Interview: Kyle Gass of Tenacious D and Trainwreck
When funnyman Jack Black got too busy to focus on comedy band Tenacious D seven years ago, his comedic counterpart Kyle Gass teamed up with friend J.R. Reed (who plays Lee on the Tenacious D T.V. show) to start the silly Southern-rock outfit Trainwreck. In December, after many years of touring, the ’wreck finally released their debut album, The Wreckoning, a slab of hard rock so manly that it borders on homoerotic. Ahead of Trainwreck’s show at The Casbah on Tuesday, CityBeat talked with Gass on the phone about wigs, bros and Trainwreck poster-boy Tim Blankenship.
You guys have been together for seven years, right?
We have been, yeah. This current line up, probably four or five. We need a hit single, I think. I don’t know if radio would play Trainwreck, but we’ll try.
So tell me about the history of Trainwreck.
Well, Jack was doing a lot of movies. Still is. And I was like, “Well, I should really start another band, cause I kinda like giggin’.” So I got my buddy J.R., and I thought, “Oh, no, this band’s gonna be a train wreck. Wait, I’ll call the band Trainwreck.”
It started out as a duo, with just me and J.R. It was kind of a weird version of the D, and I thought, “Well that’s not why I’m staring a new band.” So we created characters, aliases if you will, cause I wanted to wear a wig and J.R.’s good at kind of a shit-kickin’, white trash cowboy.
And then we added a bass player. Then we added a drummer. And then they dropped out. And then I said, “You know what? I’m gonna be like Chuck Berry. We’re just gonna go to a town and have a pick-up band.” And Page McConnell of Phish was working his side project, called Vida Blue, in Ohio. I had some friends up there and I thought, “Well, we’re gonna pick up a band up there.” And we picked up these guys from Columbus, Ohio. And they became Trainwreck.
You just found some guys?
Kind of, yeah. It was kind of happenstance. It worked out really well. They’re some real talented dudes.
How did that happen?
I had a friend out in Columbus. And that was where the tour was starting. And she knew her boyfriend was a drummer, and she was kind of in touch with the music scene. They have kind of a vibrant music thing going on out there. Being famous like I am, everyone wanted to play. And we just picked ’em up. And I said, “Well, if you guys come to LA, there’s a gig waitin’ for ya. Fame, fortune, girls, it’s all waitin’ for ya.” And they moved out to Los Angeles and we’ve been a band ever since.
Why did you think that Trainwreck was going to be a train wreck?
I just had a feeling that taking Jack out of the equation and plugging in J.R., it just seemed like, “Oh, man, this is just gonna be a train wreck.” But I wanted to kinda cover my ass. I said, “Well, hey, the band is Trainwreck. However it sounds, this is what it’s gonna be.”
Were you just worried it wasn’t going to be funny?
Oh, god. Yeah. I was worried it wasn’t gonna be good. But, you know what? It turns out it’s great. So maybe we should change the name to Train Rock.
How did you go about creating your character, Klip Calhoun?
Well, I wanted him to be complementary of J.R.’s character. And J.R. is very, um, he’s kind of a manly man. And Klip is kind of his antithesis. Klip is kind of a gentle, wants-everybody-to-get-along, soft-spoken guy. And we’re kinda like the mom and dad of Trainwreck. And then there’s the boys [guitarist John Konesky, a.k.a. John B. Shredman; bassist John Spiker, a.k.a. Boy Johnny; and drummer Nate Rothacker, a.k.a. Dallas St. Bernard]. They’re just boys. We’re the old guys.
You said you wanted to wear a wig?
Well, J.R. rocked the mullet for Darryl Donald, his Trainwreck alias. And I thought, “Well, I wanna wear a wig, too.” I just wanted to be somebody different, and there’s nothing like a good wig to really make you feel like you’re somebody else. But then, that being said, it’s just really a version of me. And the character’s pretty thin, I think. But it’s nice to have something to wear for each show.
Do you have to do anything to get in character for the show?
Just a couple of deep breaths, and then I’m in.
I really like the song “Brodeo.” How did you guys come up with that one?
That was actually inspired by The Onion, the very funny newspaper. It was an article about, “Everything was bro this, bro that, brotastic.” And I showed it to John Konesky, our guitarist. We just kind of thought about it, and it kind of inspired us to write “Brodeo.”
In the video, one thing I really like is when the guys are spinning the towels over their heads like helicopters.
Well, that’s the ticket to get in.
Do you consider Trainwreck a homo-social band? A boys only thing?
Absolutely not! For god sakes, don’t try to limit our fan base. Yeah, no, I can’t seem to start a band that appeals to females in general. But you know, it’s open for everybody. Everybody that likes to have a good time.
What do your girlfriends think of “Brodeo”?
I think they probably just shake their head and go, “You guys are gay. I knew it.”
I was wondering if you could tell me about “Tim Blankenship.”
I’m not quite sure how that came about. That song’s a few years old now. It just reminded me of a guy I went to high school with. We just kind of cracked up. It was just such a random name and everybody seemed to know somebody named Blankenship.
Who was this guy you went to high school with?
He reminds me of the Matthew McConaughey character in “Dazed and Confused.” He’s kind of peaking in high school, you know? He’s the big man on campus. God knows what’s going to happen to him afterwards, but he’s peaking. He’s the cool guy. He’s got the hot car. He is making it with the ladies. And everyone kinda wants to be Tim Blankenship in that time period. And it was just kind of a celebration of that dude.
Is he the embodiment of Trainwreck?
I’m gonna say yes. I think Tim Blankenship would love Trainwreck. And I think Tim Blankenship is Trainwreck. And he is a train wreck, too.
Trainwreck plays with Trophy Wife at The Casbah on Tuesday, May 11.