For Brendon Small, the last several years of his life have been charmed ones. After a successful stint with Home Movies on the Cartoon Network’s [adult swim], Small, a Berklee College of Music grad, came up with a way to fuse his love of inane comedy and animation with his passion for heavy metal. Along with co-creator Tommy Blacha, Small invented Metalocalypse, the animated late-night cult hit that follows the exploits of a fictitious five-piece death metal band, Dethklok, the most popular force in entertainment since, well, ever. Way more famous than Jesus. Way more.
In June of 2008, Small took the next step in the Metalocalypse journey by bringing Dethklok on the road. Utilizing animations projected over a live band (consisting of Small on vocals and guitar, drummer Gene Hoglan, guitarist Mike Keneally and bassist Bryan Beller), the live show proved to live up to its cartoon counterpart (save audience decapitations and disembowelments, of course). Synthesis
caught up with Brendon Small midway through what he calls their “first real tour.” When you’re writing the script do you have a favorite character to write for? I know since you voice a few of the characters…
No, everyone’s equal. Through scripts I’ve written, I think the more I discover about Murderface ends up being the most fun. At first he was just a loud guy who hated himself, who hated everything, but it turns out that he doesn’t hate anything, he’s just thin-skinned and incredibly sensitive and just wants to be accepted constantly but can’t get that because he’s such a dick and pushes people away. I think the more that I discover that part of him the more fun I have with him. And Nathan the tough guy, finding the softer side of him is always fun for me.
Thinking about your experience with Metalocalypse, it seems so surreal. You did attend Berklee School of Music so obviously you know a thing or two about music, but you started a show about a fictional band, that then went on to release the highest selling death metal album so far, and now tour as a real band. Seems like a really backwards way to get into a band.
It’s funny, I got into music to get into comedy, and I got into comedy to get back into music. My whole thing was to make a show…I didn’t try to make it worth watching, I tried to make it what I wanted it to be, and when I wrote the music I didn’t give a fuck what anyone else thought, I just thought this is what I want to hear. That’s it, that was my whole formula. And [adult swim] has been saying yes to everything I’ve asked for. It turns out this is a very marketable show, it’s very easy to tell people what the show is about in under a sentence. Oh My God! What was your pitch like, was it This-meets-This?
No, that was somebody else’s pitch. That was the VP of Development, who I love, but he said that at one point and me and Tommy never signed off like that. It was like “no, it’s NOT that.”
What did he say?
He said something like “Scooby Doo meets Norway.” We fucking hate Scooby Doo, we never liked that show. Fuck that, meets Norway? What, meets a place? The pitch was “this is a show about an extreme metal band who is the biggest entertainment act in the world. There’s going to be lots of murder and we’re not interested in having anybody understand anything that anyone says.” That was my pitch. Mike Lazzo, the head of [adult swim] said “green light, write it up.”
You mentioned that Metalocalypse season two has some unhappy fans, people who are upset with Dethklok. Has that been in relation to any real-life backlash from metalheads who consider what you’re doing an affront to death metal?
No. This is concocted by story alone. If people feel that way then they’re allowed to. When you sit down and put a show together and you’re going to write for it, first of all you have to be excited about it, you have to be into it. If it was my job to make fun of something every day…it’s just not in my personality to sit there and shit on stuff all day long, I’m more interested in character and unfold story and try to make it last a long time. In this show, if there were something that we want to shit on in this day and age it would be the ridiculousness in celebrity-ism. This last 10 years since the dawning of reality TV, this been just such a fucked up thing. All you’re doing is watching dildos talk and be stupid and they can’t do shit for themselves. They can’t cook dinner, they don’t know what day it is, they may know what time it is…they don’t know where they are. That’s what we wanted to do, that’s the celebrity-ism joke. The show gets to be about heavy metal. I grew up playing guitar, it took me a long time to learn all those licks, you don’t do that as a joke. I’ve played guitar for almost 20 years. If people get the joke they do, if they don’t get the joke that’s fine, I’m not interested in trying to sell it to people who are not interested in it. Just personally, I don’t give a fuck. What is the best guitar to use to decapitate and then impale your foe?
I think you could kill someone, bludgeon someone to death with a nice old 1957 Les Paul. That’s just be great, it’s a big chunk of wood, you’d just really kill them… I’m not advocating that. I don’t think Gibson Guitars is either.
Last question, what is the most essential item on your tour rider? What makes you feel the most like a rock star?
Fuck…first of all you don’t [feel like a rock star
] when you’re in a band where it’s not about you. When we get off stage and we nail everything and people are chanting for more, just chanting Dethklok, we all just sit there and shrug. Good. It’s not about us, it’s about this pretend band, Dethklok.Still, you’ve just performed that and you are live Dethklok.
We are but still, it’s not about us, we can’t take too much credit. [laughs]
Seriously, it’s a weird place. “Fuck yeah, It’s about me playing to myself.” No it’s not. In fact, we make a point to be backlit in the shadows so you can’t really see us, I think that makes it cooler that it isn’t about us and we’re not egomaniacs trying to go: “Us. Doing this. Me, guitar,” pointing at myself. I think that’d be disappointing and annoying. Well maybe you should try it. I hear it works really well for people’s egos, turns them into better people…
I’m fine, I’m good. [laughs
] Hey listen, I got an endorsement deal with Gibson Guitars, that’s all I care about. That’s the whole reason the show exists. Free guitars. On the rider, I don’t know, we got some pretty fancy tequilas. The best thing is that I can get from day to day with a shower, I guess. And I’m hunting one down right now.
Sweet, well I’ll let you get to it then.
Greatest end of an article, ever.
Comments down for maintenance.