The legend of Tenacious D is a long story dating back to early times. John Konesky has played electric guitar for the D, and Kyle Gass’ band Trainwreck. When not shredding out the devil’s guitar solo in Beelzeboss, John can be seen with Kyle Gass in the YouTube show Guitarings. He has played on, and co-written music for Tenacious D on their feature film The Pick of Destiny and the corresponding soundtrack and film score. One of those songs, “The Metal”, was picked up for use in the hugely popular video game “Guitar Hero 3.” John’s record of solo acoustic material entitled “Kones” was released in 2008, and is available on iTunes. A few tracks have been featured in independent movies, short films, and documentaries.
Currently, John is playing on the third Tenacious D record, as well as working on another record with the newly formed Kyle Gass Band. John also plays bass for Big Talk with Ronnie Vannucci from The Killers.
Why did you change out your stock pickups?
“My main guitars, that I was using for live shows with the D, never seemed to cut it in the studio, so we’d end up borrowing some great old Les Pauls or Teles, or renting stuff. It started to make sense that I should be using better pickups if I wanted to get the best possible tone out of my favorite live guitars.”
Which pickups do you use and for which guitars?
“I have two natural wood Mockingbirds that I use for my main guitars. In one, I have a ’59 in the neck and a JB in the bridge, and in the other one I have a set of Pearly Gates. The one with the ’59 and the JB is warm and vintage with moderate output, they’re great for clean responsive stuff, and gritty overdrive, but never get too overbearing for me. I like to keep things classic sounding. The one with the Pearly Gates gets a little punchier in the mids, and it’s slightly higher output. It’s great for pushing the gain a little more than usual.”
“My Seymour Duncan pickups give me really good tone. Simply put, it’s the best upgrade you can possibly do to your guitar. Sure wood and construction makes a difference too, but the pickups are really what delivers the tone of an electric guitar.”
“Great pickups are all about how they respond to a player’s touch, and touch is what makes each of us different as guitar players. I think that pickups should accurately grab what you’re doing with your hands, every delicate nuance, and send those tasty nuggets to your amp with a bow on it. Every note should be delivered with loving care. If your pickups can do that, then it will change your playing by allowing you to experiment with more nuance in your playing style. That’s what I noticed right away when I played my Duncans for the first time; they seemed to listen a little more closely.”
“My SD’s really brought out the best in my favorite guitars. Don’t put off what you know you need to do. Swap out those crappy stock pickups and just get some Duncans!”
How would you describe your playing?
“I’ve had to make myself very versatile through the years having done a lot of different types of sessions, not to mention there’s a lot of styles I really love playing. The guitar has made itself so useful in so many different universes of music, so I’ve always tried to pick up a little bit from everywhere. That said, I really love classic rock, and that’s a lot of what I do with an electric guitar.”
How would you describe your music?
“I try to solo like it was 1972 and I was standing in front of a couple Plexi stacks. I play a lot of different styles though, and there’s even a lot of variance when I play with the D. I also play pretty much all fingerstyle or hybrid picking, so that influence comes into a lot of what I do as well.”
How did you get the gig with Tenacious D and Ronnie Vannucci?
“The Tenacious D gig came around after I had already spent a few years as lead guitarist in Kyle Gass’ side project Trainwreck. In doing that, I had gotten many chances to prove myself, and more importantly develop a great friendship with those guys, and when it was time to make Pick Of Destiny, I was the first one they called.”
“With Ronnie Vannucci and Big Talk, I got the call from my good friend John Spiker (bassist for Tenacious D) who happened to be playing guitar and keyboards for Ronnie, saying that they were looking for a new bass player. I’ve played bass before in bands, and quite enjoy how it changes the way you listen to the band and the music, so I told them I was interested. Ronnie and I hit it off and had a lot of music in common that we liked, so we tried it out, and it turned out to be a good fit.”
What’s the weirdest or worst thing that has happened on a gig?
“The worst thing is definitely when United lost my pedal board when I was flying to SF for a gig with the D at Outside Lands. It’s about 80,000 in the crowd, and no soundcheck, and we hadn’t really even rehearsed for a while, and my flight got in about an hour before the gig. Fortunately we have techs, and they pieced a board together out of borrowed pedals from other artists. Nothing on it was familiar in the slightest, and I had to figure it out, live on stage, during the performance. It was hectic, but we pulled it off. Here’s a video of a band that also had a nightmare experience with United: United Breaks Guitars
“Practice a lot, and always make sure you’re having fun. If you want to play guitar for a living, you don’t have to be a virtuoso, but you have to be solid, dependable and creative, and someone that others are going to want to be on the bus with.”
Tour dates with Tenacious D/Foo Fighters AUS/NZ tour:
Nov 28: Perth, nib Stadium
Dec 2: Melbourne, AAMI Park
Dec 5: Adelaide Oval
Dec 8: Sydney Football Stadium
Dec 10: Gold Coast Metricon Stadium
Dec 13: Auckland, Western Springs Stadium