Dethklok has emerged as the greatest band in the world. They are 100 times more influential than the Beatles, with an impact that makes followers commit suicide when an album is delayed. Their loyal fan base is willing to sign an injury-death waiver before watching them perform.
Such imaginative ideology is credited to Adult Swim’s late-night animated series “Metalocalypse,” which revolves around the semi-fictional American-Scandinavian death-metal band Dethklok.
The cartoon band was created in 2006 by Brendon Small with friend Tommy Blacha, a writer for “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and “Da Ali G Show.” The live band is now touring in support of their late-September release of “Deathalbum II.”
“Having the second album out, it’ll be some new music with the same kind of thing, kind of, but it’s ultimately a little story with some comedy and switching instruments,” Small said in a phone interview from a Holiday Inn in Alberta, Canada. “It’s built to be like a big stupid Universal theme park ride, but it’s ultimately about the audience and they’ll hear music that’s designed to sound like the record.”
Learning guitar at 13, graduating from Berklee College of Music in 1997 and taking comedic writing courses at Emerson College has equipped Small with diverse skills.
The jack-of-all-trades, Small is the voice behind Dethklok’s lead guitarist (Skwisgaar Skwigelf), drummer (Pickles), and vocalist (Nathan Explosion). When touring, Small is the live band’s vocalist and guitarist, and composes and arranges all of the band’s music.
“I start writing songs immediately after one script is done for the next script,” Small said. “If the last song was at a fast tempo, then the next will usually be slow. Then I’ll write 45 seconds of a riff to dress it up in the studio with rhythm and bass parts. Then I take them home and it’s me behind a computer with my guitar in my lap. I do the keys, vocals and guitar solos there.”
Writing a number of songs for the show, now in its third season, Small said he picks out what feels right for final arrangements.
“If it sucks I’ll scratch it or spend more time on it and plow through,” Small said. “I often make decisions on the fly and it becomes a bag of tricks. But after music school, I’m able to develop variations and feel the range of what Dethklok is.”
“Deathalbum I,” released in 2007, has 21 songs, and the recent “Deathalbum II” has 12 songs. Small said he took some different approaches to record the new album with producer Ulrich Wild (Pantera, Deftones, Breaking Benjamin).
“What was I thinking? 21 songs! Why did I work so hard? The newer songs were longer, they took trajectories and that made them cool,” he said. “They encompass and take it to a place where it’s fun to listen to and function as logic on its own time.”
While immersing himself in Swedish and Finnish death metal bands, Small said he sometimes takes a break and listens to lighter rock.
“I’ll do the opposite and cleanse my palette with bands like Van Halen and Jeff Beck, and sometimes venture into the Steely Dan world,” he said.
With his 1999-2004 UPN television network and Adult Swim series “Home Movies” canceled after four seasons, Small said he now feels more secure with “Metalocalypse” through touring live as Dethklok.
“TV is volatile and precarious when your show can be taken away from you,” Small said. “The cost of a TV show is much more than doing a record, four or five times more. If the show is ever canceled maybe the band would continue. It’s not a brand new formula, I’m just doing it again.
For a guy who likes to play guitar in front of thousands of screaming people, it wouldn’t be bad.”
Small said he is excited to be co-headlining their current tour alongside Mastodon with supporting bands High On Fire and Converge.
“There’s a reason all these bands are on the same bill,” he said.
“Mastodon sticks out as a sore thumb because they’re doing something different. They can sound that cool and write songs where the first three chords stick out where you can say ‘Oh, that’s Mastodon.'”
Between working on his own projects, Small has performed cameo roles in a number of shows: “Let’s Fish,” “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” “Frisky Dingo,” “The Venture Bros.,” “Ergo Proxy,” “Reno 911,” “Hey Monie” and “New Apartment.”
Small said he plans to continue the nonstop work of composing, writing and acting for “Metalocalypse” while on the bus during Dethklok’s tour.
“All day I’ll download animations and write from the road, and when I step off the bus I’ll be right back in the studio to manhandle the TV show,” Small said. “What I’d like to do is take half a year off before I pull a Dave Chappell and go to Africa. Although the concentrated work is rewarding, in the future my ultimate project would be a vacation.”
Dethklok will turn their fictional fury into reality on tour this fall with a stop on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at Lifestyles Community Pavilion.