By Brian Leak
Jack of all trades. Renaissance man. Call it what you want, he’s a fucking workaholic. Brendon Small is the mastermind behind your favorite animated band, Dethklok, as well as the voice of so many characters you’ve come to love from his very own Metalocalypse (not to mention Frisky Dingo, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and The Venture Bros.). Between working on the upcoming fourth season of Metalocalypse, lending his voice to the aforementioned animated shows and writing/recording Dethklok records, Small has been hard at work on his solo effort, Galaktikon, which is set for release on April 29th, the same day season 4 of Metalocalypse premieres. Synthesis spoke with Small about his upcoming record, posing in Playgirl and what we can expect in the new season of his beloved, brutal creation, Metalocalypse. Be sure to follow Brendon Small on his Twitter for updates and pick up his new record from his website.
Galaktikon comes out at the end of next month. Is this your first solo record?
Yes, it is. Everything up until this point has been Dethklok.
How would you say it differs from a Dethklok album?
Well, it’s got the same drummer. It’s got the same bass player. It’s got me doing all the guitars and vocals, but it’s got more melodic vocals because it’s kind of a mixture…. There’s moments of black metal, then there’s moments where I was influenced by Smashing Pumpkins. There’s fast guitars then different parts where I got to slow down the tempo so it has a different feel entirely with a very dramatic feel too.
Who are some of your biggest influences when it comes to writing music?
Pretty much anyone I’ve ever listened to. One of my favorite bands ever is Queen and I put a lot of that into the Dethklok stuff. I get excited about shit like Amon Amarth or Cannibal Corpse but then I also get excited about ELO and David Bowie, and I like Weezer still too, ya know? All these things have their content, like Metallica I think is an incredibly melodic band, then Cannibal Corpse is incredibly brutal but still very hooky and still very musical. I get excited about all that shit and guitar shredders like Yngwie, to Steve Vai to Satriani to, like Jeff Beck. So when I’m going through these songs, in my mind, I think of like a Jeff Beck moment, or an Yngwie moment, or like Soundgarden or something like that.
Have you always been a fan of death metal?
I remember learning everything I needed to know about metal when I was about 14. My friend invited me to his house and he played me Metallica, King Diamond, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Blue Oyster Cult, Slayer and Iron Maiden, like all in one day. Death metal kind of came around a bit later and it kept getting heavier and heavier and I got really excited about how aggressive it was and how intricate it was too.
Was Metalocalypse a way for you to combine all your talents into one project?
That was the goal. I went to music school a long time ago and I very quickly thought, “I don’t know what to do with all this music knowledge” because people weren’t really playing their guitars anymore. When I graduated, it was the end of the ’90s and it wasn’t “cool” to play solos and stuff like that and I thought, “Fuck this. That’s stupid.” I started getting into comedy and doing stand-up and shit like that. I figured I would eventually bring music back into my comedy work if I could use it in a unique way but I didn’t wanna go on stage and play song parodies with an acoustic guitar. I wanted to do something that was hopefully grandiose and over-the-top, and Metalocalypse luckily was that.
How does it feel creating an animated band that has gone on to win real life awards as well as tour, release albums and be featured in best selling video games?
It’s really funny because it’s not real. It’s kind of a character that I play so it sort of reaps all the fun out of it because I’m not exactly known, but I get to exist in the background a little bit, which I definitely enjoy.
Are there any plans in the works for upcoming Dethklok tours or shows?
All I can say right now is that we are working on it. We will hopefully have news very soon.
Were there any significant difficulties in the transition from 11-minute to 21-minute episodes of Metalocalypse last season?
The only difficulty was that I was on tour and making a record throughout that but we were really happy with the way the half hours turned out. With the new season coming up we decided to go back to quarter-hours. The way I wanted to tell the story was best suited with the quarter-hours.
I’ve read that you actually don’t care much for watching animation. How does that affect your process of creating it?
Well, I like animation. I enjoy all the Adult Swim shows like Aqua Teen and stuff, I just stay away from it while I’m in production. I think when you’re watching that kind of stuff, you tend to borrow from it. I’d rather sit with my group of people and try to come up with something we haven’t seen. I don’t want to watch things and borrow ideas. I want to create the ideas on my own terms. I’d rather reference live action.
Out of all the characters you’ve voiced in shows, which would you say most closely resembles you in real life?
Oh, dear. I think they all kind of resemble me in that they can get a little stupid (laughs). The manager, definitely. I’ve felt like him before. CFO, Charles Foster Offdensen. I think you don’t want to be like any of these people though (laughs), but you want to be able to kind of feel for them in some way and I think that’s what makes them come to life a little bit more.
Who is your personal favorite Dethklok member?
Before episode one, I knew the most fun to write for would be Murderface. He’s definitely the most conflicted and those kinds of characters with a conflict that are at odds with themselves are always a great landscape for comedy.
This question goes back a ways and is unrelated, but I’m curious; what was your experience like posing for Playgirl?
(Laughs) Uhhh…it was awkward because it was me and this man in a room. I did it pretty much on a dare by the people that were the editors at the time. They challenged me and it turns out that if people challenge me the right way, I tend to accept the challenge no matter how stupid it is. It’s funny though, doing something like that, there has been zero repercussions…except that my mother found out about it, and that…was just weird.
So what can we expect in season 4 of Metalocalypse?
I think the world just gets a little bit darker. You’re going to have a lot of comedy but the band is going to go through a lot of bullshit. Personal bullshit that may potentially tear them apart. The whole idea is that the story kind of needs to move forward and this is the first chapter of that.