In his role as frontman of Tenacious D, the self-proclaimed greatest band in the world, Jack Black has confronted his fair share of music-scene mysteries. (Example: Why does Ronnie James Dio still rock so hard at such an advanced age?) On a sunny summer afternoon in Los Angeles, though, there's one question that's particularly perplexing the portly singer-actor: How can it be that "Slide It In" by Whitesnake and "Lick It Up" by Kiss are two different songs?
Black is gathered with his Tenacious D bandmate Kyle Gass and Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor for Revolver's exclusive meeting of the minds, and though the three musicians have spent over an hour hashing out a series of extremely important topics, the conversation has taken a turn for, well, the trivial. To be precise, Taylor is trying to convince Black that drummer Eric Carr deserves some credit for the work he did when he took over from Peter Criss in the 1980s version of Kiss. Black seems unconvinced.
We convened this special edition of Rebel Meets Rebel to see what unites and what separates these heavy-music heavyweights. Though they don't share much musically, Slipknot (who just released their fourth studio album, All Hope is Gone, on Roadrunner Records) and the D both believe in bringing something extra to the stage (and the screen), whether it's masks, jokes, or someone dressed up as Satan. Plus, Taylor says he doesn't know a Tenacious D fan harder-core than himself. Black came to our interview equipped with questions scrawled in his super-special Yoda notebook. Taylor regretfully admitted that he'd left his Hello Kitty diary at home.
REVOLVER When did you guys first meet?
COREY TAYLOR In 2002. They were playing the London Astoria, and me and Josh [Rand, guitar] were over there doing press for Stone Sour. The label people were like, "Do you wanna go see Tenacious D?" and before they even got to the "D," I was like, "Yes!" I hadn't had any sleep and was totally blown out from doing a whole day of interviews, but I was like, "Take me to the Astoria right now or I'm gonna have your job." So we go, and we're up in the balcony watching and I'm singing every fucking word; Josh is just staring at me. Then we hung out with you guys in the bar downstairs and plotted a whole Slipknot/Tenacious D world tour. It all made sense through the whiskey.
REVOLVER You have a Tenacious D cover band, right?
TAYLOR A tribute band: Audacious P. I almost brought a DVD of a benefit concert we did. We didn't have capes, but we pinned bath towels to our shirts, and then we had cape techs who would come out while we were playing "Wonderboy." That's how into you guys I am.
REVOLVER Jack, Kyle: Do you approve of the unauthorized use of your material?
JACK BLACK Hmm, what you were benefiting?
TAYLOR It was for multiple sclerosis.
BLACK Then yes. Do you do a lot of fundraising shows?
TAYLOR I do a lot in my hometown, yeah. We did some stuff for cancer research with my cover band, the Dum Fux. We did that show for multiple sclerosis. We did one for an AIDS foundation. We do it for free and people donate, and we put together special T-shirts and stuff.
BLACK You guys made the new album 40 miles outside Des Moines, right?
TAYLOR Yeah, we did it at my buddy's studio that's out on this farm. We did the album out there and we ended up doing the video out there, too.
BLACK Did you have many acres?
BLACK Was there a lot of barbecuing?
TAYLOR Lot of barbecuing, lot of shotgun blasts.
BLACK Were there ATVs?
TAYLOR Yes—quads and two-wheelers.
BLACK See, Cage, we don't do it right. We just go over to, like, a dude's house. I have some family in Fort Dodge, Iowa. I remember going out there and having some corn. We snagged a corncob off someone's farm. It was good—probably the best corn I've ever had. No butter or salt necessary.
KYLE GASS I like butter with my popcorn. I was at the theatre the other night and got down to the bottom of the popcorn. It was kind of sticky, so I just tipped the bucket and got a full mouthful of the chemical butter.
TAYLOR You were doing butter shooters?
GASS I didn't know what to do. Swallow it or spit it back?
BLACK You didn't swallow it.
GASS I swallowed it. I think I probably took two years off my life.
REVOLVER Both your bands utilize onstage personas that don't necessarily match up 100 percent with who you are as regular people. Do any of you ever worry about whether or not people have an accurate idea of what you're like?
TAYLOR At the end of the day, you go out to entertain. There's a lot of art and a lot of thought to what we do, but at the same time, when we go out onstage, we just wanna make sure that people enjoy themselves. Our fans are very devoted, and they expect something from us, so when we meet them on a down-low level, they see that we're just fucking total dorks. There's no hiding it, because we just are who we are.
GASS You guys put out a real nihilist message.
TAYLOR Oh, absolutely. I have no hope whatsoever.
GASS So what do you with the 14-year-old dude who's like, "I wanna kill myself and then my parents!"
TAYLOR I have a lot of kids that really wanna share with me because I went through a lot when I was younger. A lot of it stems from high school. We all remember how brutal high school was, and it's worse now. How the fuck does that happen? So I just sit them down and go, "Look, it's temporary. There's a whole fucking life past 12th grade; your life does not end after your senior year. If you can get past that, you can do whatever you want. Me, I got kicked out of school, so I went and got my GED, and then I started on exactly what I wanted to do with my life. The only reason that I'm fucking where I'm at is because I know what I wanna do and I know what I wanna say and I know what I wanna be. You've gotta find that for yourself. You're dealing with heavy shit right now, but don't let that define you." And that seems to work. I don't want anything bad to happen to any of my fans. They get in the pit, and it's gonna be brutal. But at the same time, having been in the pit, I realize that it's not always a violent place. It's expression—you get out there and you just let it go for an hour and a half.
BLACK What was the best pit you ever saw?
TAYLOR Slayer, 1991, the Clash of the Titans Tour. It was the most intense pit I've ever been in. Second would be Pantera and White Zombie in '96.
BLACK Did you ever get a chance to meet Dimebag?
TAYLOR Me and Dime were very close. If we were in Dallas, they came down to the show and hung with us all night. If they were playing somewhere, I was fucking there. He was actually killed on my birthday. It was fucked up: Right up until the point where I got the phone call, I had been having the best birthday of my life. I was with all my friends, my family, my ex-wife, who was actually being very cool at the time. Then I got the call from Charlie [Benante] from Anthrax. Couldn't believe it. Dime was one of those dudes that only comes around once in a while.
REVOLVER Corey and Jack, you both have kids. Does becoming a dad make you think twice about what you're putting out into the world as an artist?
TAYLOR I think you keep an eye on it, but at the same time, if you censor yourself for that, then you're not being true. You can't guide your child if you're not gonna be honest. I've never let anything hold me back from saying exactly what I wanna say, and I'm certainly not gonna teach my child to do that. Do I do things differently now in my personal life? Absolutely. But if I can't raise my child to say what he thinks, then I don't deserve to be a parent. Our goal for the first five years is to keep them from killing themselves, and then from five to 18, that's when they're learning. They watch everything you do, and you've gotta lead by example. My kids come to me for advice and I don't sugarcoat it.
BLACK Cage, have you changed the way you make movies since I've had kids?
GASS I have.
BLACK Cage is my son's dogfather. He's gonna step in at some point and teach him how to dog.
GASS Jack has two boys, and when they grow up they're gonna wanna be like the D. I've already got the name: Mini D.
TAYLOR It rolls off the tongue.
BLACK I don't think about changing. I mean, I'm already fucking doing children's movies, so I don't have to change too much. I don't really care about when they're kids; I know the next 20 years are gonna flash by, so I don't wanna be embarrassed about any of the shit that I've done when they're adults. I don't wanna do anything that's blatant, "Yeah, I just wanted to get paid on that gig." I've had some borderline ones. But I feel like I can hold my head up high, and I'd like to keep it like that.
REVOLVER How old are your kids?
BLACK Two and zero.
REVOLVER Do they get your humor?
BLACK No. Well, my two-year-old is laughing at stuff, but more at my wife. He's a mama's boy. She's funny, too.
REVOLVER Do your kids understand Slipknot, Corey?
TAYLOR My son, not so much. My son is a bigger Stone Sour fan. My daughter's starting to get into harder music, so she's very happy about the fact that I'm in Slipknot. They both really like the melodic stuff that I do. When I'm driving with my son, I can't play anything other than "Through Glass" or he gets very upset.
GASS Did your daughter go through the Disney phase?
TAYLOR It wasn't so much the Disney phase as the country phase. She was very into country, and I blame her mother for that. But at the same time, there's certain country music that I like—pre-'80s stuff, let's say.
BLACK Fucking "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"! Oh, wait—that's '80s. We built our whole band on that song.
GASS I've got the country station on my radio. They'll start telling some stories and draw you in. I get it.
BLACK There's no hidden meanings. It's like, "And then I went down the street and bought some bread." There's no real metaphors.
TAYLOR Country fans don't want metaphors. They wanna feel what's going on. That's why I'm a Johnny Cash fan.
BLACK Johnny Cash is country? He's good.
GASS You know Johnny Cash is country.
BLACK I don't think of him as country.
GASS What do you think of him as?
BLACK Rock. He played the fucking prison, yo.
TAYLOR He was the OG. He walked in and was like, "Put your shanks away—Johnny Cash is here."
BLACK I like Willie Nelson.
TAYLOR Oh, fuck yeah. A lot of people don't know that he was a songwriter. He wrote a lot of the big country songs before he made it himself.
BLACK A lot of people also don't know that he was blazing Js before Cheech & Chong were even born.
REVOLVER Slipknot and Tenacious D are both playing the Reading and Leeds Festivals in England this year.
GASS I know, I can't believe that. Monsters of Rock.
BLACK Here's how it should go: Mudvayne, Cheech & Chong, Slipknot, the D, Metallica. That's a good evening.
TAYLOR That would make sense. I would pay a lot of fucking quid to see that.
BLACK I've never met Mudvayne, but I just assume—maybe wrongly—that you have.
TAYLOR Yes, indeed. Clown actually helped them get signed. We took them out for, like, a year and a half.
BLACK Clown do a little producing on the side?
TAYLOR We all do, yeah. He's produced a couple of bands. I usually work with local bands back home. There's a lot of good bands still in Des Moines that haven't really gotten a look: Facecage. On a Pale Horse—they're grungy stoner-rock shit, very Clutch or early Queens of the Stone Age.
BLACK Speaking of Queens, have you seen Josh Homme on YouTube?
TAYLOR No, what happens?
GASS Someone throws something at Josh at a show in Europe and he goes ballistic.
BLACK Do you remember a time when someone threw something at you?
TAYLOR All I have to say is Le Mans, France. It was a three-day hardcore fest at Le Mans Speedway. The promoter had to raise ticket prices because the person who owns Le Mans Speedway raised the rent on him. Because we're Slipknot and we're big fucking rock stars, all the hardcore kids blamed us. They'd been waiting for us all day, and when we got onstage, the first half of the audience was way into us. But the entire back were Slipknot-hating motherfuckers. I was hit in the face with many bottles. I took a wrench to the chest. Dead rabbits. But we stood there and we took it all fucking night. I stood right in the middle of the spotlight and I was like, "Guess what? You're not winning. These people fucking came to see us. You can hit me with all the shit you want because of your bad information. Kiss my fucking ass."
GASS Axl would not have stayed.
TAYLOR Axl would've seen the gigantic banner in the back that said "SLIPKNOT = SHIT" and walked right away.
BLACK One time we opened for Tool, and the fans didn't want us there.
GASS That was in like '96, and you're still scarred from that. I don't know why you let that mess with you.
BLACK It was not a right combo.
GASS Maynard's a big fan.
BLACK You met Maynard?
TAYLOR Um, I didn't get along with Maynard for a long time. He said some shit in print; I came back with shit in print.
GASS What was the rap on you guys?
TAYLOR Someone asked him about new music and Slipknot came up. He said, "Slipknot fucking blows—I think they're the lowest denominator of music." This is very early on; all people saw was the masks and the crazy shit. So someone asked me about it, and this is right when A Perfect Circle hit and he had his flowing wig, and I was like, "I'm supposed to take a guy seriously who wears a fucking wig and doesn't want me to know it?" As time went on, that kind of stopped. Then at Dimebag's funeral, I stood right next to Maynard and he was very cool. It is what it is. Beef comes and beef goes. I've had beef with a lot of fucking people because nobody really likes me. I say what I want and I don't give a fuck.
BLACK It smells to me like some basic territorial pissing. You guys have a similar intensity.
TAYLOR Very much so. He's one of those guys that I'd love to sit down with and pick his brain. Maybe someday.
BLACK We've never really had any battles in the press with anybody.
GASS We're trying to start one with [New Zealand-based comedy/acoustic-guitar duo] Flight of the Conchords. Their thing is they try to pretend we don't exist. And I'm like, "Well, I don't blame you guys." In interviews I've started saying that they're my inspiration.
BLACK I wish them luck. The next season [of their self-titled HBO series] is the one that's really gonna be a challenge for them. I know from experience: They've burned through 10 years' worth of music-writing on their first season and album, and now they've got another season coming up. You have one year to write a whole new season of songs. If they can make a second season better than their first, then I will fucking go and pass the torch personally.