Brendon Small: If Galaktikon Tours, The Shows Need to Top the Dethklok Gigs [Interview]
Brendon Small was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's radio program. He's best known as the creator of the hit television series 'Metalocalypse' and the driving force behind its feature band, Dethklok. Most recently, he’s been focusing on his latest musical project, Galaktikon,and his sophomore release under that name, entitled ‘II: Become the Storm.’ Small discussed the new album, the upcoming comic book based off the band’s first release, 'Galaktikon,' working with Gene Hoglan and Bryan Beller and more. Check out the chat below.
How's it going?
It's going well. Thank you very much. How are you?
Doing all right, great to talk to you and thank you as always for allowing the members of Dethklok to be a part of my show on a weekly basis. I'm honored, I love it and it cracks me up. So thank you!
I have to say it's the only place that I do the voices to promote metal. I don't do it anywhere else — it's only for you.
We're here tonight to talk about Brendon Small's Galaktikon, II: Become The Storm, which is out now.
That is right. It is out. It's been a long lead up. I have been teasing people with this project I think for well over a year at this point and it's been a long time coming and I'm really happy with the way it turned out.
Obviously we were hearing teasers leading up to it and very excited that it's finally out. In what ways is Galaktikon II important to you personally now that Metalocalypse is no more?
Well it's funny I'm in a place where I put out I think this is my sixth record that I've put out in a decade. So this is a 10 year anniversary of the first Dethklok record and I celebrated that with making a record with the same people; with Ulrich Wild who co-produced all my work. Mixed and engineered everything with the amazing legendary Gene Hoglan who is — you know him from Testament, Death, Dark Angel, from Strapping Young Lad from all kinds of great stuff and he and I have been collaborating for a decade so it was really great to involve him again so why wouldn't I?
It's great to have Bryan Beller who's the monster bass player from The Aristocrats. Now he's playing with Joe Satriani, all kinds of crazy people — he's a lunatic player himself. So for that reason, it's really great to put this out and then the other reason is we're done with Metalocalypse, we're done with Dethklok. So I wanted to give something to all those fans who've stuck with us and give them a cool story that I think if you like Dethklok I think you're probably going to like this record.
Galaktikon II is a multifaceted album incorporating progressive rock, rock opera, conceptualism and, of course, metal. Why is metal the best format for you to blend with other styles of music?
That's a good question and you're right — this is a high-stake intergalactic rock opera, concept opera maybe. Maybe concept opera is the right way to say that. But the cool thing about metal is and one of my favorite things to do is to take other influences and run it through the funnel of metal and take things that normally would not associate with metal and kind of run it through this whole thing and try to get some different sounds and that's what I'm interested in doing. So I took a lot of stuff from the '70s. Stuff that influenced me since I was a kid and ran it through the old heavy metal funnel and I got a sound out of it that I don't think I would have expected to have gotten if I had not done that.
Lyrically there are some evil elements to this album. How much of those dark moments are you purging your own pent up anger?
I'd say that some of it is definitely just... heavy metal is one of the best ways to purge evil out of your soul I think. But the great thing about this is it's not really me. I'm writing for characters and that's one of my favorite things to do with heavy metal is to write for a group of people to tell a story. So it's not me who's being evil, it's these horrible, terrible people inside of the story and there is a bunch of evil inside of the story. But there's also some good. So it's really fun to be able to play both sides.
Albatross Funny Books is publishing the first Galaktikon story in comic book format. How does telling your stories in non-musical formats require you to tailor your creativity?
Well this project, working with Albatross and Eric Powell, who you would know from the Goon from Dark Horse Comics - an amazing super talented guy and great/amazing art by Steve Manon, one of the best in the business I think. It's really interesting, because this is a - the first issue is out and it's more dialog driven than you'd normally get in a comic book. But that's also because it's a first issue and I have a lot of stuff to set up.
But as the comic book goes on it becomes more visual and that is a completely different thing than writing TV, a record or anything like that. You have to almost think in storyboards. There's a thing that happens where you kind of want to land an important piece of information on a page and you want the page turn to be the reveal of that thing. So you have to think very far ahead and it's really amazing to watch and read comics where they really nail that kind of thing. That's totally different thing for me and I'm really enjoying the process.
Gene Hoglan, of course, on drums and Bryan Beller on bass are with you again for Galaktikon II. What makes the three of you a combination that you want to return to?
There are a few things. I think these are some of the best musicians on the planet, so that doesn't hurt. I think Gene can do anything technically on drums but one of the things that makes him such an exceptional drummer is that I think he thinks music first. How do I help the song? How do I elevate the song? What can I do to get from one section to the next to complete a contradiction from the previous section? How do I set that up? How do I get out of it? How do I move this song forward? How do I move the story forward with a drum kit? He thinks that way.
Bryan Beller and I, we also went to the same music school, which is Berklee College of Music, so we have a great shorthand that we can use because we're both music school nerds. I can communicate to him in numbers and symbols and he can get stuff immediately. Plus, he knows what I like and he knows how I like to re-harmonize bass through song, so he'll get there before I even get there. That comes from just knowing him and him knowing me and working together for a decade.
You also perform standup comedy, which is another type of storytelling. What are the biggest similarities between comedy and music as communicative art forms?
I often talk about how they're dissimilar. I'll tell you what makes them dissimilar is that a song, I think, is something you can listen to forever. I'm sure everyone listening right now has their favorite song and when you put them on, you kind of have a similar feeling. You want to re-experience a set of anger, emotions, whatever it is that makes this song exciting to you. With a joke, you kind of get one shot at it and then people — you can't tell the same joke and get the same reaction twice because it's all built on surprise. So I'm either surprising you in the moment or I'm not. That's a big difference. But the chops of music and joke writing or stand up chops, sometimes they go hand in hand. You can't have enough confidence as a musician or a comedic performer, I think.
Is there gonna be Galaktikon tour? What are your plans for this project?
That's a question that keeps coming up and we're having a lot of internal conversations about that now. The trick is, I think Dethklok's live show was one of the most exciting shows even though I was onstage and I didn't get to watch it ever. I thought that was one of the most fun shows. It was almost like Disneyland for heavy metal. I think that people who came to the show experienced a really exciting and memorable thing. So my job now is to top that and in order to top it I need budgets from somewhere. I need numbers, money and all kinds of stuff so that's what we're working on to see if we can do something that's cooler and more exciting and more memorable than even Dethklok.
Thanks to Brendon Small for the interview. Pick up your copy of 'II: Become the Storm' at either Amazon or iTunes and follow the band and Brendon Small on Facebook to keep up with everything they're doing. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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