By Mikael Wood
Tenacious D is, by its own estimation, the greatest band in the world. An acoustic duo featuring actors Jack Black and Kyle Gass, the D began their campaign for greatness with a short-lived HBO series in 1999 that became a cult favorite among fans of sketch comedy and heavy metal (a potentially fertile combination, as This Is Spinal Tap proved over two decades ago).
Since then, the D have released a self-titled CD (with Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl on drums), toured the world, and, most recently, starred in their own big-budget movie, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, which retells the tale of the D's ascension with special effects and cameos by Meat Loaf and Ben Stiller. There's also a soundtrack disc featuring gems like "Dude (I Totally Miss You)." We got Black and Gass on the phone and had them rap about their rock.
The Pick of Destiny has taken a long road to movie theaters. You guys have been talking about the film for two or three years.
Jack Black: There was a danger that there would never bea Tenacious D movie. But now here we are.
What goes into a process that long?
JB: A lot of sitting in silence with your head in yourhands, squeezing the brain juice to get that perfect idea. A lot ofthat.
The Pick of Destiny is just one side of Tenacious D. There are also albums, TV shows, music videos, and live shows. Which one best represents the band's aesthetic?
Kyle Gass: I think the live show.
JB: I think first people buy the album. Wait, no: First, people go to the movie - that's the first level of fan. Then the harder-core fans will go and buy the album. But then the hardest of all the hard-core will buy a ticket and go out to the concert, and for that they are rewarded.
JB: With the most explosive night of entertainment anyone has ever known - and I've said this a lot - since Pink Floyd's the Wall. Isn't the Wall widely recognized as the greatest live concert of all time?
KG: Well, it's pretty subjective. I'm gonna say Riverdance with Michael Flatley.
Do the different contexts require you to manipulate what you do? Is Tenacious D a different beast in each setting?
KG: Yeah. In the studio, it's very detail oriented; you get a chance to get every little thing right. In the movies as well. The live show, it's planned, but there's more of a spontaneous energy.
Are you both detail guys?
JB: I am, yeah. I'm a little bit obsessive about the details. I've got a little OCD. Things have to be lined up just so.
That seems at odds with the earliest Tenacious D stuff, which had a certain scrappiness to it.
JB: We kept it loose with that kind of stuff, especially on the first album, when we would go into the studio and it was time to do some comedy nuggets. We didn't write it down on pieces of paper; we didn't talk about it beforehand. We would just go in and riff on different ideas. Sometimes we wouldn't even tell each other what it was going to be, to capture what you're talking about. But, you know, I think it is always the same beast, whether we're in the studio or on the movie set or whatever.
KG: So you’re calling me a liar? That’s what you’re saying?
JB: You’re a liar.
You worked with a director, Liam Lynch, on The Pick of Destiny. Does that kind of collaboration require compromise?
JB: Well, we’ve been collaborating ever since we started doing the TV show on HBO — that was a collaboration with Bob [Odenkirk] and David [Cross] from Mr. Show. I think we’ve always had really good experiences when we’ve mixed our sauces with other people’s sauces. Right, KG? You like the way I said sauces?
KG: I did. You know, sometimes there’s just stuff you’re not gonna think of on your own.
JB: The ego wants to take all the credit and say, “No collaborators.” But three heads are better than two. And it’s just a question of finding someone who shares a sensibility. That’s an art, too — picking who your collaborators are.