Kyle Gass: Beyond ‘The D’
If You Go …
What: Kyle Gass Band
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Friday, Nov. 7, 9:30 p.m.
Tickets and more info: www.bellyupaspen.com
Best known as one-half of the immortal rock comedy duo Tenacious D – his long-running collaboration with Jack Black – Kyle Gass has lit out on his own in the last few years with The Kyle Gass Band.
Like “the D,” his solo project blends shoot-for-the-moon guitar rock with comedy, and includes touches of Gass’s flute alongside his vocals. Last year, the band released its self-titled debut album, and has been touring the world since. This fall, he and his ripping four-man band are on a tour through the west that includes four stops across Colorado and a show at Belly Up on Friday, Nov. 7 (Denver’s “first family of the blues,” Hornbuckle, opens the show).
The band used to mix some familiar Tenacious D material into its sets, but these days they’re focusing on Kyle Gass Band songs.
“We used to throw in a D song, and then the band really started hating it,” Gass said from his farm in North Hollywood during a break from the road. “And I was like, ‘You’re right. We have great material and we can stand on our own. So now there’s no cognitive dissonance and your mind doesn’t explode.”
After a pause, Gass added with mock bravado: “It’s still the most entertaining show Aspen is likely to ever see.”
Gass played Aspen once before, with Tenacious D, at the 1997 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. Early on in the rise of Gass, Black and Tenacious D, it was a monumental show for him for one reason: he signed his first autograph at the Wheeler Opera House after the performance.
“This kid from the audience asked for my autograph and I was like, ‘Whoa, I’ve made it!’” he recalled.
In the year’s since, Tenacious D’s brand of absurdist mock rock has conquered the concerts, albums, TV and film. These days, the Kyle Gass Band is holding down the territory with its lovable blend of rock and satire.
Of course, parody music and the mix of song and comedy is nothing new. But unlike Gass’s forebears in the genre – Spike Jones, Weird Al Yankovic, Spinal Tap – his songs tend to be more than novelties that you might listen to once for a chuckle, then forget. For all their ludicrous, over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek element, Gass’s rock compositons are really good rock songs. He can hit a rare sweet spot between comedy and rock.
“With Jack, I always call it ‘the bell,’ like ‘The bell is ringing,’ we’d say,” he explained. “But it doesn’t go off nearly enough. It’s always been extremely difficult for me. It almost seems impossible. When I finish one, I’m like, ‘That’s it. I can never write another one.’ It’s like a genesis thing. It has to go from nothing to something, which is quite a leap.”
The songs come out funny, he said, not because he’s a comedian with a guitar and a band, but because he’s a bandleader and songwriter with an off-kilter sense of humor.
“In some ways we really are just a real band and it comes out that way,” he said. “In both projects [Tenacious D and the Kyle Gass Band] we really do love the music and try to write the best songs we possibly can. It’s just hard for me to get serious.”
Once they get a concept in mind, they send it to the “song factory,” Gass’s term for the wood-shedding collaborative process of nailing down a song’s details.
That said, Kyle Gass Band’s “Tremendous,” from the Kyle Gass Band album, is a pretty straightforward rock song. The only comedic touch is a few cheeky whispered sections, but it’s a fairly earnest rock song, with the chorus, “Find the truth within you because it’s there to be shared … You’re tremendous.”
“That’s about as serious as I’ve gotten,” Gass said.
His creative approach, he said, often starts with a song title, which births a concept, and leads to lyrics and a song. So, songs like “Manchild,” and “Getting’ the Band Back Together” expand into verses and choruses and grow comedic tentacles based on their straightforward concepts.
When we spoke, Gass was working on a new song called “Plus One,” about how you choose the person who’s going to be your plus-one to a wedding reception. He’s also been thinking about a song about John Konesky – the shredding lead guitarist who plays with both the Kyle Gass Band and Tenacious D – titled “Iconoclast.” He demonstrated the idea by singing a few bars – “Iconocla-yast!” – over the phone.
In August, Gass did a European tour, playing five big festivals in five different countries in the span of five days. Touring overseas was a goal for the Gass solo project. So where is he setting his sights now?
“Until we win the hearts and minds of the entire world, we won’t stop,” he said. “We’ll probably only get a sliver, but the question is, ‘How big is that sliver?’ We want to write some classic records and play some phenomenal shows.”
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