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One could argue that Brendon Small has one of those “dream jobs” we are all looking for. (No, he’s not a firefighting astronaut cowboy.) Along with Tommy Blacha, he created the wombless hate child Metalocalypse (Met-al-ok-uh-lips), a cartoon about the incredibly powerful and painfully simple-minded band Dethklok, which currently resides on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. The show is part asinine celebrities, part barbarism, and all metal. It has fantasy creatures, hooded minions and, every so often, a coked-up clown.
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For those who don’t like cartoons, don’t rule this one out just yet. Metalocalypse is mature in more than just content.
“With this show, not only do we want to make it musically authentic, but we want to make the people of human proportion, which is a big thing that hasn’t been going on in cartoons,” Small explains. “I think it’s time to make a show look good again. The aesthetic of metal is a very elaborate one; we want to take that and bring it back into the show, with backgrounds and sequences. If you pause on a scene, it should look awesome. You should be able to turn the volume off and it should still look cool.”
Making cartoons and fiddling around on guitar for a career ... some people seem to have all the luck.
“I was the worst live musician ever,” Small insists. “I would get so nervous, my knees would literally knock and my hands would be dancing around the frets. Then I started doing standup. For some reason, I’d burn more adrenaline speaking in front of somebody than I would sitting there with my muscles clenched, playing guitar stuff I would just blow every time — stuff that I could nail blindfolded in my bedroom. I would just eat shit every time. It’s kinda funny in the grand scheme of things.”
Small’s history in music and comedy has helped him to carve out a nice niche for himself with Metalocalypse. The show employs just about every skill on his résumé at once — his time at the Berklee School of Music, his classes at Boston’s Emerson College, his improv work and his general knowledge of all things nerdy. He also works with an impressive lineup of actors and metal stars, who contribute guest voice work — Malcolm McDowell, Angela Gossow, Marty Friedman and George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, to name a few.
Small does all the music for the show, and even took Dethklok on tour with a musician’s dream team — drummer Gene Hoglan, guitarist Mike Keneally and bassist Bryan Beller. “It’s not about the musicians onstage,” Small says, “even though we have some crazy-good musicians, excluding myself. We had a big movie screen behind us and did a whole animation thing with a story. So it’s basically like a Disney ride with murder. There is murder, and it’s funny — and gross.”
Even without the images, Dethklok’s Dethalbum was the highest-charting death-metal album of all time. Although, Small is quick to say, “In everyone else’s defense, we have a TV show.” Still, he will admit, “A lot of shows can’t do that — have a record that stands on its own without the show. What I wanted to do was to make sure the show could live in different avenues.”
Small is planning another tour this summer, and we can also expect a Metalocalypse guitar by Epiphone (which, by the way, looks killer). New Metalocalypse episodes start May 18 and are sure to be brutal enough to put Beelzebub to shame. “The second season picks up right where the first left off,” Small says. “We killed off a character, so things are darker. There’s a lot going on. I don’t want to talk about it too much. First of all, I don’t think I pitch it well, and secondly, I don’t want to talk about it.”
Photo by Kevin Scanlon