It’s total mayhem. Maybe it’s the fact that Jack Black and Kyle Gass—also known as J.B. and K.G. to the fanatic; Tenacious D to the frightened—are stuck in a hotel room in Columbus, Ohio. Or it could be that the massage therapists the two ordered up are late—gotta mellow out for the big show, bro. Or, more likely, the D is on its umpteenth interview of the day and Black and Gass are both bordering on a Jack Torrance moment, just waiting for some doe-eyed rock critic to drop an ax on.
Regardless, they’re a blur. Black swings maniacally between a seemingly dope-induced calm and the spastic arrogance of Barry, the character he played in High Fidelity that made him every record geek’s man-god. Gass, the balder and more stable of the duo, is, as always, trying desperately to get a word in at all. Sometimes he squeezes a comment by. It only sets Black off. Within seconds, it’s like being caught in the cross fire, the duo hurling a stream of jokes and insults.
Example: Bring something up casually, like, say, the standard icebreaker, “So, how’s the tour going?”
Gass: “It’s a little exhausting.”
Black: “Who said it’s exhausting?”
CW: “Kyle did.”
Black: “Fuck Kyle!”
Gass: “Well, sometimes I have to carry my own bags.”
Black: “Touring is no more exhausting than life. Life isn’t exhausting, man, not if I get sleep.”
Gass: “He needs like 13 hours of sleep a night or he’s totally exhausted. He …”
Black: “I have to be able to scream a lot. And I jump around and act like a rock god on stage. I am a rock god.”
Gass: “It’s kind of like a Tae-Bo workout. It makes me tired just …”
Black: “We are ROCK gods!”
It’s hard to keep up with it all. Then again, what do you expect from a couple of guys who sing lofty two-part harmony on lines like “Your butt cheeks is warm.” Yet it’s that frantic goofiness that has made the chubby, Dio-worshipping duo the most unlikely of rock gods. OK, the D doesn’t have a platinum record—”I think we’ve gone plywood,” Gass jokes. And, yeah, they play acoustic guitars, not the most rocking instrument—no “Dude, Telsa!” comments. But Black and Gass are massive, he-boobed rock messiahs nonetheless, on par with the likes of the dark lord himself, Ronnie James, or even John Popper (before the surgery, of course).
The reason: No other group out there is willing to act like sheer idiots in the name of rock. Even a party demon like Andrew W.K., with his millennial cock-rock take on kegger-metal, can come close to the sheer, nuclear rock power of The D. They’ve got the total package. The duo’s songs deal mostly with slaying dragons and devils or Black and Gass’ evil sexual exploits—“It’s K.G. with the feather and the French tickler,” Black coos in “Double Team.” They’ve got guys like the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Phish’s Page McConnell at their beck and call. The word “doth” even comes up on occasion. Let’s see Metallica pull that one off.
All that unbridled rock goodness took years to perfect, though. The duo originally met back in 1994 at an acting class. Within the year, the newly-dubbed Tenacious D made its debut at Al’s Bar in Los Angeles, playing only one number, “Tribute,” a song about the greatest song in the world that the two came up with on the spot to defeat Satan and then promptly forgot. Comedian David Cross was one of the few that caught the show. He asked the D to join up with his alterna-comedy clique, which included folks like Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo. When Cross scored his own TV series, Mr. Show With Bob & Dave, on HBO in ‘98, the D made a few memorable appearances. Those brief skits lead to the group’s own short-lived series—there were only three episodes—a year later.
It was enough, though. Because of the exposure and an ever-expanding fan base, the group’s gigs were selling out. Fans started trading bootlegs and videos on the Internet. By the time the group’s self-titled debut came out last year, The D controlled a lethal army of hipsters, college kids and general pervs who all bowed in humble servitude at the mere sight of the duo. It was just as they had planned.
Gass: “I always knew we would be huge.”
Black: “I disagree. I remember when Kyle wasn’t even interested in the band. I had to carry him on stage and prop him up just so we could get through a show. I was always carrying your ass.”
Gass: “I guess I’m just a shallow opportunist then.”
Black: “Yeah, you are. All I ever cared about was being in a rock band and rocking all the time like you rock in front of the mirror. You know, just letting go and rocking out. I didn’t care whether we were huge or if we would have some rabid fan base.”
There’s a pause for a moment, like hitting the eye of a hurricane. Gass is the one to break the silence. “Do you think there’s anyone who will like us in Utah?” he asks. “Do you think any Mormons will come to our show?”
“I don’t know,” I respond. “I think …”
Black interrupts me. “But do they believe in Satan? That’s the really important question. They’ve got to believe in Satan. Hail Satan!”