Category: Jack Black

Tenacious D come back with ‘Rize of the Fenix' to rescue rock

Tenacious D's Jack Black and Kyle Gass ‘Rize' like the ‘Fenix' from the aftermath of ‘The Pick of Destiny.' Their goal? Nothing less than saving rock music.

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Tenacious D rehearses in a grim-looking practice space on a desolate industrial strip deep in the San Fernando Valley. A string of twinkle lights works in vain against the gloom of the room. The vaguely creepy atmosphere is exactly where you'd expect to find a rock band as obsessed with Satan as Tenacious D is.

Or at least it would be if the band weren't fronted by a comic movie star whose last several films -- including "Tropic Thunder" and the "Kung Fu Panda" pictures -- have together raked in well over a billion dollars, according to Box Office Mojo. Jack Black laughs off such celebrity exceptionalism.

"In a way, it's more fun the rougher it is," the singer-actor said on a recent afternoon at the rehearsal space. Black and his bandmate, Kyle Gass, had finished practicing for an upcoming tour (they play May 23 at the Santa Barbara Bowl) for their new album, "Rize of the Fenix," and were lounging on a pair of lumpy sofas. "That's where we came from before we had an album: shooting little videos in the desert for 50 bucks."

"There doesn't seem to be a relationship between budget and comedy," Gass mused. "In fact, it might be inverse."

"Right," Black agreed. "Would ‘Beavis and Butt-Head' be funnier if it was done by Picasso?" He shook his head. "Less."

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Personal Playlist: Jack Black is looking to rock

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Jack Black has concerns about the state of rock music. "We’ve got a song on the new album called 'Rock Is Dead,’" says the actor-musician in reference to "Rize of the Fenix," the latest from his L.A. comedy-metal band Tenacious D, due out May 15. "It’s not dead -- it’s actually on life support. I’m hoping that it, too, will have a rebirth like the phoenix. Maybe we’ll usher it in." Black shared some signs of life with Pop & Hiss.

Tom Waits, "Bad As Me." "Those first three tracks are worth the price of admission. He’s so real; he’s gonna be here in a hundred years. Don’t you feel it? Objectively speaking, can’t you look at some people and go, 'Hundred years -- still gonna be here’?"

Leonard Cohen, "Songs of Leonard Cohen." "I had never listened to him. Everyone’s always like, 'Ah, Leonard Cohen,’ genuflecting over the genius. And I just never listened, or I listened a little bit and never got it. So finally I was like, 'I’ve gotta see what all the hubbub is about.’ And I got his first one, the one with 'Suzanne,’ and I just listened to it and was like, 'Hundred years.’"

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Is corporate rock so desolate we're excited about Tenacious D?

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In about three weeks the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival will begin its two-week run, welcoming blues rockers the Black Keys in their new role as rock 'n' roll headliners. It will be a big moment for the duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, whose headliner status has arrived a decade into their career.

In terms of no-frills, working-class rock 'n' roll, the Black Keys are an anomaly at the top of the Coachella bill, which features hip-hop pioneer Dr. Dre and more experimental rock acts such as Radiohead and At the Drive-In. Beyond Coachella, the Black Keys are also outside the norm of what has typically passed for popular rock, their scruff the antithesis of the wait-for-the-chorus power chord release of, say, the Foo Fighters. 

Perhaps that's why the return of Tenacious D feels rather quaint. The pair of Jack Black and Kyle Gass aren't parodying current trends as much as our nostalgic remembrances of rock 'n' roll stars of a bygone era. A new album, "Rize of the Phoenix," is due May 15 and was teased Tuesday with an extended, movie-parodying clip titled "To Be the Best." Foo Fighter leader Dave Grohl appears, and his likable self-deprecation isn't all that removed from the attitude of these rock-loving jokesters.

Tenacious D, for instance, have a blast poking fun at their very own ironic-but-not-ironic ways. As evidence, one of the central conceits of this new video is the poorly received 2006 Tenacious D film "The Pick of Destiny." Elsewhere, crooner Josh Groban has a cameo, and more puzzling is the fact that no one seems to mind when Val Kilmer is killed. Evidently, plenty is disposable in the world of Tenacious D. 

Unlike the video below, Tenacious D's new song, the title track, isn't embeddable due to non-newspaper-friendly language. Name a classic rock band, and there's likely a reference in the tune, but far more fun is the cinematic teaser for the album. 

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