guilt or regret or negativity about any of his reviews or about the act of smoking. I didn’t even realise that until just now. He seems completely at peace with it. I found that very enlightening. He seems like he wants to smoke as many different kinds (of cigarettes) as he can – not in a frenzied, obsessive way, but out of pure joy, and a kind of quiet joy.

FAVE YOUTUBE CHANNEL: @THEBIGPAYBACK

Andrew W.K.: The slot machine channel, TheBigPayback, is perhaps a nice comparison to NickTheSmoker because there is something that could be sinister about both slot machines and smoking. They often go hand-in-hand: one of the only places left in the United States where you can smoke is a casino, there’s an addictive and a self-destructive quality to both, and for me there’s a very palpable, gleaming allure to both of these things that I’m puzzled by.

When I found this guy, I found there was a consistency and a calm (to his videos). His tone is extremely passive, but very likeable. You really get sucked into the details. I love that he announces the game that he’s playing each time. There’s a game called ‘Wizard’s Fortune’, and he’ll say, (doing an impression) ‘This is Wiiizaaaard’s Forrrrrtuuuune, $10 max bet. Alright let’s hit it. Oh no. Oh no. Oh, there we go.’

He never gets really disappointed, he never gets really excited. I’ve seen him win quite a bit of money, and even then there wasn’t a manic quality to it. He takes a lot of breaks, (back into an impression) ‘I think we’ll call that a session.’ And you’ll see that the amount of money has not gone down, so you know he’s just stopped and sat there. I imagine he’s trying to manage the potential for negative consequences from his playing.

Very large teams of people put a huge amount of time and money into developing these (slot machines) to unfortunately subvert common sense, to ride that line between completely destroying someone and taking all that they have and leaving just enough so that they can give more the next time. There’s a lot of sadness in that, though I like those extremes. I’m not that big a gambler, but there’s something about that insane contrast of winning and losing everything (that I’m fascinated by). In a place like Las Vegas especially, there’s the most ornate, lavish constructions – and then complete desert, just emptiness, this void. There’s people at the height of frenzied emotion, and people in the deepest despair. It’s intense.

FAVE INSTAGRAM: @JULIEBELLARTIST

Andrew W.K.: Julie Bell did the artwork for my album with her husband, Boris Vallejo. She’s quite famous in the realm of fantasy art painters, so I was aware of her for years, as I was Boris Vallejo. And then I discovered they were married, which was quite amazing. That was all years ago – about 20 years ago, maybe even longer.

They did a painting for a heavy metal awards event that I hosted with Chris Jericho, the wrestler. The awards folks mentioned in passing, ‘By the way, look at this neat painting we had made for the advertisement about the event.’ And it was a painting of Chris Jericho and myself, and I recognised straight away: ‘Wait a minute, is this a Boris Vallejo?’ ‘Oh yeah, you know Boris Vallejo?’ To me, that was like Norman Rockwell had come out the grave and painted this – it was not something to be taken lightly. Julie also contributed to that painting. Through that, I got into contact with them. It wasn’t until many years later that I had an album and thought that this was the time to have them paint the cover.

I like Julie Bell’s Instagram because I like to see her process. You don’t always get to see that. Many artists aren’t comfortable sharing that and don’t find it beneficial for them or the viewer, and I understand that as well. I got to see her process personally at the studio, which I went to many times when I worked with them, but what’s different (about her Instagram) is that on this page, she’s choosing what to show you. It’s curated by her and styled by her, and so the whole page kind of counts as a painting, in a way. You get more of their spirit and you see how that spirit manifests not just on a canvas but on this other, computerised canvas.

FAVE TWITTER: HIS OWN

Andrew W.K.: I like Twitter because of the interaction. At this point, some version of interactivity seems to be present on every version of the internet – there’s a comment section, or some way to make your presence known or to see the presence of others – but on Twitter, this public forum-ness is something quite different. There’s not another space that humans seem to occupy that same way. Imagine if you were walking on the street and everyone was just yelling to each other – oftentimes with intense anger, as they seem to do on the computer.

I don’t use Twitter to share my thoughts – I use it to make statements that are quite blunt and hopefully fun. I make it quite impersonal in that way, and as a way of balancing that, I’ll get very personal with my interactions with someone. I used to think it was not a legitimate way to interact with a person, but how else can you talk in relative real-time to someone else on the other side of the world? Even if it could be considered second rate communication, it still counts as communication.

I’ve had interactions where people have reached out to me or said something to me that was completely stimulating and amazing. I was starstruck when Pee-wee Herman tweeted something about me – it felt as powerful as any other interaction I could have with him. And in a way, it was even more special because it existed on this space for others to see. It had a permanence to it, even though it wasn’t an object. I could see him take the time to write this thing, and I thought, ‘This really does count, because I’m getting a physical feeling from this.’

I feel very lucky that I’ve chosen to work in a style that is based on good vibes, and you tend to get good vibes in return. But I don’t take it for granted, it was a choice.

FAVE VIDEO: BACH ORGAN MUSIC

Andrew W.K: It’s funny when Bach comes up, because there’ll be questions: ‘Well, why Bach?’ Bach is the pinnacle of human musical composition – that doesn’t mean that everything else is second-rate, but I think it’s agreed upon that it doesn’t get any better than this.

(I like videos of Bach being played on organs because) the pipe organ is the largest instrument. It’s so unwieldy and so challenging in that you’re using both feet and both hands (to play it). It’s a lot to take in in a video. The accordion is very similar sounding, and all packed into this small space. It’s just remarkable.

With this video in particular, there’s a novelty that they’ve taken this enormous instrument and enormous piece – I think you need four hands to play it – and are really nailing all the parts. Every voicing is in there, every throughline of melody is represented. Because you are opening and closing the accordion to breathe, this piece would be even more challenging than on a piano – and that piece is about as hard as you can get on piano! I haven’t even attempted it, because you have to represent this bassline the entire time and get up to these three or four-voiced parts with the other hands while not letting that bassline fall apart. That’s why I’m just marvelling again at this. A lot of these accordion players are quite young, and it’s a display of virtuosity. It’s fun. You really can appreciate a great composer’s work when it works across all these different instruments.

Andrew W.K.’s You’re Not Alone is out March 2