Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
Sat March 1, 2014
Gass And Black Of Tenacious D Play Not My Job
Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 12:56 pm
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
We've interviewed a lot of musicians on this show, but recently we got a chance to interview the greatest rock band ever in all of history. That would be Tenacious D, also known as actor Jack Black and his friend Kyle Gass.
CARL KASELL: We were joined by Brian Babylon, Charlie Pierce, and Roxanne Roberts and we began with Jack Black trying to describe what their music is all about.
JACK BLACK: Well, it's been said that we're a combination of Black Sabbath and who's the other band, Kage?
KYLE GASS: Uh...
BLACK: We're horrible at describing ourselves.
SAGAL: I would say like Black Sabbath and Simon and Garfunkel...
BLACK: Thank you.
SAGAL: ...if you could imagine that.
BLACK: Yeah, you know, we revel in the 1970s and '80s rock when Satan was real.
SAGAL: He has since retired. He sold out. Do you guys - because, you know, we hear sometimes from heavy metal bands who like, oh, no, no, we're not really Satanists, you know. But you guys really are pretty much.
BLACK: Uh, yeah.
SAGAL: So how did - I'm interested, you guys met back in the '80s when you were both in the actors' gang, right, Tim Robbins group out in L.A.
BLACK: It's true.
SAGAL: And you started playing music together as part of that?
BLACK: Well, Kyle was sort of the official defacto musician of the theater company at the time. And I tried to hold on to Kyle's coattails but he kept on kicking me off. I was like a little dog humping his leg.
BLACK: Yeah, and then finally he let me in. He - I melted his (unintelligible) shield. And we spent years just in his apartment jamming stonily along, searching for our sound.
BLACK: And finally we worked up the courage to go play a little dive bar in downtown Los Angeles. And we only had one song and it was the greatest song in the world, Tribute.
SAGAL: Tribute was a great song.
BLACK: Yeah, and thus was born.
SAGAL: And thus was born Tenacious...
BRIAN BABYLON: So what's - hey, Jack, you know, sometimes when you sing songs and you're able to, like, not say words but, like, say noises, like zibadu-du-babadu-du-du. How do you do that, man? That's amazing.
BLACK: The scats?
BABYLON: The scats, man. Those scats are...
BLACK: You're asking where does the power of my scat come from?
BABYLON: That's a lot of power of the scats.
BLACK: Well, you know, I'm heavily influenced by Bobby McFerrin.
BABYLON: Oh sure, you can hear that.
BLACK: I would watch in the back of the audience and wonder, is he - he satisfied a certain thing in me. I need - I wanted to be a one-man show. I wasn't able to do it. that's why me and Kyle had to join forces. But if I could, I would be reincarnated as Bobby McFerrin, Junior.
CHARLIE PIERCE: Lyrics are kind of overrated anyway, aren't they?
BLACK: For most, yeah. If you listen to the greatest rock band of all time Led Zeppelin, their lyrics are mostly gobble di-gook.
PIERCE: You mean there's no bustle in my headrow?
PIERCE: I got alarms for nothing.
BLACK: Does anyone remember laughter?
SAGAL: Yeah, go on.
BLACK: We place a high premium on our lyrics because the comedy is the source of our power. So...
SAGAL: They are very, very funny.
SAGAL: They're hilariously funny and extraordinarily profane. In fact, we notice that there's an explicit version of the new record and a clean version. We're guessing the clean version is two minutes long.
BLACK: No, no.
SAGAL: No, really?
BLACK: We took great pains to replace all the cuss words with creative funny alternatives that were clean enough for the kids...
SAGAL: Can you...
SAGAL: ...can you give me an example of a...
BLACK: ...and for religious people.
SAGAL: Yeah, yeah.
SAGAL: Can you give me an example of, like, your favorite fake cuss word you had to put in to keep the rhythm right?
BLACK: Wow, you know, it's hard to remember. I never listened to the clean one.
BLACK: Let me try - well, we have this one called Death Star and it goes, the world is freakin' turning to poop.
BLACK: OK. That was not a good example of creativity.
SAGAL: I know. You got the point across though.
BLACK: There's just better ones in there I'm sure.
SAGAL: I know.
BLACK: There's got to be.
SAGAL: One thing that people might know if they've been paying attention, Jack, is that you've been doing some movies to some success.
SAGAL: And there's a song on the new record called the ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage.
KASELL: And that describes these two very good friends who are musicians, one named Jack and one named Kage. And Jack gets really famous doing movies and the other guy gets really upset about it and jealous.
BLACK: For those that don't know, Kyle is the Rage Kage.
SAGAL: Really? Because I was going to ask first, if that was autobiographical and second, which one you were. So I guess my question is, is that based on truth?
BLACK: Every word of it is true.
BLACK: Yeah, it was a very difficult song to write because of its painful truths. And we weren't going to do it. I mean, we had this title Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage brewing for years. And it doesn't sound funny, does it?
SAGAL: No, it's very sad actually.
BLACK: But there it is. It was the elephant in the room and it needed to be written.
SAGAL: Right. So you wrote the elephant. And how are you guys getting along now?
BLACK: Oh, as long as there's a record deal we'll always be friends.
SAGAL: Yeah, I understand.
BLACK: I think I consider Kyle to be my best friend.
GASS: And I as well.
ROXANNE ROBERTS: Ah.
SAGAL: Well, Tenacious D, Jack and Kyle, we are delighted to have you with us. We have asked you here to play a game we're calling...
KASELL: Tenacious D meet Tenacious P.
SAGAL: So we tried to think of the singer who would be the diametrical opposite of Tenacious D and who better to fill that role than Mr. Pat Boone?
SAGAL: We'll ask you about the cleanest cut guy who ever cut a record. Get two out of three right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is Tenacious D playing for?
KASELL: Tenacious D is playing for Dick Forken of Eaton Center, New Hampshire.
SAGAL: All right. Ready to go guys?
BLACK: You're up on your Pat Boone trivia, aren't you?
GASS: Oh gosh, yes.
BLACK: OK, good.
SAGAL: All right. You are allowed to collaborate, bicker, break up, whatever you need to do to get through this. Here we go.
SAGAL: Now, Pat was the master of all media, it seemed, during his heyday in the '50s and the '60s. he even appeared where? Was it A. on a metal record sent into space to greet aliens, B. as a character in the comic book Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane or C. he is a cameo as a traveling minstrel in Fellini's cinematic masterpiece La Strada?
GASS: It's A.
SAGAL: It's A, he's on the record sent into space?
SAGAL: Do you both agree on this question?
BLACK: I'm going with Kyle because he's known as the file of facts.
BLACK: Was that on Voyager? I think I saw that on Star Trek.
KASELL: So your choice is A, the record. I'm afraid it was actually B. the comic book. The record wasn't sent until much later.
SAGAL: Yeah, see the comic book that came out in the late '50s, Superman must prevent Pat Boone from singing a song about him which would reveal his secret identity.
GASS: Oh, man.
SAGAL: He does this by tearing Pat Boone in half with his hands.
SAGAL: I'll let you know, I'm kidding. He doesn't really.
SAGAL: But you still have two more chances guys, so here's your next question.
SAGAL: Mr. Boone's immediate career was boosted by his clean cut image but sometimes his morals got in the way as when what happened, A. on the set of his first film he refused to kiss costar Shirley Jones because she was married to somebody else, B. he refused to have Elvis Presley on his Pat Boone TV show because quote "that man's hips makes me think of impure things" or C. he gave up a lucrative endorsement contract with Canada Dry once he learned that people mix their sodas with alcohol.
GASS: That's the stuff - I'm 0 for 1, Jack, I don't know. You might take this one.
BLACK: I hope that it's number two because that's just really the funniest of possibilities.
BLACK: I think it's number one though.
SAGAL: You think it's number one, he refused to kiss Shirley Jones? And that is, in fact, what it was. Very good.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Apparently, Mr. Boone was only willing to pretend to be romantically involved with single actresses.
SAGAL: All right. This is going to be one for two with one to go. If you get this, you'll win. Here we go. Mr. Boone had an important role in legal history. Was it A. he pioneered the right for a celebrity to control his image when he sued the makers of an adult film called "Pat Boom."
SAGAL: B. he was the first celebrity endorser sued by the FTC for making false claims about a product or C. accused by a fan of untoward advances. He got off with what is now known as the who-are-you-kidding-I'm-Pat Boone defense.
BLACK: It's clearly the second one.
SAGAL: He was the first celebrity endorser successfully sued by the Federal Trade Commission for making false claims about product.
GASS: Yeah, yeah, I like that.
BLACK: We're going with number two.
GASS: That's it.
SAGAL: And you're right, guys. That's what it was, B.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Endorse - B. in the '70s endorsed an acne cream called Acne Statin. The FDC went after him. They said, no it doesn't work and he apologized and said he would not endorse it anymore. Carl, how did Jack and Kyle do on our show?
KASELL: Jack and Kyle had two correct answers, Peter. And that's enough to win for Dick Forken. Congratulations, guys.
SAGAL: Tenacious D's new album is "Rize of the Fenix." It's out now. Jack and Kyle, thank you so much for joining us.
BLACK: Thank you.
SAGAL: You guys are great.
BLACK: Take care.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SAGAL: Thanks to Carl Kasell. Thanks to all the panelists and guests you heard this week. And thanks to all of you for listening. I'm Peter Sagal. And we'll be back with you next week.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SAGAL: This is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.