"Metalocalypse" mastermind Brendon Small wears many hats of awesome: he's a comedian, a voice actor, a writer, filmmaker and absolute shredder on the guitar. An extremely capable player who graduated from the Berklee College of Music in 1997, Small has translated his skills into "Metalocalypse"'s hilarious fictional death metal band Dethklok, which is approaching four seasons of animated domination on the Adult Swim channel and is readying a third album release for the tech-shredders and show lovers out there.
Small's accomplishments in the world of metal are rather astonishing, given that he's first and foremost a show producer and comedian. The Dethalbum II, released on September 29, 2009, became the highest charting death metal album in history. And remember, this is a fake band! A tour in support of the new album began in the Fall of 2009, where Dethklok co-headlined with Mastodon. High accolades and album sales followed. Small also contributed guitar work to the songs "Devils Teeth" from Exodus' album Exhibit B: The Human Condition, as well as "More Metal than You" from comedian Brian Posehn's album Farts and Weiner Jokes.
Small has taken a live version of the Dethklok players on tour in recent years, with drummer Gene Hoglan, guitarist Mike Keneally and bass player Bryan Beller filling in for their animated counterparts. This live version of Dethklok closed out this year's Rockstar Mayhem Festival (check out our pics/review of the fest), filling in for Megadeth as they headlined the major metal tour alongside Testament, Disturbed, Machine Head, Godsmack and many others.
We caught up with Brendon before the festival to discuss the band's upcoming performance, find out about "Metalocalypse" Season 4 and the next Dethalbum!
Why did Dethklok decide to play only ONE show this year – and why Mayhem?
We got the offer, asking if we'd like to fill in for Megadeth one night. I thought right off that just having the bragging rights to say we filled in for Megadeth was pretty cool. And furthermore, I knew this year would be a busy one with all the projects going on this year. When you put together a band that's also a cartoon and you're also putting records out with it, you learn a lot very quickly about how much work you can take on at any given time. So I wanted to be a little more careful about how much work I pick to do per year. The last five years have been an insane amount of work, and I hardly left my studio or my animation studio the entire time. We're totally busy, but I love touring, and I know I can't tour and be in production with the show at the same time. That's just insane.
it's a huge event, but you did the Heavy MTL festival in Montreal, Canada, 2008 just before Iron Maiden – so does the size intimidate you?
If I had to do stand-up in front of 30,000 people, that would be a different thing. But music is a different ball of wax. You basically show up, hit your mark, hope you make a connection with the audience, and just be prepared. Make sure your fingers are warmed up enough before you get out there, and hopefully, if you do it right, you can have a huge amount of fun.
So I guess I'm not really intimidated by it. Maybe there's something wrong with me at this point. I'm just so excited by it.
Being a metal fan yourself, is there any inner conflict associated with having the highest-selling Death Metal album of all time, with a cartoon band?
I know, I know. It's weird, I know. I really can't take any of that stuff too seriously. But I also know we also have an advantage over every other band that exists, in that we have a TV show. If every other band hd a TV show, the numbers would climb and they'd end up being higher charting than we are. Hey, nobody's gonna stop Cannibal Corpse from making a TV show…. or maybe they will. (laughs)
Look, it happened years ago with the Monkees. They sold a ton of records, and that wouldn't have happened without a TV show.
What can you tell us about Dethalbum III?
I can't say too much… but that doesn't mean they're not being worked on. It probably won't come out this year, but there will be news on that soon enough, I promise.
You've taken a break, are the gears turning again for Season 4? Any new concept ideas for directions to head in?
I hate to stonewall you, but I'll tell you this: I can't wait to talk about it.
You've brought in every hero and amazing special guest under the sun… Dave Grohl, Kirk Hammett, Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, on the final ep. of Season 3 alone – still have Brian May and Jeff Beck to go though, right?
There's so many people out there. I'd love to get Warner Herzog to do voices. One of my favorite directors, I'd love to work with him. I'd love to get Dave Mustaine, we keep missing each other. He needs to be on the show. I'd love to get Yngwie Malmsteen. It's just a matter of making it happen, but unfortunately we're at the mercy of both our schedules.
Is production on an episode still a three-month process?
Right, unless I'm doing a giant tour in the middle. But when we have the time to prepare them, with the bottleneck of writing at the top and all the boring tiny structural things, and if you're bringing new people in and so on, it can definitely take that long. But these aren't things that we're going to have problems with in the future. Famous last words, right?
So the goal is to streamline that quite a bit, it seems.
Right, we've done over 50 episodes now. That's a lot of shows, and with a very small team that's an exhausting process. You really have to like your show, it really has to be a passion project for that amount of effort. You need a story to tell. The good news is that we're all still passionate. A new passion has been ignited, for sure.
You've been discussing your solo project for some time, and that was among the top questions from people in relation to your work. Is it an overload of double kick goodness, tons of shredding and cramming notes into every possible space?
There's an instrumental song that's all about cramming the notes in, there's some stuff where I'm like 'hey, I'm just gonna play melody, I don't have to play the part of Skwisgaar Skwigelf'. It's really strange being a part of a project where there are no parameters. It's really great. But at the same time it has to come across as a whole and make sense.
When I started doing the vocal parts, that's when it really came into play. I can do all sorts of affects and things with my voice, because of my voiceover background, but I really wanted to narrow it down to a style. How am I going to make this work? It was a real challenge, and a really great time putting it together.