Brendon Small Talks Third Season Of Metalocalypse
Band Photo: Dethklok (?)
The animated quintet of destruction and mayhem Dethklok has returned for a third season of Metalocalypse, which was recently released on Blu-Ray and DVD. Besides offering ever more brutality and new ways to kill innocent bystanders, the show also switched from a 15 minute format to a half hour for extra blood and metal. Metalocalypse master mind Brendon Small spoke with me about what goes into making an episode of the show, the brutality of visiting the DMV, and his upcoming new project with Gene Hoglan and Bryan Beller.
xFiruath: The new season of Metalocalypse just came out on DVD. Which guest musicians did you use this time around?
Brendon: Well first off the big difference between this one and the last one is that it’s Blu-Ray. It’s really cool to showcase the art in high def, because the artists work so hard on the show, they’re working overtime. And our show in particular art-wise does something a lot of shows don’t do because our staff is so talented. We really change the art up from episode to episode. You’ll notice on shows like the Simpsons it’s pretty much the standard stuff every episode, but we go to different locations constantly. In this season we have members from Enslaved, Ace Frehly, Slash, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, just a bunch of people. They weren’t all necessarily from the metal world but definitely heroes of mine and influenced me in a lot of ways.
xFiruath: It seems like there has always been some amount of commentary in the show, but in this season it’s going a lot towards the state of the recording industry and bands getting too big. Is that something you were actually trying to make a statement about, or was it just a gentle poking fun for laughs?
Brendon: The truth is that the music industry is in a really, absurdly bad place, and they’d be the first to tell you that. There’s a moment in the first episode where your noticing record stores you love to go to closing down. There’s a great one in Hollywood I loved to just browse and flip through records and stuff. People like to do it online, but it’s not the same thing. I think a lot of people will miss that and I don’t even know if that was a joke, it was just commenting that that was happening. On bands getting too big, a lot of things have been getting too big, not just bands. The past three years the whole economy is so screwed up and we tried to run that through Dethklok and see how it would affect them.
xFiruath: I’ve been wondering about how much control you have over the direction of the show. When you are putting episodes together and you’ve got scenes with really brutal deaths or nudity, do you ever get any backlash and requests to tone it down?
Brendon: It’s funny you’d say that because of this season. The first season was pretty brutal and bloody and I think that was the season where we did what we wanted to do. The second season everybody, the directors and art staff and myself included, we started trying to top ourselves. Somewhere in the second season the network said “Hey, can you tone it down?” We said, “we’ll I see what you’re saying but it’s a cartoon and we love horror movies and all that stuff.” But they said that personally it made them sick. So we sat there and said it was a big part of our show, but we’re in a partnership. Anything you see in season three that is bloody or gruesome, that’s something we snuck in there. Again, we’re in a partnership and we’re not totally autonomous, though they give us amazing creative control and content. There’s some stuff that’s more exciting to them than other things. I think we’re all creatively satisfied. As far as nudity, you don’t get to see it. In one episode you have allusions to a man eating a baby, but then you don’t see two people having consensual sex. But that’s how it is, until we move to the south of France. It is basic cable and not HBO or anything.
xFiruath: After watching the season I have to wonder if there’s a member of the crew who has a debilitating fear of dentists and doctors.
Brendon: There is an episode that was pretty gruesome, I think that was one of the more disgusting things I’ve ever seen on the show with the teeth and all that stuff. We can’t put a bullet through someone’s head but we can show real dental craziness. But that was one of the original concepts of the show. How to attack the show writing-wise was a twofold thing. One was that here was a show, not necessarily about metal, but about celebrities who are inept. It was a reaction to celebrity TV and reality shows, where we are watching people who were born in America and can’t conjugate verbs and don’t know what day it is or don’t know how to do anything for themselves. So we said, what if that was someone we really liked, like a metal band. In this season I think it really comes through that it’s about celebrities. In fact one episode is about how they can’t make their own dinner. So there’s that and then the second part is about metal. What is death metal? Death metal is about the fact that you are going to die, and that’s brutal. “Brutal” is a big part of metal. But there are other things that every single one of us in the world experience every single day that aren’t necessarily death, but it’s pretty fucking brutal. Like going to the DMV, flying coach, commuting in traffic, going to the dentist. So that’s why those kinds of things find their way into the episodes.
xFiruath: What sort of special features did you put into the release of season three that didn’t make it into the show?
Brendon: Our special features have always been possibly the most ridiculous, absurd, and stupid features you’ll ever find on a DVD. I’d put that against anything. It’s just about the dumbest things in the world, but they are entertaining at the same time. In these special features basically what we’re trying to avoid is showing exactly how we make the show and turning the camera on to show a bunch of pasty white guys talking about how they do stuff. If you want to read this article you might find out a few things, but we don’t want to put that on the DVD. I think the less you know, the more interesting it is. We put on things like Nathan Explosion reads more Shakespeare. You’ve got 45 minutes of Nathan Explosion reading. We kind of turn the camera on a character and look at it like a fly on the wall and see how they behave. Nine times out of ten it’s absurd and weird, and then it’s funny, then it’s disinteresting, and then it’s weird, and then it becomes funny. It’s a challenge to make it through them.
xFiruath: You just mentioned how you don’t like to shed too much light on the processes so you might have shot me down here, but I’m interested in what programs you guys use for animating.
Brendon: Oh that’s fine, I can talk about that stuff. It’s a very simple process. We pretty much don’t use any paper at all. It’s all computer, except for Songgu Kwon, who is our character designer. He’s the only one who really uses paper, and he’s an amazing character designer. He works on paper and then they scan in it. Everything else is pretty much done in Flash, Photoshop, or After Effects. Sometimes we even do some camera moves with Final Cut Pro. So that’s pretty much it. Our whole thing is that if you have cool looking characters and cool looking backgrounds, try to animate them as little as possible. Maybe just have their mouth move and let the art do its own work. My personal philosophy is less is more.
xFiruath: You’ve got a side project with Gene Hoglan. What’s going on with that right now?
Brendon: That’s what I’m doing this fall. I’m in between directing some music videos. I directed the Soundgarden video that just came out called “Black Rain” and I’m directing a video for Scott Ian’s project called The Damned Things. While I’m doing that I’m finishing this project with Gene Hoglan and Bryan Beller. Dethklok gets to be brutal and dark, and this get’s to be pretty dark. There’s double kicks and sweep arpeggios, but it’s a little bit more melodic in the vocals. It’s a concept album and it’s going to be finished by the end of this year. If you like the Dethklok stuff you’ll like this.
xFiruath: Have you been to any good live shows lately?
Brendon: I’ve not seen that much this fall, but what I have seen was Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax. That was an amazing show. Megadeth did “Rust in Peace,” which is a great record. Slayer was great, I couldn’t believe how fucking loud they were. I saw Mastodon, we toured with them last year and I got to see them again. I’ve been working on these other projects so I haven’t gotten out that much this fall. I’m missing a great show that I’m upset about, Dimmu Borgir and Enslaved are playing out here. I’m a big fan of both of theirs, but I’ll be in Australia doing promotion for the new Blu-Ray.
xFiruath: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss about the show?
Brendon: The other thing to note about this season is that we challenged ourselves to do half hour episodes instead of quarter hour, and what makes me proud about this season is that we really get to explore character. We get to put the camera on the character for a longer amount of time and each of the band mates can tell their own stories and back stories. You get to find out why Toki has this bond with Dr. Rockzo, the rock and roll clown. You get to find out how Skwisgaar grew up and kind of cool stuff like that you didn’t get to see in the other episodes. We get to grow the characters a little bit more and see what they are really all about. That’s what excites me as a writer about the show.
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