Jack Black and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D — known as The D to their followers — shattered six years of silence in 2012 with their third record, “Rize of the Fenix,” which recently captured a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album. Billboard checked in with Black about the long wait between albums, how much he paid for his first guitar and why practice doesn’t make perfect.
Billboard: Congrats on the Grammy nomination. Do you feel like it’s time?
Black: Did I feel like it was time? Yes. No, I feel like the Tenacious D nation would’ve staged some kind of protest if we hadn’t won. So I’m just happy that there won’t be a riot.
Is the third time the charm? It’s your third album in eleven years.
Me and Kyle don’t care about prizes. That’s not why we do it. But there was a tremendous amount of buzz, you know: “Will Tenacious D finally win a Grammy? Will it be for Best Comedy, or will it just be Best Album overall? Will it be both? Will it be nominated multiple times?” And me and Kyle couldn’t care less — it’s the last thing on our minds. I mean, it’s sweet. It’s nice. But it’s not why we do it. But people continue to talk about it. Now they’re saying, “Why weren’t they nominated for Best Jazz Album,” because of our new album, “Jazz,” that was just released. And I try to explain to them, “It was released too late.” But no one wants to listen. It’s an international story, I tell you.
Do you find making music more creatively liberating than acting? Or is it more exhausting?
I find them both to be incredibly exhilarating, and incredibly challenging. I can’t say that one is more or less than the other. I do love them both. And I do hate them both.
What do you hate about the music part?
The same thing as the acting. I mean, when it comes time to get up there, and slay the dragon in a live performance — to face a gigantic judgment-filled audience and blow their minds — there’s an adrenaline there that can be exhilarating, but it’s also terrifying. Every time it’s time to perform, whether it be acting or music, I always feel like, “I’ve got to get out of this business. I’m too old for this shit,” as they say in every comedy-action picture ever made. And when it’s said and done, I’m glad I did it, because it ends up being another highlight of my life. But it’s incredibly stressful at the same time.
Did you ever think Tenacious D would have this kind of longevity?
Well, it’s not a joke: we really do believe we are the greatest band in the world. So not only is the answer to that question “yes,” but the answer is also “how dare you?” How dare you even ask such a question? It’s insulting. Because we were better than all other bands performing at the time.
Who was responsible for putting the first guitar in your hands?
It was Kyle Bartholomew Gass who taught me the ways of guitar. I bought his guitar from him. He had a guitar, a crappy BC Rico, and I bought it from him for 200 dollars and a lifetime of guitar lessons.
Do you think it’s necessary to practice every day?
[Laughs] It’s a loaded question. Is it necessary to practice every day? I do not. And it’s part of my theory that the less you practice, the more nimble and youthful your fingers. If you practice too often you wear out your finger muscles. It’s a theory I’m working on: it’s the Never-Practice Theory.
How often do you never practice?
I try to never practice at least 24 hours a day [laughs]. Sometimes I fail. I mean, when there’s a gig coming up, that’s when it’s time to really put it into overdrive. And when there’s jams happening, the writing process… Yeah, I’m not a big practicer. Guilty.
Do you force yourself to write every day?
No, I don’t force myself to write every day. I think it’s important to spend years not writing, where you’re just recharging the batteries. We just wrote what I consider to be a masterpiece. Rize of the Fenix is our best album so far. Very proud of the work. Not just as comedy, but as just a musical piece. And it’s been ideas for songs that have been bubbling for five years. And if we tried to write another album right now — “Just start writing the next album, come on man, let’s do it!” — I feel like it would be dry. That’s not our schedule — we need to now just enjoy life and live life and experience the world. And then we’ll come back with fresh eyes again in a couple of years. To the writing process, anyway. We’re still touring.