As you might expect, Tenacious D crammed more comedy and information into our 15-minute interview than I could fit into a 537-word story, including talk of their Columbus-based bandmates and their upcoming musical comedy festival, Festival Supreme. So here's the full conversation with Jack Black and Kyle Gass in advance of their sold-out "old school acoustic" show Wednesday at LC Pavilion.
Alive: How are you guys?
Jack Black: Good.
Kyle Gass: I’m getting over the flu.
Alive: Well, I hope you feel better soon.
Alive: I saw you guys here maybe 12 years ago with Weezer and Jimmy Eat World.
JB: Yeah! Dude, that’s what we’re talking about. Old school.
Alive: Have you guys performed in Columbus since then?
KG: I think we played with the full band, right?
JB: I don’t remember playing Columbus with the full band.
KG: When did we play there? Not the P.O.D. tour?
JB: No, because that would have been a big deal. We would have been talking about how our band is from Columbus. John Konesky, our electric guitar player, and John Spiker were handpicked by Kyle from Columbus. Am I right, Kage?
KG: It’s true. It’s true. I found them scruffy youths, talented, and plucked them from obscurity and made their rock n roll dreams come true.
JB: Unfortunately, they’re not going to be with us on the homecoming.
KG: [Laughs] That is unfortunate. But yeah, love Columbus. Love Columbus.
Alive: How did you come across those guys?
KG: I was bringing my side project there, and I was looking for some local musicians to fill out. I wanted to be like Chuck Berry where he’d just kind of arrive in a city and then pick his band. And I just found these guys through some mutual friends, and they played great and they were great guys.
Alive: How come you guys decided to tour “old-school acoustic” style this time?
KG: Well, we’ve been playing with the band a lot since 2006, and I don’t know, it felt right. I enjoy playing the old-school duo. I think it’s a whole different vibe. We haven’t really done a tour like this in a while. I think it’ll be fun.
JB: It’s time to get back to the roots. And also our drummer was unavailable.
JB: Our drummer is in another band called Bad Religion, and they’re going on tour, so we’re like, OK, let’s take this opportunity to go old school because we’ve been talking about it for a long time. Because as fun as it is to go out with all the bells and whistles, there’s something about me and Kage — just me and Kage alone against the world— that has a special kind of magic. And I think there’s a lot of people clamoring for it, and so we’re going to give it to them. The pure, uncut… cocaine.
KG: There’s nothing pure about it. You can hear my guitar a lot better when you don’t have those loud drums.
JB: But you gotta be careful ’cause when you get pure Tenacious D without any other band members, sometimes it could be so powerful that you could, like, brain hemorrhage.
Alive: I’ll be on the lookout.
JB: We might have to add some local tambourine player just to water it down a little bit.
Alive: I’m sure if I print that we’ll have plenty of people lining up with tambourines outside. So I was surprised on the title track for Rize of the Fenix that you just came out and called “The Pick of Destiny” a flop, that you addressed it so directly like that.
KG: You know the last time someone asked us that was about five minutes ago?
JB: Kyle, why would you say that? Just to make him feel not special?
KG: Now, I was just surprised at the repeated question.
JB: I’m not. I think it’s a good question. Yeah. We called it out. You were surprised. YOU were surprised to hear us call ourselves out like that. Because that was the reality of the situation. And there’s two things you can do. You can do that thing where you can just ignore the last album, go “We’re going a whole new sound now. That thing’s in the past. We’re going new style!” Or you can confront it and say “Look, we’re not gonna hide our heads in the sand. We’re gonna face this thing. And we’re gonna call it now. We’re calling our play. We’re gonna hit a home run right now in the face of that last belly flop. It’s a comeback.” There’s something very dramatic about it, very potent.
KG: Do call it a comeback.
JB: What was the rest of your question? You were surprised.
Alive: That was it. I was just surprised because a lot of bands would try to downplay something like that, and sometimes people don’t want to address anything that could be perceived as a failure. But you guys kind of owned it.
KG: We had to face the truth with courage.
JB: You know, a lot of times the comedy comes from doing the thing you don’t expect. In fact, I would argue that that’s always what comedy is. There’s an element of surprise. And we f---ing surprised you! Mission accomplished! Next question!
Alive: Is it safe to say the Fenix has officially rizen now?
JB: No. It’s about three quarters rizen. It’s about three quarters erect. Which is good, but when we laid out this plan, this comeback plan for this comeback album, we were thinking we’re going to be playing mega domes by the end of this tour. That is not the case. We thought we were going to leave this Kenny Chesney in the dust. Turns out we’re playing all the same cities as Kenny Chesney in about 100th of the size arenas. Is it humiliating? A little. Does it dampen our spirits? A little. Will it stop us? Noooo.
Alive: Good. Pressing on.
JB: And the good news is we’re actually much better in smaller venues. If you see us in a mega dome, it’s a little diluted, you know? You’re a mile away. You’re f---ing seeing a s---ty Kenny Chesney show all of the sudden. It’s much better to see the D in a nice tight enclosure. Nice and intimate: That’s the way you want your D.
Alive: That said, I want to ask you about a bigger show, which is the festival you started talking about recently. Has anybody come to you since that news broke out?
JB: We’ve got a lot of people wanting to do it, but we haven’t nailed anything down yet. And we actually got bitchslapped a little bit by our agent for spilling the beans prematurely. Apparently that was not a good business move. But the good news is it’s looking good. Because basically everyone we’ve talked to is like, “Uhhh, we’re in.” Now basically the next step is really putting it on paper, making it official. We’ll see what really sticks.
KG: I think a great idea that I came up with was to make offers for hourly wage. Like if you’re a headliner act, you get up to $100 an hour.
JB: [Laughing] See here’s the problem. When you’ve got a festival of that many kickass comedians and musicians, there’s no way you can pay them all their usual going rate. We’re playing a certain size venue. It’s not the us festival. We can’t get a hundred thousand people in there. So people gotta be wanting to come down and party. It’s not really about the mega bucks on this one. It’s about creating an event that will be talked about for the next 300 years.
KG: [Laughs] I can’t believe they’re going to forget about it after 300.
JB: Did I say 300? Well, I meant 3,000.
KG: Whoa! Hello!
Alive: I imagine there’s a lot of appeal to playing with acts like Spinal Tap that probably had a lot of influence on what you guys do.
JB: Well, one hopes. Spinal Tap are definitely our main inspiration for mixing comedy and music. They are the original gangstas. And yeah, all the fellas from Monty Python Flying Circus, in particular Eric Idle because of his rocketsauce in the music department. So of course if you’re going to do a comedy music festival, you gotta invite the forefathers, the Chuck Berrys of the genre. The Chuck Berrys and the B.B. Kings.