Brendon Small is the mastermind behind Adult Swim’s hit TV series “Metalocalypse” and the virtual band that has spawned from it Dethklok. It has been 15 months since the close of the fourth season for “Metalocalypse”. With fans wanting more after the cliffhanger from the finale, we finally get “Metalocalypse: The Doomstar Requiem- A Klok Opera”. The special is a one-hour rock opera featuring a fifty-piece orchestra. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Brendon again to discuss the music behind “The Doomstar Requiem” and the future of “Metalocalypse”.
Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your decision to turn “Metalocalpyse” into a one-hour rock opera featuring a fifty-piece orchestra?
Brendon Small: I had been toying with the idea of a rock opera going back to season three. You can see there is an episode called “Rehabklok”. It is what we called a troubled episode. We have one every once in a while were the humor isn’t working or the story isn’t tracking. So usually what I will do is go in and up root the story and try and fix it and sometimes that is done through music. So for this case I decided to write everything that this character was going through with the subtext and text and make it into a miniature rock opera. So I really like that. I grew up on musical theatre. Two of my two favorite things are music and stories. So if you can combine the two of them then for me that is a really fun place to play around in. This is part comedy, part super drama and part action, which is what “Metalocalpyse” is, so I thought it was be fun to make to really dark and really stupid and tell the story of the rescue of Toki Wartooth.
MG: How did you end up collaborating with Emmy winning composer Bear McCreary?
BS: I met Bear at a dinner a few years ago at the dinner with Scott Ian of Anthrax. I was familiar with Bear from his work on “Battlestar Galactica”. I studied a little bit of film scoring back when I was in school, so it was something that I always wanted to do. I do a ton of scoring with “Metalocalpyse” but nothing with string or bass stuff. So I always wished that I could make it sound better. Bear had liked the music from “Metalocalpyse” a lot. He usually has big budgets to play with so he can conduct a 90 piece orchestra on an NBC show. I work in cable cartoons and there is no budget for orchestral stuff. TV shows are weird since you are not in complete control of how long they are on which is up to the network. But I knew I had a shot to this one thing and I wanted to do it right and find a way to afford an orchestra. So I called up Bear and tried to get some price quotes and find out the cheapest way to do this in order to make it sound like a movie. So we went back and forth but ended up finding a way to do it. For the first time ever, I put my own money up for a TV special because I thought that it was important for me musically and that it would be an interesting project. I am not sure if I am going to make the money back but I think it was worth a shot.
MG: Give us an idea about your development process?
BS: The most important part for me is the writing and discussion behind what is going to happen on the show. In this case, it is a one-hour long special. So what I did was that I sat with Mark Brooks and Janine Ditullio, the co-writers, in a room for about two weeks. I came to the table with a bunch of the story already planned out including the big flashback for Toki. I wanted to pick up where Dethklok left off but make them have a story of selfishness, selflessness and the feeling of being brothers. After those two weeks, we developed on that and came out with a 15-page outline. I had an idea of what I wanted to music to sound like. In one part, I related to “Jesus Christ Superstar” and then the next part I was thinking about “Les Miz”. There was even a part where I thought about Annie when she went to live with Daddy Warbucks and that was energy and emotional behind that part. I took that and went into my own studio and figured by April 15th I had to have an hour long opera written and I did. In fact, it was much easier than I thought it would be. It was the easiest music to write since I knew what was the emotional center was of each piece and that indicates what the tempo is and so on. I just wanted to keep your ear excited the whole time you were listening. The other thing I like to do when I write music is that when it is over you want to listen to it again. I want to be an audience of the audience as well. I want to be able to enjoy it myself as if I am listening to somebody else’s music.
MG: Where you concerned about delivering this different kind of sound for the series?
BS: That is the thing, I think that people that are familiar enough with the show. They know that Dethklok music is not the only music that shows up in the show. There is Toki’s world, Snakes N’ Barrels, Dr. Rockzo and just stuff that has nothing to do with heavy metal at all. I love metal but I also have an iPod that is always on shuffle. The way that I have always worked with the music on the show is that when Dethklok doesn’t have a song playing it is something that is contradicting to metal, so that the metal sounds heavier when it is on. So if I were to make a full rock opera with a full piece metal band the ear will get fatigued and it wouldn’t work. What I need was a little demarcation end points, a little rest and a few different styles of music to keep your ear excited and for you to keep it on a loop. I wanted to write an album that you leave in your CD player for month. So I think that contradicting stylistically or tempo-wise has always been the easiest thing to do and has always worked when I was writing. So no, this might not be what Dethklok sounds like but it is what “Metalocalpyse” sounds like. I wanted to make sure that people know that this is not a Dethklok album, this is a “Metalocalpyse” rock opera with a 50-piece orchestra.
MG: How was it working with special musical guests like Jack Black?
BS: When I did this thing I didn’t want to be limited by anybody’s range, so you will notice that I did about 95% of the whole thing myself. I wrote for my range of vocals. I can make a lot of different sounds with my voice. So I did everybody from Ishnifus Meaddle to Magnus Hammersmith to Nathan Explosion, Skwisgaar Skwigelf, Pickles and William Murderface. I did all their voices and sang all their songs. I wanted to make sure I had some other voices here and there like Raya Yarbrough, who did Abigail’s voice. Malcolm McDowell and Mark Hamill were in there since I wanted to populate it with a couple of other people. I am able to mask my voice pretty well but at some points you can hear that it is the same guy, which is fine though. Jack Black is an insanely talented superstar. He has got one of the coolest rock voices out there. He really does. I think Tenacious D’s music is some of the best. He was really cool and just completely got the idea of this project. That is also what I love about Tenacious D is that they have this sort of rock opera mixed style with classic rock. I gave him a clip of what he would be doing and I thought it was cool because it reminded me of Andrew Lloyd Webber and classic rock on the vocals. After listening, he drove right over and went into the studio and just belted it out his part and was just super fun to work with.
MG: Many people were speculation this would be the end of “Metalocalyse” but we got left with a cliffhanger, so is it safe to assume we have more to come?
BS: It is funny because I have a Twitter account and I was just laughing watching people say how sad that this was going to be the last episode. I was sitting there thinking that maybe they knew something that I didn’t [laughs]. This is not the last episode of the show. It does have the word “requiem” in it, which is like the end of something. It is very much the end of a few characters since there are a few important deaths in this special. It is “The Doomstar Requiem”, which is a big part of where the story continues from this point and I needed to introduce that. Basically this whole one hour special was to address how we ended things with season four and this was the solution. The whole story was to take these narcissistic assholes and have them care about each other and that was the whole show from the very beginning. You watch from the first episode, they claim to not care about anything and slowly started to in season three and four. They are constantly fighting themselves. It’s their head vs. their heart, the whole time. So it is funny that people made up that scenario online. I am lucky always if I get another season and as that is not always up to me. All I can do is back the project that I have sold and in this case it was “The Doomstar Requiem” and of course I have more story to tell but I couldn’t fit it all in there. But there is still more to come! So if you want to support Dethklok and want more in the future, be sure to purchase the album on iTunes and spread the word!