Tenacious D talks Las Vegas, NYE performing and leaf blowers

Tenacious D
Taylor Stephens / Courtesy

We live in challenging times. Seasons change, time marches on, etc. And the only thing that we can be sure we’ll need in the years ahead, the root quality that transforms New Year’s resolutions into accomplishments, is tenacity. Luckily for us, its most notable practitioners, Grammy-winning comedy-rock duo Tenacious D—still Kyle Gass and Jack Black—is coming to the Theater at Virgin December 30 and 31 to provide an object lesson in tenacity, by way of rocking your [expletive] socks off.

A few weeks back, Tenacious D spoke to the Weekly via Zoom. It was nearly a performance itself: Black hyped the show while pacing his living room like a caged tiger, and Gass chuckled whenever his gardener drowned out conversation with his leaf blower.

“He comes by once a week,” Gass said, waving out the window. “Hey, Pedro.”

Tenacious D first played Las Vegas in May 1999, opening up for Beck at the Tropicana. Was that the start of a Vegas love affair? 

Jack Black: An interesting, adventurous little relationship we’ve had with Vegas. Yes, it started with opening for Beck, but then we quickly realized how our fates would be intertwined again. We had a hella show at the thing called … Kyle, what the hell was that called? Let me hear that leaf blower again.

Kyle Gass: The Miller Genuine Draft Blind Date.

JB: Everyone from all over the country could call into their radio station, be the 13th caller and get to come to Vegas to see a “blind date” concert. Don’t know who it is! Could be anyone! It’s probably your favorite band! And they got everyone drunk over at the Miller Genuine Draft theater [actually the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay, August 1999] and open up the curtain, and everyone was so disappointed that it was Tenacious D, because they had never heard of us. It was one of the most traumatic-yet-hilarious experiences of our lives.

So we were set up for, like, the third round. We had our first real show in Vegas [the Joint at the Hard Rock, April 2002], and it was special; we f*ckin’ uncorked it that night. And we played a New Year’s Eve show [at the Hard Rock] in 2018, and we had so much fun, brought in the new year so powerfully, that we were like “We gotta do this sh*t again.” 2022, so long to you! 2023, come see the D!

I just made that up, by the way. Sorry I steamrolled you, Kyle, but you have a leaf blower.

KG: No problem at all. You know, I think they actually outlawed leaf blowers in LA, but they just said, “Well, we don’t care. We need those. Do what you want. You’re not going to get us all, that’s for sure.”

Will we get a preview of your new material? You’re working on an album, I hear.

KG: Oh, yes. It’s a laborious process though. A lot of thought goes into it.

JB: Me and Kyle are overdue, actually, to go on a retreat. Airbnb out in the desert, in Joshua Tree. Next up, we have a plan to Airbnb up in the Pacific Northwest somewhere. Derive inspiration from the landscapes.

KG: The Redwoods.

JB: The last one that we went on … We were supposed to go on a four-day fast where we ate nothing, just water. We broke that rule almost immediately. We just started f*ckin’ snack attacking. On the next one, I really do want to f*ckin’ do it right. When we get f*ckin’ hungry, dizzy with hunger, it’s almost like an altered state. We’re so hungry, we’re delirious—and that’s when the f*ckin’ jams come.

Was COVID tough on band morale? You had to cancel your Purple Nurple Tour …

KG: That was understandable. I mean, everyone was in the same boat together. But we had some fun projects during that time.

JB: We channeled all that Purple Nurple energy into the “Time Warp” music video [for Rock the Vote]. And by God, it worked; we got Trump out of there.

KG: Thin margin, but yeah.

JB: And a lot of people don’t know that we went on a little Rock the Vote tour, right before the midterm elections. And by God, we did it again. We held the Senate. That was 90% due to Tenacious D.

KG: You’re welcome, democracy.

What keeps the band going after 20 years of nonstop rocking? Is it the writing? The recording? The performing?

KG: All three. There’s nothing like breaking through and having a new jam. But live performing is pretty gratifying, I gotta say. Our crowds are really quite generous and sometimes a little … I’m gonna call them psycho fans. There’s an intensity there that’s pretty fun.

JB: I don’t think I’m ever happier than when we’re doing a concert and it’s going well. … To put that into perspective, when I turned 40, I was like, “I don’t want to have a birthday party; I hate birthday parties. They’re so stressful. I just want to do a birthday Tenacious D concert instead.” That’s what I choose to do, on my day, when I get to do whatever I want. And we did it again on my 50th birthday.

That being said, there’s no feeling like cracking the code on a new song. I think it’s actually the hardest of those three things you mentioned. It’s strange, though, because when it happens, we just start playing and singing and on the first take of improvisation, out plops out a whole song that’s like, “Wait, that was as easy as falling off a f*ckin’ log. Why can’t they all be like that? Why can’t we write masterpieces every time?” It’s a mysterious conundrum, this path we chose.

TENACIOUS D With Wolves of Glendale. December 30, 8 p.m.; December 31, 9 p.m.; $49+. Theater at Virgin, virginhotelslv.com.

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