Tenacious D, the over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek rock duo of actor-musicians Kyle Gass and Jack Black, occupies a unique place in music.
Like something only a mad scientist obsessed with Led Zeppelin and Spinal Tap could create, Tenacious D makes tight, blazing folk-metal laced with sophomoric humor, sort of like AC/DC meets Simon and Garfunkel, if Simon told fart jokes and Garfunkel had anything funny about him besides clown hair with a receding hairline.
The duo formed in 1994, after Gass and Black met through experimental theater group The Actors’ Gang, and their 2001 self-titled debut album went platinum.
But then they dropped a bomb: “Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny,” the 2006 film about the band’s origins. The soundtrack fared better than the film, but that’s little comfort when critics call your rock opera of a movie “one big gaseous emission,” “crass low-brow comedy” and “tedious, slow and unfunny.”
But the best offense is a good defense, as jocks say, and six years later, Gass and Black have come back swinging on their new album, “Rize of the Fenix.”
Their sense of humor, bombast and swagger are intact. On the album’s opening title track, Black intones “When ‘The Pick of Destiny’ was released it was a bomb / And all the critics said that the D was done / The sun had set and the chapter had closed / But one thing no one thought about was the D would rise again, just like the Fenix.”
Now, the D is back on the road, strutting into Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend on Saturday (see “If you go,” Page 3). Black and Gass spoke to GO! Magazine last week about music, movies and all things Tenacious:
GO!: How’d the new album come about?
Kyle Gass: I just begged him. “Please! Oh, God, please!”
GO!: How have fans responded to a new album finally coming out?
Jack Black: I would say it’s been overwhelmingly positive.
GO!: Any early returns as far as how it’s selling?
KG: I don’t know — how about number one in the U.K.?
KG: How’s that? Is that good?
GO!: That’s pretty good.
JB: I think we’re number two on American iTünes. (Editor’s note: He pronounces this “iTcheunes.”)
KG: That’s an Internet service that sells music.
GO!: I’ve heard of that.
JB: Right behind — who’s the guy from “American Idol”?
KG: Adam Lambert.
JB: Right behind Lam-bear.
GO!: How important was it to acknowledge early on “Rize of the Fenix” how “Pick of Destiny” did?
KG: I thought it was brilliant. I felt like we had to — well, we felt like we had to disarm and talk about the elephant in the room, as it were.
GO!: Was there ever any doubt that you guys would get back together?
JB: No. There was never any doubt.
GO!: Kyle, how did the Trainwreck show go when you were here last year?
KG: It was great. It was fantastic. We did break up soon after, so I’m not going to blame it on Bend, per se. I hope you didn’t contribute. No, it’s a great town.
GO!: Jack, you have a new movie out, “Bernie.”
JB: That’s right.
Go!: It sounds like it’s getting good reviews, too.
JB: It’s gotten great reviews. Very proud of the work. It’s in select theaters. I don’t know if it’s in Bend. You might have to go over to Portland to check that sweet little nugget out.
GO!: Do you have a preference between music reviewers and movie reviewers?
JB: I prefer — you.
GO!: Jack, has your father-in-law heard “Rize of the Fenix”?
JB: My father-in-law Charlie Haden?
JB: No. No, he’s not very rock-savvy. He’s a jazz man. But he’s also a bluegrass man. I don’t know. I might work up the courage to play it for him. Not yet.
GO!: Do you guys ever write more serious songs, or do you leave that to Pearl Jam?
KG: We have a couple of albums’ worth of serious music. And we’re going to release it posthumously. We don’t want people to know our serious side while we’re alive. (Pause) Where are we playing in Bend?
GO!: You’re playing at Les Schwab Amphitheater.
KG: How big is it?
GO!: It can fit up to about 8,000 people.
KG: So, really, the entire population of Bend then.
GO!: Almost exactly. The Shins and Beck are playing the same weekend, same venue, and you’re the only ones who would give us an interview. What makes you different from those guys?
KG: We keep it reals. We’re a band for the people.
JB: I’m still Jaybles from the Block.
GO!: What do you have planned for the future?
KG: We might do a little Tenacious D cartoon, on the Internets. And I think we might come out with an album of duets with our favorite music stars.
JB: We’re thinking about becoming born-agains and putting out a Christian rock album. But really, we don’t have a five-year plan. We just have what we consider the greatest album in six years, and we have to take that message to every nook and cranny of the planet. We’re excited to come to Bend, because it is definitely one of the most glorious nooks. Or crannies.
KG: Is it more of a nook or more of a cranny?
JB: Yeah, do you consider yourself a nook or a cranny?
GO!: Nook sounds cozier, but probably a cranny.
JB: Nook is more where the butter collects.
GO!: True. For people who have never seen you guys live, what should they expect?
JB: They should expect a full release. I don’t want to give too much away — spoiler alert — but there will be a happy ending.
KG: You might want to recommend (to) them wearing helmets.
JB: And Depends.
GO!: Sounds messy.
JB: And a flame-retardant rock suit.
GO!: By the way, how much truth is there to “The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage”? (In the song, Black sings of his movie success while Gass, or “Rage Kage,” is “left far behind in the dust of his dreams.”)
JB: Every word of it, true.
KG: It’s been a painful run for me ... but Jack rescued me and saved me. And I’ll always be grateful.
JB: I’m pretty awesome.
GO!: Anything else you’d like fans to know?
KG: Bend, prepare yourself.
JB: Bend, open your mouth. The D is coming.