Dethklok’s Brendon Small Talks ‘Doomstar Requiem,’ Rock Operas + More
Dethklok‘s Brendon Small was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s radio show this past weekend. Small recently released, ‘Metalocalypse: The Doomstar Requiem A Klok Opera,’ and he opened up about the ambitious project. If you missed Jackie’s show, here’s her full interview with Dethklok’s Brendon Small.
It’s Full Metal Jackie bringing you two hours of metal each and every week. Brendon Small, co-creator of Dethklok among a million other things, on the show with us. How are you?
I’m very good, thanks for having me again.
We’re going to talk about this brand new project of yours and once again you’ve gone above and beyond doing something crazy and insane, but awesome. The original score for ‘Metalocalypse: The Doomstar Requiem A Klok Opera.’ Please tell us about what this is and how it came about.
This is a crazy thing. I have been experimenting with music on the show for a long time through Dethklok and through the other characters and everything. Two seasons ago, in season three, I did a miniature rock opera inside one of the episodes and I always thought it would be cool to do a full blow rock opera. That’s part of the reason I’m doing creative stuff today because I was growing up, being brought up on ‘Tommy,’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and later on when I discovered metal telling stories with music. King Diamond, you know?
So I wanted to wrap all that stuff up into one special and we had an opportunity to put a special together so I thought, ‘Alright I’m going to do that. I’m going to get some great people to sing with me. I’m going to get Gene Hogan on drums, Ryan Beller on bass and get some other cool guys and then I’m going to get a 50-piece orchestra and I’m going to do it right.’ So that was the whole idea and I had a cool story to tell so I figured why not do it right and have a full rock opera and have almost zero dialogue almost all song.
Brendan, you’ve already written music for episodes for ‘Metalocalypse.’ But scoring a fully orchestrated rock opera with no dialog sounds daunting. Looking back, who and what prepared you the most for taking on such a big project?
As you do a show like ‘Metalocalypse’ there is a ton of music and a ton of score and there is a ton of different styles of music but the whole idea is to showcase the metal moments not by having everything be metal. So if I have kind of a traditional film score happening or a really stupid song sung by Tokey or Pickles or something, then after I have these crazy blast beats or double kicks and guitar or sweep arpeggios just so it shines a light on that moment and that’s how I kind of composed this whole thing — which is that there are moments that are orchestral they are almost like big film star score moments and then we have a big crazy metal song and then we have something that completely contradicts that stylistically and just keeps your ear alive.
The fun thing I’ve gotten that this has been out for [a few weeks] is that people are listening to it over and over again and it’s not leaving their CD player. And that is what I had hoped to happen because it’s built to contradict itself. It’s built to keep your ear excited the whole time. So that is what prepared me to put this whole thing together and then to further more get all the orchestral stuff that I had, Emmy award winning composer Bear McCreary, who did ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ ‘Walking Dead’ and does ‘Agents of Shield’ right now, the Marvel show, and he took what I had and made it way cooler because that is what he does. He is just a great dude and have been friends for a while and he is a big Dethklok fan so I said, ‘Do you want to do this with me?’ and he said, ‘Sure,’ so we had to find a way to afford a 50-piece orchestra and I found a way to do it. You just have to simply pay for it yourself. That is how you do it folks.
Writing and recording a full blown rock opera has driven other musicians, like Pete Townshend or Blacky Lawless for example, to go on and write even more rock operas. Has ‘Doomstar’ sparked bigger ideas for more elaborate ‘Metalocalypse’ projects?
Well you know I just wish I had more screen time with this one because I would have easily made it longer. I had a lot more story to tell and I crammed a lot of story into 46 minutes and 30 seconds, which is the keeping running time. I gave you a little bit fatter version, a little longer version on the album that you can download now. Easily I could do it. You know it is really easy to make music in subtext of characters through music and in old operas too they have characters on a screen and they say, ‘How do you do? Nice to meet you. Can you sing this whole thing?’ One of them would turn to the audience and say, ‘I’m going to kill this man.’ You hear this weird, you hear the subtext. The subtext is the text. But we know that that guy can’t hear him but we know that is just for us to know. There is a really weird theatrical thing that can happen through characters. So it’s fun to play with that. There are a lot of new cool story telling laws and rules that you can play with. So the answer is yes, I would love to do more. The reason I’m in this stuff now is because I listen to Pete Townshend as a kid.
This ‘Doomstar Requiem A Klok Opera’ is …
I like that you’re saying the full name.
Every time, it’s a lot of words. It aired on Adult Swim recently. It featured Jack Black as a special guest, also Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell and George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher. Is it going to re-air? Is it available online?
It is available online, I believe it’s available — I know it is available on iTunes. You can get it and I believe that Adult Swim does plan on re-airing it but you can check it out. Again, like I said, the messages I have gotten back from people — and this is the way it was designed, was for watching a re-watching and picking up little tiny things. A lot of interesting and fun story clues inside of it that you may not get the first time through because we throw a lot of stuff at you. But, yeah, you can get it online and I believe you can probably get it on AdultSwim.com, so try that too. It is definitely on Amazon and iTunes.
Brendon, you are already something of a renaissance man developing animated TV shows, writing and recording albums and now composing for an orchestra. What else is still on your creative bucket list?
Oh boy. Well, you know, I think when you do TV you can’t really rest on your laurels at all because even if you do cool stuff it doesn’t matter you gotta keep doing stuff. I don’t care about what I have done. I’m not interested in what I have done. I am only interested in the stuff that I haven’t done. What I am a fan of in this world is storytelling and music. In storytelling comes comedy and stand-up comedy, so I love stand-up, I love live-action stuff. Some of my favorite shows that have ever existed had nothing to do with animation. Those are the kinds of things I love. I love Garry Shandling, you know. He’s funny. Yeah, but he made two of the most innovative shows in TV, ‘The Larry Sanders Show’ and the ‘It’s Garry Shandling Show.’ That is where my head is at right now. I love that stuff. I am doing a lot of stand-up right now too. It is an ever-developing world doing stand-up.
You seem like somebody that never sleeps.
I sleep. Listen, the way I work is that if you concentrate really hard for about 2 to 3 hours and do all of your thinking then you are spent and you get to do other stuff. You can go do nothing, you can go watch terrible TV or sleep, or do whatever, or go hang out with your friends but it is about how you manage your time. The way I recorded this whole thing too, I made sure that if I slammed the door shut for a month and a half I would write an hour-long musical and I did. Then I get to go to Disneyland or whatever I want to do, whatever stupid congratulatory that I do.
Is that what you do?
Sometimes it is. I’m not alone there, a lot of heavy metal people go to Disneyland and they all see each other and they go ‘Shh, don’t tell anybody and I won’t tell anybody.’ Ozzy Osbourne.
(Laughs) Ozzy. Brendon, it has been a year since the last Dethklok show, any new touring plans in the works? What do you miss most about being on the road?
We are working on the tour thing with this thing. That is all I’ve got to say right now.
You never reveal anything on my show. Come on, do it now!
If I had the information I would. I promise you, if I find out anything I will reveal it to you first.
OK, I like that.
Yeah? Good. I really enjoy touring. It is amazing how your guitar playing just gets better when you are playing for an hour or whatever in front of people. That is really fun. I enjoyed the food last time. I would sneak off and my girlfriend would meet me every once in a while and we would go to a different town and we would just go find a place. That was a fun part. That was how you know you are grown up, because you aren’t getting drunk and throwing up or snorting coke off of hooker’s t-ts or something. Instead you are like, ‘What is that bacon I’m tasting?’ That is how you know you are getting old. That was fun. I don’t know about this question. I am trying to think. I actually tour with a really great group of people, with Bryan Beller, Mike Keneally and Gene Hoglan. They have a great sense of humor, they like to laugh and so do I. I really enjoy just hanging out with those guys. They are a good group of people and you are lucky if you can find that.
I know we talked about this last time, I mean any band that I have seen Gene play in, it is just amazing to watch him play. Do you ever just stand there like ‘I can’t believe I got this guy to play with me in a band?’
I know. Absolutely, it is not lost on me. None of the amazing musicianship is lost on me and it is me being very intelligent by saying that I am definitely going to get one of the best drummers on Earth. I am going to find a way. The cool thing about working with him, and he is all over the ‘Doomstar’ record, and you can hear him playing styles that you haven’t heard him play because he plays weird Wings-style ’70s kind of power pop. You can hear him play weird Euro-Japanese strange, I don’t know what it is kind of stuff and then he is playing with a 50 piece orchestra. It is really fun to hear how much he can stretch stylistically and do the right thing for the song. I think this is the most excited that I have heard Gene about a record in a long time because we love metal but we also love a lot of other stuff, and that is every metal musician I have ever met. You like this but wouldn’t it be cool to be in a cover band and just play old Guns N’ Roses and wouldn’t that be cool to play some old Blue Oyster Cult or whatever it is, it is always fun to stretch and still make it part of the show, completely, 100 percent. Gene is great.
Brendon has promised and swore to us to keep us posted on what is going on with Dethklok. Is BrendonSmall.com the best place for everybody to see about all the millions of things that you do?
It is, that and then probably my twitter account, @_Brendonsmall.
Awesome. Well, thanks again. Go to BrendonSmall.com or @_Brendonsmall. Sometimes it is hard when I try to tag you and remember to use the underscore.
Yeah, that is what happens. I joined Twitter too late and there were like –
Someone already took your name?
Everyone took my name and I was like maybe I can do this version, then somebody else did that and it is like my old Home Movies character or something or another TV show that I –
You know what you should have done. You should have done @brendonsmallsucks. I am sure nobody took that one.
That was taken! That was the first one that was taken.
Thanks for coming on the show.
Thanks for having me. Always a pleasure.
This coming weekend, Full Metal Jackie will welcome Exodus and Generation Kill‘s Rob Dukes on her show. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.