John: As far as background I've done a lot of music mostly producing records. I started out in the late '80s actually. I started as a hip-hop DJ in the mid '80s on the radio and then I met Mike Simpson and we started doing various creative things together as the Dust Brothers.
I know about the Dust Brothers.
John: Then we did a lot of stuff. The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique, Tone Loc, and Young MC and Beck's Odalay and a couple of things since then. Santana and Hanson.
Tone Loc was the guy who did "Funky Cold Medina", right?
John: Totally, that was the album I did.
This is so funny. I was in the Air Force at the time that song came out and we had this one girl in my dormitory who basically fucked anything that moved so we nicknamed her Funky Cold.
John: Oh my God. That's so funny. And "Wild Thing" was on that record too. I did the Rolling Stones and just a lot of stuff and then started dabbling in music for pictures. Stuff for commercials for Microsoft and Nike and people like that. I was still doing records the whole time and did the score for this movie Fight Club. Then also did Tenacious D's first record. Produced it with them and so all that plus a lot of other stuff led up to working with Tenacious D on this record and score and soundtrack.
You've been the guy behind the scenes for a lot of interesting stuff.
John: I've definitely been working for a while and yeah, definitely some fun stuff.
Andrew: I've been scoring films since '95. The first film I did was Bio-Dome and I've been working in comedy over the years. Most of the songs of mine that I've scored that are known have been in the comedy genre. Bio-Dome and 8 Heads In A Duffel Bag. I did the main titles for The Good Girl. I've had music in other films like The Tuxedo and Nacho Libre and that all led up to working with John on the score for Tenacious D in The Pick Of Destiny.
I saw that movie 8 Heads In A Duffel Bag. That was cool.
Andrew: I'm glad you liked it.
You apparently went to high school with one of the boys in Tenacious D.
Andrew: Yeah, Jack and I know each other from Crossroads so we know each other from back in the day.
John: We also worked together. Andrew did orchestral arrangements for the first Tenacious D record.
All you guys have a bit of a history with Tenacious D and I guess my first question is, I know those guys did an HBO series. What led up to doing a movie about these guys?
John: I don't really know. I don't know what made them want to do a movie. It seems natural to me but I really have no idea. It's a natural extension from the HBO TV series which was amazing.
I found a website for the movie and I thought that was a pretty cool site.
John: Oh, it's awesome.
They've been around from 1984 on and they've been in a lot of magazines and stuff but they're not as well known as a lot of bands are. Why do you think that is?
John: I think part of that has to do with limited touring and not a lot of releases. Also in terms of comparing them to other bands, a lot of their stuff is more like comedy sketches than songs so it doesn't necessarily fit into the radio or MTV as much. Also they have a lot of other things they do. Appearing on TV shows and doing movies, especially Jack has become such a huge star.
What's the premise of the movie about?
Andrew: The premise of the movie is Jack and Kyle play themselves. So two guys who get together and want to become the greatest rock and rollers ever and go on a quest. They discover the pick which many of the greatest guitar players in the history of rock and roll all shared. They shared the same pick. That's the secret to their success so upon discovering that, they go on a quest to find the pick and that quest takes them all the way to the rock and roll history museum. They have to battle many different things on the way to it.
John: The movie is really about how funny Jack and Kyle are from moment to moment.
I've seen some of their stuff.
John: They're really funny in this and they rock really hard in this too. They're definitely inspired by the metal of yore and also today as well because they'll both be listening to stuff and playing it for me like more recent kind of stuff. At the same time they love old Sabbath and Dio and stuff like that. Dio is actually in the movie.
Ronnie James is actually in the movie?
John: Yeah, totally. He's on the record as well.
Oh, that is very cool. Tell me a little bit about the new record since you were working with that.
John: The record is really the soundtrack to the movie. Most of the songs in it are made for the movie. Actually all the songs on it are made for the movie. Most of them appear in the movie. I think there's one that was a cut scene and there's some that are in the end credits. It's not inspired by the movie but inspired the movie because they would have a scene in the script where Jack and Kyle play the most incredible song ever and that's what it says in the script and then we have to come up with that song and all the lyrics and melody. Then we had to do all that before they shot the movie so they could go and sing it on camera. The record actually follows the story of the movie and all the music that was inspiring for the movie or inspired by the movie and all the music that's in the movie but not all the film score that's in the movie actually.
That's nice to have a soundtrack that actually has the vast majority of the songs being in the movie because sometimes you get soundtracks and maybe a few songs off of it that are in the movie.
John: Oh totally. That happens all the time. This is a real soundtrack and the movie is like a musical and in many ways draws inspiration from Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar and things like that. Andrew and I worked together to try to bring a really wide spectrum of musical styles into it that would incorporate the drama or the rock or that sort of classic rock musical kind of feel into the movie. It has searing electric guitars and of course a lot of Tenacious D acoustic guitars. It has the incredible Dave Grohl just playing ridiculously wonderful drums throughout. Then really cool orchestral majestic kind of accompaniment to the rock and also just to the scenes in the movie.
I guess my next question would be you guys have such a history with these boys. How did you get involved in this project?
John: I just became friends with the guys after working on their first album and when they needed to start doing the music, they just called me up. Andrew as well is friends with the guys and worked on the last record as well and actually recorded their very first demo really in ancient times if you would. We're all friends and we love to have fun working on music together.
Andrew: I've got a copy of that. John, you don't have a copy of that very first demo do you?
Andrew: Do you have an ADAT machine?
John: I think I do actually.
One of those machines of yore.
John: Yes. Of ancient times.
It's so funny because I interview a lot of bands and nowadays they have that Pro-Tools thing where you can basically do all your records on a computer. I find it interesting how many bands actually like going back to the old style of recording stuff. More so than the Pro-Tools thing.
John: Well, it's novel. Tape sounds better in many ways but you have a lot less freedom and it's more and more becoming more of a novelty than anything else. If someone really just wants to go back to how Zeppelin did it or how Hendrix did it or something like that, that would be like this is the equipment he used. Let's use that. That's really fun and I have a lot of that equipment. I actually use a lot of that equipment when recording but then it all ends up in Pro-Tools. I find that the freedom that it gives you and the creative power outweighs any sort of sonic goodness of tape because you can make changes. We were writing everything in the studio on the fly so it was great to make changes. Also in the orchestral sessions, it's just those have to go really fast so for the score and for the orchestrals for the album you have all these musicians in this big studio and it's lots of support and it's all very expensive. You have to rip through everything so you just have to move very fast from one thing you're working on to another and you'll record a couple of takes of it and then go fix it later which Pro-Tools is really good for.
Andrew: I want to just add to what John's saying that when I originally started doing orchestral scores, nothing sounds better than two inch tape at 15 IPS with Dolby SR but now to punch in if you need the orchestra to start from the middle of the cue, with Pro-Tools it's so seamless, so quick, and so elegant. It makes for faster sessions and I think even also creatively sometimes you're able to stay with the music and not wait so much for technology. Except when it crashes.
Yeah, that's true. You just basically incorporate everything into that.
John: Yeah, totally. We don't use the tape machines but we are using a lot of tasty vintage and modern recording equipment to record it all. It's got a lot of the best of yesteryear and the best of today going on.
That's the best way to do it. When you were doing the soundtrack you used different types of rock music and you also used orchestras. How difficult was it to get that all together?,p> John: It didn't really seem difficult because Andrew who did all the orchestral arrangements really knows Tenacious D and we all communicate really well together so it was really pretty easy creatively. Technically there are some weird things because of the way they do film and the speed goes up and down. There were actually people on the staff that took care of that so Andrew and I are really confused by that stuff but stuff came to me and it sounded right. Everything is done on Pro-Tools so the orchestral comes into the rock song and if they got it right, it's perfectly lined up and it sounds right on.
I was noticing that Andrew has done a whole lot of musical scores for different movies and sometimes for four or five movies in one year. How do you have the time for all that stuff? You seem really busy.
Andrew: You know, it gets weird because most of the time I feel like I'm not working and then I look at my resume and I say okay, that's not really the case. It doesn't feel like that and the bottom line is I can do a movie anywhere from four weeks to eight weeks so if I work on three or four films in a year that's still a lot of time that I'm not working on a film.
John: And if they needed you to, you could do a movie in two weeks.
Andrew: Yes, I would die but we would do it. We would find a way to do it. As for Pick Of Destiny in particular, we were working on that on and off. John was working on that longer than myself but like over a year.
John: Yeah, it was like a year and a half. More than a year and a half of work.
Some of this stuff actually takes a long period of time to work on then.
John: It was more about the schedule because Jack was doing movies in the middle of it. And Kyle was going on tour with his other band Trainwreck. Then I was producing another movie. It wasn't really a long process but I think that's mostly because we had to write music for the movie. Then they had to approve it and they didn't approve everything and then we had to rewrite some stuff. They had to film the movie and then they had to figure out what was missing and what worked and what didn't. Then work on editing the movie some more and then when everything is finally approved as far as the movie by all the powers that be, then it starts coming into the point where you can actually do a score.
Yeah, it would definitely seem like a long and drawn out process.
John: Yeah, which I think is mostly because the movie is almost a musical. It's not a full fledged musical. They're not constantly singing but they sing a lot.
Which of course is what you want.
John: Yeah, totally.
Andrew: Yeah, for fans of the D I don't think they'll be disappointed at all. There's a lot of D music and a lot of new songs in this movie too and a couple from the past too that people know.
So people will be getting some fresh music.
John: Yeah, totally.
Andrew: There's a lot of fresh music.
I bet people will be looking forward to that. So the movie opens up in a couple of weeks.,p> John: Yeah, less than a month. I think it's the 22nd or something.
Andrew: It's Thanksgiving Day weekend. It opens on Wednesday of the Thanksgiving Day weekend.
I can hardly wait to see that. It's going to up opening up all over the country I guess.,p> John: Yeah, it's in wide distribution so I think it's in a lot of theaters.
It's a major motion picture company that's dealing with it.,p> John: Oh, totally. It's a New Line picture. Jack Black is in it. There are cameos from other big stars in the movie as well. Who are some of the other stars in it?
Andrew: Tim Robbins. Do we want to say Sasquatch?
John: Yeah, that's okay. John C. Riley, Ben Stiller. I can't even remember everybody now but there are definitely cameos and the cool thing about all the cameos is they're all freinds of Tenacious D.
Andrew: Yeah, so people who have seen Tenacious D videos or are familiar with Tenacious D from the past will see a lot of familiar faces. Lee from the D has a feature part in the movie.
John: We didn't make it in the movie. I don't know why that happened.
Yeah, here you guys are behind the scenes all the time. They could have put you in front of the camera for a little bit.
Andrew: Yeah, well if we had been hanging out there and expressed interest in it. I tend to shy away from that though.
You'll never become a star that way.
John: Yeah, true. You've got to put youself out there.
Is there anything else interesting and amazing that you boys have going on?
John: I've been working so hard on this that I'm really enjoying not working and getting to spend a little time with my family.
And getting over the flu.
John: Yeah, but I am working on the Trainwreck album which is Kyle's side band and when the D goes on tour, they're going to be playing shows everywhere that D plays. They just came off the road.
Andrew: When is the D going on tour, do you know?
John: There's a warmup show in Vegas I think on the 11th and then the shows on the 17th and 18th in L.A. are the first official shows. They're running around all over the country playing Madison Square Garden and all kinds of crazy big venues.
Yeah, the classic venue of all venues, Madison Square Garden.
John: And this time when they tour, they're going to have a full band. They've done tours in the past where it was just them and their acoustics. Even though on the last album we had full band rock on the albums but thery went and did their more traditional acoustic thing which is what they did previously to that album. For this tour, they're actually going to have full on electric guitars, drums, bass, plus those guys rocking on stage. It should be great. They've been rehearsing recently and getting ready and I think it's going to be awesome. The full theatrical stage show.
I bet it will be. So Andrew, what do you have going on?
Andrew: My son is a Tenacious D fan and I actually let him hear certain songs that are appropriate.
John: I've got the clean version of the album. I've got to make you a copy because the kids love that.
Andrew: Yeah, so my son really likes Tenacious D and I've been working on it so much and he's been so mad that he can't see it. The thing that sucks is that one of his best friends is allowed to see it. I'm not letting my son see it because I don't feel it's appropriate but his best friend gets to see it. I scored this film. I just finished the score of a film called Christmas Do-Over for the ABC Family Film channel. It's going to be airing in December so there's something that I've scored that he can see. He's not really too excited about that.
John: That's the way it always is though. There's always the friend that can see everything.
Andrew: I know and I wish I could say no but I don't have that kind of power nor do I want to create problems like that with the parents.
Yeah, I remember when I was a kid and they first started doing that cable thing. My parents would not have cable in the house because they didn't want me to see it so you just went to a friend's house.
Andrew: Yeah, that's how it happens.
John: Now that's all under control because you can put parental controls on it but the Internet is the one now. This wonderful tool that five out of 10 searches are completely inappropriate for kids.
Yeah, there's always that evil lurking in the corner.
John: Totally. That's life.
That's life indeed. Any other thoughts or comments?
John: I feel like I've been talking a lot. I don't know if I can talk anymore because of my flu.
Andrew has been kind of quiet.
Andrew: I have been. I have been kind of quiet. Other details that you can throw into what we've been talking about was the fact that the orchestra and choir was an 80 piece orchestra and a 24 voice choir. Everything was done on a wonderfully large and grand scale. John, Jack, Kyle, and I were always talking about writing for big orchestra and choir and we were just very grateful that New Line was very supportive and recognized the D's need for grand treatment and actually gave us a nice large orchestra.
Was it any particular orchestra or choir?
Andrew: It was not a particular orchestra. It was Los Angeles union musicians which is great because we have really the best players in the world. The fact that we were able to stay in town and do it union and we recorded at Sony. The old MGM studio which is one of the greatest and oldest rooms in town. It was just awesome because we had the best players and the choir too was also awesome and we were all just really grateful that we were able to have it executed so well.
This sounds like it's going to be something really spectacular.
Andrew: It's pretty special. As we did the recording sessions and set up, a lot of times they'd be setting up the video and people were working in the studio and would watch and check it out. I've done a lot of films where people look at it and if it's comedy they'd laugh politely but across the board whatever scene they'd put up, people would start watching and they'd just laugh. It's getting exciting for all of us. We all put a lot of energy into the film and we're all terribly proud of it and we just hope that everybody else feels the same way too. It seems like it but we think it's something pretty special.
Cool deal. You just completed a score for a movie called Forfeit that's going to be coming out next year.
Andrew: Yeah, it's submitted to Sundance. It's an independent thriller starring Sherry Stringfield from E.R. and Billy Burke. Hopefully that will be out next year. Hopefully it will get a distributor and see the light of day.
Yeah, the Sundance channel is such a cool channel. I guess that covers everything then. I thank you boys for your time.
John: All right. You're welcome. Thank you.
Tenacious D: The Pick Of Destiny