'Star-struck' Kiwi tells of LA adventure

By Nigel Benson

Jonny Dyas (left) says working with Jack Black was 'definitely one of my favourite life experiences'.
Jonny Dyas (left) says working with Jack Black was 'definitely one of my favourite life experiences'.

Jonny Dyas is still pinching himself.

The former John McGlashan College pupil is settling back into Dunedin life after mixing with some of the biggest names in the music business.

The 23-year-old performed and helped to arrange a single with actor and singer Jack Black for the latest album by Beck Hansen.

The pair performed We All Wear Cloaks at Beck's Song Reader Live concert in the Walt Disney Concert Hall, in Los Angeles, on November 25.

Black then flew Mr Dyas back to LA to record the song for Beck's latest album, Song Reader, in February.

"I hung out with him for about four months. I was pretty star-struck, at times. I'd be hanging out with Jack at restaurants and you'd get all these famous people coming up to say 'hi' to him. It was like a dream, sometimes. I remember looking at [actress] Anne Hathaway and thinking she was just too beautiful," he said yesterday.

"But most of them were very ordinary. Fortunately, Jack is very natural and down to earth."

The album was inspired by a volume of sheet music released by Beck in December 2012, in which he invited interpretation of the songs. "Beck approached Jack, but his usual musical assistant, Kyle Gass, was not available, so Jack thought he'd give me a chance to help him write and play some songs," Mr Dyas said.

"It was amazing, because I remember when the Beck Song Reader came out and I thought how cool it would be to be involved with it. I met Beck and he was very polite. He was a really quiet guy. Jack always did most of the talking."

The families had a connection through their fathers, Jeff Dyas and Tom Black, who worked together in LA in the 1960s and 1970s.

"I met Jack in New Zealand in 2005, when he was starring in Peter Jackson's King Kong. I performed a piano concert for him and gave him a cassette tape with my music on it. When I came to LA he remembered me and was eager to meet."

The actor and comedian was larger than life, Mr Dyas said. "He is hilarious and a genius. It can be hard to focus on the task at hand, because he will make so many jokes. It was definitely one of my favourite life experiences."

The pair also produced a song, Spoiler Alert, for the Anchorman 2 DVD. "He said he enjoyed playing with me, because the piano gives him more texture to play with. He wants to do some more recording together in November, for his band, Tenacious D." Black has previously collaborated with Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters and Meat Loaf.

"I got paid quite well for the Beck show and the recording, which was pretty cool. This has been a step in the right direction for me and, hopefully, a signal that I will eventually make a living doing what I like," Mr Dyas said. He is now back in Dunedin, studying commerce and working on documentary soundtracks.

Mr Dyas, who says his dream is to work in film music, studied music composition under Anthony Richie and Peter Adams at the University of Otago, graduating in 2012.

- Otago Daily Times

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