Kyle Gass: the 12 records that changed my life
Life's a Gass
“I’m taking you off speaker for good reception, taking one for the team here.”
Kyle Gass is in good spirits. Today, he talks to MusicRadar about hitting UK shores once more with his solo band, as well as the albums that changed his life - though the Tenacious D funnyman remains dubious about our intentions…
“This sounds like homework to me,” he begs. “Is it like some sort of assignment - am I gonna get graded on this? Dammit!”
Once favour is won, he gives us an insight into life in the Kyle Gass Band - who released Thundering Herd in September last year and plan to bring their rib-tickling stampede to cities across the UK from 31 March onwards.
“We play southern rock, but not one of us is from the South,” he continues.
“Clearly, we’re posers. Maybe on this tour, we’re actually just vacationing and gigging on the side? Either way, it should be fun.
“It’s dirty music, that’s how we love it… down and dirty, yup. The music and comedy is pretty integrated; it all works together because no-one really wants to hear about my feelings! We have a great time bringing the party and then we leave, making audiences wonder what the hell just happened. It’s like a magic trick or something…
“You can probably expect people not to care at all when we come over,” deadpans Gass. “Seriously, though, I realise I set the bar really high with Tenacious D - one of the great, great bands of our time. I wouldn’t bring over anything less than stellar and the line-up of the band is stellar… they’re way better than me.
“We have John Konesky in the band - he’s one of the great guitar heroes - and [singer] Mike Bray ain’t no slouch, either. I’m lucky to be in the band, quite frankly… thank God I’m a celebrity!”
Back to Black
Beyond the tour and the band, you can’t help but wonder what Gass is up to next. The musician/actor rose to prominence with megastar Jack Black in Tenacious D, who co-wrote 2006 box office hit Tenacious D In The Pick of Destiny, with the pair going on to win Best Metal Performance at the Grammys in 2015.
So, how is his old pal Jack, and are there any plans to work together again in the future?
“You know what - funny you should mention that - because I’m meeting him tomorrow morning to work on our latest project,” he carefully reveals.
“I can’t say what it is, but I will if you promise not to tell and respect the Bro Code. It’s really exciting, though. When the news comes out, people are gonna get so excited that I’m going to be richer and more famous!”
Here the acoustic-wielding comic talks us through the albums that changed his life…
The Kyle Gass Band play the following UK dates:
31.03. Glasgow - Cathouse
01.04. Manchester - Satans Hollow
03.04. Birmingham - Asylum 2
04.04. London - Boston Music Room
29.07. Ramblin’ Man Fair
1. The Beatles - Meet The Beatles! (1964)
“I’m so old, it’s embarrassing. I don’t even like music that much any more - I have to go back to my youth! I’m 56 years old, dude. I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show when I was four years old and it changed my life.
“I had older brothers who got that album and we all got obsessed with it. The music really changed the calculus. I got to visit Abbey Road studios one time and held Lennon’s microphone. I almost fell to my knees… that’s how much of a geek I am.”
2. Bob Dylan - Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits (1967)
“Once again, my older brothers had this record and we all couldn’t stop listening to it. I couldn’t stop looking at the cover - it’s the one with the silhouette and his weird hair… it’s a real classic.
“I was so obsessed with how bad his voice was, yet somehow I really liked the songs. It was important in me realising you didn’t actually have to be good. Was John Lennon a better singer? Are you kidding me… of course!”
3. The Beatles - The Beatles (1968)
“Seriously, dude, I don’t care if you say I’m not allowed to pick The Beatles again - this reminds me of a real crazy time of my life and it was such an intriguing musical odyssey, so it has to go in.
“Stylistically, it’s really interesting - going from hardcore electric sounds to strange acoustic interludes… I think I was starting to do drugs at that point. It was the perfect marriage there!”
4. Neil Young - Decade (1977)
“This was a three-album collection of his greatest hits from '67 to '77. I’ve always been a huge fan and often think to myself, ‘What would Neil do?’
“He’s such a slave to his muse with the greatest integrity. He got a little grumpy and weird in his old age, but over the decades he’s been pretty consistent. So this is definitely a record I’ve listened to incessantly.”
5. Peter Frampton - Frampton Comes Alive! (1976)
“This came just as I was at school and getting into girls. It was just so ubiquitous and unprecedented… musically, it went everywhere. Like many others, it made me want to get a talkbox.
“I actually think we might work out Do You Feel Like We Do on this upcoming tour. We’ll find a way to work it out - maybe I’m going to be the actual talkbox… Oops, I’ve said too much again. Let’s just say expect a little homage to Frampton if you come down.”
6. The Beach Boys - Endless Summer (1974)
“Growing up, everyone used to love The Beach Boys. They had this double-album called Endless Summer and I listened to it religiously. I appreciated all the harmonies, and that kinda music felt like a big part of growing up in California! There was a strangeness about them back then; it didn’t quite all add up.
“Then I went through a massive country-rock phase, getting into Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I got obsessed with that band and bought all of the records, my favourite of which was the live record 4 Way Street. As you can probably see, I like a lot of live albums. I’ve always liked live energy and performances - depending on how it’s captured, it can be very special.”
7. Ted Greene - Solo Guitar (1977)
“Are we on six or seven? I didn’t even want to do this - I should just give you the six albums that changed my life… that’s what you get for telling me I can’t pick two of the same, haha! I got really into jazz guitar in my late teens, especially this teacher guy called Ted Greene.
“He was like this virtuoso solo dude and was a really eccentric fellow that taught in the Valley. He’d do lessons for $20 an hour - I actually tried to get in there, but he was all booked up. I was really fascinated by this guy; I’d say he was the greatest jazz guitarist and chord theorist of all time.
“He only ever made one album, but never really got the sound right and didn’t particularly like playing live much. But this one album, which you could only get on mail order at the time, was a great collection of ideas.”
8. The Go-Go’s - Beauty And The Beat (1981)
“Here’s another really weird choice. One of my first jobs ever involved driving, and back then we used cassettes. My girlfriend had this Go-Go's record that was always in the car, so I listened to it over and over again. That debut which came out in '81 became one of my favourite records. I don’t know if they played their instruments are whatever, but what great songs.
“Why do I like it? I loved the simplicity, energy and spirit… it’s pure rock ’n’ roll, man. Maybe it makes you want to fuck them! Stop asking me why I like these albums… it’s because of the songs, man, haha!”
9. Hank Garland - Jazz Winds From A New Direction (1961)
“And another weird one from the geek category. There was a session guitarist in Nashville called Hank Garland that played on a lot of country stuff, but was also a bit of a jazz geek. It’s kind of a tragic story: he made one jazz album and then had this terrible car crash that meant he couldn’t play guitar any more.
“He was such a great musician and took jazz in a whole new direction. Check it out! It also had a young Gary Burton, at just 17 years old, on vibraphone. It’s one of my favourite jazz albums ever made.”
10. Tenacious D - Tenacious D (2001)
“What can I say, it changed my life. It made me more popular. Plus, I’d never made a record before and had no idea how to do it. It took years and years to make, so it truly felt like our greatest hits.
“It was a very exciting time for us… I was listening to this just the other day, and I’d say it held up pretty good. Can you believe it was 16 years ago? Where did the time go! Actually I was pretty old then. That’s how I did it: I started old and then got really old from there.”
11. Van Halen - Van Halen (1978)
“All right, you want more? I like Van Halen, too, and that first record was unreal. They used to have legendary backyard parties back here in Southern California, which is pretty exciting. What a great collection of characters - they are your quintessential rock band.
“I got to hang with Diamond Dave one time. He’s truly full of life, one cool guy. Some say they also had the best cocaine... Eddie got pretty deep, I think. Rock ’n’ roll is very stimulating, but when you’re not doing that, I guess it can help keep you stimulated. Though I find a good pot of coffee always wins over the devil’s dandruff.”
12. Sly & The Family Stone - A Whole New Thing (1967)
“In the spirit of growing up in California - and before he went crazy - there was a local DJ that started making waves. He was an early purveyor of a scene and through Sly And The Family Stone, he’d become one of the greatest funk/soul/pop artists of all time.
“It’s really good sex music. Again, I had to go back to my youth because I like to write songs more than listen to them these days.”