Tenacious D won’t let Mumford & Sons kill the metal

dmenconi@newsobserver.comMarch 7, 2013 

Tenacious Dudes


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    Who: Tenacious D

    When: 8 p.m. Friday

    Where: The Ritz, 2820 Industrial Drive, Raleigh

    Cost: $52.50

    Details: 919-836-0977 or ticketmaster.com

Spinal Tap once observed that it’s “such a fine line between clever and stupid.” Wherever that line falls, it’s safe to say that Tenacious D is all over it. The duo of Jack Black and Kyle Gass has been purveying self-mocking odes to their own rockin’ awesomeness for a couple of decades now, laying on the satire and genitalia jokes in about equal proportion.

In advance of their Friday night acoustic show in Raleigh, the Tenacious Dudes deigned to entertain a few questions by phone. Because Black and Gass address their public in tandem, the duo’s interviews tend to turn into running comedy routines that are difficult to keep up with. So here’s how it went, as best as we can reconstruct it.

Q: Out of all the rock gods you’ve encountered, who was the biggest thrill to meet?

Jack Black: For sheer “HOLY [EXPLETIVE],” I remember when we were first starting out in the ’90s and playing the Viper Room, and Dave Grohl popped backstage before the show: “Hey, just wanted to let you know I was here; have a great time, bye!” You can’t beat that. It was special because he was coming to see us. It wasn’t, “Oh, my God, there’s a famous person. Hey, Mr. Neil Young, can I take your picture?” He was letting us know he was into it.

Kyle Gass: I met Slash at the Golden God Awards once, and I turned into the annoying fan who wanted his picture taken with Slash. But my best memory was probably the barbecue at Neil Young’s house where I wound up standing around a fire with him, James Taylor and Thom Yorke, poking at the fire. That was crazy: “What person doesn’t belong here?”

Q: Why do you think you have such rapport with children?

JB: I’d say it’s the purity.

KG: And our playful use of metaphor.

JB: We work blue, but we come from a childish place. Our stuff’s just really, really dumb, and it comes from being aggressively stupid. Because we go super-dumb, there’s something adolescent about our instincts. The devil, the metal, it’s all pretty immature. We’d like to think it’s also sophisticated on a couple of levels. The kids laugh at our [expletive] jokes, the grownups laugh at the irony.

Q: Do your own kids like your music?

JB: They like “Rize of the Fenix.” They ask for it when I take them to school. We did a clean version – I play that one for them. I don’t play it unless they ask. “Guys, whattaya think? Daddy would sure like to hear his music!”

Q: Now that you’re internationally acclaimed mega-stars, just how rare is “friendship”?

KG: Very rare. We have no friends. People’s motives, man...

JB: Everybody wants something, so I just try to stay in my bubble. I live on top of a mountaintop in Hollywood, in a home sealed inside a geodesic dome to protect me from marauders. Celebrity’s addresses are in star maps, so any psycho stalkers or burglars who want to steal our projector TVs know where to find us. I try never to leave home and I remain well-armed, a full arsenal in my safe.

KG: Me, I keep it real. You’re as likely to see me in Starbucks as the supermarket. I even go to the casino, play some cards.

JB: My celebrity affords me some of the finer things, even as it keeps me inside a golden cage. Kyle is down deep in the broiling valley below with the regular folks, a freedom I can only dream of.

KG: “You look like that guy who works with Jack Black,” I get a lot of that. “Nope,” I say, “not me.” The guy who wants to talk with you but does not know your name, that’s the worst.

Q: What’s trying to kill “The Metal” now?

KG: The laptop, I think. It’s aggressively trying to kill the metal.

JB: There’s a new genre that remains nameless, Mumford & Sons and Arcade Fire and The Lumineers and Fleet Foxes. They play banjos, sing about “bigger” issues like the emotionality of life.

KG: I think it’s either glorious roots or rootsy glory.

JB: There’s a sensitivity and passion that can apparently only be expressed by playing a 1908 banjo as if your life depended on it, strumming it as if you came from Appalachia and had never watched TV before. But they will also fail to kill the metal. In the end, the metal will emerge, victorious as usual with their poseur hearts in its hands, vintage banjos bloodied and broken on the side of a dirt road.

Menconi: 919-829-4759 or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat

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