Interview With Brendon Small
Creator of Animated Hit Series Home Movies and Metalocalypse
Master Metal Guitar Player Has New Music Project Galaktikon
L. Paul Mann
Comedian Brendon Small is probably best known as the creator of two of the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim's most successful series, “Home Alone” and “Metalocalypse”. But, among many other creative hats that the multi talented producer wears, is that of a successful rock musician. Dethklok became a real life band after Small created them in the Metalocalypse series, set to begin its eighth season. In his latest live music project, Small brought to life his Galaktikon album, for the annual West Fest concert held recently at the Roxy theater, on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood.
I had a chance to chat with this chameleon of comedy, cartoons, and metal music, and find out what motivates such a prolific creative person to take on so many different jobs. I am paraphrasing for perfunctory purposes but this is essentially what he shared with me about his career, motivation, and plans for the future.
Well known as a stand up comic and cartoon producer, Brendan has always thought of himself “as a guitarist first”. A graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, he met many of the musicians that he would eventually work with during his time there. But first, Brendon would foray into the world of comedy both as an actor and a writer. When he got out of school it was the 90's and grunge rock ruled the airwaves. “I loved Heavy Metal and Classic Rock music and nobody was really listening to this kind of music so I just put my guitar away for awhile.”. He would eventually get a chance to incorporate his real passion (playing heavy metal guitar music) with his first big show business break, the successful “Home Movies”. Brendon was the co-creator, writer, voice actor, composer, and musician for the cartoon, which eventually became a regular show on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim series. The quirky cartoon earned him a classic cult like following. The project definitely “changed my life”, opening up a lot of doors. Small's career took off from this point with a whirlwind of projects, including stand up comedy “hosting the Tomorrow Show, a weekly comedy show at the Steve Allen Theater in Los Angeles, with Ron Lynch and Craig Anton”. He became a go to voice over specialist working on multiple projects. He also played multiple cameo movie roles. His most successful project came in 2006, with the debut of “Metalocalypse”, a cartoon about a heavy metal band called Dethklok. Brendon was able to fully realize his dream of playing heavy metal guitar, as well as doing the writing and voice over for the animated series. Dethklok actually became a live touring band when Brendan enlisted Mike Keneally, Gene Hoglan and Bryan Beller to bring Brendon’s mythical band to life. Much like Steve Martin, a successful comedian who went on to write and perform Grammy award winning music, Brendon was faced with the dilemma of whether people were showing up at his concerts as fans of the music or his persona as portrayed in the animated series. “ Generally I approach all the projects I do as seriously as possible. That way each project stands on it's own merit”. The real life band quickly developed a loyal following. Mike Keneally is a respected rock vocalist, guitar and keyboard player. He was recruited by the legendary Frank Zappa to tour with him in 1988. He was one of few musicians who auditioned who could follow the complicated jazz rock jams led by Zappa. After the untimely death of the famous rocker, Keneally went on to work with a host of experimental rockers and eventually formed his own group. Drummer Gene Hoglan has played in a number of successful metal bands including Opeth, and is known for his improvisational devices to create unique percussion effects. Bassist Bryan Beller, has been a go to Bass player for a number of well known experimental rockers from Steve Vai to Dweezil Zappa and a long time collaborator with Keneally. He has been friends with Brendan since their stint together at the Berklee College of Music. Dethklok became synonymous with the rebirth of Heavy Metal and appeared in animation form at the 2009 Golden God Awards. The band won the best international band award that year. In April 2012, Brendon released his debut solo album, “Brendon Small's Galaktikon”. The album featured Hoglan and Beller, the drummer and bass player from “Dethlok”. But the new album takes a much more melodic turn into classic rock, than the death metal sound of “Dethklok”. “I was always a big fan of bands like Queen, David Bowie or 10CC. I tried to capture their larger than life rock opera sound, but made it my own by adding in elements from the Heavy Metal genre, like the heavier double kick drum sound”. When bassist Bryan Beller was preparing to perform the 8th annual West Fest concert at the Roxy on March 3rd, in Hollywood, he asked Brendon to be part of the event. Beller had been working with the festival since the beginning, an annual event to honor fellow bassist Wes Wehmiller, a fellow Berklee alumni, who met an untimely death from thyroid cancer in 2005. The event raisers funds for a scholarship at the prestigious school, in the name of the former musician. Brendon agreed to play “Galaktikon”, for the first time live at the sold out event. In addition to Small, Keneally, and Beller, the band appropriated an army of guest musicians to help capture the larger than life quality of the rock opera like piece. The band employed no less than six vocalists and and six guitars. “The show went amazingly well considering it was the only time we played together. Usually its takes about five shows to become a cohesive touring band connecting with the audience. But this group of incredible musicians nailed the music and the fans who flew in from all over the country for the show, knew all the harmonies and were singing along. It was a great show.”
Brendon has no immediate plans to take Galaktikon on the road. He is hard at work on the 8th season of Metalocalypse right now. In May he plans to take a month off and get back into his role as a stand up comic. You may even see him perform at his old hangout for his loyal fans at the Steve Allen Theater, in Hollywood. The shows at the tiny theater are legendary, including one all night slumber party. Whatever endeavor this talented musician and master comic chooses to take up next, you know it will be a %100 commitment from his hear and soul. Rock on Brendon!