For the past six years, Brendon Small worked to deliver closure to the Dethklok faithful. The singer, guitarist, actor, comedian, animator and co-creator of Metalocalypse has tried social media campaigns and pitching an epilogue-like mini-series to Adult Swim in order to enshrine the legacies of Nathan Explosion, Skwisgaar Skwigelf, Toki Wartooth, William Murderface and Pickles in a more satisfying way, all with no luck. Today, Metalocalypse is saddled with the unfortunate fate of so many other great TV shows; a beloved four-season run, capped off with a stopgap series finale that leaves the fate of the primary characters twisting in the wind.
So, naturally, Small had no qualms when Adult Swim contacted him about resurrecting Dethklok for a headlining show at Los Angeles' Adult Swim Festival this November. It will be the first time he and his cohorts take the stage as the flesh-and-blood incarnation of the Metalocalypse band since 2014. This summons up a variety of emotions for the show's diehards; it's exciting to see the group back together, but it's also anxiety-inducing to wonder if this is either a one-night-only tribute, or a sign of something more to come in the future. For now, Brendon Small doesn't have many answers, but he promises to make the most of every step along the way.
SO HOW DID THE BAND GET BACK TOGETHER?
BRENDON SMALL It was really simple. It's a strange thing. I've had a couple conversations with a couple friends, and I just got a feeling that my phone was gonna start ringing. It did. I got a text from a guy I've known for a long time, and he said, "Hey, what do you think about headlining this festival? What would your reservations be?" I didn't have any reservations. I have positive feelings about the whole experience [making the show.] So I said, "No, it sounds like it'd be fun." I love making the music, and recording the music, it was a job but it was also really fun. As far as work goes, I could be working less exciting jobs.
I called Gene Hoglan, [who drums for Dethklok, as well as Testament and others] and asked him if he was available. Gene's attitude is that he loves playing with Dethklok, and when he can, he's always down. Bryan Beller is usually the bass player, but he was about to go on this huge fall tour. Because these guys are real musicians, they set their schedules out nine months in advance. So Beller is like, "I am out, I can't do it, I wish I could. Fuck, fuck, fuck." But he also said that I had his blessing. The same thing happened with [guitarist] Mike Keneally, who's out with Devin Townsend. So I was like, OK, fair enough, if we're going to do this I need to get a commitment from Pete Griffin [who's filled in on bass before] and find a new guitar player. I figured out who that was going to be, because I had just seen her play — it's Nili Brosh. I thought that'd be really exciting to play with her onstage, and I thought it'd be a left turn to have a girl onstage with Dethklok.
This is something nobody knows about, by the way. She's a monster guitar player, she's theatrical, she writes great music, and I know she'll have my back.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT THAT CONVERSATION WAS LIKE, WHEN YOU ASKED HER TO BE A MEMBER OF DETHKLOK FOR A NIGHT?
Yeah, I had that experience I have every once in a while where I feel like Willy Wonka. I had to preface it that the guys I call first are always Beller and Kanealy, but at the same time, if you'll have it, I would love to play with you onstage. She's like, "Fuck yeah." She got very excited.
SO, JUST TO BE 100 PERCENT CLEAR, WHAT'S THE FULL LINEUP FOR THE ADULT SWIM FEST SHOW?
Gene Hoglan. Pete Griffin, who's played in a lot of different stuff. He's been in some side projects with some Mastodon dudes. Nili Brosh, and me.
YOU'VE BEEN TRYING TO BRING METALOCALYPSE BACK IN VARIOUS CAPACITIES SINCE THE END OF THE SHOW. WHAT'S IT FEEL LIKE TO BE AT THIS MOMENT?
I think there's still some confusion about what happened. I felt bad for the fans. For me, I can move on with my life. TV is a combination of a magical gift from the gods, and your worst nightmare. When you get a TV job, the first thing you do is find where all the exits are. So that's that, but I thought the fans got a terrible deal. These people are covered in Dethklok tattoos, and I think the right thing to do is to try and give them some closure. For me, personally, I guess it's a bummer that my financial status will change, but it's not that big of a bummer. When you go into TV, it's a temporary job. You accept that when you go in. I'm not personally bummed out. This is the attitude I have: I'm the luckiest guy in the world that I got to do any of this stuff. I got to become a guitar player, I got to put out my records, I got to meet my heroes, I got to make people laugh and bang their heads at the same time. But it was not for me. Because I felt like I put out a bird feeder, and I stopped putting food in there. Birds were dying everywhere. That's my general feeling. I don't expect show business to have a rhyme or reason. You have to consider it like an erratic god who might crush your project for no reason, or hold it aloft?
SO DO YOU EXPECT TO FEEL ANYTHING PERSONALLY GRATIFYING WHEN YOU TAKE THE STAGE AT THE FESTIVAL?
Yes, without a doubt. I think playing live is really cool because I like to write scripts, jokes and character work, but I have a knack for music at the same time, and I think music can do things that none of those things can do. It's an emotional lightning rod. That's why I respond to music and heavy metal. It's an emotional shortcut into everyone's souls. There's a couple moments in the show that we do where we can get people to laugh, and also be like, "I'm not sure how to feel. Am I supposed to laugh? Am I supposed to take this seriously?" I love confusing people that way.
CAN WE EXPECT ANY NEW VISUALS AT THE SHOW?
We have a budget to put some stuff together, and my goal … I don't even want to tell you my goal because I'm struggling with what's realistic, and I don't want to disappoint anybody. But expect some new things.
AND LASTLY, I HAVE TO ASK, DO YOU THINK THIS HAS OPENED THE DOOR TO ANY NEW METALOCALYPSE STUFF?
That's the question I expected you to ask. Every day I get people like, "What the fuck man? Where's the show?" When I talk to the content guy at Adult Swim, I'm like, "Listen, here's what's going to happen. I'm no dummy, you're no dummy. You bring up the fucking name again, you start talking about getting the band back together, all people are going to ask the question you just asked." He's like, "I understand." I go, "I'm not going to deal with that." The answer is, there's no good answer. I'm not being cute, I'm not being coy, the only thing I know for sure is happening is this concert. What that leads to, is stuff I'm never going to be able to answer, because I haven't a crystal ball, my friend.
IT IS RARE THAT A TELEVISION SHOW CAN PUT ON A CONCERT, AND THAT CAN BE ALMOST AS GOOD AS, LIKE, A NEW EPISODE.
I appreciate you saying that, and that was the point of the project when it started 10 years ago. I was like, "I think I can make this funny, the question is can I put some music together, and package it with great musicians, and have an experience you can't get anywhere else. Can that live on its own?" That's why I said yes to this thing, too. It's just really cool.
Below, listen to Brendon Small talk about his "worst gigs ever" on Revolver's podcast: