It’s been a long, cold sextet of years since Tenacious D unleashed their last album—cult classic The Pick of Destiny—upon the world. Beloved by fans, the record and accompanying film inexplicably failed to make much money and therefore was, by industry standards, a failure.
It took them a while to get over the hurt, but now the D—comprised of curvy funny man Jack Black, and his white-socks-and-sandals wearing friend Kyle Gass—have written a comeback album unlike no other. Featuring seismic rock hits like “Low Hanging Fruit” and “They Fucked Us In the Ass”, Rize of the Fenix may be Tenacious D’s greatest masterwork yet. Possibly.
We find Black and Gass at their dark rehearsal space in a questionable corner of North Hollywood, nestled side-by-side on a threadbare sofa. A giant painted Virgin Mary watches from behind the drum riser as they talk about how this, their third studio album (with drums courtesy of Dave Grohl, and artwork resembling a large, veiny penis in the shape of a bird), may or may not be greatest comeback album in the history of rock.
J: Remember 2006? When we put out our last album? Let’s get in our hot tub time machine and remember…
K: Was there YouTube in 2006? Cause it feels like YouTube was the big demarcation of the advancement.
K: Yeah. I feel like there was ‘before YouTube’, and ‘after YouTube’.
J: OK but what were we doing in 2006?
K: I think we were releasing our movie (The Pick of Destiny). We were working hard.
J: We were globetrotting and feeling very cocky.
K: Yeah, and shooting a documentary.
J: Ronnie James Dio was still alive.
K: Didn’t he ask us to be in his video?
J: He heard that we wrote a song on the first album and people told him “hey! This band Tenacious D is dissing you.” And so he took a listen to it and said ‘no they’re not, they love me, this is a love song.” And he was right. He was the sweetest guy, very warm, very funny and very magical.
K: He was quite diminutive.
J: You’re saying he was very short?
K: Well, yeah.
J: Yeah, he was Prince-like in stature. Good things come in small packages. Or so I’ve been told.
K: It was an honour meeting him but let’s face it, he was definitely more a hero of yours.
J: Really, Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell wasn’t your first album?
K: No, I think I was rocking the Beach Boys, something a little more poppish. In a battle of songwriting, I’d probably pick Brian Wilson over Dio, to be honest.
J: Well, Ronnie James Dio would definitely have had more evil songs than Brian Wilson. I mean, James is the greatest metal singer of all time. Brian Wilson is like the 500, 000th best metal singer of all time. In fact, he’s like the worst metal singer ever.
K: Satan in rock. That was really a 1980s phenomenon.
J: Yeah. Black Sabbath was doing it in the 70s but for the most part it blossomed in the 80s. Back then, you couldn't be in rock if you didn't have a devil angle. Van Halen was able to rock pretty hard without Satan, but besides that all the top acts were devil-heavy. Now there is no devil in rock. In some ways rock has died. It's definitely taken a back seat to a lot of other genres. It doesn't have nearly the pull that it used to.
K: It does feel like it's waning.
J: Yeah, who's the biggest rock act? There used to be tons of them, now there are only a handful of bands that can fill a stadium.
K: Foo Fighters.
J: Yeah, you've got the Foo Fighters, but they're kind of carrying the torch alone.
K: Jack White seems like he's carrying the torch a little bit.
J: Some people think that the phoenix (on the “Rize of the Fenix” album cover) looks like a big penis, but I don’t see it. Maybe it's kind of like a Rorschach test. If that's what you see, it says a lot more about you than the artist. But what I think is cool is that the phoenix has a purple head and blue balls.
K: Almost ready to burst. It's the perfect cover. We've cracked the code.
J: Prepare for the love explosion.
J: When I first I looked at it, I was scared of it. I was like, “oh no no no, that's too disturbing, we can't unleash that on the public.” But then I looked at it again the next day and I was like “wait a second, that's beautiful.” It is very real, and terrifying, it looks like the end of the world's penis
K: I never thought of that.
J: The A-Cock-Alypse
K: O my god, you're on fire!
J: A-Cock-Alypse NOW! We’re boundary-pushing.
K: Yeah, like my white socks and sandals. Boundary-pushing. People like to remind me what a horrible look it is.
J: But is it? Because ninjas have a similar sock, where it separates the big toe from the rest of the foot.
K: If I just wear sandals, I notice my feet get really dirty, so this is really, yeah, this is the perfect combo.
J: I’ve never been a big flip flop guy. They annoy my feet. I have kind of granny feet. Someday I’ll probably have horrible …
J: Funions. I like to call them funions. I may have to have some kind of surgery to avoid that, because there is nothing less rock’n’roll than bunions.
K: This album is definitely more rock ‘n roll than bunions.
J: It’s a concept album and the concept is a comeback. In fact has there never been an album that was more about the comeback.
K: What about LL Cool J? (referring to the lyric, “don’t call it a comeback” from the song Mama Said Knock you Out)
J: Oh, but he said don’t call it a comeback. We’re saying do call it a comeback. We are the first real comeback album. Wait a second, what is the greatest comeback album? Oh, it would be Back in Black, where they got a new singer. But that’s different, cause they are coming back with a different band. We’re still the same D, we’re just coming back.
K: This whole thing could backfire on us.
J: What do you mean, what, how could it backfire? If people don’t like the comeback album then the backfire is what?
K: That we didn’t come back!
J: Maybe we shouldn’t have done a comeback album then. We should have just done a regular album and pretended like we didn’t need to come back. We could have talked about how the whole album is just full of inspirational jams that make you want to exercise, and say ‘I can do anything, I can be the best’.
K: You exercise?
J: I’ve done a fair amount of exercise. Believe it or not, I’m pretty strong. Underneath the soft exterior lies the heart of a lion. See, it’s pretty firm underneath, feel that. (makes Kyle prod his curled bicep)
K: Oh my god! Dude.
J: Yeah, it’s mostly natural. We exercise all the time, don’t we?
K : Yeah, I don’t.
J: They say that of all the aging rockers, Mick Jagger is in the best physical condition because of his days of doing yoga. That’s what you and me are going to start doing. Yoga.
K: I don’t do yoga.
J: You never did any yoga, no downward dog?
K: Well, I dabbled.
J: I’m very good at yoga. Kundalini. It’s all about the chakras. I’m working on the seventh.
K: What’s that, the genital one?
J: No I think the genitals is like the first one.