Nathan Explosion, frontman of Dethklok, was supposed to talk to “Caught In A Mosh” this month. As were guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf and drummer Pickles.
But a day before the interview I was informed I wouldn’t get to talk to any of the “Metalocalypse” stars (Toki Wartooth and William Murderface complete the band). Seems Explosion didn’t want to talk to a regular jack-off like me. Skwigelf said “Illinois Entertainer? Sounds dildos.”
I settled for show (11 p.m. Sundays on Cartoon Network) co-creator (with Tommy Blacha) and Springfield, Illinois native Brendon Small, who voices many of the program’s characters (including Explosion, Skwigelf, and Pickles), writes and plays all the music minus drums (he’s a Berklee College Of Music grad), and fronts the touring version of Dethklok.
So instead of asking Dethklok about guitars, last year’s The Dethalbum (Williams Street), murder, fame, and this month’s U.S. tour (June 16th at House Of Blues), I asked the next-best person.
M: When you were younger learning guitar, was it all metal or were you into other things?
BS: I’m into all kinds of stuff. When someone is doing something creative and cool with music, I have tons of . . . like my favorite band of all time is Queen. Brian May is my ultimate guitar hero. I love Queen; I love The Who; I love The Kinks; I love people who are writing interesting music with great melodies. And metal had the thing that had been missing in all kinds of music: the gigantic epic quality. I love faster tempos; I love the way the guitars sound; I just love the sound of the instrument. I can’t believe I still do, but I really love the way the guitar sounds when it’s played really well.
M: You’ll occasionally hear people say “Metalocalypse” is insulting metal fans. But you seem to truly have a love for the genre.
BS: I don’t buy that at all. I think that’s kind of bullshit. I don’t think they’re really watching the show if that’s what they think. Here’s the thing about [“Metalocalypse”]: I’m not trying to convert anybody with this show. It’s a show for people who would like a show like [“Metalocalypse”]. That’s all it is. Basically our show is about celebrity-ism. About how the last 10 years it’s been all about celebrities, and we’re showing five people who can hardly function.
M: And they just happen to be a metal band, right?
BS: Yeah. They’re nearly autistic, like most celebrities are. They can’t do things by themselves. They don’t pay their taxes; they don’t go to jail for three years, all the kind of shit that is happening. They may or may not murder people and get away with it, but these are the celebrities that we’ve been worshipping for the last 10 years, and that’s what the show is about. The show gets to be about metal. That’s the part that’s icing on the cake for me. And metal fans that don’t get it? I don’t hear from them. I hear from the metal fans that are real players that are out there in the trenches playing metal.
M: Proven, I’d think, by the guests [Metallica, King Diamond, Cannibal Corpse included] you’ve had.
BS: Yeah. And the thing about all the guys we have on the show is that they have a tremendous sense of humor. They get it. They know their comedy history. They know their Monty Python; they know their Spinal Tap. Fatsos in chat rooms can talk all they want, but they’ll still be fatsos in chat rooms at the end of the day. [laughs]
M: Has the popularity of the show caught you off guard?
BS: Here’s the thing: It’s in my best interest to have this show be popular because it’s my job, and I want to ensure this job that I like having, sticks around for awhile. This show is basically, the whole thing is [“Metalocalypse”] can live in audio form alone, like on CD, and on TV. I wanted to be able to have different facets of the show existing without TV. Because TV is a huge budget from episode to episode; there is a huge team of people you have to feed and clothe; and if your ratings start slumping massively, if people stop watching, you’re fucked. It’s a big temp job. That’s what it is.
M: So if something happens to the show, there can still be more Dethklok records?
BS: That’s what I’m hoping. Like, if the show gets cancelled, maybe I can keep on making records. Maybe I can keep touring. So I have different things that are the show. There’s the audio version of the show; there’s the live version of the show; and there’s also the TV version, and it’s all Dethklok. That’s kind of the thing I was trying to create. Again, TV is a big glorified temp job and someday the fuckin’ pregnant lady is going to come back to work, and you’re out.
M: Of all the stuff that’s happened as a result of the show and music – magazine covers, song on “Guitar Hero II,” Billboard chart – what would the 16-year-old Brendon think is the coolest?
BS: I think I got voted like Newcomer Of The Year in Guitar Player magazine, which is like, that’s better than an Emmy as far as I’m concerned.
The coolest thing about the entire show, though, I think, is the whole guitar thing. Just the fact there’s an endorsement deal from Gibson. I’m just a big Gibson geek, Line 6, Krank Amps, just getting to talk to these guys. Just cool shit like that. It’s one of those things where I don’t think I’d give a fuck about any endorsement. There have been some people come to us with like, “How about a shampoo endorsement?” I don’t give a fuck about shampoo. But guitars? Those I like to use. Guitars are cool. Pedals are cool. Amps are cool any day of the week. I’m sure we could get a lot of money from doing a big McDonald’s crossover. Who knows? Maybe someday they’ll put up an offer we can’t refuse. But right now, I’d never want to do it. But, money can talk me out of anything. So how about that for artistic integrity? Or as Nathan Explosion said, not to quote myself, “Though I do not believe this is the right thing to do artistically, I do, however, believe that this is the right thing to do financially.”
OUT SOON: I listened to Withered‘s Prosthetic debut, Folie Circulaire (June 24th), on three different audio systems and still can’t hear the damn vocals. I don’t mean I couldn’t understand them (though, I couldn’t); I mean I could barely hear them, a shame when Napalm Death‘s Barney Greenway guests on two songs (“The Fated Breath” and “Clamor Beneath”). Maybe the group and producer Phillip Cope wanted to make sure the absolutely brutal guitars were front-and-center, and I can’t blame them because they rattle the innards. Prosthetic scored last year with Skeletonwitch and their blackened thrash and might do it again with Withered, who apply a similar crusted char to dramatic doom metal.
DOIN’ IT FOR THE KIDS: Too many bands are too happy to become a nostalgia act when they reach a certain point in their careers, rolling out the same setlists to the same crowds at the same venues. Iron Maiden ain’t. In an attempt to reach youngsters uneducated in the band’s rich history, Maiden made their entire best-of-’80s compilation, Somewhere Back In Time (New Door/UME), available for free download last month just ahead of the official CD release May 13th. After downloading all 15 tracks (Ironmaiden.com) you get three full listens before it expires, at which time you’re given the option to upgrade and purchase the album.
– Trevor Fisher