Interview: Tenacious D

From the February 28, 2013 edition

The conceit behind Tenacious D’s 2012 album Rize of the Fenix was simple: The comedy-rock duo was bouncing back after its 2006 rock opera “The Pick of Destiny” flopped unceremoniously. (“Do call it a comeback,” Kyle Gass mused during a phone interview last month.) Owning up to the failure rather than sweeping it under the rug of history was both brave and unexpected, and maybe a little hilarious.

“You know, a lot of times the comedy comes from doing the thing you don’t expect,” Gass’ bandmate/movie star Jack Black said. “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!”

<Read our full interview with Jack Black and Kyle Gass>

J.B. and K.G. have been toeing the line between fiction and reality as Tenacious D since way back in 1991. Their partnership, a worshipful sendup of rock ’n’ roll’s down-and-dirtiest aspects, snagged an HBO series in 1997 and a record deal with Epic for 2001’s self-titled debut album (the one that included “Wonder Boy” and “F--- Her Gently”).

The record was sleek and produced, but they toured the country as two funny fat guys with guitars, re-creating the low-budget feel of the TV show at an arena-sized scope. Around the time the movie came out, Gass recruited a backing band including Columbus musicians John Konesky (guitar) and John Spiker (bass), and suddenly the D was a full-fledged rock band.

“I found them scruffy youths, talented, and plucked them from obscurity and made their rock ’n’ roll dreams come true,” Gass said.

Ironically, Konesky and Spiker won’t be on stage with the D for the “old-school acoustic” jaunt that hits LC Pavilion this Wednesday — just Black and Gass, the way it was when Tenacious D played the Schott with Weezer and Jimmy Eat World 12 years ago.

“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,” Black said. “We might have to add some local tambourine player just to water it down a little bit.”

The power may be incomparable, but it’s not quite at full wattage yet. The Fenix has not completed its rise.

“It’s about three quarters risen,” Black said. “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,” Black said. “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.”

Black continued: “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.”