A QUEST FOR ROCK

March 6, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    WHAT | Tenacious D - Old School Acoustic

    WHEN | Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. the greatest night of rock ever, starts at 8:30.

    WHERE | House of Blues, 4640 U.S. 17 S., Barefoot Landing, North Myrtle Beach.

    HOW MUCH | Tickets are $50, $90 and $100.

    CONTACT | Call 272-3000 or visit www.houseofblues.com/myrtlebeach.

It’s easy for national media and celebrities to pick on Myrtle Beach, and it’s kind of fun to be the recipient of the razzing, if you don’t take yourself too seriously. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, a Charlestonian, has poked fun at us. Danny McBride of “Eastbound & Down” trashed our little town in the show’s 2012 season on HBO, and Honey Boo Boo’s network, TLC, and its mock-reality television program “Welcome to Myrtle Manor” may lead the uninitiated into thinking we’re one giant redneck trailer park with an equally gigantic sand box.

When actor/musician Jack Black of Tenacious D started ranting to Foo Fighter and part-time Tenacious D drummer Dave Grohl on the “Chelsea Lately” television program in late February, it got really personal. Black cited the (at the time) supposed lack of ticket sales for Saturday’s Tenacious D show at the House of Blues calling Myrtle Beach “icy cold.” In his faux frustration he declared “Fuck Myrtle Beach!” which got a big laugh, and no doubt ruffled the feathers of a few humorless locals. But it was, of course, all good sardonic fun, and rather self-deprecating on part of the D. Black and 20-year comic partner Kyle Gass were pretending to be upset about not being able to sell-out Myrtle Beach, with no real malice toward its citizenry. Right?

An interview with Black and Gass by radio team Mase and Kinard on Myrtle Beach’s WKZQ-FM on Feb. 18, we think, proves that the Tenacious D partnership is all about comedy, and they assured Myrtle Beach of their respect. “As soon as I saw them on “Chelsea Lately” I was calling their management,” said radio personality Mason “Mase” Brazelle. “They [Tenacious D] handled it really well and seemed to have fun.” Black joked about the appearance and his remarks. “I love Myrtle Beach,” he said. “I want to rock Myrtle Beach – I just wish we’d sold more than 13 tickets.” As of press time the House of Blues reports that sales have indeed exceeded 13.

“Tickets have sold really well,” said Dawn Temples, Brand Marketing Manager for House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach. “We’re hoping for a sell-out, but we know we will at least have a very good night. We sold a lot more tickets than the 13 Jack Black joked about [selling] on the “Chelsea Lately” show,” she said. That the show would be well attended was never really in question, Jack Black is, after all, a bonafide movie star, and Tenacious D has a loyal following.

But why is our little sandbox getting all this attention?

Love it or hate it, Myrtle Beach has been in the national spotlight more often as of late, and many locals say “Bring it on!” In a recent phone interview with Weekly Surge Black and Gass were good humored and seemed to be enjoying their own on-again-off time in the spotlight as America’s best known comedy rock duo. But why come to the Myrtle Beach area in March? It’s off-season, we’re off the beaten path, far from significant population centers, Interstate access, and not likely to produce large revenue streams for anybody, including Black, whose net worth is estimated to be between $30-$40 million.

But come they will.

It seems in the last two years we’ve been added to some nebulous celebrity visitation schedule. Sure we’ve had the dinosaurs of the music biz visiting our grand theaters for decades, but the once-rare Hollywood celebrity sightings are becoming less so, and at least for some of the A-listers, including Tenacious D, it’s for the love of craft that they come to town.

And now Black, who is also known for his voice-over work (“Kung Fu Panda,” “Mars Attacks,” “The Simpsons”), and who is a highly acclaimed actor in indie films (“Bernie,” “High Fidelity,” “Be Kind Rewind”) and in Hollywood features (“King Kong,” “School of Rock,” “Tropic Thunder,” “Shallow Hal,” “Saving Silverman,” “Pick of Destiny,”) will grace our shores with a concert at the House of Blues, as one half of comic rock team Tenacious D.

Why are these superstars and network producers visiting and putting Myrtle Beach, for better or worse, in the glare of the national media spotlight?

As far as Black and Gass are concerned, it’s for the love of rock (or perhaps mock?). Tenacious D has been touring off-and-on since May 2012 in support of the release of its third studio album, “Rize of the Fenix.” The title song pokes fun at the critics who claimed “the D was dead” after truly disappointing box office numbers from its first full-length feature, the 2006 movie “The Pick of Destiny.” The pair will bring its stripped-down show, Tenacious D – Old School Acoustic Style, to the House of Blues on Saturday. We were fortunate to grab a few minutes on the phone with the boys and the pair connected to us via a conference call from their SoCal homes.

The comically chunky duo were as affable on the phone as their on-stage/on-screen personas might suggest they would be, mixing a bit of serious reflection with humility, and, of course, undeniable humor. For those handful of you uninitiated with the bawdy brand of adolescent funny that is Tenacious D, it might be helpful to watch the short music videos “Tribute,” “Kickapoo,” and “Rize of the Fenix,” all referenced in the following interview and easily accessible online. Beware, Tenacious D’s humor is NSFW (Not Suitable/Safe for Work) and as envelope-pushing as just about anything ever recorded.

Here’s what they had to say about their band, Myrtle Beach, and why they tour.

Weekly Surge: How’re you doing fellas?

Jack Black: Good. How are you?

WS: I’m excellent. Thanks for taking a few minutes to chat with me.

JB: Of course.

WS: I’m assuming you’re sitting in a publicity office somewhere on the West Coast?

JB: No. We’re calling you from the comfort of our own homes. Didn’t even drag ass out to the publicity office.

WS: That [conference calling] is hi-tech.

Kyle Gass: We need a publicity office.

WS: I feel somehow slighted, but I’ll get over it.

JB: No, no. It’s the highest compliment we could pay.

WS: My name is Paul Grimshaw. I’m a music writer living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Have you been to Myrtle Beach before?

JB: Wait…are we on the air?

KG: No. This is print.

JB: OK, here goes. No, I have not been to Myrtle Beach. Kyle, have you been to Myrtle Beach?

KG: I have not been.

JB: We’ve been to a lot of places in Florida, but not Myrtle.

WS: We’re in South Carolina, just slightly north of Florida.

JB: OK, I’m glad we’re not on the air. I feel badly.

WS: No, no, it’s quite all right. Nobody knows where we are, but we have a House of Blues here, so we get some excellent shows, including Tenacious D unplugged, acoustic, which the town is abuzz over.

JB: Wow. We did play in South Carolina once. Where were we, Kage?

KG: Charleston. Is that in South Carolina?

WS: It is - a couple hours south of us. Well, I’m going to try not to gush, because I’m a huge Tenacious D fan. I was doing some research, and it’s hard to believe that you have been together as a comedy team for more than 20 years.

JB: I know. It’s true. It’s weird. Let me go back in the time capsule. 1993? Were we a comedy team in 1993? We weren’t a name that people knew about until later.

KG: I’ll go with [1993]. We were paying our dues.

JB: I think that was around the time that Kyle was avoiding me, ignoring me.

KG: (laughs)

JB: We didn’t kick back in ‘til quite a bit later.

WS: I’ve read that. Is it true, Kyle, that you didn’t like Jack at first?

KG: Oh no, no.

JB: Are we still not on the air?

WS: No, we’re not on the air, I promise.

JB: We should be. So we’ve got a half-hour pre-interview going here?

WS: No this is it. This is the interview for our cover feature for [ Weekly Surge]. We cover the coastal Carolina region.

JB: I’m so confused. I thought this was a radio program. I have not been properly debriefed. Now I got you. This is all gold. Kyle you said ‘this is print,’ now I understand, it’s all falling into place.

WS: Let’s get to the meat of this thing. In the “Rize of the Fenix” you say the [movie] “Pick of Destiny” was a bomb. And I say “Who says so?” I loved it. I bought the DVD, it’s played on Comedy Central every so often. Why do you call it a bomb?

(silence)

JB: Kyle?

KG: (sighs) Well I’m going to have to agree with you. I think that…

JB: (interrupting) OK, I’ll answer the question. It didn’t make any money in the box office, and they won’t let us make another one. That’s usually a good sign that you’ve not made a hit.

WS: I don’t believe they won’t let you make another one.

JB: They won’t let us, and not only that, they own the rights, the fucking TV rights, too, so we can’t do anything.

WS: This is the proverbial “they,” the big evil, corporate “they?”

JB: It was New Line Cinema, which is now owned by Warner Bros. and they won’t let us do it.

KG: Maybe we’ve caught up by now? If it’s on Comedy Central? Some [more] people might have bought the DVD?

JB: What can I tell ya’, fellas? I wish it wasn’t a bomb. The good news is you’ll be able to see us on the Interweb sometime soon, with a Tenacious D animated show.

WS: The what?

JB: The Interweb.

WS: Oh, the Interweb.

JB: We found a loophole. They don’t own our Internet rights.

KG: Wow. They screwed up on that one.

JB: They weren’t looking ahead. (pauses). Thank you for thinking the movie was a hit, and I’m glad that Kyle thinks it was a hit, too.

KG: I can’t be caught up in these commercial…

WS: No. And I understand the economics of the movie needing to make more money than it cost. I get that. But [the movie video] “Kickapoo” has 30 million views on YouTube.

JB: I don’t…They made another “Lawnmower Man.” And that couldn’t have made more than $6 bucks. Why couldn’t there be another Tenacious D in…whatever?

WS: Jack, I read that you actually blamed stoners for being too stoned to actually go out and see the movie in the theater. Do you subscribe to that?

JB: Yeah. That’s why we’re changing our whole thing. Now we only play to meth-heads. They will actually go out and watch a movie.

WS: I think they’re much less likely to show up, even, than stoners.

KG: I want to comment on the “Kickapoo” video, that’s getting so many hits. I don’t know if people realize… I’m not in it! I appreciate all the re-watching of it.

WS: No, but you’re the genius behind the guitar. You were the youngest guitar student to graduate from Julliard.

KG: That’s what they say. Until some crack, cub reporter discovered that there was never a guitar program at Julliard [when I was a child].

JB: (laughs)

WS: Bastards.

KG: I’m the Manti Te’o of the comedy rock set, I think.

WS: I’m not sure if this means anything, but I Googled “Rize of the Fenix,” and the University of Phoenix came up higher on the page, which was a little disappointing.

JB: They don’t even spell it right.

WS: I know. I can’t understand how that happens?

JB: A lot of people stole our magic thunder.

WS: Speaking of “Rize of the Fenix,” that’s a very creative spelling, with the “Z,” I find that the “Z” seems to be a very important letter in rock ‘n’ roll.

JB: It’s more powerful…and if you didn’t know how to spell, that’s how you’d spell it.

KG: Yeah, you would.

JB: The “S” seems really weak, and snake-y. We wanted to rise with magical, dark force power. That’s when you bring up the “Z.”

WS: True, true. [“Rize of the Fenix”] is a rockin’ tune. I love the bridge and the chorus where it sort of switches into an almost like a rockin’ pop song, bubble gum, almost.

KG: (laughs)

JB: That part you’re talking about, when it goes into the hook, (starts singing) “Rize of the Fenix, (starts scatting guitar riffs) and we ride with the pack!” That was actually our producer, our co-writer John Kimbrough [who added that].

WS: That is so something a producer would do.

KG: Right down the bubble gum hole.

JB: Our specialty is not…that.

KG: No. We’re not hookmeisters, really.

JB: Yeah.

WS: I don’t know. You guys are great songwriters.

JB: I think it was a great collaboration, and took our sound to new heights.

WS: I hope this isn’t a stupid question, but do you share an affinity with Spinal Tap? Is the D an evolution of Tap, or are they just a bunch of has-been hacks?

KG: (laughs)

JB: Oh dude, I would never say that about the Tap.

KG: No

JB: They’re the fuckin’ original maestros of comedy rock. Although that’s not entirely true. The Rutles might be first. (“All You Need is Cash - The Rutles” is a 1978 made-for TV mockumentary film, and later an actual recording and touring act based on a fictitious Beatles-like group).

WS: Oh, that’s right. I remember - the Monty Python gang. Well the Tap is classic, but when you guys came out on HBO [14] years ago, I thought, this is fantastic. I’ve really been a fan for that long.

JB: Thank you, man.

KG: Thank you.

JB: The difference between us and the Tap, is that the Tap is making fun of the genre, heavy metal. They’re making fun of all the genres with that movie [“This is Spinal Tap,”] really, because it spans all of rock ‘n’ roll history.

WS: Yeah?

JB: We’re not making fun of rock. We fuckin’ love to rock. It’s just that we mix in comedy. Not comedy about rock as much as…oh shit I don’t know.”

WS: It’s obvious that you guys love to rock, which brings me to another point. I would think that in this place in your careers, that it’s not necessary for you guys to slog all around the U.S. and come to places like Myrtle Beach to do a show, you must…

JB:(interrupts) Wait a second – I can’t leave it like that…what I’m saying is, The Tap are the best, and they’re the parody kings, not like Weird Al, but the D is just trying to be a really great rock band, which is absurd because we don’t fit that mold, and we’re pretty dumb. I guess…that’s not great. Shit, I don’t know.

KG: (laughs)

JB: Can we get back to the Myrtle Beach question? (everybody laughs)

KG: We don’t have to be slogging around the country playing gigs in crazy places like Myrtle Beach, but we do, because we love it. I love playing live.

(silence)

JB: Kyle, are you doing that crazy thing where you hold the speakerphone up to your lips?

KG: Ahh...is there any way you can tell for sure that’s what I’m doing?

JB: I can tell.

KG: Damn it!

WS: Well, I have time for just one more question. What is the greatest song in the world?

(Silence)

JB: We forgot.

WS: Could it be that (Tenacious D’s) “Tribute” is the greatest song in the world?

JB: (sighs) I don’t know. I think the greatest song in the world is always changing.

WS: Oooh.

JB: Right now the greatest song in the world is…

KG: “Gangnam Style?”

JB: No (laughs)

KG: Carley Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe?”

JB: You gotta get out of the Top 40, Kage. The greatest song in the world…?

WS: I like “It’s always changing.” Good answer.

JB: Yeah, sorry...that’s it.

WS: It was a real pleasure speaking with you guys today. Thanks for your time.

KG: Thank you, ma’ brother.

JB: See you at the beach.

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