Brendon Small (Metalocalypse / Dethklok) Names the Films + Scores That Inspired ‘Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar’
Brendon Small, the creator of the Metalocalypse animated series turned film and leader of the animated music outfit Dethklok, was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show. There's plenty to talk about with a new film, new film score, a new Dethklok album and a tour centered around Dethklok and the Metalocalypse universe.
Small's passion for his work shines through as the mastermind details the various film score inspirations that have inspired where he's taken this latest chapter. Brendon also discusses getting to work with some heroes in the film's cast and talks about what might come next for him.
He also explains why he's standing by the writers in their current strike in Hollywood and the importance of the current negotiations moving forward. And he also explains why the upcoming tour with Babymetal, which kicks off Aug. 30, is one of the best co-headlining runs of the years.
So check out the chat in full below.
We are here to celebrate all things Dethklok and there's so much going on. Obviously the Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar movie and soundtrack and the Dethalbum IV all out. We've got the Babymetal tour. So much great Dethklok stuff. Brendon, it's been a long journey to get Metalocalypse back in front of metal fans. Did you do anything to mark the occasion, once the new Army of the Doomstar film and the corresponding music was complete? And how do you intend to celebrate now that it's out?
We've been working on all this stuff for a long time, so it's been a few years in the making. This is so crazy to drop a movie online. The main thing that I guess that we're going to be doing to celebrate all of this is to be going on tour with Babymetal and to be co-headlining across these United States of ours and entertaining people and just getting some face time with the heavy metal community in North America, so I'm excited. That to me is is the way to mark the occasion because that's the ultimate, that's the best use of me making voices onstage playing guitar, having all this animation and all this crazy stuff with one of the best bands in the world. Gene Hoglan, Bryan Beller and Nili Brosh joining me and doing it with the intensely entertaining Babymetal.
Let's talk about the movie which was so great. It's so great and I can't wait for everyone to see it. The end of the world is nigh and only a song of salvation can save it ... if you thought writer's block was bad.... Brendon, which was the bigger challenge here given the band and series past, getting the movie or getting the music right for the newest Metalocalypse installment?
That's a good question, Jackie because it's all the same thing as far as I'm concerned. Telling a story and writing music is kind of the same exact part of the brain, really? Everything is a guitar to me, if you're gonna learn how to play guitar, then I think you can learn how to do anything. You can learn how to direct a movie, you can learn how to act in a movie, you can learn how to write a movie, all that stuff. It's all the same foundational kind of expertise and problem solving that goes on with the guitar playing.
So, what I did was, as I was writing the script, I was sculpting out the music at the same time, even a score. So, you'll notice there's an Army of the Doomstar soundtrack album, which has a full film score inside of it that I recorded with the Budapest Orchestra that I recorded with Gene Hoglan and it's really cool. I'm really excited about it. But that is a really important part of writing the script. So, what I do is, at the very end, when I get the script finished, I read the entire script, and I do my impression of the characters I don't play and we edit the whole thing together and I do a score of that while I'm writing the heavy metal and the score at the same time. So, it's all happening at the same time and if a scene isn't working, I go back and I rewrite the music. I rewrite jokes and I can do it all from my own home studio. It's pretty crazy.
Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar Trailer
Just going back to the soundtrack for a moment, but you made a rock opera. This is a rock opera, and the music ... I haven't wanted to listen to a music score from a movie in a long time and I feel like that is lost today. Obviously there are movie soundtracks, but this is different. I remember back in the day I used to listen to movie scores from The Crow, even from E.T., and stuff like that. You know what I mean? But I will tell you that the vibe of this movie, what it reminded me of was one of my favorite movies of all time, Flash Gordon. I think that's got to be some sort of influence for you somewhere because this is like a Metal Flash Gordon that you made.
Well, that's what I thought I wanted to do, like a midnight movie a very moody, heavy, cool midnight movie that had the elements of Flash Gordon that had the elements of heavy metal, the music, and the movie that had elements of like Fire and Ice by Ralph Bakshi, a cool animated thing.
I wanted to stretch it visually as far as I could with the Titmouse team that I worked with. I wanted the music to reflect that so I thought about my favorite film scores. I thought about what John Williams had done with Star Wars, of course. I thought about Jerry Goldsmith, the music he did from like Alien or the music he did from Poltergeist. I did think about Flash Gordon of course, there's some of my favorite musicians in Queen. I thought about Basil Pouledouris, who did the music for Conan and I thought about Goblin who did the music for Dario Argento films like Suspiria. I thought about Tangerine Dream who did music for Michael Mann, cool meaty dripping, synthesizers and all that stuff.
So, when you listen to the soundtrack by itself, the soundtrack even though it's not really a rock opera, is telling the story in new moods of what the movie is really doing. It's really like they all work together. So, I think the movie, Dethalbum IV and the soundtrack are covering all the bases that I really want to cover with the brutality, the sentimentality, the moodiness and just the visual aspects altogether.
Brendon, obviously since we last talked, you had released the first song from Dethklok that came out from this record. That was "Aortic Desecration" and it was the first song in nearly a decade. Why was this the right song to reintroduce Dethklok to the world?
Well, this is a really aggressive song, first of all and I thought that was just a real slap in the face, just a real just kind of kick through the door and just like smash through the wall like the Kool Aid guy to just say we're here. We're back and "Aortic Desecration,"
I thought like that is an important thematic idea in this movie and it's also an important part of the movie. This song is more of like a pissed off tantrum. It's enraged and it really has an important part like I said in the narrative. So, this was the right song to start out the whole kind of idea within, that it's just a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more intense than what we've done before and the record reflects that as well that we get really intense.
it's really like a heavy metal dare - how heavy can we make Dethklok? So, half the record is divided into fast and furious and getting the fight songs and the other half is divided into big expansive, epic, mystical [songs], so you'll get a whole bunch of different sounds on that record.
Dethklok, "Aortic Desecration"
Brendon it's quite a cast you've got for this movie with some iconic 70s names involved. Original Saturday Night Live cast member Laraine Newman, Star Wars own Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamill, and Clockwork Orange's master of mayhem Malcolm McDowell all have speaking roles this time around. How much has having this platform allowed you to salute some of the stars who entertained you growing up? And what has it been like to make these connections?
First of all, can you believe that I get to like hang out with Laraine Newman and by the way, she's in every single episode of Metalocalypse. She is a genius and she is a great improviser and she can do a million different voices.
Mark Hamill has been in every single episode of Metalocalypse. This is before he even became Luke Skywalker a second time and he is the coolest guy in the world and he's such a great actor.
Malcolm McDowell, oh my god, I remember the first time I met him. He threw his arm around me and said, 'Oh, I remember I did a pretty important musical thing once, it's called Clockwork Orange, where I got to meet Wendy Carlos. I got to like the score of that movie.' And he told me all these great stories about working with Stanley Kubrick, that holy flip to hell. It's amazing and then we got to work with Werner Herzog, who is just one of my favorite directors of all time.
Jon Hamm is in this movie. King Diamond is in this movie. It's crazy. But it is I feel like I'm the luckiest guy in the world to be able to meet and work with absolute heroes. The reason I'm here today is because I watched their movies and the movies are some of the best I've ever seen. Empire Strikes Back is one of the greatest movies of all time. Are you kidding me?
This upcoming BabyKlok tour: Two acts that started off more as an artistic idea with a vision that was eventually brought to life. Brendon, as someone who has been involved with so many aspects of creating this world surrounding the band, how much are you looking forward to connecting with the creative minds behind Babymetal that have followed sort of a similar trajectory?
Yes, that's so funny. I think about that all the time and we haven't met yet. But I'm so excited to meet them and to work with them because yeah, I mean, we are collaborative. We can't do anything without the musicians that we work with. But it's really fun to be able to bring an idea to the table and to populate it with people and to see other people doing the same thing and that's what BabyMetal really is.
So what I think you're gonna get out of this show is one of the most entertaining heavy metal nights of your life. It's going to be like Las Vegas, heavy metal presents the most entertaining night of your life and so I think you're just gonna leave the show with a big smile on your face and ask when can we do that again. That's the reason that I think this is going to be one of the best co-headlining tours of the year.
BabyMetal really knows how to entertain and Dethklok, we do this wonderful, just kind of celebration of the entire Metalocalypse experience from the TV show to the music to the comedy, it's all there and we just hammer you with Gene Hoglan on drums Bryan Beller on bass with Nili Brosh on guitar and we just really are there to just have the most fun we could possibly have.
Brendon, one of the great things about Dethklok's return is that it means more work for you alongside drum legend Gene Hoglan. What has Gene's continued faith and dedication and bringing Dethklok and Metalocalypse to the masses meant for you?
That is a great question. Gene Hoglan is a legendary drummer and he's earned that legend by being one of the most intensely gifted technical drummers. But forget about all that. He is a very musical person and he has great musical tastes and his tastes and my tastes go far beyond heavy metal and so we're constantly talking about other things like from Andrew Lloyd Webber to Queen to like just big dramatic pieces to classical music.
We discuss everything when we're working together and it's a really fun collaboration and my job is always to kind of bring something to the table and say, "Gene, I'm throwing down the gauntlet, can you beat this with something cooler?" and he's always up for the challenge and we really collaborate on so many different levels. He's got great joke ideas. He's got great musical ideas, and he is the guy you want in your corner when you're on tour. He is one of the most gifted musical individuals I've been lucky enough to meet.
And Brendon, you're out of ComicCon in San Diego this year in solidarity with the writers that are currently on strike. As someone close to that world, what do you wish people understood better about the current strike? And what do you think ultimately needs to be done to make things right?
Well, I think people need to come to the table and meet and I do think there are big conversations that need to be had about streaming rights, residuals, AI, very big [questions]. I hate this is the kind of conversation that I think the music industry should have had in the early 2000s when Napster and file sharing were happening.
Lars [Ulrich] already tried to have a conversation. He tried to start it but I think it's kind of like [we should] nip it in the bud now so that we can move on and be creative together and I think that's kind of what I think is an important thing to say in solidarity with all people striking.
Brendon, you've really made a name for yourself, combining heavy music with this animated series. Do you see a future project for yourself that doesn't find music and this style of visual presentation. Might you only do music only or focus solely on a non-musical visual presentation at some point down the road?
It's really funny you ask this question. I've just gotten finished with two years of non-stop production and it's almost like your parents caught you smoking and they make you smoke the whole pack. So, I gotta smoke all the guitars. I gotta smoke all the voiceover. I gotta smoke all the writing, all the directing, all the producing, all the songwriting, all the score writing, you smoke the whole thing and then at the very end, you're a little bit sick, but you're also addicted.
So, the answer is yes, I want to do more of that stuff, visuals and music together. That is one of my favorite things. I think it's my forte. So, I'd love to bring this into the live action world. I'd love to do a horror heavy metal movie. I got a lot of ideas that I'd love to do. But I think I would love to stay in animation forever too. But I think I really have a jonesing for doing some live action projects and really integrating music with that.
And if I can just geek out on this movie with you for a moment because like I said, I just watched it and it was so great, psychedelic crazy. Can we talk about Nathan Explosion, is he not inspired by Peter Steele because I'm like in love with him.
First of all I've heard that a couple people say after this movie I'm in love with Nathan Explosion. He really exposes himself and is vulnerable in this movie in a way that he hasn't [been before], we haven't let him be but because this is the big finale that's what happens.
It's funny. Peter Steele. I mean I think Type O Negative is great, but it was never really an idea. I think people kind of made that equation later on. But look, everyone loves Peter Steele and I know I think we're lucky to have any kind of equivalence to that. Though it wasn't the intention up top it started with Corpsegrinder really, with George Corpsegrinder Fisher from Cannibal Corpse, but I also think he's a beautiful romantic as well.
So, go check out the Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar movie, check out the soundtrack and of course pick up Dethkalbum IV. See the Babyklok tour it will be an experience not to be missed. Brendon, I love everything that you're doing and I'm so grateful that to have you on the show every single week with the Dethklok brutal pic of the week and I wish you nothing but success. I'm rooting for you, and I love this movie and thank you so much for everything.
Oh, thank you Jackie. I really do appreciate it and I really, in all genuine sincerity, I really, really am a big fan. So, thank you.
Thanks to Brendon Small for the interview. As stated, you can watch 'Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar' here. The soundtrack is available here and you can get Dethklok's 'Dethalbum IV' here. Follow Dethklok on Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and Spotify and see the band's upcoming tour dates here. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.