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Tenacious D is an American rock duo that was formed in Los Angeles, California in 1994. Composed of lead vocalist and guitarist Jack Black and lead guitarist and vocalist Kyle Gass, the band has released three albums - Tenacious D (2001), The Pick of Destiny (2006) and Rize of the Fenix (2012). Tenacious D's studio releases, and (as of 2006) its live performances, feature a full band lineup, including such musicians as guitarist John Konesky and bassist John Spiker. Drummer Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) has played on every studio release.
The band first gained popularity in 1997 when they starred in their eponymous television series and began to support large rock acts. In 2001, they released Tenacious D, their debut album featuring a full band. The first single, "Tribute," was the band's most successful achieving their only Top 10 in any chart, until they released "The Metal", which was shown on Saturday Night Live. In 2006, they starred in, and recorded the soundtrack for, the film Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny. In support of the film, the band went on a world tour, appearing for the first time with a full band. They released their newest album Rize of the Fenix on May 15, 2012.
Tenacious D's music showcases Black's theatrical vocal delivery and Gass' acoustic guitar playing abilities. Critics have described their fusion of vulgar absurdist comedy with rock music as "mock rock". Their songs discuss the duo's purported musical and sexual prowess, as well as their friendship and cannabis usage in a style that music critics have compared with the storyteller-style lyrics of rock opera.
Jack Black and Kyle Gass initially met in Los Angeles in 1985, both members of the theatre troupe, The Actors' Gang. Black admits the duo did not see eye to eye due to animosity between the two as Gass -- who was the main musician for the Actor's Gang - felt threatened by Black. This all changed in 1989 in Edinburgh, Scotland, during the Edinburgh Fringe of 1989. They were performing Tim Robbins' and Adam Simon's play Carnage. After arriving home from the trip, the two became very close friends and Black would regularly visit Gass's Cochran Avenue studio apartment in the deal that Gass would teach Black guitar in return for food from fast food chain Jack in the Box. They would also work on productions at the theater group together regularly too.
The two were just friends between 1989 and 1994 and did not play any concerts or record any music. Gass and Black wrote their first song "Mellisa" in 1994 after Black had been dumped by a girlfriend, this song was scrapped aside from the pair playing it at later Tenacious D concerts as a joke and referencing it in interviews. Their second song came about when Black was listening to Metallica's "One" in 1994 and told Gass that it was the "best song in the world". Gass told Black that they couldn't write the best song in the world but Black put a twist on it and said they could write a tribute. Gass played an A minor chord at his apartment and the two spent three full days crafting the song, when it was done Gass mentioned "they knew they had something". The song was comedic and evolved their comedy music persona.
Their first concert, was at Al's Bar (now an apartment complex), the band only played their one song "Tribute" and the duo also gave the audience the chance to vote for their name. Black and Gass gave them the choice between "Pets or Meat", "Balboa's Biblical Theatre" and "The Axe Lords Featuring Gorgazon's Mischief" (Gass' personal favorite). "Tenacious D"--a basketball term used by commentators to describe robust defensive positioning in basketball --did not get the majority of votes, however, but according to Black "we forced it through". The venue had become a hotbed for upcoming bands due to the success of Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so much so that in attendance was David Cross who later cast Jack Black in his sketch comedy television series, Mr. Show. Black and Gass recorded their songs "Tribute", "Kyle Quit the Band", "Krishna" and "History" and released them in a demo tape called Tenacious Demo, in the early-to-mid 1990s with Andrew Gross and distributed it to various record companies until HBO offered them a TV show based upon the tape and Black's work on Mr. Show.
Television series (1997-2000):
Cross, with Mr. Show writer Bob Odenkirk, continued his involvement with Tenacious D by producing three half-hour shows based on the band. The series, entitled Tenacious D, premiered on HBO in 1997, immediately following an episode of Mr. Show. While a total of three episodes consisting of two shorts each, ten to twelve minutes in length, were produced, only the first was aired that year; the final two episodes did not air until the summer of 2000. According to Gass, the series was cancelled after HBO requested ten episodes with the stipulation that he and Black would have to relinquish their role as executive producers, and only write songs. After the series aired, the band continued to perform live. At a show at the Viper Room in Los Angeles, they met Dave Grohl, who remarked that he was impressed with their performance; this led to their cameo in the Foo Fighters' "Learn to Fly" music video. The popularity of Tenacious D further increased as they began to open for high-profile acts, including Beck, Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters.
First album Tenacious D (2001-03):
In May 2000, Tenacious D signed to Epic Records. As Black's profile increased due to his roles in films such as High Fidelity the band worked on recording their first album with producers the Dust Brothers. In 2001, they released their debut Tenacious D. It peaked at #33 on the Billboard 200 on October 13, 2001. While Tenacious D usually appears as a duo, the album was backed by a full band, consisting of Dave Grohl on drums and guitar, keyboardist Page McConnell of Phish, guitarist Warren Fitzgerald of The Vandals, and bassist Steven Shane McDonald of Redd Kross. According to Black, they chose to use a band because "no one's ever heard us with a band". The majority of songs on the album were performed previously on their short-lived television series.
Although the critical reaction varied, by November 2005, the album had achieved platinum status in the US.Entertainment Weekly described the release as "hilarious", and "no mere comedy record".AllMusic wrote that the album "rocks so damn hard", but lamented the absence of some of the songs from the television show.Flak Magazine criticised the band's use of skits between songs, describing them as "distracting" and a "nuisance". In addition, The Independent remarked that the album was full of "swearing and scatology" and was "bereft of even the slightest skidmark of humour".
The first single from the album was "Tribute": a tribute to the "greatest song in the world" which, in the song, Tenacious D claimed they had performed in order to save their souls from a demon. A music video, directed by Liam Lynch, was shot for the song. The video achieved success and was voted the fifth best music video ever by Kerrang! readers. This was followed by the second single, "Wonderboy", the music video of which was directed by Spike Jonze. A third video, an animation depicting Black and Gass as cherubs, was made for "Fuck Her Gently", directed by Ren and Stimpy-creator John Kricfalusi.
The album also included "Dio", a song written as a tribute to rock singer Ronnie James Dio, which mocked him somewhat for being too old. Dio liked the song enough to ask the band to appear in the music video for his song, "Push". An EP entitled D Fun Pak was released in 2002. It featured a skit and acoustic versions of "Jesus Ranch" and "Kyle Quit The Band", as well as a megamix by Mocean Worker. The Complete Masterworks, a music DVD featuring the entire run of their TV series, music videos, and a live performance from London's Brixton Academy recorded in 2002, was released on November 9, 2003.
The Pick of Destiny (2003-08):
On November 7, 2000, Tenacious D had just finished writing the rough first script for a movie. This script was later scrapped for a plot line about the two searching for a sacred guitar pick.
In October 2003 Black announced that the screenplay for The Pick of Destiny--a fictional portrayal of the band's formation--had been completed. The film was initially to be written and developed by Working Title Films, but Black and Gass decided to assume creative control when they were not satisfied with the writers' ideas. Filming had been expected to take place by the end of 2003; however, it was delayed by almost a year due to Black being cast in Peter Jackson's big budget remake of King Kong. The band started recording songs for the soundtrack of the film, their second studio album, The Pick of Destiny. The album had John Konesky and John Spiker from Trainwreck on electric guitar and bass respectively. Dave Grohl again played drums, and further lent vocals to "Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown)" as well as acting in the film, as Satan.
"A lot of enthusiastic stoners were like, 'Yeah, du-u-u-de! Just saw it!' I was like, 'Where were you when the movie came out?' 'Sorry, dude, I was hi-i-i-gh!'"
-- Jack Black on The Pick of Destiny's disappointing box-office performance.
The film had its premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles on November 9, 2006. Many of the actors who had cameos in the film were in attendance; including Ronnie James Dio, Dave Grohl, and Ben Stiller. The film was released worldwide on November 22. The soundtrack had been released just over a week earlier, on November 14. Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny grossed US$8,334,575 in the US and Canada and a total of US$13,426,450 worldwide, falling well short of its US$20 million production budget and US$40 million in estimated marketing costs. Financially, it is regarded as a box office bomb. The soundtrack reached #8 on the Billboard 200 in the US as well as topping the iTunes chart, and #10 in the UK. The film was released globally on DVD on February 27, 2007. In an interview on the Daily Show on November 30, 2006, Black admitted the film had "bombed", but has recently said that DVD sales have shown that the film has picked up a cult audience.
Kevin Crust of the Los Angeles Times said that the film "might best be enjoyed in an enhanced state of consciousness, a herbal supplement, and we aren't talking ginkgo biloba." Stephen Rae of The Philadelphia Inquirer said that the frequent drug-use in the film gives "the term potty humor a new meaning." Michael Phillips criticized the frequency of the drug-use by saying: "This may be the problem. Pot rarely helped anybody's comic timing." Stephen Holden of The New York Times suggested that the film could be viewed as a "jolly rock 'n' roll comedy", but he also described the progression of the film as being a "garish mess."
The soundtrack was produced by John King of the Dust Brothers, but the reviews were less favourable than for the band's first album. Rolling Stone comments that the soundtrack "never quite takes off". It criticises the reliance the album makes on a knowledge of the film, and some songs' existence only to "advance the plot". It summarizes by saying the album is inferior to the band's previous effort. Allmusic also describes the follow-up as less "satisfying" than Tenacious D, noting that the songs feel like "narrative filler".Blender continues the criticism of the songs being plot devices calling them "plot-nudging song-sketches".The Guardian views the album more positively, describing the album as a meeting of "old school riffology" and "schoolboy humour".
To coincide with the release of their new film and album, Tenacious D embarked on their 2006-07 tour of the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. This tour included the band's first appearance at New York City's Madison Square Garden. Unlike other tours, this one featured a full backing band. Konesky and Spiker resumed their roles from the album, and Brooks Wackerman was added as drummer. Each member used a pseudonym; Konesky as the Antichrist, Spiker as Charlie Chaplin, and Wackerman as Colonel Sanders. Jason Reed also toured as Satan. Black has said that the band lost money on the tour due to the cost of touring with a full band for the first time.
Rize of the Fenix and touring (2008 - 2015):
In November 2006, Black expressed wishes to take a year-long break from acting, though Gass hinted a desire for Tenacious D to end at their current highpoint. However, Black confirmed that a third album would be recorded by announcing that a new song has been written for it entitled "Deth Star". He said that the album would likely be released in 2010, but on other occasions had mentioned the year 2012. In early 2008, Black announced that the band was working on a new album, and a DVD titled The Complete Masterworks Part 2. The DVD was released later that year, and included a documentary of their world tour entitled D Tour: A Tenacious Documentary. The film focuses on the tour Tenacious D made in support of the film and soundtrack and the consequences of their film's poor showing at the box office. Kyle has commented that the new album only has "one to one and a half" songs written for it, and would like to write between twelve and fifteen.
The band played the main stage at the 2008 Reading and Leeds Festivals in the UK, playing Leeds on Friday, August 22 and Reading on Sunday, August 24. In addition to this, the band provided support for Metallica at Marlay Park, Dublin in Ireland on August 20. They headlined the last night of the 2009 Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, on Sunday August 30, 2009. Music magazine Billboard quoted Black as revealing that "We just laid down a hot ... we're calling it the bomb track. It's a very powerful recording called "Deth Starr" ... so it has nothing to do with the Star Wars Death Star," adding that "It's kind of sci-fi, doomsday rock." Jack Black also stated on the Late Show with David Letterman that he had an idea for a song called "Rize of the Fenix", which he described as a "rise from the ashes" workout song similar to "Eye of the Tiger". He performed a vocal sample of the song along to keyboards. Tenacious D played the main stage at Bonnaroo music festival in 2010, which featured the band playing the song "Dio" as a tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio.
Gass has hinted that the band's third album may be called Tenacious D 3-D, reasoning that "It's the third record, so it should probably be 'Tenacious 3-D.' There's going to be a '3' and a 'D,' so you have to connect them." Dave Grohl has confirmed that he will appear as the drummer on the album, after performing on both Tenacious D and The Pick of Destiny. In an interview with Spinner.com in December 2010, Black revealed that the band was "about halfway through the writing process" for its new album, telling fans to expect the release of new material "at the end of 2011". In terms of lyrical themes for the new songs, Black noted that "We're gonna be talking about love, there are gonna be some songs about sex and there's gonna be songs about food".
In a May 2011 interview at Attack of the Show, Black announced that three songs on their upcoming album would be named "Rize of the Fenix", distinguishable by either letter or number. Also in the same interview, he named another song called "Señorita". John Konesky estimated that the new album would come out "in spring 2012". Tenacious D also played at Download Festival. In February 2012 it was revealed that the title of the album would in fact be spelled Rize of the Fenix and will be released on May 15, 2012.
On March 26, 2012 a 6-minute film was uploaded to the Tenacious D VEVO channel on YouTube. The mockumentary, titled 'Tenacious D - To Be the Best', documents the uncertain future Tenacious D faced after the box-office failure of The Pick of Destiny, KG's subsequent breakdown and incarceration in "an institution", and Jack's embracing of an indulgent Hollywood lifestyle. The film shows a deranged Kyle escaping the facility and attempting to kill Jack and then himself, before they each realize their importance to each other and revive the band. They produce a new album in 75 minutes in the studio, described as "awful", but try again and emerge with another new album, described at the end of the film as "the greatest album recorded by anyone, ever". The film features numerous cameo appearances, including Maria Menounos, Val Kilmer, Dave Grohl, Yoshiki Hayashi, Josh Groban, Richard Ghagan, Michael White, Tim Robbins and Jimmy Kimmel.
The band released the album on April 28, 2012 in its entirety on their Soundcloud account. Rize of the Fenix was officially released on May 15, 2012 with mostly positive reviews from music critics.
On the Rize of the Fenix commentary on Spotify, Black stated, "We'll be coming out with another album probably in 2017".
Tenacious D provided a cover of "The Last in Line" on the Dio tribute album This Is Your Life. The recording won a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance.
Fourth album and touring (2015 - present):
In early 2015, Black confirmed that after Tenacious D's "Unplugged and Unprotected" European tour, the band would work on their fourth album, though no release date was announced. Prior to this confirmation, Gass and Black teased a 2015 release date the previous year in an interview. Also, it was announced that the band would perform at the Boston Calling Music Festival in May, the Amnesia Rockfest in June and Riot Fest in Chicago in September.
Satire and comedy are a major aspect of Tenacious D's lyrical content. Gass said of their approach: "I'd love to do the straight music thing, but that's kind of against our mission, which is to rebel against the serious singer-songwriter mentality." Their songs evoke heavy metal clichés of bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. In particular, the song "Dio" pokes fun at the idea of a torch being passed. Songs like "Friendship" parody the lack of real friendship, as well as point out the bromance traits in rock groups with the lyric "As long as there's a record deal, we'll always be friends". Tenacious D also employs the technique of deliberate backmasking on "Karate", a technique employed by other metal bands like Slayer, who recorded a message in Hell Awaits.
Black has said that the first song he enjoyed was ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me". His style was distinctly shaped by "big dinosaurs of rock" such as The Who and Led Zeppelin. In addition, Gass lists his influences as being Tom Waits and Tony Robbins. The band claimed that the inspiration for the song "Tribute" came after Black played Metallica's "One" for Gass, describing it as "the best song in the world", leading to an attempt to themselves write an even better song.
"We try to write the best songs ever, and they come out kind of funny..."
-- Kyle Gass on the band's humorous lyrics.
Gass has described Tenacious D's comic assertion that they are the best band as being "ridiculous because it's a matter of opinion". Black characterizes Tenacious D's comic nature as an antidote to "the masculinity of rock", adding "There's also something funny about the macho-ness of rock. Like the bands that are the fucking hardest rocking are like, 'We'll fucking kick your ass, dude... with our rock.'"Russell Brand,All Shall Perish,The Lonely Island, and Kanye West have in turn been influenced by the work of Tenacious D.
Film and television:
Black and Gass first performed together in Bio-Dome (1996), followed by The Cable Guy (1996),Bongwater (1997),Cradle Will Rock (1999),Saving Silverman (2001),Shallow Hal (2001),School of Rock (2003) and Year One (2009). Black has starred in a number of films himself, and he has provided voices for animated films. In 2006, Tenacious D starred in their own film, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, in which they set out to become the greatest rock band in the world, by means of a guitar pick with mystic powers.
Black and Gass have made several television appearances performing songs from their first album. On June 16, 2001, Tenacious D were featured as puppets performing "Friendship" on an episode of Crank Yankers. They were guest starred when they were taught by Zorak how to perform in an episode of the Cartoon Network/Adult Swim series Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. In 2002 they guest starred on MADtv playing the songs "Tribute", & "Lee" with Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl on drums. Later, Tenacious D made an appearance in the first episode of Tom Goes to the Mayor televised on Adult Swim.
In the run up to the release of the film The Pick of Destiny, Tenacious D performed the "Pick of Destiny" at the 2006 American Music Awards and on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Tenacious D was a musical guest on Saturday Night Live for the first time, although they had previously appeared as an uncredited musical guest on May 2, 1998. They also opened the 2006 Spike TV Video Game Awards with a performance of "The Metal", and played "Friendship" at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. The band's first television appearance of 2008 was in support of the Who at the VH1 Rock Honors.
Black and Gass were interviewed on August 29, 2012, by Tony Hawk as part of the "Dissent" series on the web channel, Ride. The interview was conducted in the Sirius/XM studios as part of the Hawk's "Demolition Radio" program. The interview's topics include comedy rock and Upland Skatepark.
"It's a roaring crowd, and they may be roaring your approval, but it's still a scary, roaring crowd. They can turn on you, conceivably. It's still a beast that you must ride. And once it's been ridden, in the midst of the ride, it feels fantastic."
-- Jack Black on performing live.
In 2001, Tenacious D started their second nationwide concert tour, performing at larger venues, many of which sold out. Until 2006, Tenacious D usually performed only with acoustic guitars, rarely with a full backing band. The band has also staged two international concert tours as well as numerous domestic tours, though they have rarely played in non-English speaking countries. Black says this is because foreign concerts are "a little funky" because "the subtleties do get lost in translation". In addition, he comments on the angst they experience before concerts saying: "We're always looking for a loophole. Pretty much every concert we've ever done, we're trying to find a way to cancel the show at the last minute." The band permits live recording during concerts if the venue allows recording. Many of these recordings have been recorded and released through Live Music Archive and are available for free digital download.
The band uses an electronic musical toy saxophone called a Sax-A-Boom on-stage. Each of its keys plays a clip of music that sounds almost like a saxophone.
In August 2008, the band performed on the main stages of the Reading and Leeds Festivals. The band played a Guns N' Roses cover.
On October 23, 2010, the band performed live at the BlizzCon 2010 convention in Anaheim, California. The performance, featured the debut of new songs, and was viewed via an online stream (BlizzCon Virtual Ticket) at blizzcon.rayv.com and on DIRECTV as a Pay Per View event.
On Friday, June 11, 2010, Tenacious D was in the middle of their "One Day Tour" in Manchester, TN for the annual Bonnaroo Music Festival. The band opened for 'Kings of Leon', the first headliner of Bonnaroo 2010.
Throughout November and December 2011, the band supported Foo Fighters during their Wasting Light tour of Australia and New Zealand.
In June 2012, Tenacious D played at the Rock am Ring music festival in Germany. This is the biggest event that Tenacious D have ever played with 86,500 people in attendance.
On Saturday 9 June 2012, Tenacious D played the main stage at Download Festival at Donington Park in Derbyshire, England.
On Sunday 11 August 2013, Tenacious D played at a theme park Gröna Lund in Stockholm, Sweden. The area holding 17,000 fans was quickly full, forcing Gröna Lund to close the gates 3 hours before the concert. Over 5000 fans were left outside with no chance to see Tenacious D. The Swedish Police called it "chaos" and some fans were even seen swimming into the theme park via the water entrance. Lots of fans also rented peddle boats to see the show from the water This is the biggest show that Tenacious D have ever played that has not been a collaboration with other artists such as a festival.
Tenacious D are supporters of cannabis legalization. They have also performed at a NORML benefit concert. Black described his view that allowing drug use would remove the stigma of feeling "naughty" attached to users, making the activity mundane and less attractive. Black was the executive producer for a documentary about Randy Credico entitled Sixty Spins Around the Sun. It calls for the so-called Rockefeller drug laws to be repealed. Black said of it, "They're populating our prisons with people, you know, first time drug offenders--single mothers that have a little bit of coke end up going to prison for 20 years or something. It's just cruel and unusual punishment."
In 2004, Tenacious D supported John Kerry's US presidential election campaign by playing a benefit concert for him. Black and Gass were also critical of George W. Bush's presidency. The band performed a benefit concert for Barack Obama's presidential campaign on November 2, 2008 in Milwaukee. Other performers included Ben Harper and Relentless7, David Crosby and Graham Nash, and the Beastie Boys. Tenacious D guested with Crosby and Nash on "Find the Cost of Freedom" which concluded the Crosby-Nash set. In 2010, Tenacious D agreed to boycott Arizona due to laws passed there concerning illegal immigration. In 2012, Tenacious D performed at the House of Blues in Cleveland and did a surprise gig at Kent State University earlier on that day too to encourage voting. Tenacious D backed Barack Obama that year.
Tenacious D have appeared in numerous music videos by other bands, including "Push" by Dio, and "Photograph" by Weezer. Black has appeared on his own in many music videos, including a cameo alongside Dave Grohl in the music video for the Eagles of Death Metal song "I Want You So Hard (Boy's Bad News)", alongside Grohl again in the music video for the Foo Fighters' songs "Low" and "Learn to Fly" and a cameo in the music video for the song "Sexx Laws" by Beck.
In addition to appearing in videos, Black and Gass sang backup vocals on the 2002 Styx album Cyclorama, on the song "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye". Tenacious D lent backing vocals to The Vandals album Look What I Almost Stepped In..., on the song "Fourteen". Tenacious D appeared on KROQ-FM's twelfth full-length Christmas compilation, Swallow My Eggnog, with Sum 41, on a song entitled "Things I Want".
Gass appeared in the Good Charlotte music video for the song "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous". Gass also performed lead acoustic guitar and vocals for the band Trainwreck, under the pseudonym "Klip Calhoun". The band also featured Jason "JR" Reed under the pseudonym "Darryl Donald", as well as John Konesky and John Spiker, who played lead guitar and bass, respectively, on The Pick of Destiny album. They have released a live album, Trainwreck Live, and were working on recording a studio album with producer John King. Black occasionally appeared with the band under the name "Tuffy McFuckelby". Trainwreck has broken up as of early 2011.
Gass also has a YouTube series called "Guitarings", co-hosted by Tenacious D touring and session guitarist John Konesky, in which they interview musicians, give guitar lessons and discuss a range of topics related to guitars, such as video lessons on the band's songs such as the widely popular "Beelzeboss" from the album "The Pick of Destiny". Jack Black, co-founder of the band, has also appeared as a guest on the successful webseries a number of times before.
Jack Black - lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1994-present),
Kyle Gass - lead guitar, backing vocals (1994-present),
John Konesky - electric guitar, backing vocals (session and touring) (2005-present),
John Spiker - bass, backing vocals (session and touring) (2005-present),
Brooks Wackerman - drums (touring and occasional session) (2006-present),
Dave Grohl - drums, percussion (session and occasional touring) (2001-present),
Scott Seiver - drums (occasional touring) (2013-present),
Warren Fitzgerald - electric guitar (session and occasional touring) (2001-2002),
Steve McDonald - bass (session and occasional touring) (2001-2002)