Tenacious D: Jack White Is Willy Wonka

Tenacious D are ready for a post-apocalyptic Phoenix performance.EXPAND
Tenacious D are ready for a post-apocalyptic Phoenix performance.
Shane McCauley
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No one puts the mock in cock rock like Tenacious D.

But make no mistake, the combined wit of founders Jack Black and Kyle Gass never takes away from their delivery of blistering riffs and operatic vocals.

The duo met at an actors’ group in the ‘80s and worked together for over a decade before forming the band in 1994. Their demo, with songs like “Kyle Quit the Band” and “Tribute,” helped them nail down a short-lived — but beloved — show on HBO and enabled them to start capturing a base of fiercely loyal fans.

They’ve made both live-action and animated movies and have released four full-length recordings while continuing to be outspoken about things they believe in, like the legalization of weed and change through voting.

With their backing band that sometimes includes perky rock superstar Dave Grohl (not this time), the D are stopping in Phoenix on their Post-Apocalypto Tour and we got to chat about a few things, including what the show has in store for Phoenix-area fans.

Phoenix New Times: You’re out on the road melting faces. How is the tour going so far?

Kyle Gass: I think it’s the greatest tour ever. I just had some eggs Benedict and am feeling pretty good.

Jack Black: Yeah, if we’re going off my ego, I think it’s the best tour ever. And besides our egos, what do we have, really? Our egos are through the roof. We’ve basically been coming off the stage every night talking about how fantastic we just were.

So, you’re fortified by some breakfast and feeling good.

JB: Yeah. I’ve talked to some fans, and they concur about it being the best tour ever. Mostly, I just use my own pleasure to determine how it’s going, like "How much fun did I just have?"

KG: We have cracked the code on how to rock the hardest. Now, we just need to get the word out.

That’s what I’m working on over here.

KG: Right, you’re using the printing press.

I am. I’ve got the phone in one hand, and I’m cranking the press with the other.

(JB inserts some singing into the convo with a take on the classic “Video Killed the Radio Star,” singing his ad-libbed “Internet Killed the Printing Press Star,” to the original’s tune.)

What’s the lineup for this tour — usual band members? Anyone new or any surprises?

KG: It’s just Jack and me and then a bunch of hired guns. Except for the drummer, they’re the same guys we’ve always had. We had one drummer for a long time, but then he exploded, as drummers do, so we got another one, Scott, and he’s been around for almost as long as the first one, at this point.

JB: You get to see Kyle and me in the flesh, and that right there is the price of admission. I mean, basically, we could just go on stage and stand there, and people would be like, “Oh shit, this is really happening!” What we will do is deliver an hour-and-a-half of rock. Just last night, we each took a solo, and when we were done, I looked at Kyle and said, “What the fuck? How good is our band?”

The D have cited a variety of musical influences over the years. If you could share a stage with anyone — dead or alive — who would it be? I’m guessing Dio would be included.

KG: Dio would be fun, and Meat Loaf. Maybe John Goodman circa Blues Brothers 2000.

JB: Let me get this straight, you’re going John Goodman, Meat Loaf, Dave Grohl, and Dio – most of your band is still alive.

KG: Yep, that’s our name — Still Alive. Plus, I want to get that Journey singer from the Philippines. He’s got some real pipes.

JB: Kyle, man, what’s up with your dream band? Your dream band is real suspicious.

KG: Actually, I’d probably go with Joe Bonamassa.

JB: Okay, now he’s doing some real inside baseball stuff here. Joe Bonamassa is one of those musicians that only guitar aficionados know. Well, I want to start a band now called Joe BonaMONSTER.

You guys recently finished a 7-inch with Jack White for Record Store Day. Are you playing that live yet, or do you have to wait?

KG: We’re not playing it yet. We have to wait until, as they say in the music industry, the record drops. And then we’ll play it over and over, you know, to boost sales.

Did you have fun working with Jack?

KG: We did — he opened his home to us and fed us cheeseburgers. Have you ever read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?


KG: He’s Willy Wonka.

JB: In fact, he gave us everlasting cheeseburgers.

Oh, nice, so you’re still enjoying that as we speak?

JB: (Laughs) Yes, it’s still so good.

Another awesome thing about Tenacious D is that you have always used your musical superpowers for good, advocating for things like voting, endorsing political candidates, and legal weed. Let’s talk about your dreams for the upcoming election.

KG: Well, I’m thinking maybe Don Jr. can take the torch. Or maybe Ivanka, she seemed to know what she was doing on that Celebrity Apprentice show.

JB: That’s a real post-apocalyptic take you have there, Kage. Maybe you should see if Beelzebub would like to be Secretary of Defense. Seriously, here’s what we’d like to see — everyone voting. We’ll do everything we can to get people out to rock the vote. I believe that if we get everyone in the U.S. to vote, we’d have a much healthier democracy and get the right people into office. The only reason this happened is that not everyone voted, and we got the wrong guy up in there.

What’s next for Tenacious D after this tour?

KG: We’ve got a lot more touring we want to do, but we are finding it hard to move to the next project until after this election. We want to help fix this shit, and then we can go back to writing about other things we love. And we’ve got some top-secret stuff planned that we can’t tell you about.

JB: We just want people in the Phoenix area, or even as far as Sedona, to come and see Tenacious D at this show. Maybe that’s the reason we wrote the Rize of the Fenix record — because we fucking love Phoenix. Plus, we need to make money so Kyle can finally get that hot tub for his backyard. And getting back to the beginning of our chat, the show opens with a rock opera, and then we’ll get into some greatest hits, for those who want to know the run of the show.

Tenacious D are scheduled to perform on Wednesday, October 23, at Comerica Theatre. Tickets start at $75 via Live Nation.

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