Music

Tenacious D’s Jack Black And Kyle Gass Discuss The Patriotic Duty Of Their New Film, ‘Post-Apocalypto’

Shane McCauley

“What’s up, roxx?”

Jack Black tests this joke out a couple of times over the phone, complete with a Bugs Bunny inflection, to see if it lands. Of course it lands. Black and his longtime bandmate/comedy partner Kyle Gass have made a career out of landing referential jokes and difficult jokes and crude jokes and just about any kind of joke you can think of. It’s what has allowed the duo, known as Tenacious D, to become a comedy institution for more than 20 years.

The pair, whose friendship dates back to 1985, first gained widespread notice with their eponymous HBO series and have gone on to win a Grammy award (for Best Metal Performance of all things), have released their own theatrical film (2006’s cult classic The Pick Of Destiny), and ascended to the status of festival headliner over the course of their three previous studio albums. Album No. 4 arrives on November 2, titled Post-Apocalypto.

But Tenacious D isn’t as interested in talking about their latest album in the context of its album-ness. No, Post-Apocalypto is more a film, being released weekly on Youtube in installments. The movie finds Black and Gass in the world of animation, with Black handling all the artwork and both men providing all the voices. With characters ranging from aliens to terminators to Elon Musk, it plays as a DIY look into their spastic and sharp minds, with the stars capitalizing on their ability to riff on each other, as well as their very R-rated sense of humor.

But while Post-Apocalypto features an abundance of dick drawings and sex jokes, it’s not without its social relevance. The entire concept speaks to the perilous world of the Donald Trump presidency, where the end of the planet seems more real than ever before, be it from humanity’s direct impact or via the people that have been elected to make decisions for us.

And to coincide with the launch of the movie and record, the band will be hitting the road to support it. Black likens the upcoming run to the biggest rock operas ever conceived, The Wall and Tommy, but with surely a ton more laughs than any of those other pieces. Because that’s what Tenacious D do better than any other band in existence, placing humor and songcraft together in harmony, with each elevating the other. Even with a concept as grim as the end of the world, the amount of fun that these guys have together is palpable.

Check out Chapter 4 of Post-Apocalypto below, and catch up on the previous three installments at Tenacious D’s Youtube channel. Below is our conversation covering why robots may be humans’ greatest achievements, whether Dave Grohl would get upset if he didn’t get called to drum for them, and why their Festival Supreme isn’t coming back anytime soon.

There is this realization in watching the film and listening to the album, even though it is really funny, that the world is f*cked right now in a very different way that’s portrayed. And I feel like that’s the impetus behind why you made the album, right?

Jack Black: It’s really just an album and a movie for our times, and we felt like we really had to make this movie and album. We really think of it as a movie, and the album is like the soundtrack, but the real thing here is the movie. We made this movie because we felt like it was our civic duty.

Kyle Gass: Our patriotic duty.

JB: Listen, I feel like maybe we’re uniquely qualified to take on this particular moment in history. We’re kind of similar to and share a disease with Trump. So when Trump goes out there and does his f*cking thing, we recognize it. We know this con that he’s playing because we also have narcissism disorder. I’m like ‘I see what you’re doing by saying you’re the f*cking best and you alone can save the world.’ I know what that is. You know what I mean, Kage?

KG: I do, I do. It takes one to know one.

JB: I don’t see a lot of other bands or musicians really going at him the way that they should, so I’m like ‘f*ck it, we’ll do it!’

KG: I hope we get a Tweet from him

JB: I feel like Kanye has narcissism disease, too, but he’s decided if you can’t beat him, join him. But we’re like ‘F*CK THAT, WE CAN BEAT HIM. LET’S BEAT HIM!’

I didn’t even realize until after I watched the whole movie that Jack actually drew the entire thing, which is totally insane. Did you have any experience drawing on a project of this magnitude before?

JB: No, of course not. I like to doodle and Kage likes my doodles and he encouraged me to doodle it up. I was like, ‘Let’s go get an artist to do this,’ and he was like, ‘No, we don’t need an artist. You got this.’

KG: I really was surprised that Jack was able to deliver that many drawings. It’s quite a feat, I have to say.

JB: We did it.

KG: I was no help.

JB: It was also out of necessity because no one was going to help us.

Kyle, did you feel like you wanted to help but you couldn’t?

KG: Oh yeah. I even drew just to show Jack what it would be like if I had to draw, and it was really awful.

JB: I don’t think you understand, though, that I wouldn’t have drawn it if not for Kyle. I often times am the pessimist who says ‘we can’t do this, we need to bring in professionals.’ And he’s like ‘NO, DON’T YOU SEE JACK!’

KG: I love that passionate portrayal.

JB: The art comes from within. That’s the purest form of expression.

KG: One reviewer said that we just made the most Tenacious D thing ever. And I thought that was a really great compliment.

Tenacious D

There’s a lot of dicks in this movie, too, which to me are inherently funny. And it gets to the point where I started seeing dicks where I don’t think there were actual dicks. What, in your opinion, is it about dicks that makes them so funny?

JB: Well, I don’t know what makes them funny, but it’s not just our obsession with dicks, it’s the world’s obsession with dicks, and the way the dicks relate to the apocalypse that made it work for this particular project. That dick that looks just like a mushroom and just like a mushroom cloud? That’s the heart of what Post-Apocalypto is all about.

Yeah, you’re getting to the idea that dicks in a lot of ways are responsible for many of the problems in the world.

KG: I think if we had no dicks at the top level, we’d probably be better off.

JB: We need to take a good, hard look at our dicks, and really f*ckin think about the dicks.

KG: A long, hard look.

JB: Too many dicks.

The movie is being released in installments beginning a few weeks back and part four rolls out today, which focuses on robots. Each episode kind of juxtaposes ideas of things that could both save humanity or lead to our demise. So where do you guys land on robots in general, do you think they are more likely to save us or destroy us.

JB: Sign me up for save us. I think if we can get to that thing, the singularity… if human beings can create a singularity, a computer god, then mission accomplished. We win. That should be the goal of our whole f*cking thing. Create the computer god.

KG: Wow, I like that.

JB: Because here’s the thing, if we can get to singularity where we create a computer consciousness that is aware of itself and becomes, you know, a god because it is a thousand times smarter than us and getting exponentially more intelligent, and would most likely be able to communicate with other forms of life in the universe, then we f*ckin’ did it. That’s our baby. Whether or not it destroys us — we’re going to destroy ourselves anyway. It’s possible that humans will work out their problems and we’ll live forever, but it’s more likely that we’ll destroy ourselves. And if we can create a computer god before we die… why wouldn’t that be a thing that we’d want to do? Before we self-destruct, we create one perfect lifeform.

KG: I like where you’re going with this.

JB: This could be our next season.

One of the episodes features Elon Musk prominently. I imagine this was written before the last few months when he really became this omnipresent, ridiculous cultural figure.

KG: He’s pretty ridiculous in our movie, isn’t he? I feel like he’s always been ridiculous

Yeah, but it feels prescient in a way. Over the last few months, it’s really been an everyday occurrence. He’s a really divisive figure. Where do you guys land on him in general?

KG: He seems like a brilliant mess, who’s a little bit out of control sometimes.

JB: The jury is in and he’s the most brilliant engineering mind on the planet right now. And I think there is also a case to be made that he’s a crazy hothead who is a little unhinged at times. He named his company after Nikola Tesla and if you look at Tesla’s career, it may end up mirroring Elon Musk. There’s something that stopped him from achieving that immortal success that his competitors had. Wasn’t it Edison that won the battle between Edison and Tesla?

KG: If you believe the Drunk History with John C. Reilly.

JB: That’s where I get all of my history.

Dave Grohl returns to play drums as he has on all your records, and he’s been a big part of your career arc. At this point, would Dave get his feelings hurt if you didn’t call for him to work on an album?

KG: Well, a boy can dream. I’m not sure if would, though.

JB: I think for like ten seconds, he’d be like ‘What the f*ck!?’ And then he’d just be like ‘Whatever, moving on.’ I don’t think dwelling on bad news for very long is part of his DNA.

KG: Dave’s so good that over the four albums we’ve done with him, I think he’s only drummed for four days.

JB: I know, he does one day! I have to say though, I thank my lucky stars every time he says yes. All four times, it’s just been great, great news.

What about Festival Supreme [the Los Angeles-based comedy and music festival curated by Tenacious D that ran from 2013-2016]? Is there any chance that it could come back at some point?

JB: I think we’ve moved on from that chapter of our lives. I say never say never, but usually when you bring back a festival, it’s because the first one was so f*cking successful. It’s hard to make that argument.

KG: It was really a noble experiment.

JB: We had so much fun and we worked so hard on it. We left no stone unturned to make that thing a hit but it did not catch fire. If you look around at all of the other comedy festivals in the world, it’s a tough sell to sell a comedy festival. I think that Montreal Comedy Festival has been doing well for a long time, but that’s just a different scene. That’s just a corporate creation.

KG: We were trying to make a true music/comedy festival.

JB: We were bringing an independent spirit. And right at the same time that we announced our first Festival Supreme, within a week or two there was a competing festival that Dave Chappelle was headlining.

KG: And Flight Of The Conchords.

JB: And they kind of crashed and burned, too, so I don’t feel so bad about it. It’s a tough road.

So, do you guys think the end of the world is near?

KG: I hope not. I don’t think so. But there is that distinct possibility, and that’s the inspiration.

JB: I think the message of the movie is that there is always hope.

KG: Even after annihilation by jackasses, there is still hope.

Post-Apocalypto is out on 11/02 via Columbia Records. Buy it here.

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