The Marvel Life

The Marvel Life: Brendon Small

The Dethklok and Metalocalypse mastermind talks Thor, Venom, metal and much more!

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By Blake Garris

Brendon Small has become well-known as the co-creator of “Home Movies,” “Metalocalypse” and the death metal band Dethklok. He recently released the band’s fourth studio album The Doomstar Requiem – A Klok Opera with an Adult Swim special of the same name.

We spoke with Small about his musical partnership with "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." composer Bear McCreary, plus his love for Thor and Venom and much more!

Brendon Small (photo by Anthony Gordon)

Marvel.com: To begin, this opera you’re doing seems like a very, very big thing.

Brendon Small: Yeah. [Laughs] It’s bigger than what we usually do. I think it’s so big because we’ve got the right story to tell and I wanted to make it and look at it and say, okay, I don’t have a huge budget but I want to put a ton of really cool things visually and physically, so how do I do that? How do I give this the grandiosity it deserves?

Marvel.com: And you have some pretty big names attached as well.

Brendon Small: Yeah, that was also part of the thing, was just making sure that we get the people we wanted. You know, a lot of those names show up in our shows often. Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell are in almost every episode of “Metalocalypse.” But this is a complete musical; there’s no dialogue in this thing at all. Everything is sung. I wanted to make this a “Jesus Christ Superstar” or something like that; old rock operas from the seventies, or “Tommy.” So I thought, who can sing? You know what, Jack Black is a singer. In fact, he’s a great singer.

Marvel.com: That’s crazy. How’d you even get it together? A 50-piece orchestra is not an easy task.

Brendon Small: You know, it’s not. And I do a lot of orchestral scoring on my show because I do all the music and I do all the metal stuff. But then I thought, I had been talking to my buddy Bear McCreary who does “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”; we’d been friends for a while and I had played guitar in a couple of his projects and he was always really complimentary of the music on the show. He said, “You should try to get an orchestra.” And I was like, yeah, wouldn’t that be a great world to live in where I could get an orchestra. So I started talking to him at the top of the year when I was writing all the music and I thought, okay, how much will it cost? Realistically, what is it going to cost me to do this? And he was helpful in guiding me in a lot of ways. And I found out the way to get an orchestra. I just had to pay for it myself and I thought okay, I’m putting out this record myself, I’m putting it out on my own label and I’m gonna put money into it. I believe in this project and even if five people buy it, I think it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done and it’ll be worth losing money over. And that’s gotta be the way I live my life creatively.

The Doomstar Requiem - A Klok Opera

Marvel.com: I noticed Bear’s a fan of “Metalocalypse” as well. Were you friends before all this?

Brendon Small: We met in like the coolest metal way. We were at a dinner with Scott Ian from Anthrax and that’s how I met Bear. I’d known about what he’d done and stuff, I was familiar with his scoring. We had a lot to talk about because we both went to music school and, of course he studied more of the orchestral stuff, but we both studied a lot of composition. We can speak in musical terms and it was kind of easy. We both kind of gravitated towards similar things. I know he and I both like to meander around these augmented chords it’s always kind of theatrical and fun and cinematic. We would talk in those terms and we would hang out and have dinner every once in a while. I would see him at comic cons and stuff like that but we’re always talking to each other about stuff. I think I played guitar in a movie score of his that’s going to come out eventually and I did a little benefit thing with him, a one-off for hurricane victims a while ago. I played some shreddy guitar for him.

Marvel.com: What is it like walking around, being you, with “Home Movies” and “Metalocalypse”? It’s a pretty big deal for a ton of people.

Brendon Small: Well, you know what, I’ve said this many times before. Having a cartoon is very much like not having a cartoon. Nobody really gives a [expletive]. Your face isn’t out there often. Only recently have I done more interviews and [appeared] in ads for kits and guitars and stuff but most people don’t really know who I am. And that goes nicely with my personality because I enjoy privacy and all that stuff. But I’m a lucky guy, that’s the true part of that. I’ve been very lucky to be able to do projects that I want to do and work with a network like [Adult Swim], who I gotta say, this whole one hour long ridiculous rock opera with a 50-piece orchestra, I didn’t get any notes. Not one from the network. They just let me do what I want to do. They like the project a lot, in their defense, but they didn’t give me one note. I’m a lucky guy, that’s the main take away. I’m lucky enough to be able to do the projects that I want to do in a particular fashion.

Venom

Marvel.com: Did you ever read comics?

Brendon Small: I did; you know what, I was really such a visual person as a kid. I took art classes and stuff and found myself gravitating towards comics and just wanting to be able to draw that stuff. I remember I spent a lot of time trying to draw, and I don’t even know what his story was, I was just trying to draw Venom all the time.

I just loved his outfit and thought it was cool. I later realized what his story was and what the suit was and all that stuff but I thought that was just the coolest design in the world. It’s funny because I thought those panels told so much story and it did affect me, but I was definitely a huge fan of all that stuff.

Marvel.com: It sounds like you’re really into the art; obviously with what you’re doing now, were there any artists that you remembered that you enjoyed?

Brendon Small: I’m trying to think. You know what, a lot of what I try to do in “Metalocalypse” comes from these fantastic B-movies in the early 80’s, and even art wise, Filmation stuff, like “Flash Gordon” and “Masters of the Universe.” When putting together the look for “Metalocalypse,” I wanted human proportion and the line weights to be similar and also I want people to be able to hold guitars and fight them so I don’t want have oblong, strange characters. We have to design these outer-space guitars for them. I want them to be of human proportion and so when I saw movies like the Bakshi movies, like “American Pop” and stuff like that, that affected me really strong. And the violence in “American Pop”—there was a scene where someone was being gunned down with a tommy gun and I was thinking, “wow, I’m only seven years only and it was [expletive] violent, and that’s affecting me but it’s [expletive] awesome.” That kind of stuff, “Flash Gordon” the movie, Dino De Laurentiis movies, “Dune” is a huge movie for me. The art direction of that, the art direction of “Flash Gordon,” “Conan the Barbarian,” another De Laurentiis movie, “Barberella,” another De Laurentiis movie. All these movies, I think of them often and in fact, even in the special where I am directly ripping off from these people. It’s art and it’s all that stuff now.

And Thor; in more modern [times], in the last decade or so, this Viking mythos kind of creeps around. And even in the early days, Viking mythology had a lot to do with this so Thor seems like probably the one to apply to metal. Go listen to Amon Amarth and [there are] all these stories of battlefields and burning of boats. A lot of that going on.

Thor

Marvel.com: Back a decade before, it was Black Sabbath and Iron Man and now it’s Thor.

Brendon Small: There’s a lot of that stuff. The cool thing about Sabbath was they were a bunch of geeks who really liked horror movies. That’s where the name of their band came from and they wanted to sing kind of these horror movies. That’s why I think Cannibal Corpse is cool because when I listen to a Cannibal Corpse songs, it’s like I’m listening to a miniature slasher film. You know? [There are] so many different sects and delineation points of metal. There’s Death Metal, you’re going to die. There’s Norse Mythology, “Oh, we pray to a higher god above your Christian God,” with many references to Loki and other stuff. And there there’s Folk Metal, Finnish Folk Metal, which kind of goes back to even Pagan stuff.

Marvel.com: Personally, what do you think about the popular metal stuff that’s out today?

Brendon Small: Well I think there’s some really outstanding stuff. I think some of the guys who started it out, like Metallica, Exodus, and Anthrax, are just as strong as they’ve ever been if not stronger. I [expletive] loved the new Metallica movie, the concert movie. I think the director did such a great job and made probably the coolest concert movie I’ve ever seen and I’m comparing that to “The Song Remains the Same” and Zeppelin and all that stuff. The concert movie was so cool, such a great visual experience, I thought. But other modern metal, I think Slayer is just as great as ever.

Pick up Dethklok’s new album The Doomstar Requiem – A Klok Opera out now. For more from Brendon Small visit his website http://www.brendonsmall.com/ or follow him in Twitter @_Brendonsmall.

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