by John Wenzel on June 11, 2008
Brutally punishing music and morbid, blood-soaked imagery is rarely the stuff of cartoons and comedy — unless you’re a “Metalocalypse” fan. That tongue-in-cheek (or more accurately, tongue sticking out of bloody-hole-in-
cheek) show on Adult Swim entered its second season last month, a testament to the growing market for metal in particular and the comedy / underground music overlap in general.
We recently spoke with co-creator Brendon Small (“Home Movies”) in advance of Thursday’s show at the Gothic Theatre featuring “Metalocalypse” protagonists Dethklok, the most powerful metal band in the world — and one that doesn’t physically exist outside “Metalocalypse” — about recreating fake bands, the success of the program and the unglamorous rigors of producing an animated TV show.
Last year the live version of Dethklok played a few dates behind its “Dethalbum,” which became the highest-charting death metal album on Billboard. Were you expecting that response?
That’s the power of TV. If I had put that record out just by itself it would have died a thousand deaths. Also, there wasn’t a show before that catered to this audience. It’s something we lucked into. A lot of people don’t realize that metal is a very popular thing except in America, and even in America it’s gaining popularity. It’s the right time for metal.
Does that explain why “Metalocalypse” is one of Adult Swim’s most popular shows?
Well, my whole goal was to make this show be alive in different ways so when it gets canceled I’ll have a way to do other things. Because TV is the ultimate temp job. So when (co-creator) Tommy (Blacha) and I came up with it, our kind of metal dream show would have a record and be able to tour live. So if it gets canceled, we can put out records. They’re cheaper to do than the production costs of the show — which is a lot of money. My goal was like, “Let’s keep the show alive and help it find the audience.” We put a lot of work into it. I also realized at the beginning of the show that it was an infomerical to sell a record.
What’s the live setup for Dethklok, and what fans can expect to see? Is it similar to Gorillaz, where the band performs behind a screen?
The four of us in the band, we’re not supposed to be Dethklok, but we’re recreating the sound of the album, and then above us is a movie theater-sized screen with a whole show being projected. There’s a little bit of story, some comedy — it just keeps moving right along. I wanted it to feel like a Universal Studios ride, or a big stupid Disneyland ride, except it’s a multimedia thing with murder and metal. I don’t think you even have to like metal to enjoy it. But I didn’t want to embarrass the audience by dressing up like (“Metalocalypse” character) Nathan Explosion.
What’s your day-to-day role in the series like?
I’m usually doing one of a few things. I’m either writing a script, re-rewiring a script, fixing audio or recording new audio with Tommy, or looking at different episodes at different stages of production. Some are in animatic, some are in early animation or audio edit. You just bounce around from episode to episode. Someone’s hounding me constantly for music. Today I have a song due for a future episode, so that’s what I have to do after this. Our philosophy of the show is that it’s pretty much totally alive and going to be edited like crazy. It can turn into a mess at times, and sometimes we’re totally on course and sometimes totally off. But I’m always busting ass to get something done.
For more information on Thursday’s Dethklok show, check out the Gothic Theatre online.