By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Brian Palmer
No one was very surprised when Tenacious D -- the duo composed of vocalist/guitarist Jack Black and guitarist/backing vocalist Kyle Gass -- finally made it big. It was clear early on that the D had something special, even if the meager audiences that showed up for weekly open-mike appearances at a Los Angeles club at first failed to recognize that.
Armed with nothing more than a pair of acoustic guitars and two microphones, the D experienced a kind of physical catharsis onstage, transporting audiences to that rarely traveled stylistic purgatory between Beethoven, Simon and Garfunkel, Whitesnake and the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar. Demonstrating an almost telepathic connection onstage, Black and Gass braved topics ranging from the martial arts ("With karate I kick your ass/From here to right over there . . . You broke the rules/Now I'll pull out all your pubic hair") to friendship ("Kyle Quit") to the pending retirement of Ronnie James Dio ("He has songs of wildebeests and angels/He has soared on the wings of a demon/You're too old to rock/No more rockin' for you"). Tenacious D's performances often left audiences so thoroughly shaken that they were too stunned to clap.
As HBO began documenting the band's ascension to stardom for a short-lived series, it not only chronicled the D's live performances, but it offered intimate glimpses into JB and KG's creative process, their friendship and their escapades. When an evil beast commanded the pair to produce the best song in the world, HBO's cameras were rolling, catching every moment of the miraculous event on film. And though the resulting tune was not the greatest song in the world (it was just a tribute), the encounter suggested the boys might be capable of channeling something even mightier than their own hefty selves.
Although its music has long been a staple for the Napster brigade, the duo only recently released its first album on Epic Records. Produced by the Dust Brothers, Tenacious D features cameos by Dave Grohl, Phish's Page McConnell, Warren Fitzgerald of the Vandals and Steve MacDonald from Red Kross. But this new fame hasn't changed Black or Gass: Though their HBO days are over, Black has remained humbly at work at his day job as a character actor, earning a cultish following for his spastically charming performances in High Fidelityand the lesser-seen but no less worthwhile Jesus' Son. Gass, meanwhile, has focused most of his attention on Tenacious D, an outfit that continues to live up to its self-proclaimed reputation as "the greatest band in the world."
New Times: I saw you play at CMJ last year, and you guys had one of the biggest buzzes of anyone who played.
Jack Black: Well, it wasn't all for us. At the Drive In was on that bill, too. But come to think of it, they broke up soon after that. Holy shit. I think we fucking broke them up. They saw what it was like to have to follow the D, and they immediately broke up.
Kyle Gass: We were the big buzz at SXSW last year, too. But after our show, some critic wrote this review where he said, "So, that was it?" I had some extra time the next day, so I called him. Set him straight. He was a prick. It's like, "Despite the fact that every person in the room seemed to be having a good time, the band was a bore."
JB:You can't sweat it, dude.
KG:I know. And it's like, well, there were so many artists that people loved, and the critics were always telling the public that it was wrong. That they actually sucked, despite their enjoyment. Look at Neil Diamond.
NT: What is with you guys and Neil Diamond? Half of your record was produced at his studio in Los Angeles. And you, Jack, were recently on VH1 talking about how much you admired him.
JB: Well, Tenacious D? That's what the D stands for. Well, not really. I think I'm the son he wishes he had. I guess his actual son is kind of a drag. But I'll tell you, if you intend to get to the bottom of my connection to Neil Diamond, you will get no further.
NT: Well, would you say the D is influenced by him?
KG:I think we are more influenced by the classics. And the Beatles. Who were, of course, contemporaries of Neil's.
JB: We might be more inclined to say that we were influenced by Barry Manilow.
KG: Who is a notorious pot smoker, and we can relate to that.
JB: Dude. Barry Manilow is not a fucking pot smoker. How can you even say this? Reveal your source!
KG: One of my friends used to be his driver. He said that every day when he'd drop Barry off or something, he'd check the ashtray and, sure enough, there would be fatties and all sorts of roaches and joints in there.
JB: Dude, that's because his passengers were blazing up. Not Manilow, dude. You fucking fuck.
KG:It makes sense if you think about it. Like, the "Copacabana"? Tell me that is not the work of a stoned man.