Director Liam Lynch discusses his role in Tenacious D
George Martin was credited as the fifth Beatle for his contributions as the band’s producer. Martin signed the four lads from Liverpool because somewhere beneath their raw talent he heard the sound they desired to create, and he provided them with the blueprint for the orchestral arrangements and instrumentation that defined their legendary Pop soundscapes.
Along the way, the Fab Four (or Five, if you will) collaborated with Richard Lester, who helped fashion a visual style to accompany their musical excursions. The boys chose Lester to helm A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, and out of this union sprang not only a signature for the band but also a creative stamp that served as the first footprint for music videos.
Now recombine the complementary strands from Martin and Lester in a single individual, and you can begin to comprehend the evolutionary impact Liam Lynch has on Tenacious D (Jack Black & Kyle Gass), the Greatest Band on Earth, and the production of the motion picture extravaganza Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny.
The notion of making a movie about the “D” had been bandied about since the end run of their brief HBO shows. But the “D” is not your standard band. They are two guys who met through their membership in Tim Robbins’ Actors Gang ensemble theater troupe in the ’90s and formed the “D” as a comedy Rock band soon after.
Gass, the lesser known of the two, has acting credits from film (Jacob’s Ladder, Elf, Almost Famous) as well as television (Seinfeld, Friends) to complement his musical efforts (he also leads the band Trainwreck).
Black made an immediately powerful impression in High Fidelity and earned a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination for School of Rock, but the “D” is where he and Gass believe their destiny lies.
And Lynch is the true believer willing to do whatever to help them live the dream. Their paths began intersecting in the late 1990s in Los Angeles.
“I was doing a television series at MTV at the time and we had a lot of cross-pollinization fans,” Lynch says. “I started doing ‘shout-outs’ to the ‘D’ on my show. I knew their fans were watching and I wanted to let them know we were down with the ‘D.’ ”
He met up with the two, and the collaborations developed almost immediately. A Christmas benefit album for KROQ and some short films led to Lynch joining them on tour to make a documentary, and then he directed the music video for “Tribute.”
Some commercial work followed, “(And) I wrote a song for Jack that was in School of Rock,” he adds.
At first glance, the connection Lynch might have with the duo seems tenuous. Black and Gass have the intuitively classic comic timing of a pair of addled teenage friends. On his own, Gass would seem an unlikely straight man with his burly build and quick wit, but next to wild-man Black he is certainly far more grounded.
In person, Lynch, with his slight build and black-framed glasses, appears to be more of an art-school loner than a funny slacker dude. But it is the music that bonds him to the duo.
Lynch began writing original music at 12 and recorded his first album at age 15. By the time he was in his early twenties, Lynch had toured, worked in music publishing and earned recording deals in Nashville.
But during a stint in London, he had the opportunity to study at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and was one of five musicians chosen to work exclusively with Sir Paul McCartney (the Institute’s founder) on a one-on-one basis. He also shared studio time with Sir George Martin. More recently, Lynch directed and edited Sarah Sliverman: Jesus Is Magic, the comic’s feature concert film, and contributed songs to the soundtrack album.
So the music and comedy connection is not unfamiliar to Lynch, but what is it about the “D”?
“It’s about being the underdog,” he explains. “Their appearance is very endearing. People can relate to them more so than they can to some supermodel or a good-looking Rock star living a crazy life. Jack and Kyle are like real people. Not everyone is in shape, and because of that they’re 10 times more sexy.”
Truth be told, Lynch fits the traditionally sexy mold more so, but he gives off none of the unsavory self-absorbed vibe. The Cleveland-born multi-hyphenate bears a passing resemblance to Andy Warhol, minus the wig and the distracted aura. Yet Lynch is too driven to lose focus, which might make him the perfect complement to the “D.” He provides the tenacious spirit.
In fact, it was the hands-on work of Lynch and Black during the writing process that got the ball rolling. They developed the screenplay together, bringing their work to Gass who, as the creative sounding board, challenged them in improvised sessions to devise even wilder bits.
As Gass points out, “Right after our HBO show finished, we said, ‘We’re going to make a motion picture that’s going to make you guys mad that you didn’t give us more creative control on the show.’ ”
They got that control and more with Lynch, who also co-wrote three of the 15 new songs recorded for the film. With The Pick of Destiny, Tenacious D definitely rock harder than anyone else, but Lynch’s tenacity and polish guarantees that a larger audience will have the chance to appreciate their assault. Even the best know that everyone gets by a little help from their friends. (tt stern-enzi)