After the one-two punch of a short-lived but funny HBO series and a platinum-selling 2002 debut album, it looked like Tenacious D might be destined to live up to its self-proclaimed title, "The Greatest Band On Earth." But after an epilogue-like 2003 DVD compilation, Tenacious D: The Complete Masterworks, three years went by with no new releases. Tenacious D's two members went their separate ways: Kyle Gass began appearing with his solo project, Trainwreck, and Jack Black's film career exploded into starring roles in The School Of Rock, King Kong, and Nacho Libre. But they were hard at work the whole time, creating Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny, which follows The D from its inception through its quest for a magical guitar pick formed from the devil's tooth, culminating with a musical showdown with the beast himself. The A.V. Club sat down with Black and Gass to discuss the movie, their costars from Meat Loaf to Satan (Dave Grohl), their upcoming tour, and their future projects for the silver screen.
The A.V. Club: The last time you spoke with us, you talked about this movie, and Jack said, "There will be no D wine until it's D time." Apparently you weren't kidding.
Jack Black: When was that?
AVC: 2001. And now it's almost 2007. Can you take us through the genesis of this project?
JB: Yeah, it's been percolating. Well, we did the Tenacious D show. Things didn't work out over there at HBO. We had to stop doing that show. But it worked out well, because we realized we were going to blow our wad after a season or two; we wouldn't have any more D stories to tell, probably. And this way, we could focus on one big D explosion movie.
Kyle Gass: Yeah, it seemed to be the best way…
JB: But then we sat down in earnest and tried to write it with a friend of ours. And came up dry. Nothing seemed to sound right. We didn't really have the confidence. We started like 32 different beginnings and just fucking threw them all out. To jump from like sketch to full-length feature is a fucking… It's like the difference between…
KG: A guy with a short story and an encyclopedia, I would say. Probably not that much.
JB: Not an encyclopedia.
KG: So we abandoned ship on that, and we said, "Well, all right. Let's maybe take some pitches from writers. Maybe somebody's got a great idea." And some friends of ours had a pretty good pitch, we thought.
JB: Yeah, it was a good idea. It was basically, "The sunken city of Atlantis is being crushed by Satan." And we're trying to bring it back to life.
KG: Unbeknownst to us.
JB: And there's a hot ninja lady who befriends us, and we both want to have sex with her.
KG: But she's only there to try to… It was a bit…
JB: So they wrote it and we read it. And we were like, "Yeah, it's funny, but it's just not our sense of humor. This is not what's happening." And around that time we started collaborating with this guy, Liam Lynch, who's known for his sick puppet show…
KG: Sifl & Olly.
JB: Sifl & Olly. And then later for his hit single, "United States Of Whatever." And he kind of gave us a boost of confidence. And he was like, "Why are you letting other people take a crack at a D movie? They don't know what The D is. You guys are the only ones that know. Come on! You can write it! I'll help ya." And sure enough, he did. He was a fucking incredible collaborator, and a shot in the arm.
KG: I'd say he was a great facilitator and collaborator.
JB: Yeah. "Fa-sala-tator."
KG: Yeah. He was a fasalatator. Liam's great, because he is a buddy and also a fan. But a fan in a good way, like, "Listen, I know why I like you guys. Make sure you guys do what you need to do." Like for instance, he did the "Tribute" video, which, uh… I think he really hit it out of the park. I thought it was really well done.
AVC: What ideas fell by the wayside?
KG: There was a scene where I was going to have to use one of those dance machines. And I thought that would be really funny. And I had to win it. That fell by the wayside. What else didn't make the cut?
JB: We cut a scene at an army-surplus store where we were trying to get all the equipment for the heist. And it featured a song called "The Government Totally Sucks." But it wasn't because of censoring as much as just for the good of the film. You've got to kill some babies? Is that what somebody said?
KG: That's a horrible way to say it, but…
AVC: You got Meat Loaf to sing for the first time on film since…
JB: Rocky Horror! I think if you follow the family trees, me and Meat probably have the same great-great-great-great-great-something, back in Scotch-Irish land. But before we even had a script, I'd always said, "When we make the D movie, Meat Loaf must play my dad." Just because his particular brand of theatrical bombast that he brings to the rock… I've borrowed many a move of his. [Singing Meat Loaf's "Paradise By The Dashboard Light."] "Baby baby, let me sleep on it." 'Cause he puts a lot of acting into his performance.
AVC: You guys once suggested that Ronnie James Dio might be too old to rock, and yet he's in the movie.
JB: Yes. We did call him out for early retirement. However, first we flattered him, so much more than we were poking fun at him, that he knew it was a compliment. 'Cause we wanted his torch. We could have asked for a lot of people's torches. We didn't want their torches! He was the one we chose to carry the torch. So ultimately, we were bestowing an honor upon him.
KG: And Dio is a really cool guy who really kind of enjoyed the whole thing.
AVC: So let's talk about the history of Satan and rock 'n' roll: From Robert Johnson to The Rolling Stones to Charlie Daniels, there's been a long history…
JB: It goes back before that. Wasn't it Stravinsky who did…
KG: The Damnation Of Faust.
JB: "Peter And The Devil," or whatever that was… something. [The Soldier's Tale. —ed.] There's a fiddling. It was a classical piece. I think it was Stravinsky. And before that, like he said, Faust. Faust was the original heavy-metal author.
KG: That's where it all began. It's one of those stories that seems to really… It's just keeps going.
JB: And if you go even further back, I think Plato met, uh, Pan at a Roman crossroad. [Laughs.]
AVC: Do you think Satan is a necessary component of rock 'n' roll?
KG: No, but it sure helps.
JB: No. There are some great bands that never incorporated Satan. But it's a bygone era where Satan really participated. And there was a while there where you knew that you were a big band if there was a priest out front telling you not to go in. That is the measure of success. And those times are gone, and I kind of miss 'em, because there's a lot of drama in that, a lot of theatricality.
KG: You might even say our movie's a bit old-fashioned.
AVC: It really draws on the classics. The car chase, for instance, really has a lot of classic motifs.
JB + KG: Yeah.
AVC: So while we're on the topic of Satan, why cast Dave Grohl?
JB: Well, in this case, we really needed someone who could bring a powerful musical performance—we needed a great singer with chops—and also comedic chops. And if it wasn't Dave, we would have had to go… I don't know. I don't know who could have done it.
KG: He ended up being pretty perfect. Because he just had that, as they say, "comic smile" behind it. You know, he looks the part, but there's still kind of a sense of fun about him.
JB: He's always been great in his own music videos. It's weird that he hasn't acted in movies before. I think he's been approached before, and he always says no. But then the D asked him, and he said yes. [Laughter.]
AVC: What's next for The D?
JB: Next for The D is the tour, the D Tour. We are blowing it out. Bigger than… We've never done a real tour on this scale before. We always go out, just me and Kyle, and rock the nation by ourselves. But this time, we're taking a full band, and we're going full production values. Full sets. We're rebuilding Kyle's apartment and recreating a Hell landscape. And it's so expensive—what we're doing—we're actually losing money. But we felt like we had to blow it out.
KG: We had to do an event, only because…
JB: We've always gone so low-fi.
AVC: What about more movies? You could turn this thing into a franchise à la Abbott And Costello, or Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, doing Tenacious D And The…
KG: Road To Zanzibar!
JB: I think Tenacious D In Space.
KG: Tenacious D Go To Pluto. And find out it's not a planet anymore.
JB: And fight some aliens. Or maybe Tenacious D 5000…
KG: We should do some motorcycle jumps…
JB: Tenacious D In The Year 5000!
KG: We could jump some sharks. [Laughs.]