I recently had a chance to chat with Brendon Small, creator of Adult Swim’s “Metalocalypse.” During our talk we discussed creating the show, plans for a new Dethklok “Dethalbum III” in 2012 and finally bringing to life the project that has been gathering cobwebs on his hard drive for years–his latest musical venture–“Brendon Small’s Galaktikon,” set for release April 29, 2012.
INTERVIEW VIDEO – BRENDON SMALL – METALOCALYPSE DETHKLOK GALAKTIKON
The release of “Brendon Small’s Galaktikon” will coincide with the launch of Season 4 of Brendon’s hugely successful Adult Swim television series, “Metalocalypse,” (currently scheduled for 12:15AM on April 29, 2012 according to www.AdultSwim.com/shows/metalocalypse) and Brendon says that there are also plans in the works for a “Dethalbum III.” “Metalocalypse,” which features Brendon’s animated band Dethklok, has actually won music awards, including a Golden God award for Best International Band, prompting me to tease him that Galaktikon would have to be nominated as Best Interplanetary Band.
Dethklok is a melodic death metal band while Brendon Small’s Galaktikon explores more diverse musical terrain, ranging from hard rock to heavy metal. It’s definitely a sound that people haven’t heard from Brendon before and it really goes far in showcasing his skills as a seasoned musician. Brendon is a graduate of the Berklee School of Music so his talent on many levels was never in question, it was simply a matter of time and opportunity that have prevented him from bringing Galaktikon to fruition. One thing is for sure, “Brendon Small’s Galaktikon” is an album that was well worth waiting for; an amazing compilation that really drives home the eclectic influences that helped to shape Brendon Small’s musical path.
“The more I do Dethklok, the more I wanted to experiment with melody, because Dethklok is more of an extreme metal band in the melody and the vocals. That was the idea, to see how much farther I could stretch the musicality. I grew up on metal, but I also grew up on Queen, and ELO and David Bowie. And I like bands like Foo Fighters and Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins. I also like Cannibal Corpse and all that stuff. You know, you forget that you’re allowed to like all those things.
The whole idea with this record was, there’s no influence unwelcome. If I was influenced by it then I’m going to use that influence at some point.”
Along with our discussion of the new project we also talked about how Brendon got started in television and what it’s been like playing live with legendary bands like Metallica and Megadeth and meeting some of his music heroes: King Diamond (Mercyful Fate), Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Slash, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.
Brendon will be announcing the official release of Galaktikon through www.Facebook.com/BrendonSmallGalaktikon and his twitter account. Follow @_brendonsmall to keep up with “Brendon Small’s Galaktikon,” Dethklok and “Metalocalypse.”
Interview Brendon Small:
In April you have a new album coming out. It’s not a Dethklok album?
This is a side project that I did in between Dethklok records because I was about to do the second Dethklok record, “Dethalbum II,” and it takes a long time negotiating between TV and the music side to get the contract together for the music and all that stuff. So, I thought we were all ready to go and I had hired Gene Hoglan, an amazing drummer, and Ulrich Wild, who was the co-producer/ engineer on the first “Dethalbum” to join me on the second “Dethalbum.” We were going to go into the studio on Monday, I had rented out a studio and all that stuff, and it turns out the contract hadn’t gone through. So we didn’t really have the money ready for the record and all that stuff.
I said, “You know what? That could take forever… I already have you guys, I’m gonna have you record something.” So I gathered all these songs that weren’t Dethklok songs. In fact, when I was developing what Dethklok would sound like, those are some of those songs.
So, I picked nine songs. I said, no matter what, lets record these and I’ll do something with them later. I’m not sure if the second Dethklok album was gonna come out, but I’ll put you guys to work and pay you. Whatever, you’ll get payed for this stuff.
So I recorded these songs with Gene and Ulrich, and luckily we got our contract finished and we did the second Dethklok album shortly thereafter. So these drums and all that stuff sat on a hard drive for a while… while I was finishing the third season.
I thought, You know what? When I finish this third season, I’m just gonna finish this project and see what it is. And I’m gonna make it something that isn’t Dethklok. Because I can do Dethklok if I wanna do Dethklok, but the more I do Dethklok, the more I wanted to kind of experiment with melody. Because Dethklok is more of an extreme metal band in the melody and the vocals. So I thought this was my place to kind of play around with that kind of stuff. So that’s how the whole project came together.
Yeah. And it is different. Dethklok is death metal and it is a lot harder. And on Galaktikon… you’re playing guitar on that? That is you, right?
You are awesome! It’s incredible. My favorite was Prophecy of the Lazer Witch, I loved the guitar playing on that. I think you really expanded your craft on this record.
Thanks. I appreciate that. That was the idea, to see how far I could stretch the musicality, because I really like melody. I grew up on metal, but I also grew up on Queen and ELO and David Bowie. And I like bands like Foo Fighters and Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins, but I also like Cannibal Corpse and all that stuff. You know, you forget that you’re allowed to like all those things.
The whole idea with this record was, no influence is unwelcome. If I was influenced by it, then I’m gonna use that influence at some point. So there’s definitely a lot of Queen, there’s some that I think are Soundgarden-y kind of moments, there’s Seattle influenced kind of stuff, and then there’s double-kicks and fast guitar, there’s (Joe) Satriani and (Steve) Vai style stuff and Yngwie (Malmsteen) kind of licks. And, even in my mind, there are like Richie Blackmore moments, and yeah, Randy Rhoads style stuff.
Yeah. It really shows your musicianship and a lot of times with the death metal, it’s going so fast.
Yeah, this is a slower record. I wanted like the AC/ DC style beats and I got ’em in a few songs–where I got to tear up the bass a little bit. Because when you’re playing so fast, I have a Dethklok bass player, Bryan Beller, playing on this record, and Bryan Beller has played with the amazing Mike Keneally, Steve Vai, he’s now in a band called the Aristocrats with an amazing guitarist by the name of Guthrie Govan. But what I really like is his tone. His tone is so good, he just gets a great, natural tone out of the instrument. And, when I have him playing on Dethklok stuff, we’re playing so fast–the bass needs time to actually get to the ear, just the way that the acoustics function on the bass, and if you have slower songs you can hear the bass a lot better.
You kick this album off, the first song on it, Triton, it’s a great song to start an album with–because as soon as you hit play, it’s on.
Yeah. It’s like a big overture. It’s a song that takes all these twists and turns. It’s designed to be like a first record song, it sets the mood of this weird, intergalactic, outerspace journey.
Dethklok won a Golden God award from Revolver. You create this virtual band, who is actually not virtual, I mean, it’s people playing–and it’s mostly you–and then the virtual band wins an award. That’s kind of funny when you think about it, it didn’t go under your name. But we do think you’re a Golden God.
That’s okay, it’s almost like the fun of the whole thing. It’s almost like an actor playing a character. It’s more fun to be in character than it is to be yourself.
Well, I thought it was kind of cool. It won the “International Band” award, I guess with Galaktikon it would have to be the “Interplanetary Band” award. But Dethklok, just incredible things came out of that. Billboard… The fastest selling and highest ranking death metal album. I’m sure when you started these projects, that wasn’t a goal. You probably weren’t even thinking about, “Gosh, is this gonna rank in the Billboard Top 200?”
The thing is, I went to music school a long time ago, Berklee College of Music in Boston. I loved guitar and I was a Guitar major, it was like, performance and composition. So I really spent a lot of time practicing and woodshedding, and I loved shredders, you know? I grew up listening to Yngwie and Steve Vai, and Satriani and Steve Morse and then Brian May from Queen, you know, all those guys. But I never thought I’d have an opportunity to be able to use any of those techniques that I’d been developing, because ultimately, I was the kind of guy who would just play guitar for myself and just enjoy it a lot.
Or become a professor…
Yeah, or become a professor, I taught a lot of guitar while I was at school. So I thought, yeah, maybe I’ll do that.
I really liked melody, and I had a knack for making stuff, like catchy kind of tunes. But I thought I was going to get into film scoring, which I’m kind of doing on the show, I score the show myself–with no guitars, with just keyboards and orchestral style things. But I was just really excited to be able to go into the studio and make an actual record, I thought that was the coolest part of it, and if people checked it out that’s great, but if not, Hey, I got to make a record. That’s pretty cool. “Look. There’s a record right there. I made it!” That was all I was hoping for.
You never know what an audience is going to think. Even with this new record, some people might think that it’s not heavy enough and may not like it. Where some people might be like, ‘that’s what I wish you were doing.’ You never really know. I can’t second guess an audience, all I can do is try to do what I think is fun to do, and hopefully other people will join in on the fun.
Well, I think the proof is in the pudding as they say… The fact that it has basically out-ranked veteran bands. When the first album came out it hit #21 in the Billboard Top 200, and that was almost unheard of at that time for a death metal album. The next album came out and it debuted at #15–that’s crazy.
I know. The big difference, I mean… I can’t get too excited about that stuff because most bands don’t have their own TV show.
Is that really what you think led to the success of those albums? The TV show?
Oh, absolutely. Without a doubt. The fact that we have a comedy TV show that garnered a very strong audience early on–it’s all attributed to that. That’s why I spend more time making the TV show, because that’s the entry point for most people. It’s happened before where people discovered the music first, and then realized that there’s a TV show, but I don’t think that’s as common.
Well, the TV show is not what got you playing with Iron Maiden–that was just the music, the power of the music, so you have to give yourself some credit.
I’ll give myself a little bit of credit that I think the songs make sense and all that stuff, but my goal is to be able to watch the TV show, and have that function alone. And then be able to turn on the record and have that function alone. But also to have them be part of the same world. That’s the goal, so that if you don’t know the TV show, you can listen to the music and go ‘Okay. I get it.’ But the reason that people got turned toward that direction was definitely because of the TV show.
Okay. So, up and coming bands just need to make a TV show and then their albums will do well? It sounds so easy.
Yeah. It sounds like the worst thing to say, but yes, I recommend it often, get your own TV show.
How difficult was it to break that TV show? I mean, at that time, there was a lot of great animated programs that were up and coming.
Yeah. What happened was, after I finished music school, while I was there I started taking “writing for TV” classes because I knew that I was excited by comedy. I knew that I was excited by stand-up and sketch comedy and TV–and I wanted to learn how to do it. Just like learning how to play guitar… Eddie Van Halen, how do we learn how to do that? And there’s a way to learn how to do it. You can just train your mind to walk down these different avenues and make decisions, and that’s what music writing is and that’s what script writing is.
So I took those classes at Emerson College and the next thing I knew, I was up on stage performing these sketches, and the next thing I knew I was doing stand-up. I was doing regular jokes and I would do characters and I would do sketches and all kinds of stuff. I’d just go and sometimes do well, and a lot of times not do well–and bomb. But that’s the process.
While I was doing that I met up with the producers of the show, “Dr. Katz,” that was on Comedy Central a long time ago. They asked me if I would be a part of a new project that they were working on. And so, when I was about 23 years old, I did a pilot for this show called, :Home Movies,” that ended up being on Adult Swim. And, because I got to do like four years of that show, and write or co-write 52 episodes, the door was wide open to do a new pitch. And I knew the head of the network so I just called him one day and said, “Listen, all I do is go out and see metal shows, all I do is play guitar, and I’d like to do a show about that whole world. What do you think?” And he said, yeah, lets try it out. So that’s how the whole thing started. I had a whole show, I got to kind of prove myself as a writer… as a head writer of a show.
Yeah. And it’s a loved show. I’ve got a son who is addicted to it.
Cool. I’m glad.
I’m the mom that’s always screaming,”Will you turn that down!” (laughing) But I do love the music. And there have been bands that you have been on stage with, like Iron Maiden, Megadeth. It has to be kind of insane to you, these are your heroes, and you probably never thought it would lead to you actually being on a stage with these legendary bands.
Oh definitely. You know, Maiden is of course huge and up there. Yeah, we’ve gotten to like, do festivals and stuff where we’ve shared slots with some huge people.
Well, you opened Mayhem this year.
We took Megadeth’s slot on the first day of Mayhem which was like, 30,000 people and we were the headliners for that show… that was a crazy, insane thing. All these things, it’s really strange, the way I approach all this stuff is… I’ve had TV shows cancelled on me before, so none of this stuff is permanent. Jobs can be taken away from you at any time. And so, you don’t let the highs get you too high, and you don’t let the lows get you too low, because you realize that this whole thing is a big “temp job.” I guess this whole life is a big “temp job.” So you try to keep even-keeled about all that stuff.
But luckily, through “Metalocalypse,” I’ve gotten to meet and become friends with some of my guitar heroes and amazingly cool people from Cannibal Corpse to Metallica to King Diamond to Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, to Slash or Satriani or Vai, all those guys. I’ve gotten to be able to befriend those people and that’s pretty amazing to me, that I’ve gotten to just talk to these people. And… it turns out that they’re all incredibly nice, cool people, you know? As far as like, meeting your heroes go, I couldn’t have had a better, more amazing time doing that.
The release date on the new album?
I’m trying to coincide this with the premiere of “Metalocalypse Season 4.” So basically, this is what’s going to happen… follow me on Twitter, @_brendonsmall. The people who haven’t heard this record… you know, it’s funny, I’ve been describing it for such a long time, people are going to hear what I’ve been describing and they’ll go, “Oh, I get it now.”
But we’re going to release a couple of singles on-line and we’ll tell you where to go to check them out. And we’ll tell you where to go to get the record, you’ll probably go to my website, BrendonSmall.com and it’ll be the place where you can get merch, you can get the record–you can check it out if you even want to get it. And we’ll also tell you exactly what the date is, because I think Adult Swim wants to hold off on releasing their date of the premiere (“Metalocalypse – Season 4”), until they feel it’s the right time, and then I’ll release mine at the same time–so it’ll be the same day.
Do you have any plans of touring in support of this?
Well, I’m going to still be working so my main job is the TV job. So I’m going to be finishing the season, even as we’re airing them.
Here’s what I hope to happen… I put out this record and people like it, I’ll tour at some point. You know, if I find it’s selling a lot of records, I’ll go to their city and do the record. Otherwise I’m going to still do the Dethklok stuff also, so this is not in place of Dethklok, it’s in addition to it.
Yeah. This is a side project, aside from your main project.
Yeah. Dethklok is the main gig. And I will play that before I do a Galaktikon tour. But we’ll see. I’m going to let this project reveal itself to me. First and foremost, I finish the record, I’ve got all the artwork, I’ve got the story, I like the way it sounds. And I’m going to put that out and anything derivative of that… a tour, a TV show… a Broadway musical…
You never know… it could happen. Well, I guess that’s about it then. I wanted to ask you before I let you go if you have a message that you wanted to send out to your fans.
Yeah, well it’s kind of the same thing… basically, follow me on twitter, that’s how I’m going to get all this information to you. I just want to get all of the Dethklok fans in one place–for Metalocalypse updates and the Galaktikon updates follow me @_brendonsmall on twitter and I’ll be able to tell you anything you want to know.
There’s a lot of stuff coming this year–I think we’re getting close to “Dethalbum III,” and I think there’s going to be some cool stuff following that, so I think this is going to be a bigger Dethklok year.
You’re planning on doing “Dethalbum III?“
That’s what the hope is. Again, it takes a long time to organize this stuff, but we’ve got a lot of songs from Season 3 and from all the music I’m writing for Season 4, there’s a lot of new stuff out there and some of it’s really pretty cool.
I’ll make sure I link to your twitter account, because you’re right, there’s so many outlets where people are posting information, people really need to have one place where you can follow it and that way you know you’re getting the updates–so you aren’t trying to follow it on different facebook pages and different websites.
Yeah. I think that twitter is going to be the hub for all the information. I just started it so… I need more followers.
And who better than your fans, right?
Are you going to have some interesting little tidbits in there too?
It’s a long day at work, but I try to cram in a few jokes and pieces of information. You’ll see some of my gear, my studio. I tweeted some pictures of our sound mixers, what they look like and all kinds of things that I’ll get on the twitter.
Well, that’s where I’m going next. I’m gonna come check you out, buddy.
And hopefully I’ll see you if you come through town.
Yeah! Hopefully sooner than later.
I’m gonna let you go Brendon and you have a great afternoon, okay?
Alright, I’ll talk to you later.
Originally published: Interview: Metalocalypse Creator Brendon Small Talks Galaktikon and Dethklok on Technorati.com