It’s a guarantee that Tenacious D is not like any other band you’ve ever seen. The acoustic metal comedy duo – featuring the manically hilarious film star Jack Black (“Shallow Hal,” “School of Rock,” “High Fidelity”) and his guitarist friend Kyle Gass -will crack you up one minute, then rock your world the next with a dead-on tribute to all-time classic rock songs.
In short, the self-appointed “Greatest Band on Earth” tricks you into thinking that it’s all a joke, but then bangs your head with some pretty impressive musicianship. Black can really sing, and both are capable guitarists.
In interviews, the guys riff off of each other just like they do in concert. Here, they touch upon what their fans can expect from their show Tuesday night at the Fillmore Miami Beach, their love for the NBA (and even Miami Heat superstar LeBron James) and their all-time fantasy rock stars they’d love to perform with.
As the “Greatest Band on Earth,” what can we expect from a Tenacious D show?
Kyle Gass: Ehh, you know, just a mediocre show I guess, from the greatest band …
Jack Black: What are you talkin’ about?!?! It’ll be the greatest show you’ve ever seen! Wait, where is this publication printed out - who are we talking to here?
KG: One of the nation’s finest newspapers – The Miami Herald.
JB: Oh, Miami! Have we ever played Miami, Kage?
KG: Uhhh, yes, I think we have.
JB: So what can they expect from a Tenacious D show?
KG: A tsunami of pleasure.
JB: That’s good. Wait a second – let me think of some more answers: What can you expect?
KG: Sell it, Jack, sell it.
JB: Here’s what you can expect: You’re gonna get to the show, you’re gonna be watching for about 15 minutes, and in your head you’re gonna think, “Is it possible that this is the best show I’ve ever seen?” And then another voice will quickly go overtop, “No, no, no, no – that’s impossible. These guys are just a joke band.” And then another part of your head will go, “No. This is not a joke. These guys really are the best band I’ve ever seen.” And another part of your head says, “But this is a secret. You can never tell anyone that this is the best concert you’ve ever seen. They’ll think you’re a loser.” Then another part of your head will say, “F--- that! I am who I am! I love who I love! And I will sing it from the mountaintop. Call me a fool, but Tenacious D is the greatest band I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen them all!
How did you guys start performing together?
JB: Ohh. An oft-told tale, and an epic tale it was. There are no bad questions – there are only sh---- answers. And usually a sh---- answer starts by insulting the question. Answer the question, Kyle.
KG: [Laughs] I don’t remember, it’s been so long.
JB: How did we start jamming? Kyle was kind of an outcast. He kind of severed all of his friendships and relationships.
JB: And was sitting his apartment – we called it the cockroach, because it was a dingy little hole in Hollywood. And I sensed his vulnerability, and his need for friendship. And I pounced, because he was a mentor to me – he was a great musician, and I knew him from the theater, the Los Angeles theater scene. And called him and I said, “Dude, can I come over and hang out with you – I need a father figure.”
JB: and he said get your ass over here, and I came over.
KG: And it wasn’t long before I became his grandfather figure.
JB: And he taught me to play guitar. He was like the wise black man who sits on the corner and is blind, although he’s not black or blind. And I went into his apartment every day, and the ritual was, I’d bring Jack in the Box. And I would sit down and he’d say, “Today we will learn X, Y or Z.”
KG: And Jack was a very, very good student.
JB: And after a couple of years or earnest, concentrated effort on our part, we wrote our first song. And the way we would write, we would jam and jam and jam on a subject, and at the time the subject was, “Let’s write the greatest song in the world.” And we jammed on it for months, and then we realized we can’t write the greatest song in the world – it’s impossible. But we can write the tribute to the greatest song in the world, and thus was born Tenacious D.
And we always recorded everything, and at the end of the lesson, we would say, “Stony playback?” And we would look at each other with a Cheshire Cat grin, and we’d say yeah. And Kage would get an apple and core it and put some tin foil in there. And who knows what damage we caused to our testicles. That was why my boy was born with a fin. So we’d get stony stony stony, and then we’d do stony playback, and analyze in a stony way. But really, we were just best friends.
And there wasn’t really a plan.
KG: No. No plan.
JB: It just sort of organically grew, like a fungus.
KG: I felt like we were artistically pure, like we were doing it just to please ourselves.
Jack, you actually have an awesome voice. Did you do anything musically before Tenacious D?
JB: I’m self-taught. I did chorus in high school. And I like to sing by myself with a four-track. [Old-timey man voice]: Back in the old days, in the 1980s, if a boy wanted to sing and write a song, he would get a four-track cassette recorder, so you could sing multiple tracks.
KG: He had a Bobby McFerrin thing going.
JB: I liked Bobby McFerrin. I liked harmonies, and I liked harmonizing with myself, and that was my training ground.
KG: He was kind of a voice-estra – is that what you called it?
JB: Mm-hmm. I had my own voice-estra.
KG: He’d lay out the beats and the harmonies. They were very good – I was really proud of him. I was blown away.
JB: Thank you, man.
Guessing from your band’s name, are you guys big sports fans?
JB: Yeah, the NBA is our sport of choice. National Basketball Association.
KG: We call it roundball here on the streets.
So I’d predict you guys probably don’t like the Miami Heat too much, being from L.A.?
KG: Actually, after LeBron [James] had The Decision and they had the press conference, I sort of got on the bandwagon of “I hate Miami.”
JB: I actually went the other way. When they were making their run last year for the championship, I realized, “Wait a second – what do I want to see?” Do I want to see the good guys win, and ohh, yay? I just felt like LeBron deserves it. He is the best player, and it’s gonna be such sweet revenge for him when all those critics who hate him for really no reason – he didn’t do anything illegal, he didn’t do anything wrong, he just decided to play in Miami and everyone hated him for it. Well, you know what? I’d like to see him win and say “F--- you all in your face!”
KG: The Decision special wasn’t the best decision.
JB: No. But the punishment did not fit the crime. And so I knew when he won, it was gonna be more fun seeing him jumping up and down and celebrating then to see him just like crying and being in horrible pain. I wanted him to have some sweet release.
KG: The other part of LeBron, besides just the amazing talent – it’s out of control, it’s Jordan-esque – his sense of humor is just so fun. Did you see the moment the other night when he threw the ball back to the guy in the stands? It was just a great moment – he has many of those.
JB: It just seems a foregone conclusion, though, that now the monkey’s off his back, I think he may win eight in a row. What if he does get an eight-peat? Everyone will just have to eat so much crow.
KG: He’s playing at a level now that I don’t think I’ve ever seen.
JB: But enjoy him now, because as we can see, the boy’s built to move. He doesn’t stay in one place very long – he’s a white plains drifter.
Well, there’s the rumor he might be going back to Cleveland.
JB: There’s also a rumor he may be in the purple and go-o-o-old [of the Los Angeles Lakers], especially after I talk to him. I have a plan – next time he comes to L.A. I’m gonna see if I can get a little face time with him and say, ”Listen, Bro! You come to L.A. and there might be some side projects, called “Jables and the Man,” or something like that. It’s me and LeBron, a crime-fighting team.
KG: I’ve got a movie planned with Kevin Garnett. It’s called “KG Squared.”
What do you guys think of shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice”? Do you ever watch those?
KG: You know, I got caught up in “American Idol” early and then I left for awhile, and then I turned it on last night, and by gum if they didn’t drag me back in! It’s so good, with the back stories and all.
JB: We did a little bit on “American Idol.” Remember when you were in the audience and I was singing “Kiss From a Rose” to you?
KG: Oh, I do. I do.
JB: We have a little history with that show. I haven’t been watching it this season, but I got into it with that kid Casey Abrams [from Season 10], who actually has become sort of an honorary member of “The D.” Sometimes he comes out and jams with us when we play jazz. What’s up with this year, Kage – who’s your front-runner?
KG: I’m into [“Idol” judge] Nikki Minaj.
JB: What else is new, bro.
KG: Because she’s really kind of the kookaburra tell-it-like-it-is. She wears some crazy outfit and just takes ‘em apart when she sees fit.
JB: She also is a real, uhhh…
KG: Oh yeah, she’s got some junk in the trunk.
If you could pick three rock stars to perform with, all-time, who would they be?
KG: Wow! Can they be dead, too?
Sure, dead. Might not be as fun, but they can be dead.
KG: I’m gonna go John Lennon – I’m a big Lennon fan.
JB: OK, I’m gonna go Hendrix.
KG: F---! Hendrix – that’s good. Ummm, Neil Young.
JB: Keith Moon.
KG: Uhh! Good choice.
JB: Really, that’s my dream right there – just Keith Moon and Hendrix and me.
KG: That’s a great supergroup.
Kyle Glass, left, and Jack Black of Tenacious D