Tenacious D: Obnoxious And Rising

Tenacious D's eponymous debut would be the "greatest album ever made" if it weren't for those pesky lads from Liverpool, says singer/actor/guitarist Jack Black, one-half of the acoustic-guitar-wieldin

Tenacious D's eponymous debut would be the "greatest album ever made" if it weren't for those pesky lads from Liverpool, says singer/actor/guitarist Jack Black, one-half of the acoustic-guitar-wielding comedic duo.

"The 'White Album' is a little bit better," he concedes. "But it's neck and neck, and they only got us by a nose. Ya know what? Scratch that-by a nostril. Scratch that, dude. Our nose is actually ahead of The 'White Album''s nose, but The 'White Album' sneezed, and a booger crossed the finish line before us. They beat us by a flying sneeze booger!"

"And we've only done one album," adds Black's partner, fellow singer/actor/guitarist Kyle Gass.

Sound ridiculous? Of course it does -- it's supposed to. It's with such obnoxious, completely disillusioned, and often gross commentary that the barrel-chested pair has won a cult following with the rarest of beginnings-one that, with Epic's October 2001 release of "Tenacious D," the act seems on the verge of outgrowing.

When Gass (aka K.G.) and Black (aka J.B.) formed the D -- as he, Black, and their rabid fans refer to the group -- in the mid-'90s, the goal, Gass deadpans, was to "have good sex with young women." Well, with an album on a powerful major label in stores at last, that's finally happening, Gass says.

On a less tawdry note, the release and the press surrounding Black's latest films -- "Shallow Hal" and "Orange County" -- have also raised the band's profile tremendously. The D recently toured with fellow ironic rockers Weezer ("We're asking our fans to stay until they're done," Gass says) and is enjoying MTV2 exposure via the Spike Jonze-directed video for "Wonderboy."

Not bad for an act that Gass says was actually created not as much to score good sex with young women -- although that was a part of it -- but rather to win "best of show." When Gass and Black originally banded together in L.A., they had hopes that their Spinal Tap-informed blend of metal and folk would go over big at an open-mic comedy competition.

And it did: When Gass and Black played their only song, the Dio-esque "Tribute" -- the D's salute to "the greatest song in the world," which Gass and Black claim to have penned, performed, then promptly forgotten -- the crowd "freaked," Black says.

The gig led to Gass and Black's act being incorporated into HBO's now-defunct late-'90s sketch comedy program "Mr. Show." Reaction was so positive that the network created three half-hour Tenacious D shorts, featuring the band in sketch- and stand-up-like performance scenarios.

Though both programs were short-lived, the D's penchant for medieval imagery and four-letter words struck a chord. As both programs died, Tenacious D Web sites began multiplying, and fans began trading and selling videotapes and CDs (culled from the HBO shows) over the Internet. The band even scored a performance on "Saturday Night Live" via their HBO shows, which still run on the network's various channels. "We only made three of these shows," says Carolyn Strauss, HBO's senior VP of original programming. "And for the tiny little smidgen of the D that's out there, it's garnered an enormous amount of attention."

Randy Irwin, Epic's VP of marketing, says that since the label's issuing of "Tenacious D" -- on which Foo Fighter Dave Grohl guests on drums and Gass and Black chatter about "mind bullets," pubic hair, "rockin' your socks off," penis push-ups, and "inward singing" -- he has been inundated with requests for D promos. "I get people coming into my office every day saying, 'I just got turned on to the D. I gotta have some posters and stuff.'"

More people are not only getting the joke, says 91X San Diego MD Chris Muckley, but the joke is simply "more easily available to be gotten," thanks to Tenacious D.

The buzz for the album -- which features many of the songs and sketches the D performed on HBO, as well as appearances from Phish's Page McConnell and the Vandals' Warren Fitzgerald -- was intensified last summer, when the band's management (John Silva and Gary Gersh in L.A.) began handing out copies of an X-rated, animated video for the D track "F*** Her Gently" done by the creators of "The Ren & Stimpy Show."

Irwin says the band's camp began by distributing copies to members of such bands as Sum 41 and Blink-182 at last year's WHFS festival outside Washington, D.C. Word spread from there, he says, noting that the credit for the "tour-bus marketing" concept belongs solely to the band.

"In a lot of ways, we've just tried to stay out of their way," Irwin says. "There's nothing that we can do here that the band can't do better, in terms of appealing to their fanbase."

Though the group -- which hopes to produce a Tenacious D movie -- is in itself an X-rated Smothers Brothers weaned on Black Sabbath and Judas Priest LPs, porn, beer jokes, and Bobby McFerrin, what truly makes the D stand out is that Black and Gass aren't just musically competent but actually quite talented and often surprisingly clever, both musically and lyrically.

"It's funny," Irwin says. "You wouldn't necessarily expect women to be huge fans. But there's such a sense of irony, almost a cuteness that can appeal to women. Ordinarily, they might be offended, lyrically. But the songs are delivered in such a manner that you couldn't not get the joke."

So are Gass and Black themselves impressed with how well things are progressing? "No way, dude," Black says. "I thought they were gonna be much weller. I thought it was gonna be gooder and weller." Gass adds, "We had a song called 'Hot and Cheesier' that we were gonna put on [the album]. It was a sure-fire hit, but we didn't put it on because it was too hot and cheesy."


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