Interview: Tenacious D’s Kyle Gass

This interview first appeared in the December 2016 of VultureHound Magazine which can be read on all devices here.

Kyle Gass holds a special place in my heart for reasons that will soon become apparent. We immediately start off the interview with it. As the straight man in one of the 2000s most iconic bands, Tenacious D, they skyrocketed to success with anthems like Tribute and Wonderboy. He now has his own band. The Kyle Gass Band. He talks to VultureHound about Donald Trump, the origins of the name ‘The Kyle Gass Band’, and his new album, Thundering Herd.

Hello Sir. Its Lee Hazell of VultureHound.

(In the tune of Tenacious D’s Lee) Lee, Lee, Lee, Lee, Lee, Lee, Lee, Lee, Lee.

Oh my god! I have to say, that song was so awesome for me when I was a teenager. Its the source of the only nickname I received in school that I ever liked. And I had a lot of nicknames.

That’s awesome man! That’s so good. I always loved that song. That name was something to celebrate.

Thanks dude. Anyway, dont you have a new album out?

Yeah, it’s been out a month. I heard that Bro Code even got played on the radio, which is a real milestone for us because we’re used to people not really caring that much. So that was pretty exciting.

How does this album differ from your first, and the music projects youve been involved with previously?

It’s a creative endeavour, so you never know how it’s gonna come out. You just do your best. I don’t know if we had too much of a concept, going in. We would think of funny titles on the road and just try to sell ‘em in. We just took ‘em from wherever inspiration came. But it was kind of a tall order; it took us over a year to come up with a whole new fresh batch of tunes. Oh, we have a new drummer. I think that he added a new energy to the proceedings, and actually, we even wrote a song about him. Called ‘Bone’. 

Is there any song youre particularly proud of on the new album?

Well, you know. Songs are like your kids. You’re proud of all of them. Whenever one actually makes it to fruition, it’s a cause for celebration. Not all songs make it to the record. I kind of love all of them, but, that being said, I really like ‘Gypsy Scroll II: Toot in the Valley’. Which is just because it’s a great song; it kind of sums up what we’re about; and obviously, it serves as a sequel to ‘Gypsy Scroll’ – from our first record. I thought that was kind of a fun concept. The story continues.

You said that really sums up what you guys are about. Can you define that?

Uh, no. Hahaha. Whatever we’re about, I think we’re a rock ‘n’ roll band. We’re a live band. We’re kind of about energetic entertainment, y’know? We’re all about havin’ a good time and guitar rock. It’s got a classic rock vibe to it. Lynyrd Skynyrd; Allman Brothers; Bad Company; those old kind of seventies guitar bands, or ‘dinosaur bands’. Whatever we are as personalities, that’s what we bring to it. But I think it’s all good under the rock ‘n’ roll banner.

What are you exploring lyrically with this album?

Well, each song is a story unto itself. Track one, ‘Cakey’ is about a real fan that we had. Track two, ‘Regretta’ was another story. They all have their thing. ‘Toot in the Valley’ is kind of a mythological tale. ‘Bro Code’ is self-explanatory. We wrote a couple of songs based on band members, which I always like to do. It just tickles me. It’s hard to write songs, really. I wish it were easier. It takes a long time to craft them and record them. So whenever one happens you should just be really glad that it happened.

The title of the album is called Thundering Herd. Where did the title come from?

It seemed appropriate. We went around on several names, as bands are want to do. But with the album art and the feeling that we had, we really wanted to create a thundering masterpiece. It was really a kind of shared team effort. All of us working together in tandem. So it seemed like we were the Thundering Herd. The other name that we had, which I liked, was ‘Masters of Beasts’. It had a lot of plurality. But we tested them in front of audiences, and even though Thundering Herd has been used before, we just felt it was right for this album. We’re gonna bring the Thunder. That will be well documented.

Was there anything about this new albums recording that was particularly memorable?

Yeah, it was a great experience, actually. Our friend, John Spiker, who plays bass with Tenacious D, is a great producer, engineer, mixer and a great friend. So we were lucky enough to record at his home studio. The whole thing. So that was quite relaxing and very enjoyable, not being on the clock or anything like that. And he’s really, really good, so we felt lucky to have him. So we were able to take our time and get it just right. We did run into a deadline, a self-imposed deadline, but sometimes that’s when you do your best work. Like we said in the last song on the album, it was ‘The Best We Could Do (In The Time Allowed)’.

Do you value the studio more than you do the live experience?

Well, they’re just two different animals. I love recording, that’s really fun. It’s a blast, especially with today’s technology. Pro Tools and all that stuff is just a real good time. It’s a different beast. But there’s no substitute for live performing. A live rock band is the highest calibre of band. Especially ours. The Kyle Gass Band is the finest rock band you’re ever gonna see (He winks at me and goes ‘tch-ch’). I mean, it’s a pretty powerful experience.

If its got Kyle Gass in it I should hope it would be. 

Well, I wish I could take credit, but it’s really all the other guys. I’m just kind of keeping up.

It has been proven beyond any doubt that you are Kyle Gass of The Kyle Gass Band. What was the inspiration for the name?

Bon Jovi without a doubt. Actually, how it happened was… I have a side project called Trainwreck. From 2002 to 2010, because of my massive celebrity, wherever we’d play it would say ‘Trainwreck, featuring Kyle Gass of Tenacious D’. And then my brilliant guitarist, John Konesky, said – when we formed the new band – let’s just call it ‘The Kyle Gass Band’ and then we can take out all that extra info. It seemed to be the right move. Saved a lot of guys some marquis space with that. 

So when you were in Tenacious D

I still am.

Yeah, I know but

You were speaking in the past tense sir. I’m a lifetime member.

I apologise profusely. What is the difference between what you get with The D and what you get from The Kyle Gass Band?

Obviously in Tenacious D, Jack (Black) is in there. He’s the front man! I’m more of, y’know, the straight man, guitar guy. And then with this band, I get to be more of a jackass, and work on my stand-up comedy. It’s still a bit looser; we try to share the microphone. It’s just different.

How long have you been in London for and are you enjoying your experience? 

We played London on a Friday and then had press on the Monday, so I guess four days. I’m just a geeky tourist. I love walking around and taking pictures. There’s always something. It’s a great city. I went to Brompton Cemetery. It was a really great experience. We need to take better care of our dead. I don’t know if it inspired a new song, but it was a great visit. We need to restore it to its splendour.

Any further dates left on the tour?

Well, we just finished a month long tour. London was our last show. We played Germany, and France and the Netherlands and Belgium, and one gig in London. That was great. I think we’re gonna come back in April. To finish what we started.

Finish what you started? Destroying the world?

No. I think Trump’s gonna do that.

Do you fear for your country come November?

Yes.

Thats the most direct answer Ive ever been given.

There’s a little bit of fear there. Similar to your Brexit. You take a step back and go, “Wait a minute. What’s happening? Why is this happening?” I’m not quite sure. It’s a little unnerving. Hopefully, it will work itself out and sanity will prevail.

As it usually does? God help us all.  

God help us all.

Anything happen on the tour?

Well, it was our first time in France. And er.. y’know. You hear the stories. Of France. But when you go there, you have to work with the French people, and sometimes there would be problems with the promoters. It seemed like a daily battle. And I don’t know why they don’t use toilet seats on the road. They don’t believe in toilet seats. That was a little unnerving for me. France, I think you’ve got to level up a little bit. And then they pretend they don’t understand you. I dunno. They’re a whole thing. But the French fans were just unbelievably enthusiastic. It was great to play there.

Do you have anything coming up in the future you would like to plug?

I’m starring in a motion picture called Gnaw. It’s an indie horror film. That’s a little unusual for me. I’m excited about that. We have our own festival. Festival Supreme, Los Angeles October 29th. So Yeah, just onwards and upwards. Try to stay creative and make more music.

Any more writing projects?

Ah, who knows? I try not to plan. Just stay positive today and we’ll see what happens.

The Kyle Gass Band’s Thundering Herd is out now

Photo: Matt Grayson

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