Interview: Brendon Small finds his niche

Guitar hero
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  April 24, 2012


Years before he cracked the dimensional barrier that separates the real from unreal by turning Dethklok, the lovably sociopathic stars of Adult Swim's Metalocalypse, into one of the most lucrative metal acts in both cartoonland and the material world, Brendon Small trudged through stints at Berklee and Emerson. Don't confuse that incidental common experience for a sign of normalcy. Although he seems like a down-to-earth guy while answering questions from his home office in LA, this wizard of animated brutality could easily kill us all in the most hilarious ways imaginable. His new thing is a self-released cosmic-metal monster of a concept album christened Galaktikon. He calls it a "high-stakes, intergalactic, extreme rock" project. As for the fourth season of Metalocalypse — premiering April 29 on the Cartoon Network, the same week the metaphorical starship Galaktikon lands in stores — he says it's "going to a darker place." You read that right. They upped the darkness factor of a show where thousands of people die horrifying deaths in virtually every episode.

TELL US ABOUT GALAKTIKON. I was about to do the second Dethklok record, so I had reserved a studio, Gene Hoglan (drums), Bryan Beller (bass), and Ulrich Wild (engineer). The day we were supposed to start, the money didn't arrive. I had all this music sitting around from when I was developing the sound of Dethklok, so I thought, "Y'know what? I'm going to use my own money and record these songs so these guys don't hate me for telling them I was going to give them work and not doing it." About a year-and-a-half later, I started putting those songs together and improvising lyrics about a superhero. Here's the story: what if Superman and Lois Lane had a public, messy divorce, but she still got into trouble all the time? Even worse, what if she started dating Lex Luthor? It ended up being a big, intergalactic divorce story.

CAN WE SAY YOU ABANDONED A CAREER IN MUSIC TO START A CAREER IN COMEDY THAT LED TO A CAREER IN MUSIC? Here's what happened — I was in Boston at music school, but people just stopped playing guitar in popular music. It was a really dark, weird time, and I was really confused. I started showing up at comedy clubs and taking "writing for TV" and sketch classes. Next thing I knew, I was spending pretty much every waking moment at the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square. In the world of music, you can be a competent guitar player and never get work because guitarists are a dime-a-dozen. It's really hard to have a personality on that instrument, to be able to play three notes and have people go, "Oh, that's Clapton," or "Hey, that's Hendrix." But with comedy, for better or worse, you're bringing everything that makes you yourself to the stage. No one can really compete with that. So it was a much quicker way to get into show business. I would recommend that to any guitarist — start doing comedy. I started doing stuff onstage and got lucky when the guys who did Dr. Katz saw me on a very good night.

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