NEW YORK — The hotel room is so trashed that any rock star would be proud.
Even Johnny Depp in his heyday couldn’t have decimated such a lovely room so thoroughly. What must have once been an immaculate duplex at a swank hotel in midtown Manhattan now looks like the last remnants of a party that never wanted to end. The floor is buried under a sea of pizza boxes, bottles and potato chips. Furniture is strewn about. There in the corner, is that … yes, that’s definitely a pentagram spray-painted on a wall. The scene is quiet now, a far cry from the bacchanalian tumult that evidently erupted the evening before.(Check out the behind-the-scenes photos with Jack and Kyle here.)
Into this silent chaos walk two men, here for an exclusive interview for “Your Movie Show.” They shake their heads in knowing unison. “This is barely an interview. This is like you stopped by our post-party,” Tenacious D’s Kyle Gass says. His partner is even more reticent, quick to point out that the scene was not of their own making, but a set constructed specifically for them. “I cannot comment on the situation we’re in. No comment,” Jack Black says.
It’s true. They’re innocent — this time.
Separately, they are just two men. You might pass them in the street without a second glance. They possess neither the lithe physiques of rockers who have spent a lifetime sweating on a stage, nor the attitude that would seem to come with their résumés. Yes, separately they are what they are: talented, yes, but unremarkable at first sight.
Together, they form something that is clearly more than the sum of their formidable parts. Together they are nothing less than the “greatest rock band in the world”: Tenacious D.
At least that’s what they say.
“Life before the D was one of searching,” Black says, chewing on a piece of nicotine gum. He is a family man now, married to musician Tanya Haden, with a newborn son at home and a thriving career as a leading man in the movies. It’s been 21 years since he teamed with Gass to form the potent duo that is the D. It was all the way back then, in Los Angeles, when the kindred spirits met, that their intertwined path became clear. Asked where he’d be had the band never been, Black muses, “I would be doing something in the arts, and living at my mom’s. I could be at a summer camp teaching kids how to make candles or something.” For Gass the road not taken is crystal clear. “I had an audition [to become] the next Maytag repair man. It was down to like me and, like, five guys.” Black shakes his head in disbelief as Gass drives the story home. “And I thought at the time, ‘Maybe that’s a good gig,’ ” he recalls.
Today, the man you would no doubt be Tivo-ing past and the guy who stole scenes in flicks like “High Fidelity” hold their heads high. Today they are starring in their own film, “Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny,” which comes out on November 22. It’s a film that re-creates their first meeting and other true events (albeit with cameos by Satan and Sasquatch). The “rock-u-docu-drama,” as Gass terms it, clearly pushes the boundaries of truth. Yet Black maintains, “This movie is entirely true except that my parents actually, in reality, always encouraged me to rock.” Also, his dad presumably was not Meat Loaf, who portrays him in the film.
But a movie-star moment for the duo doesn’t mean they’ve left their rock roots behind. Concurrent to the release of the film they plan a worldwide farewell tour for the D. “I notice that when we threaten to break up the band, we get a lot more attention,” Black explains, not that attention has ever been a problem. Black admits, “We never paid any dues. We went out and played a show. We only had one song, ‘Tribute,’ and the crowd went insane.” Gass adds proudly that “Tribute” made it onto an Australian list of the top 500 rock songs of all time. “Where are we in the U.S.?” Black deadpans. His partner answers, without missing a beat, “We didn’t rank.”
Clearly, they complement each other well: That much is certain as they sit and jam amid the hotel-room chaos created just for them. A guitar left for them finds its way into Black’s arms and the songs come fast and easy — but not by request. Asked to riff on a random suggestion, Black quickly sets the questioner straight. “It has to come from right here,” he says, gesturing to himself and Gass. “This is how we write a song, in my opinion. It’s got to be something interesting to us.”
“Kyle is the heart and soul of the D,” Black says later. So what does that make Nacho Libre himself? “I’m the ninja,” he says with an arched eyebrow. He’s probably been flashing that look for more than 20 years, all the way back to the day he says he realized he had “something.” He recalls, “I was auditioning for my high school production of ‘Pippin.’ I sang a song and a girl came up to me — who had never shown any interest in me at all before — and said, ‘You really sang good.’ ”
One can imagine Black gets a similar buzz from his myriad movie roles today, from the unlikely teacher in “School of Rock” to the impulsive director Carl Denham in “King Kong.” Gass believes his friend’s adventures in Hollywood only strengthen the D. “It’s important to recharge,” he says. “When Jack goes off and does movies, I applaud it. I go back in the lab and work on the masterpieces.” Black echoes the sentiment. “Every time we’ve come back to the D, we’ve been stronger — more powerful than before.”
Now, as they sit here on the eve of perhaps the band’s biggest moment, they are single-minded: as passionate and resolute in their power to rock as ever before. “We’ve contorted [rock]. We’ve put it in a pretzel hold and left it there,” Black says.
The jokes come easily to both, but it’s a whimsy that finds its roots in something deep. In many ways Tenacious D feel like the band that never grew up. Black and Gass cling to it for sustenance and creative freedom even as Hollywood beckons each. It goes back to that moment back in high school for Black when he earned the adulation of the opposite sex, and the light bulb went off. He smiles to himself, “That’s when I realized: ‘Damn. I rock!’ ”
For this exclusive interview, a historic look back at the band and the search for the next member of Tenacious D, be sure to catch “Your Movie Show – Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny” on Friday at 6:30 p.m. on MTV.