Jack Black and Kyle Gass on Tenacious D and their two-night run at Belly Up Aspen
The Aspen Times
If You Go …
What: Tenacious D
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Sunday, Dec. 28 and Monday, Dec. 29, 9 p.m.
Tickets and more info: Belly Up box office, http://www.bellyupaspen.com
At the beginning of their last album, 2012’s “Rize of the Fenix,” Tenacious D voiced some doubts about their future. The title song admitted the comedy rock duo’s 2006 movie, “The Pick of Destiny,” was “a bomb,” and questioned whether they were done, whether their fans would “have to lazer off their ‘D’ tattoos.”
But the moment of vulnerability didn’t last long for Jack Black and Kyle Gass and their self-proclaimed “greatest band in the world.” By mid-song, they declared they’d rise again (like a “fenix”) and they have.
The band comes to Aspen for a two-night run at Belly Up Sunday and Monday.
“It’s gonna be tough for Huey Lewis and the News to follow us,” Black said wryly in an interview on Tuesday, referring to the band that plays the club after Tenacious D leaves town. “We’re going to make it very difficult. … You can expect the best show that Aspen has seen in all of 2014. That’s for damn sure. By a long shot.”
For all the band’s mock rock braggadocio and comic genius, the thing about Tenacious D is that the music is actually engaging and well-played. Gass can legitimately shred (and play some flute). And Black’s voice, parodied in the band’s “Inward Singing” skit, is pliable enough to pull off Ozzy Osbourne heights and soft ballad love song lows, while also mimicking all manner of demon and human and heavy metal singer.
Silly as their songs can be – “Kielbasa” and “F—k Her Gently” on the crude side, “Tribute,” “Roadie” and “Rock is Dead” on the rock songs about rock songs front – they’re not one-and-done novelties in the Weird Al tradition. Their albums actually warrant repeat listens and their live shows have become the stuff of legend. If you stripped away their profane, insane, over-the-top lyrics – and why would you? – they play songs worth listening to.
The band made its local debut in 1997 at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, early on in the rise of Tenacious D (and of Black as an actor, coming before his best-known roles in movies like “High Fidelity,” “School of Rock,” “Kung Fu Panda,” and “Tropic Thunder”).
“It felt like a fiery hoop at the time,” Gass said of the showcase at the Wheeler Opera House.
Gass signed his first autograph after that show, signaling perhaps that Tenacious D was going to break through. They did soon after, with their HBO series and then with their debut self-titled album in 2001.
The shows in Aspen will be “old school acoustic style,” meaning the duo isn’t bringing the full band they’ve toured with some in recent years.
“You can expect to see two aging ninjas of rock,” Black declared.
In conversation, the pair’s back-and-forths tend toward the bizarre, much like their banter on stage and on their three albums. For example, discussing their tour rider:
Glass: We used to have Metamucil on the rider.
Black: Why is Metamucil no longer on the rider? It’s a wonder drug. Is it a drug?
Glass: No. It s a natural bulk fiber.
Black: It’s a wonderful product and we have to find a way to be a spokesperson for Metamucil.
Glass: Let’s get ‘em on board for Fest Supreme 2015.
“Fest Supreme” refers to the band’s annual festival, launched in October 2013 in Santa Monica, California. This fall, it featured a mix of comedians like Nick Kroll, Fred Armisen and a reunited The State, along with band like Eagles of Death Metal, Peaches, Cheech and Chong and, of course, Tenacious D, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014.
The pair said they’re starting to work on new material, looking toward recording sometime in the new year. Generally, Black said, song titles provide their inspiration.
“We like to write titles and build it out from there,” he said. “But Kyle is a master chef of jams. He’ll work it out and then I’ll improvise lyrics. That’s generally how it goes. Improvise lyrics around the title.”
Gass said they have some working titles to get going, but the band was coy about sharing them (or not so coy: “None of your business,” was Black’s reply when asked what they had so far).
“This is our year,” Black said. “We’ve really been in the headspace, the conceptual headspace. Kyle oftentimes tells me that he’s ready. I think he’s got some brass in pocket.”
Black also offered a hard sell for the Aspen shows this Christmas week, which hadn’t yet sold out at press time:
“Here’s the thing I want to tell the people of Aspen,” Black said. “You people with kids that like Tenacious D, there is no better stocking stuffer, no better gift than the gift of the D. Your kids, have they been naughty? Probably. Have they been nice? Sometimes. They deserved the gift of the D. Stop denying them the gift of the D. What were you gonaa get them? A new snowshoe? They’ve got those. Give them the gift of the D. A nice pair of wool socks? F–k that. Give them the gift of the D.”
After thinking about the band’s demographic, though, he rethought the pitch and offered, “The kids aren’t coming, it’s the parents. So I guess I’m talking to the grandparents. Hey Grandma and Grandpa Aspen, give your 40-year-old kids the gift of the D.”
Read The Aspen Times Q&A with Tenacious D here http://www.aspentimes.com/entertainment