Tenacious D Emerges From the Ashes of Pick of Destiny with “Rize of the Fenix”

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:: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: July 26 ::

By Timothy Dwenger

Self described as “the greatest band in the world,” Tenacious D has been melting faces and exploding brains around the world for almost 20 years. From humble beginnings in clubs around L.A., and a short-lived show on HBO, The D has ascended to the top of the proverbial pyramid of comedic rock music on the shoulders of Jack Black’s “pipes of platinum,” and Kyle Gass’s “riffs of pure profundity.”

While things have been relatively quiet in the Tenacious D camp over the last several years, when The Marquee caught up with Black recently, he revealed that despite what some of the media might have said about “The D being done” back in 2006, he and his musical partner “never stopped working on music together.”

Black went on to describe the process that he and Gass use to write songs and it sounds like the pair pour extensive energy into writing their comically brilliant songs. “We come up with titles and work backwards from there. It’s all about the concept,” admitted Black. “KG comes up with a riff and I improvise on the topic. We do that for years. For every good song there are a hundred shitty ones. Patience is more important than talent.”

After six years of hard work, the duo returned in May of this year with Rize of the Fenix, a bombastic forty minute display of everything that makes Tenacious D, The D. The collection of 13 songs and skits showcases intricate guitar work, surprisingly good harmonies, and the songwriting that Black and Gass have become known for. At times it’s raunchy, at times it reeks of classic rock, but one thing’s for sure — it’s always epic.

It’s epic in the way that your favorite ’80s hairbands were epic. It’s epic in the way that Journey is epic, and yes, it’s epic in the way that Nacho Libre is epic. Black describes their influences as “Black Sabbath, Simon and Garfunkel, Metallica and Bobby McFerrin,” and goes on to say that their sound is “a delicate balance between muscular machismo and intense male sensitivity.”

The title track of Rize of the Fenix opens the album right where things left off six years ago, as Black sings “when The Pick of Destiny was released it was a bomb, and all the critics said that The D was done.” He is, of course, referring to the band’s ill-fated foray into the feature film business with an offbeat movie that chronicled the fictionalized formation of Tenacious D and featured Black and Gass alongside Meat Loaf, Ronnie James Dio, Ben Stiller, Tim Robbins, John C. Reilly, and Dave Grohl.

Working on The Pick of Destiny was not the first time that The D had worked with Dave Grohl, in fact Grohl has been the primary drummer on each of the band’s three albums. While talking about his longtime friend, Black was very complimentary about Grohl’s contributions to their latest project. “Dave Grohl brought the thunder once again,” he said. “Dave Grohl is like steroids. He makes a good band great, and he makes a great band the best of all time.”

While there might be some argument as to whether any of Grohl’s bands have been “the best of all time,” his drumming is an integral part of making Rize of the Fenix the thundering rock album it is and there is no doubt that the Tenacious D sound owes a lot to the former Nirvana drummer, and current Foo Fighter frontman.

The record’s sound also owes a lot to John Kimbrough, who offered up his garage studio to the band for the project. “We recorded it in our friend’s garage and he produced it himself,” Black said. “We could’ve done it all at a fancy studio but it would’ve cost more than Chinese Democracy. This way it cost $600 bucks and we had lots left over for deep tissue massage. We’d roll in around 10 a.m., lay down tracks till lunch, then we’d go down to our favorite diner, Auntie Em’s. After lunch we’d lay down some more hot tracks ‘till about 5 p.m. Best job ever,” Black said.

While recording the album may have been “the best job ever,” it sounds like life on the road promoting the new record has its ups and downs. Black admitted that, after a recent run of shows through Europe that included a few festivals, he had considered adding a “private porta-potty with a velvet rope and bouncer” to their tour rider. “Some of these festivals force you to walk a mile to take a dump,” he lamented before revealing that they currently only have “humus and pita chips” on their rider.

While the band is well within their rights to make requests on their rider, one thing that fans shouldn’t expect from a Tenacious D show is the opportunity to make their own requests. Black was quite adamant when he said, “While no request is too strange, we rarely play requests. We go over the set list with painstaking obsessive compulsion.” Fortunately, that set list typically showcases fan favorites like “Tribute,” “The Metal,” and yes, even “Fuck Her Gently.” From time to time they might even wedge Black’s take on the “Star Trek” theme song into the set. “I love to sing the theme song to the original ‘Star Trek’ TV show,” he said. “It actually has lyrics that were published but not used on the show. It’s sung from the perspective of Captain Kirk’s long lost lover on Earth. She’s super jealous that he’s off making love to exotic alien women around the galaxy. Very powerful stuff.”

With or without a porta potty on the rider, the group’s 16 date summer tour stops at Red Rocks on July 26th, where Black and Gass will be joined on stage by John Spiker on bass, who also mixed and engineered the album, John Konesky, who Black says “is also known as the Antichrist,” on electric guitar, and Brooks Wackerman on drums. It’s a band that is sure to bring the thunder and deliver everything that fans expect from Tenacious Motherfuckin’ D.

 

:: Tenacious D ::

:: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: July 26 ::

 

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