Q&A With Brendon Small
Back in 2007, I was given the opportunity to speak with Brendon Small, the creator of such hilarious late night cartoons as Metalocalypse and Home Movies.
Recently Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s late night counterpart, has announced that the cartoon band Dethklok from Metalocalypse will be doing a tour across the nation at many large venues with Solient Green and Chimaira.
For those who have never watched the show, Dethklok is cartoon band consisting of Nathan Explosion (lead vocals), Skwisgaar Skwigelf (lead guitar), Toki Wartooth (guitar), William Murderface (lead bassist) and Pickles the Drummer (he plays the drums). Of the five, Brendon voices three — Nathan, Pickles and Skwisgaar.
Before traveling across the country, on his live stage show, Dethtour, The Viking News met up with Small about the rising popularity of the show and how he plans to bring the show, from the TV to the stage.
How do you feel about playing such enormous cities, such as New York, and what do you think the audience’s reaction will be?
Brendon Small: New York is a great city, one of the best in America. I think that New Yorkers are the best Americans ever, hello.
How about the bands you are touring with?
Soilent Green has been touring for years and is some great Louisiana metal. Both Soilent Green and Chiamaira are great bands and both make great music.
How do you write your music? What is your process?
I think really hard and then all of a sudden I wrote it. I am a genius, better than Mozart.
Basically, what happens on the show I’ll write the scripts and do voices and that stuff first. Music is the last part of this thing. Once we edit together the audio and have a storyboard and a rough animatic, people will ask where is the music, and I’ll say shut up, I’ll get it.
Then they say what the f**k? I thought you were going to write this music. Then I say f**k you get off my back. They keep doing that until eventually I say… “alright, hang on.”
Because of possible embarrassment, I write the music. If it weren’t for that I wouldn’t write music, just play for fun. I just sit behind my guitar for a while and pick a tempo and it starts writing itself. Then I go, “oh that one sounds cool.” Last season I wrote like 23 songs and all the score music to the show too.
Which bands inspired you to play music?
I think my favorite band of all time is Queen. Brian May is my favorite guitarist. I also love The Who and Metallica.
I like bands that were epic, you know, like bands that made music that sounded not of this earth. Those are the kind of things I respond to and there isn’t enough of that in music. I love tons of other metal bands too and I like a lot of the modern stuff. I like Cannibal Corpse, Amon Amarth, Exodus’ new stuff, Arch Enemy, Nevermore, Gojira, In Flames, and Emperor. I am not restricting any one style of metal. I like when people are doing something new and incredibly musical at the same time.
So, at the concert, are you going to be playing songs off Deathalbum, or are you going to play new songs?
Basically, it’s a live, pre-produced show that we are playing. So there will be a big movie theater sized screen behind us, and we’re almost like a pit orchestra, playing to like a ballet, but the ballet is on this big screen. It’s pre-produced but its all the stuff from the record. I don’t have time to make new stuff for the show. Its going to be a really good show and there is going to be a lot of s*** you’ve never seen before live.
What is the actual band comprised of? Who actually plays all the music?
Gene Hoglan, who was in Testament for a while, played on the record and played on the first tour. He is the guy to out watch for. Without him this s*** would probably crumble. In order for them to match up with the picture he needs to “click-track” with his headphones. He is listening to the pickups and making sure that we are one hundred percent on tempo, not straying from the click at all, and matching it to the picture.
Now, I write and play all the music on the show. I play guitar, doing rhythm and leads and I have another outstanding guitar player, who has played with Frank Zappa and Steve Vai, named Mike Keneally.
On bass is Bryan Beller, who graduated from Berklee College of Music, like I did. I’ve been following his career and he is an amazing bass player that can do [practically] anything and knows all different styles. He hadn’t had the chance to play some hardcore metal in a while and had just gotten off the tour with Steve Vai and was really excited to get the gig. So its just four people that’s it.
Do you feel the visual aspect is important and does it embellish upon the music?
I think that is the interesting part of the music industry. I like the music and I think it stands by itself, but I don’t think that it would stand a chance right now if it didn’t have the TV show. I think bands have gotten to this place, where there are just boring presentations, whereas bands used to be awesome. Metal is the only thing that “gets it” right now. There were a lot of bands in the seventies that were larger than life. That’s what is cool about this show is that they are not real and that their lives in the cartoon are much bigger than it really is on Earth.
What type of equipment do you use to perform?
We have endorsement deals labeled all over the show. So they say, like “my favorite guitar is Gibson.” Skwisgaar plays an Gibson Explorer and Toki plays a Flying V.
I play an Gibson Explorer for the whole album and an SG on one song. I have tons of Gibson’s. All the new music for the show I am using either an Explorer or using the Les Paul classic custom.
Do you perform any solos on stage?
No. Like in a perfect world, but when you have a live show you can’t just play any song you want. I have been to a lot of metal shows lately. I really like that feeling when the band gets off the stage and you go “I wish they played that song.” I don’t want to go to a show and be bored to tears. So the show length is set because it is already plotted out. Plus you have to figure out budgets and pay all the workers behind the show so they can pay their rent and stuff. But I got a really good budget for a show and got just what I wanted. However this is going to be a huge combination of both audio and visual.
Will there be any special guest voice overs from Mark Hamill or James Hetfield of Metallica?
Yeah, Mark Hamill will do some voice overs that you have never heard before. I want to explain though in this time where we have like YouTube, that if you want to see this show, the thing that is this show, you cant find it on DVD or CD or on television you can only see it by coming to the show. DVD’s are awesome but they give away to much stuff and I think its cool to have a little bit of mystery.