They’re as unlikely rockers as they are leading men. But Jack Black and Kyle Gass, the portly pair comprising the comedy rock group Tenacious D, are starring together in a film hitting cinemas next week.
Black, 37, and Gass, 46, play fictionalized versions of themselves as they recount the fictionalized history of their band in “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny.”
The movie begins with the young J.B. (Black), who runs away from his small hometown bound for Hollywood in hopes of achieving his rock ’n’ roll dreams. He meets his mentor on Venice Beach: a street performer named K.G. who promises to teach him the tenets of rock. Before long, the two become friends, roommates and companions on a silly, smoke-filled, rock-fueled adventure.
In reality, Black and Gass have been friends and bandmates for more than a dozen years. They met as members of the Actor’s Gang theater troupe, where Gass was the house musician and Black was an aspiring actor. The two formed Tenacious D in 1994 and performed one gig, and one song, at a dive bar in downtown Los Angeles.
Much to their surprise, the band was a hit. Tenacious D has been the subject of a short film and an HBO show. The band released a CD in 2001 and is the subject of a forthcoming tribute album. While Black became a movie star and Gass took on television roles, the two continued with Tenacious D, planning to one day bring the band to the multiplex.
That day arrives Nov. 22.
Black and Gass talked with The Associated Press about their story, their success and their unyielding love of rock.
AP: How does the movie’s story of your meeting compare to reality?
Gass: It’s all lies. But truthful lies. Emotionally, I was ahead of Jack and trying to dominate him because I was older and wiser. And Jack, in real life, did puncture my balloon and I’ve been riding his coattails ever since. So the story is relatively true. We took some liberties, but we only had 87 minutes. We’ve known each other 17 years, you can’t put the whole thing in there.
AP: When did you start performing as Tenacious D?
Gass: ’94. We did one song, the greatest song ever written: “Tribute.”
Black: When did we do the HBO show?
Black: Really? Wow. So we started performing live in ’94, three years later we had an HBO show, three years after that we had a record.
Gass: Two years after that we had a DVD and two years after that, we were making a movie. We’re very consistently slow.
AP: Is this the beginning or the end of the Tenacious D journey?
Black: It feels like a long journey, but you never know how long a thing will go.
Gass: I actually feel that we could stop now and have a nice legacy. We’ve got a couple nice albums, a good movie that we’re proud of. And, this is weird to do right now, but I’d like to stop, Jack.
Black: Like Jordan? I mean, like Michael Jordan should have?
Gass: Go out on top.
AP: Tenacious D is about to start touring. Is that to promote the movie?
Gass: Everything kind of promotes everything else. We’re like an entertainment burrito. Bite in and you might get a DVD, or a live show.
Black: That doesn’t sound like a very tasty burrito. It sounds like you might break a molar.
AP: What’s the difference between the movie version and the real-life version of Tenacious D?
Gass: I think Jack and I are a lot smarter than those characters you see in the movie. In real life, Jack’s an international superstar, and I’m just, like, super-talented dude. In the movie, we’re like kind of shlumpos.
Black: In the movie, we are not actors. And in reality, we have always been actors first, rockers second.
Gass: But I think the movie captures a time when we weren’t really acting all that much and we were trying to be rockers.
Black: But even then, we met acting. When we met, I had not been in a rock band before.
AP: Who are your inspirations?
Black: I must say Meat Loaf, Dio and Dave Grohl.
Gass: I’m going to say Tom Waits, Tony Hawk and Tony Robbins.
AP: What are your plans for after the tour?
Gass: I think I’m going to go live in a log cabin and write my memoirs. I’d also like to go to a spa, like a fat spa, for six months and come out completely reinvented as a slender man.
Black: I’m going to spend some quality time with the familia and I love that I don’t have anything planned. I’m trying to keep it that way so I can have a break. I might take the year off.
AP: What was the best part about working on this film?
Black: I have to say I’ve enjoyed every step of the process. I enjoyed coming up with the concept, writing the music, writing the script, performing the thing. It’s kind of like asking what’s your favorite part when you climbed Mt. Everest. You could say the shoes were really good that I had and my Sherpa was a nice guy. In the end, maybe it is just getting to the top of the mountain, where we are right now, and looking down and saying we climbed that [stuff]. That was not so easy, was it? And it was good.
AP: What is the appeal of Tenacious D?
Gass: A lot of people have weight problems and they still want to rock. I think they identify with us.
AP: What is the band’s appeal for you?
Black: I love to rock. I love the roar of the crowd. But to tell you the truth, I get scared before we go out and do the D. I get scared. And it’s akin to the adrenaline before a battle, I imagine. I’ve never gone into battle, but I imagine it’s like going into battle. It’s a roaring crowd, and they may be roaring your approval, but it’s still a scary, roaring crowd. They can turn on you, conceivably. It’s still a beast that you must ride. And once it’s been ridden, in the midst of the ride, it feels fantastic.
AP: How does this compare to your other Hollywood projects?
Black: This is my baby, so it doesn’t really compare to any of the other ones. This one, I was one of the puppeteers, not just a flesh puppet.