As Tenacious D, Jack Black, left, and Kyle Gass have gone all out on "Rize of the Fenix," which was nominated for a Grammy.
By Scott Mervis Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Like Jack White, Jack Black was also a Grammy loser earlier this month.
His hard-rock/metal band Tenacious D, with Kyle Gass, went down fighting in the best comedy album category to Jimmy Fallon, who had some ringers on his record: Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder, to name a few. The members of Tenacious D -- Mr. Black and Mr. Gass, aka Kage -- believe they deserved better, like maybe the album of the year Grammy.
"Rize of the Fenix" is the third entry in the Tenacious D catalog, and, as the title suggests, it's a comeback effort on the heels of 2004's "The Pick of Destiny" album/movie, which is self-described right on the first track of "Fenix" as a "bomb."
The new album, which features drum god Dave Grohl on all but one track, was the best-selling comedy record of 2012 and has drawn mixed-to-favorable reviews, plus the Grammy nom. To promote it, the D, which goes back to the early '90s -- long before Mr. Black had his breakout role in "High Fidelity" -- is now out on an acoustic tour.
Planned for later this year is Festival Supreme, a comedy rock showcase in Santa Monica with Flight of the Conchords, Zach Galifianakis, Tim Minchin, Eric Idle and more.
In a recent discussion with the duo, the "School of Rock" star gets on the line first.
PG: Should we wait for Kyle?
Jack: Uh, no. We should start digging deep.
So you are bringing the rock to Pittsburgh. Have either of you set forth in Pittsburgh?
Jack: Of course, I have. Talkin' 'bout The Greasy O. ... Is it called The Greasy O?
PG: The Dirty O.
Jack: Right, I have been exposed. I knew it was the Dirty O, but it's been many years. What was I doing in Pittsburgh? I was working in Pittsburgh. I don't remember what movie it was. Man, this is not a good way to say, "Yeah. I've been to Pittsburgh." Can't remember a damn thing about it besides the Dirty O.
PG: It's the best thing we have, so it's cool.
Jack: I don't have much history with the Pittsburgh. [Kyle comes on.] Kage, have we ever been to Pittsburgh?
Kyle: We've been to Pittsburgh. Yes.
Jack: When did we play there?
Kyle: I don't know. The Flashdance Tour? I don't know.
Jack: All right, there you have it. Kyle remembers it like it was ... 300 years ago. [Tenacious did play an X-Fest in Burgettstown in 2002.]
So, let's start with the Grammys. Do you even belong in the same category as Jimmy Fallon?
Jack: Noo! Uh, with Jimmy Fallon? Yeah. He's out there playing funny music.
Kyle: They could have separated that category. It kind of reminds me of the Golden Globes though, where they put comedy and then musicals together.
Jack: We are the only two actually that fit in the same category. The other three are the ones that didn't fit in the category. We shouldn't be going up against a stand-up comedian album. That doesn't really make sense.
Kyle: No, it's apples and pears.
Jack: But if you're making funny music, you can compare those two. In fact, we've asked Jimmy to be in our festival.
Kyle: Otherwise we'd come down a lot harder on him.
Jack: I feel like we need a new name for it, though, because when you say music comedy, it's sounds like musical comedy. You're talking about some kind of like Broadway show. [Goes into Broadway show voice] This is a musical, and it's a comedy, lots of laughs and dance ....
PG: Well, you might end up there eventually, who knows?
Jack: Can we create a new category right now, Kage?
Kyle: Comedy music!
Jack: Yeah, that's, uh, real creative. He flipped it. You see what he did there?
Should you have been there [in metal] with Anthrax and Lamb of God perhaps?
Jack: Oooh, I see where you're goin'? Well, yeah, obviously, we believe that we deserved more than one nomination. Yeah, we got the comedy. That's obvious. But we also deserved, um ...
Kyle: The rock.
Jack: ... we also deserved best album. [Expletive] rock. Yeah, best rock album and just best album. And best record. And that's not just the narcissism talkin' ...
Kyle: Well, maybe a little.
Jack: ... that's also objective understanding of ...
Kyle: ... the music and art.
Jack: ... the quality.
Could you out-rock Mumford & Sons?
Kyle: Do they even rock? I don't think they rock. They kind of folk you.
Jack: Well, here's the important thing to know about Mumford.
Kyle: You get a good folking.
Jack: No. No, no, no. [Sigh.] Mumford is part of a movement, there's a lot of bands doin' it nowadays. I'm gonna say it started with Arcade Fire. They lit this fire. It's called ... What is it, Kage, it's like Americana ...
Kyle: Glory rock.
Jack: It's glory. It's about the fields. It's about something bigger. Is it about God? Kind of, yeah. It's about being real and playing a banjo and acoustic guitar and just playing it ... with all your soul!
Kyle: The gusto!
Jack: [Mumford voice] And I will wait! And fun. does it, too. What's that song that fun. does? We ar-are yoooung! So we'll set the world on fy-a-yer.
Kyle: Yeah, they lit a fire. They lit a fire.
So they have your endorsement?
Jack: No, no, they don't have our endorsement. We're just noting that there's a new genre in town. It doesn't have a name yet, the way like grunge and punk rock do, but it's there, and no one's really calling them on it. But they're riding a wave, they're playing a part. And the funny thing about Mumford and Sons is they're from England, and they're just playing it like they're good ol' boys from down South ... America. Not South America.
Kyle: I think they're kind of in that Irish tradition though.
Jack: I don't see it. I see Mississippi Delta is their real inspiration. Oooh, yeah.
How much can you guys rock on an acoustic tour?
Kyle: Haha, well, come to the show ... and you'll see.
Jack: What's the name of the new wave, though, Kage? You're just saying glory rock.
Kyle: That's not really taking hold ... Lumineers should be in there though.
Jack: And Fleet Foxes. There's a bunch of them.
Kyle: I think we know where we're going. We respond to trends. Hashtag D.
Jack: That's what our next album should be, you know, just ...
Kyle: The glory.
Anyhow, how much were you discouraged by the "Pick of Destiny" bomb?
Kyle: Well, did you listen to the record? We explained it all on "Rize of the Fenix," like the first track.
Jack: I mean, of course, we were discouraged. Are you asking "how much" we were discouraged? What, on a scale of 1 to 10?
Kyle: Misery Level?
Jack: We were Misery Level 7. I mean, on the grand scheme of things ... your loved one passes? There are things that would bring us down a lot more. We've had a great ride, we've had a great run. We're not gonna be "Ooo, God, Why us? Why, Lord?"
Kyle: I loved the movie. I still think it was great.
Jack: Also, we didn't mourn for very long before we realized this was an opportunity, an opportunity to have a comeback. And a comeback is a really funny concept, so in a way it was a gift.
On this one, you've gotten some really good reviews and some less-than-good reviews. The Rolling Stone one said you were "parodying wanksters." I was wondering if you feel as though those people are in fact wanksters or whether you're parodying anything?
Jack: Well, the answer's in the question. We're not a parody band. We're not like Spinal Tap where they were playing heavy metal and making fun of it. We love the metal. And we love the music that we're playing.
Kyle: When you're parodying, you're taking an established song. It's sort of like you're Weird Al and "Beat It," you change it to "Eat It." That would be a direct parody.
Jack: Yeah, It's a celebration ... [sigh] and I guess we do make fun of it, too, but we're not parodying it. It's a fine distinction. Why are we funny? What are we doing that's funny? We're not making fun of the rock. That's not the source of our comedy, Kyle. We're just singing songs that we're passionate about, and we can't help but be kind of funny when we do it. That's just our way.
Kyle: It's a comic lens that it's viewed through. Plus, we don't look like the rock stars.
Jack: But it's not just the look. If you listen to the album, it's funny without even seeing us. We're singing about the "Roadie" and the drama. I guess when we really embrace the passion of the rock, there's something inherently funny about that, when you really dive in. ... That doesn't really cover it either.
How do you feel about the growling vocals in metal? Can you get behind those?
Kyle: The Cookie Monster? I don't like that. That doesn't really speak to me.
Jack: What are we talking about?
Kyle: Cookie Monster vocals in rock.
Jack: Are you calling that the new wave of metal? I'm gonna say that's been around since Metallica was on the scene. But I guess they've taken it to a new level. A new level of growling.
Kyle: I like melody. I like it more musical.
Jack: I feel a little Old Man Caruthers. I don't really have any of those records in my jukebox, so I don't feel comfortable judging it. Do we play any Cookie Monster, Kyle? Do I ever go there? I don't see how those guys sustain that vocal for a whole tour. That's a sure recipe for nodes. Maybe they have a thing where they put it through the vocalizer, like Kanye did.
Kyle: We'll experiment with it. We'll get a cookie box.
Do you use loops at all? I just saw that Ed Sheeran guy. He was really good at using loops.
Jack: A lot of people are doing that nowadays. First time I saw it was, what's his name? At Largo?
Kyle: Jon Brion. Reggie Watts, I've been watching doing some good stuff.
Jack: It's pretty impressive. That's the future, I guess.
Kyle: KT Tunstall does it a lot.
Jack: You get goin' with that machine ...
Kyle: We should try to do it ... and then epically fail at it.
Dave Grohl: How important was it for you to get his endorsement?
Jack: I don't think we ever got an official endorsement. We just wanted him to play. We wanted his talent more than the cachet of his name brand. He's the best drummer in the world. How important was it? Crucial. It really took it to another level.
Kyle: Makes you feel good that Dave's like, "What? You gonna play on my music? Awesome!"
[Publicist says time is up.]
All right, have fun in Pittsburgh.
Jack: We'll see you there. I'll meet you at the Greasy O ... The Dirty O.