"Destroy Build Destroy"

From the start of the ’00s, musician and motivational speaker Andrew W.K. has been jumping around the planet promoting the benefits of partying the human heart out. So relentless is his dedication that he’s been consulted on the topic by entertainment zeitgeisters like Jackass, Conan O’Brien, and The Daily Show. His music and modus operandi were forever immortalized—in one of the first crossovers of then-nascent youth culture with the summer blockbuster—in Old School. As the decade closes out, 2009 finds Andrew W.K. overseeing one of the best major nightclubs in New York City, Santos Party House, a brand new record label, and…a new kids gameshow on Cartoon Network that entails firing bazookas and setting off enough C4 to make John McClane grind a roll of Tums.

Entitled Destroy Build Destroy, Andrew W.K. serves as a white-denim ringmaster on episodes pitting two demolition squads of barely-teens. Last weekend’s premiere saw a team of Mathletes take on a team of Skaters. Pass the safety goggles and get your awkward on. The show’s grandiose objective is to build massive machinery and Road Warrior-esque makeshift vehicles, throw down the gauntlet on a bizarre stunt course, and then blow up the losing team’s creation. Big time. As we discuss below, the show plays like Michael Bay 101, utilizing military tanks and firearms in a novel—arguably thought-provoking—positive means to an end. If you’ve never read an interview with Andrew W.K., caution: you may find yourself hypnotized by his “punk rock feng shui” philosophy, as if lost amongst flowing robes accented by a stream of signature blood in the name of fun.

Hunter Stephenson: Andrew, what do you make of the critics who already say that your show, Destroy Build Destroy, will lead to a kid being accidentally blown up?

Andrew W.K.: Well, that’s certainly always a concern when you’re presenting potentially hazardous situations to anybody. This could be a show about senior citizens and I’m sure there would almost be as much concern about them injuring themselves. Whenever you’re venturing into the exciting part of the world and want to present it, there tends to be risk there. But, I always have a lot confidence in the intelligence of young people to be safe, to do what they want to do. Just because there is someone out there who might end up hurting themselves doesn’t mean that everyone else needs to have all that excitement taken away. That’s how I’ve been thinking of it…

That first question was…well that was a very deep answer. I mean, it’s Cartoon Network. For insurance purposes they’re not going to…

Andrew W.K.: Well, in terms of influencing young people out there in a way that might cause them harm, I totally disagree [with critics]. I think that it’s evident that we’re working at a very high level on the show. I just don’t really see any kids having access to Russian military tanks or bazookas, or C-4 explosives outside of the show. I mean…

At least in America…[laughs]

Andrew W.K.: [laughs] Yeah. Exactly. At least in America. [laughs] Well said; at least right now. I mean, may be there will be a day when a kid can go buy those things at Wal-Mart. I really like the idea that these explosions are Hollywood-style explosions. We’re really making them like how somebody makes a sculpture or a painting. The explosions on the show are beautifully calculated and well-designed experiences, and we’re going all out to create them.

"Destroy Build Destroy"

Right. And when I was first told about the show, I thought that it would be great if you had Hollywood directors on who are known for explosions. I mean, this seems like Michael Bay 101; it’s like building blocks to me.

Andrew W.K.: Well, you know. Wow. That’s a great idea. I mean, Hollywood is relatively new territory for me, so I am interested in that and totally up for it, and ready to go. The atmosphere of a movie set, a TV set, that is as exciting as it gets. There’s so much teamwork going on, the adrenaline level is extremely high, the focus-level is extremely high. It’s exhilarating. Everyone is working together to make an experience happen, not a physical object. And you know, we’re building things on the show that don’t exist outside of it, that only exist within it. We’re building vehicles and machinery that—don’t get me wrong—are very legitimate, and they’re used in competition. It’s all wielded steel, and these vehicles have to be heavy-duty to survive and make it through the show. And, in the end, the losing team gets their vehicle blown up again. It’s a final destructive moment. They’re wiped off the map after 10-hours of work. And this show is dealing with, you know, very exciting and very fun moments, but we’re always grappling with very primal levels of existence: like life and death and creation and destruction and appreciating the journey and the destination…

Let’s talk about the philosophy behind the show’s title. It has a punk rock ethos to it. When I first heard the title, it reminded me of, oddly enough, of the back tattoo of Gavin McInnes (Street Carnage Films, original founder of VICE Magazine), which reads “Destruction Creates.”

Andrew W.K.: Wow. You know, I remember when Gavin was getting that tattoo, and I’ve seen it in different stages. It probably is the craziest tattoo I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing on so many levels. And there you go: he’s talking about these same elemental forces as well. There is something very punk rock about the title because it’s about embracing both the creative and the destructive processes. Both the tattoo and the show are about realizing that these processes are more similar than they are different. The show’s title was created by producer Dan Taberski. And in a synchronicity, I worked with Dan before when he used to write for The Daily Show. He produced a segment about partying that I was involved in. And you know, when I’m on stage performing, and I feel like I’m going to die because I’ve been flailing around for 45 minutes, screaming my head off. I don’t realize that I’m dealing with the fundamental aspects of life, I’m dealing with a microphone and my body. But I hope that when kids look back on the show, especially when they get older, they appreciate the show and how unique it was; and how it was dealing with these very big aspects of life.

That’s interesting, because you often tour as a motivational speaker. And it seems like you promote P.M.A. or “positive mental attitude,” like the Bad Brains song

Andrew W.K.: See, I know what you’re talking about, and I like the song, but I don’t view it like that. There is no option to me, to think negative or positive. That’s a very stressful way of thinking for me. I view it more as doing what you want to do, and doing what you want to do is inherently positive. I even think that happy/sad, good/evil, those balances are important, and all of these dichotomies are contained in a good vibe. We have to have a whole range of emotions to appreciate life. We need contrast; we need opposites, so that we can fathom what they the opposites would be. To think opposite is unnatural. We have to listen to that voice inside in our mind, our head, that’s telling us what to do. If that voice tells us not to be happy, ultimately, you’re going to be happy because you’re following your will.

"Destroy Build Destroy"

Okay, so Andrew W.K., after saying that, I have to wonder: do you use emoticons?

Andrew W.K.: You mean, to express different moods on the computer? I love those little smiley faces, those are fun.

Back to Destroy Build Destroy. This is a very unusual show to me; on one hand it plays like an early ‘90s adventure-show on Nicklodeon, but then it’s also kind of cathartic for the times. Post-9/11, you’re taking the experience of using weapons, missiles, and massive explosives to create healthy competition with the youth…

Andrew W.K.: I’m glad you view it like that because that’s how I see it. The least exciting part of an explosion is how it can hurt another living person. We are creating an environment where the entire point of creating explosions is to create fun and happiness, and then people take that fun and happy state and have positive effects throughout life. I mean, that is the greatest thing we can do as human beings with a violent event. Like you said, some of the more recent, unfortunate events involving explosions confirm how important it is that we do this. I mean, it’s just like how we can be the most peace-loving hippies in the world and wear army jackets. Right now, we are the ones who get to decide what these things mean and how they’re used. We get to take power over these things. We have control over them in a way that makes us happy, and also in a way that has a peaceful impact. That’s amazing. I hope that one day, the only explosions that happen on the face of the Earth happen on TV and on movie sets. I told The Wall Street Journal this the other day. I should tell you that out of respect. We always see lots of explosions and military tanks on TV, but we never see them used on a children’s game show. We use 5,000 foot mushroom clouds in a new way. [laughs]

This is a random, but after watching the screener, I have to ask: Have you ever been a babysitter? It seems like you would be the ideal dude babysitter for kids…

Andrew W.K.: Well, most of my friends, we all babysat, between the ages of 12-15. But I stopped babysitting right before I went to high school in Ann Arbor [Michigan]. It was always intense, I enjoyed it, and I could see myself babysitting now, but it is a pretty wild thing when you think about it. If I had kids, I don’t know that I would let a 15-year-old version of me take care of them. That seems a little crazy. [laughs] Maybe times are changing, I don’t know. When you make a baby, that becomes a new level of “cherishable.” [laughs]

As a nightlife kingpin of sorts in New York, what movies about clubs, nightlife, or related cultural movements do you like? For example, there are movies like Party Monster and, um, 54 for New York [laughs, bad examples] and then there are movies like 24 Hour Party People

Andrew W.K.: Yeah, I saw 24 Hour Party People, and that was amazing; I couldn’t relate to it directly, because it happened before my time and that scene happened in England, but I certainly appreciated it. But I think there are always breakthroughs happening like that, and it’s just a matter of who is around to join and participate in them. That is always going on.

"Destroy Build Destroy"

Over this decade, you have had a very profound contribution to youths partying. Are there any movies that you like that have captured the ideal spirit of a party as you envision it? Obviously your music was used in Old School, and of course, in that old Tom Green classic Stealing Harvard

Andrew W.K.: Wow. I am very pleased to have my music used in any scene, and my music ["Fun Night"] being used in Old School was a huge honor; I love that movie, I love those performers. To me, music in movies is such a beautiful match, because music is often like a movie in itself; you’re almost creating a whole new movie within the movie because there is so much to imagine. You can blow peoples’ minds. There are many ways to watch a movie, and Martin Scorsese, you know, he thinks a lot about what goes into making a movie, but he also seems able to separate from that and have fun, so that it’s not all analytical. It’s the best experience when you suspend belief and you say that, no, this is a real thing that’s happening and I’m going to believe in it. But wait. Because when you see an actor on screen, you start to think: what was it like for him to go to work every day to do this? And what was he thinking about as he was performing in this role? And what is it like for him to watch himself, and will he even watch himself? And this is why our culture is so infatuated with the movie industry.

I’m not sure if you saw this. I’m not really a fan of MTV, but they just recommended you for the part of Uncle Jesse in the proposed feature film adaptation of Full House. I thought it was actually an inspired choice and was wondering about your thoughts? Would you consider this hypothetical, because it’s a film that is slowly moving forward?

Andrew W.K.: Well, you know, Uncle Jesse had a great vibe. And you know, Danny, the dad [Bob Saget], he had a very focused, very reasoned, very well-adjusted vibe. He was the dad to everybody in a way. And then Joey, Dave Coulier’s character, he was a real wildcard; but Uncle Jesse was like the older brother, he was like how I’d like to be when I grew up. So, wow! That’s such an honor. I haven’t heard about that! Wow, so is this really happening? I mean, you guys are connected into the movie world. Can you put a good word out there?

[laughs] Well, I mean John Stamos is trying to get it together. Um, he’s got pull. [laughs] Would you like to put yourself out there? Say it right now…

Andrew W.K.: Okay. I want to be Uncle Jesse.

That’s it? [laughs] That’s your pitch?

Andrew W.K.: Well, I watched that show quite a bit, and I really enjoyed it. And I think that sometimes…I mean, he had long hair and he wanted people to feel good. And so do I. And he had a good spirit and he didn’t wish anybody any harm, and he was very comfortable with that role of just having a cool vibe. And he’s a great Elvis impersonator…I need to work on that.

Destroy Build Destroy airs every Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network. Andrew W.K. can be found on MySpace, on Twitter, and at 212-714-4646. His music venue in New York City, Santos Party House, is hosting events by [adult swim] all summer long. For more info: here. He also just released a new mixtape, entitled DAMN!: The Mixtape, which features a killer remix of Gary Glitter’s “The Clapping Song” and recommended jams by one of his latest signees, Bad Brilliance.

Hunter Stephenson can be reached at h.attila[at]gmail.com and on Twitter. After all that, this sentence is lonely.

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

.

Please Recommend /Film on Facebook

blog comments powered by Disqus