I recently interviewed Tenacious D for the Georgia Straight while they were backstage at The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. You can read the article here on Straight.com. Below is the full transcript of our chat…
Hey how you guys doing?
Jack Black: Good. You in Georgia?
No I’m in Vancouver right now, actually.
Jack Black: Ohhhhhhhhh, right.
Close though! Where are you guys right now?
Jack Black: We are in the Leno backstage area.
Oh, that’s interesting. What’s going on there?
Jack Black: We’re gonna go on. We’re the musical guest tonight.
Fuckin’ A. Well let’s get down to it. “When the Pick of Destiny was released it was a bomb. And all the critics said that the D was done” is how the title track off your latest album begins. Were you done?
Jack Black: No. We were not done but we knew that everyone else had written us off. It’s like Apollo Creed or Rocky Balboa. We knew all we had to do was to get back into training and that’s what we did. We went and bought a cabin in the snow, near the Himalayas, and just focussed on our craft.
Will history vindicate Pick of Destiny?
Jack Black: We’re hoping that the powerful blowback from this album will actually ignite the old copies of Pick of Destiny as well. It is an undiscovered masterpiece.
A comeback is totally rock ‘n’ roll. It’s like a pillar of rock ‘n’ roll. Where does Tenacious D’s comeback rank in the lore of rock history?
Kevin Gass: I’m gonna say it’s at or near the top.
Jack Black: When you think about comebacks, you gotta put it up there with AC/DC. Right before Back in Black, when you thought “oh they’re done. They lost their lead singer.” Nah, they were about to put out the greatest rock album of all time, Back in Black. Same thing was said about the D. They said the D was done, they belly-flopped. Nope, here comes Rize of the Fenix. It’s gonna blow your dicks off.
That’s a good segue, I can’t help but notice there’s a giant cock on the cover of your new album.
Kevin Gass: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Really? Cuz to me look like a giant, engorged, hog with a beak, eyes and wings drawn on it.
Jack Black: That is not the case at all. It is a winged beast of myth, known as the fiery phoenix. It symbolizes redemption and is the ultimate comeback beast.
Still on the idea of cocks: Are cocks the ultimate symbol of rock ‘n’ roll!
Jack Black: I guess, in a way.
Kevin Gass: It rhymes with rock!
Yes, it does!
Jack Black: Rock does bring to mind a certain machismo. Your favourite way for a cock to be would be rock hard. Rock hard. Hard rock. Cock. Yeah, it’s all there.
Kevin Gass: We liken our music to having an orgasm.
Jack Black: We like to say that we provide the eargasms… for this generation of rockers.
I remember from your HBO show that you always had great introductions before hitting the stage. How are being introduced these days?
Jack Black: No one. Nothing. Dry. We just come out, we dry hump you for the first 20 minutes and then, before you know it, we’re just swimming in it. You’re soaking in it.
When would you recommend people throw on Rise of the Fenix? What’s the ideal mindset to be in when listening to the album?
Kevin Gass: I say maybe have some herbal tea. Maybe light some incense. Or, just get on the treadmill and start working out really hard.
Jack Black: Dim the lights, light some candles, a nice glass of merlot…
Kevin Gass: Maybe have your lady put on some sexy lingerie.
Jack Black: Put on some headphones and just start fiddling with your mischief. That’s the best way to enjoy the D.
Is balancing the rocking and laughing difficult for you guys? Like, are you ever worried that something is too funny and then you have to take it down a notch.
Kevin Gass: Fuck ya, so many times it’s been too funny and we’re like “oh, that won’t work.” No. No.
Jack Black: There is a theory that I have with comedy. If it crosses the comedy barrier and goes too funny, it will fail, commercially.
Kevin Gass: Wow!
Can you give me an example of that?
Jack Black: There was a movie recently that was called MacGruber. It was so painfully funny that it stopped being funny. It was so funny people couldn’t compute it. It’s like a dog whistle, when the note goes so high you can’t hear it anymore.
Kevin Gass: It’s like the speed of light. You slow down you’re going so fast.
Jack Black: Exactly. What’s another example of a movie that was too funny?
Kevin Gass: The Core?
Jack Black: The Core wasn’t supposed to be funny.
Kevin Gass: Oh, okay.
Why is right now a good time for comedic music. I listen to your album and I listen to the Lonely Island album. They’re both incredibly well produced. My god, you’ve got Dave Grohl drumming on your album.
Jack Black: It’s a renaissance. When we first came out we were the only game in town. It was just Tenacious D and nothing else in the comedy music world. Now you got your Lonely Island, you got your Flight of the Conchords. It’s getting thick out there.
Do you feel you laid the groundwork for all of these bands?
Jack Black: Oh, absolutely. Please! Although the groundwork for us had been laid by Spinal Tap. We definitely owe a great debt to them.
Is it correct that you guys are currently at the top of the U.K. charts?
Kevin Gass: Yes.
Why is it taking the rest of the planet so long to hop onboard?
Jack Black: The U.K. has always been one step ahead in the rock world. They brought us the Beatles. So they recognize true greatness when it laps up against their ivory shores.
What does someone like Dave Grohl get out of working with Tenacious D?
Kevin Gass: What does Dave get out of it? Indie cred, I guess.
Jack Black: You’d have to ask Dave. We have no idea why we’re so lucky to have him as our thunder bringer.
I’m glad you brought up the notion of indie cred. It comes up in your song “They Fucked Our Asses” and, Jack, you brought it up before introducing the Foo Fighters at the Grammys. Is indie cred something that’s important to you? Or do you feel it’s important?
Jack Black: I think that it’s a funny concept that there’s such a thing as indie credentials that you can build up and have a certain amount of them, like a currency. Do I think it’s important to have it? I guess so, yeah. I do like it. An example of someone who has the most indie cred of all is Tom Waits. He’s 100% indie cred. But he also has a tremendous amount of success. He can go to any town and sell out a huge venue with very short notice. So that’s the fine line. You want your indie creds but you also want to have an audience… Jay Leno’s coming in the room.
Booming voice: The greatest band in the history of the universe! The greatest band I’ve ever heard. That’s Jay Leno, popular late night talk show host. Fantastic song you guys. Who is that?
Jack Black: This is a dude from Vancouver.
Booming voice: Hi dude from Vancouver?
Who am I talking to?
Booming voice: I’m Jay.
I don’t believe it.
Booming voice: Oh okay, I guess we’re screwed then. They’re in the Tonight Show dressing room, doing an interview. My dressing room is four feet away. What are the odds it would be me?
Jack Black: You don’t have to prove it to him.
Okay, I’ll buy it.
Jay Leno: Apparently the visual medium of television has not reached Canada so we must talk through phone lines. Is this radio or print?
This would be print. I’m not articulate enough for radio or pretty enough for TV.
Jay Leno: The live song ["Low Hangin' Fruit"], it’s a great song. Did you guys write that song?
Jack Black: Yeah, of course. We write all our songs. What do you think we are…
Jay Leno: It’s a great song
Jack Black: Thank you
Jay Leno: I’ll let you talk. I will see you later man from Canada!
Thank you Jay Leno.
Jay Leno: Goodbye my friend.
Goodbye my friend… Well that was interesting.
Jack Black: You don’t get a lot of celebrity cameos in your interviews, do you?
Not sure how I’m gonna work that into the piece.
Jack Black: Did you notice we give a shout out to Jay Leno on the album on “Hollywood Jack and Rage Cage?”
That song kind of pokes fun at the idea of Jack Black the big Hollywood celebrity and then KG who’s not so much. I was wondering if that’s ever been a source of tension in the group?
Kevin Gass: I don’t know if it’s tension in the group but it, essentially, drove me insane, I think. That song is pretty accurate. Jack did have to rescue me. It happens. The album is kind of a comeback for our relationship. It’s never felt better.
You speak of leaving The Arcade Fire in the fucking dust with your album. Do you feel you did this?
Jack Black: Did we leave the Arcade Fire in the dust? It’s not really for us to say. It’s for the historians 100 years from now. The Arcade Fire, we’re huge fans of theirs. They know if we’re measuring ourselves against them, that’s the highest compliment we can pay them. The fact that we’re jealous of their powers, that’s about the sweetest thing you can say. I’d be much more worried about what Axl Rose will say when he hears the album. But that’s another story for another magazine.
Moving on to another song on the album, “The Roadie”. What qualities do you look for in a roadie these days?
Jack Black: You need a trustworthy technician, first and foremost. But you also need someone who will take a bullet for the D. Someone who lives and breathes D oxygen and blood… Sorry, I know I promised I wasn’t gonna rip another one but I just ripped another juicy one.
Kevin Gass: It’s good if they pretend really well that they like our music.
Jack Black: They’re really stinky today. Did you notice that? I’ve got a bad case of the arty fatties.
Well, I’m glad this isn’t in person then.
Jack Black: Listen man, we’re coming to Vancouver. We’re going to blow the lid off the joint. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen us before, but we came to Vancouver before and it was one of the great shows in your country’s history. We’re coming again and I know Jack White is playing the same night as us. But, i’ve been told, Jack White goes on at 1 a.m. What you should do, if you’re in the know, is come see the D and then go across town and see Jack White afterwards. That’s the way to go. We’re much better than Jack White.
Thank you for talking to me guys. I look forward to seeing your show first, then going to see Jack White at 1am.
Jack Black: That’s the way to do it. One other thing. If you do come to see our show in Vancouver, guaranteed full-release happy ending.