When Andrew W.K. was a child, a psychiatrist diagnosed him as having a "devilish side." Considering how excited he sounds to be blowing stuff up on his new Cartoon Network game show, Destroy Build Destroy, that devilishness is chronic.
W.K. hosts the show, in which two teams of teen-agers destroy a vehicle, build a machine out of the wreckage, and pit their creations against each other. The winners then get to destroy the losing team's invention with explosives. "It's about that ability to let go and still really enjoy the experience," W.K explains from his Sunset Boulevard hotel room. "A lot of times, [the kids] are disappointed, seeing all that hard work go up in flames, but there's also a cathartic aspect to it."
It seems appropriate that W.K. is going directly from working with pyrotechnically inclined teens to playing for them while headlining Vans Warped Tour this summer. The nationally touring music festival has been drawing teen-age skate punks out of the malls since 1995. In addition to Andrew W.K., the First Niagara Pavilion date features more than 60 bands, including Dillinger Escape Plan and Motion City Soundtrack. "We weren't expecting to be asked. It's just a no-brainer. It brings with it so much opportunity," W.K. says. "I'm really excited to find out about new groups. When I'm there, I'm always hoping for that moment of revelation when music just hits you exactly how you want and blows your mind."
Offstage, W.K has kept busy: producing Lee "Scratch" Perry's 2008 album Repentance; recording 55 Cadillac (a collection of solo piano improvisations); collaborating with Thurston Moore and To Live and Shave in LA; starting his own record label (Skyscraper Music Maker); and appearing on the surreal Fox News program Red Eye.
Earlier this year, he released a double CD, Close Calls with Brick Walls / Mother of Mankind, but it was a song he'd recorded as a teen that received a lot of attention. "My Destiny," written about his then-crush, includes lyrics creepy enough to get young W.K. a juvenile restraining order. He posted the song and its embarrassing story on the Guardian's music blog, where it became the third most-popular story on the British newspaper's site.
W.K. recalls, "I was like, 'Holy smokes, maybe I shouldn't have done this.' But also there was this feeling that I have nothing to hide. And there is this amazing sense of release -- this big weight off your shoulders that something so embarrassing is out there, and it's really not that bad after all." Teens, take heed.
Vans Warped Tour. 11 a.m., Wed. July 7. First Niagara Pavilion, Burgettstown. $30. 724-947-7400
- Man of destiny: Andrew W.K.