Dethklok's Brendon Smalls Talks About How This Tour Is a "Disney Ride But With Murder"
Brendon Smalls is the creator of the animated series Home Movies and Metalocalypse, and the driving force behind the most successful animated death metal band in the history of metal, Dethklok. He's an amazing guitarist who graduated from Berklee College of Music. His band has two of the highest-rated death metal albums (Dethalbum and Dethalbum II) to ever chart Billboard, and they recently released Dethalbum III, which stands out not only as a Dethklok album but also a piece of metal history. We had a chance to chat with him before their show tonight at House of Blues.
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How's the tour been so far?
The craziest thing about this tour is that our first three shows had to be rescheduled because of Hurricane Sandy.
You've toured with some amazing bands, headlined Mayhem Fest and even played Comic Con, but what would be your dream tour?
You know what, I was really looking forward to playing with Lamb of God last time, but, uh, that one got canceled because Lamb of God was in jail.
Since new animation will be playing behind you at the upcoming show, do you have someone replacing Toki after what happened to him at the end of season four?
Let's don't comment on any of the storyline. But you'll see.
Where do you find inspiration for your songs?
Most of the time when I'm thinking about metal, I don't listen to too much metal. It alters stuff. The song on the new record called "The Galaxy," what I was trying to do with that song was, basically, just try to make it one song with two chords and try to make it exciting and interesting. And I re-harmonized those two chords here and there. But, for the most part, it's built on the two-chord structure. And I wanted to make that just as interesting and just as exciting as a song that has many chords, like a 100 chords or whatever.
And sometimes I'll just think of, you know, tempo. What is a great tempo? Sometimes I'll listen to some of my favorite songs and go, "That's a really good tempo. I just like that tempo." So how do I build something just around that idea? You know what I do, I'll hook up to a tool - recording software - and I'll have my guitar in my lap and I'll get like a clip track. I'll look at that tempo, and I'll try to do something that straps that. I'll just record myself playing guitar until I improvise something that's interesting. And then I'll go back and listen to it and try to figure out how to play it a little better.
How the hell did you get Mark Hamill to do the show?
Um, it wasn't hard. If you have a TV show, you start auditioning people. I asked if he could do a reading, and he did. In addition to doing Star Wars and all that stuff, he's also a very amazing voice actor.
Are you ever tempted to make a light-saber sound when he walks by or hum the "Imperial March"?
That is something we kind of leave to the world
On Metalocalypse, stars such as James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett and Malcolm McDowell have made an appearance on the show, but who would be the ultimate guest star?
Here's the thing. I think I got a lot of my favorite people. I mean, Malcolm McDowell is amazing. And Werner Herzog. When you come to see us live, you're going to hear his voice on top of the whole show. What we do these days is just try to make a show that's making sense to us and think about the voice afterward. And if it just so happens that Metallica is in town, maybe we can grab them and put them in the Cannibal Corpse room or whatever.
Will Captain Mustache ever make an appearance on the show? Maybe a duet with Nathan Explosion?
(Laughs.) I did Captain Mustache about a month ago in New York; that was incredibly funny. Maybe he should have his own TV show. Maybe he'll have his own kind of kid show or something.
What about Dr. Rockso? Will he ever kick his cocaine habit?
People have asked me that, but I think it's completely up to Dr. Rockso.
What about advice for upcoming guitar players?
You know, it's funny, but I think YouTube is an amazing thing for guitarists. I think it's inspiring and great. You have to understand: this thing happens with young guitar players and even older guitar players where they, um, look for a reason why their playing's not good, or their amp's not good enough or there's some secret sound that Eddie Van Halen has that they can't get access to. The truth is, those guys are just really good at playing. If you can get yourself a decent amp, a decent guitar, then everything else is your fault. Either your right hand or your left is not getting along. And the most boring thing I can say is, if you can just slow things down and record yourself playing, you're going to hear where those mistakes are, and you're going to get better.
For some reason I had a tape recorder when I was a kid and I had a guitar. I would always write music, and I would always record it, just like on a shitty old tape deck. It wouldn't sound that good, but I could hear what I was doing. And the more I got access to recording equipment - even little 4-tracks and stuff - it would make me be creative, and it would make me hear where I was at in rhythm, which is the ultimate thing, because guitar players tend to rush everything. If you can pay attention to the rhythm, you're going to get good. It's training your hands to go to the right place at the right time.
What was your first guitar?
It was called a Gibson Epiphone Spotlight. It was like a Les Paul with a double-cutaway. It was a way better guitar than what my second guitar end up being.
Gear for this tour: What's your weapon of choice?
I'm using four different prototypes of Gibson guitars. The first one that I go out with is a brand new prototype - it may be coming out next year - it's a Flying V. It's going to be the new Dethklok guitar. It's called the Slowklok. It's all white, with a white fretboard, silver burst. It's really, really cool. Very eye-catching. Then I'm going to use my Thunderhorse Explorer prototype. Then I have another prototype of that to use when I tune down to 'E.' And then I have another seven-string Thunderhorse prototype. So I'll pretty much use Explorers and Vs. It took me 20 years to realize that I'm sensitive to Marshall, and the amp that I'm using is a Joe Satriani Marshall. It's really great. I also use a whammy pedal for a couple of things, then I have a delay pedal and then I have a Dimebag Crybaby from Hell Wah pedal.
You once described your 2008 US tour as a "Disney ride but with murder." How would you describe this tour?
I think this one is the same thing, but I think we've got a little more lash. For some reason this animation, I think, has more comedy. And I think this show is just more fun. The reaction I've been getting is this is almost like a comedy show with all this metal. I think the videos are more interesting. The comedy is funnier.
Catch Dethklok at the House of Blues tonight, Friday, November 30.