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Catching Up With ‘Metalocalypse’ Mastermind Brendon Small

Charles Epting

How to describe Dethklok? They’re a virtual band, featured in the Adult Swim animated program Metalocalypse. They’re also a kicka– real-life death metal band that was created to perform the band’s music in live stage shows.

Compared at times to GWAR and Spinal Tap, it’s impossible to not include dashes of the Monkees, Partridge Family, Banana Splits and a host of other TV-friendly bands that blurred the line between fiction and reality. The brainchild of singer-guitarist Brendon Small, the concept caught fire in 2007 when Adult Swim organized the first actual tour. The stage version of Dethklok also includes Gene Hoglan on drums, Mike Keneally on guitar and backing vocals, and Bryan Beller on bass and backing vocals. The combo still tours regularly, and recently closed the kickoff show on the 2011 Rockstar Mayhem Festival [it was their only show on the tour].

Noisecreep sat down after the Dethklok sound check to catch up with Small who also voices three of the animated character voices.

Okay, How do you describe the Dethklok concept and stage show?

It’s a fully animated live show with a band that is supposed to sound like a record and look like a TV show. So the trick is to have a big gigantic movie theater sized LCD screen completely in sync with what we’re doing on stage.

So you all essentially create a live soundtrack on stage?

Right. On the technical side, what we have is a click track running through the drummer’s headset, he’s the only one hearing the clicks so we’re just playing along with him. So if its all going right, every downbeat will coincide with a visual cut on screen. So guitar solos and vocals will match and the mood of the song will feel right.

The way I think of us as a live band is sort of like a pit band – like that orchestra in the pit. So it’s not really about us – it’s the visuals on the screen behind us.

Adult Swim

What inspired you to do this?

When I came up with the show idea, I went and saw Gorillaz and they were amazing. They played behind this scrim and projected animation behind them and all you saw was the shadows of the guys. And I thought, no one really needs to see us – I mean, guitar nerds may want to see our fingers move and stuff, but no one really needs to see us to enjoy the show,

But, if you’re not making a connection with the audience then I think you’re missing out on something pretty big. So we try and balance it so that everyone gets what they need from the show.

What other bands influenced you?

I loved bands and performers that were theatrical onstage – King Diamond, Freddie Mercury, KISS. I’m also a fan of theme parks, especially Disneyland – and I wanted this show to feel like a big stupid Disneyland ride – but with murder – and death metal [laughs].

That was the idea. It should take itself dead seriously and at the same time be really fun.

Any favorite rides at Disneyland?

I have a lot of favorite rides. I love Pirates of the Caribbean. I love the Haunted Mansion, What’s amazing, the new light show, the World of Color. That’s my dream show -.projecting massive streams of water with fire coming out,, like 300 yards wide. It’s just amazing – if you could put a band in the middle of all that stuff? People would worship them like gods. If I only could only get the budget together.

Watch ‘Thunderhorse’ from Dethklok

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