See more photos in Shannon Cottrell's slideshow, “Andrew W.K. on the Set of Destroy Build Destroy.”
Throughout April and the earliest part of May, New York-based musician Andrew W.K. was stationed in Los Angeles. During this time, he played a few shows, including his own birthday extravaganza at Check Yo Ponytail, and went to work on a new album, which he says he anticipates will be finished by August. However, he spent most of his time filming new episodes of his kid-friendly game show, Destroy Build Destroy. We were invited to the set to check out some destruction and interview and photograph W.K.
It was a warm and windy morning in April when we visited Agua Dulce Movie Ranch, where Andrew W.K. and company had been filming new episodes of the Cartoon Network game show Destroy Build Destroy. A crane held buckets of Easter egg-colored paint high above a truck covered in TV show graffiti. The crane tilted and the buckets of paint fell, crashing right through the middle of the vehicle, leaving the body of the truck broken beyond repair and covered in pastel paint splatter patterns.
“We've never had a paint destruction quite like that,” said W.K. when we met up in front of his trailer. “We've definitely had gloopy, disgusting, messy stuff go on with the show, but never paint used as a force of destruction quite like that. I enjoyed it.”
Destroy Build Destroy, which begins its third season on June 1, is part of Cartoon Network's live action programming geared towards older children. Each episode features two teams with three members, most of whom are in their pre-teens or early teens, with descriptive names like “Math Club” or “Jersey Boys.” Contestants work with professionals to build a variety projects, previous episodes have featured everything from air canons to trash compactors. If you win, congratulations. If you lose, well, your project will be destroyed.
If we were middle schoolers, we would probably be vying for a spot on Destroy Build Destroy. You and your friends get to completely devastate a vehicle that you're not even old enough to drive. Then you get to build something new. If you win, you can obliterate the competition's project. That alone makes it game show gold. For W.K., though, the series, like much of his work, has a kind of philosophical angle to it.
“The spirit of this show is very true,” said W.K. “It's a sense of possibility, a sense of, I guess, grappling with what I think of as real, elemental parts of life, that anything you build involves destruction.”
On the set of Destroy Build Destroy, destruction can be a beautiful thing. We watched a truck explode from a safe distance with the fire department close at hand. It looked like the sun for a brief second, before dissolving into smoke and then, simply, a metal shell with a small, contained flame burning out inside the former vehicle.
“I also love the fact that we're using, really, weapons and explosives and all kinds of very dangerous materials purely for fun, purely for joy,” said W.K. “One of my dreams is that someday every weapon on the face of the earth will be put into this show and only used for entertainment purposes. No killing and shooting, just Hollywood-style special effects.”
We placed ourselves into our sixth grade Chuck Taylors once again and thought, if we were young and wanted to be on game show, W.K. is the person we would want hosting it. He's a rocker and a party preacher who has taken the persona presented in songs like “Party Hard,” “Party til You Puke” and “Long Live the Party,” and used it to impart some valuable life lessons. We write that without any sense of irony. If you follow him on Twitter, and you really should, you are privy to messages like the following:
“Partying has been scientifically shown to unblock the mind. When you're not thinking about bullshit, life is better.” (May 21)
“I'm here for you. We won't be stopped. No matter how intense things get, we'll party through and triumph in our joy. I promise.” (May 13)
“If we didn't listen to our fears, how much partier would our lives be? Way, way, way partier. It's time to GO FOR MORE.” (May 12)
Andrew W.K. isn't like other adults.
“I'll ask [the contestants] if you think of me as a grown-up, like I'll point to someone else on the show, and they'll say, 'No, you're more like a big kid. You're like us, but a little older.'” said W.K. “Then I think, good, I'm doing the right thing.”
There are a lot of things that W.K. loves about heading out to Los Angeles for a month or so at a time to film new episodes of the popular series. He mentions the trailer, the catering, even the morning commute from Hollywood to the outskirts of Santa Clarita (“They're all going the opposite way, so I don't have to sit in traffic.”).
What he said he loves the most about the show, though, are the contestants. W.K. said that he tries not to meet the members before filming begins so that they can “keep that excitement really for when the cameras are rolling.”
“I don't even think about them as kids, they're my people for the day and all my energy goes into them,” said W.K., noting that the contestants have been “handpicked, not just for their intelligence or how good they are on camera, but for this type of enthusiasm and open-mindedness.”
The TV host recalled something that his mom had said when he was around the same age as the contestants.
“I guess 11, 12, 13, right before you start to become what people would call a young adult, I guess, it's like the peak of being a kid, the peak of being a young person, where there's no hesitation. There's not a lot of self-conciousness or shyness.”
It's that invincibility that people feel at an age right before the chorus of “No, you can't do that” takes its toll that attracts W.K. to the show.
“You feel like you can take on the world and that's how those kids come in here, they seem completely full of themselves in the best way, in the absolute best way, before that doubt starts to set in,” he said. “There's plenty of time for that in the rest of your life.”
For W.K., who is an admitted longtime fan of game show hosts and who has made a career out of consistently taking on new challenges, Destroy Build Destroy has been the perfect TV outlet for him.
“This is really a dream come true for me, the young person that still exists in me,” he said. “At some point, as you're growing up, you have this choice to sort of abandon that part of you, or that side of you or those dreams, but I think I've been very lucky to get to make a lot of my childhood dreams come true and stay very close to that version of myself. “
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