“A bunch of different metal influences are welcomed in this doorway. We kind of sneak them into this Dethklok world. From Iron Maiden to what I think is hard rock stuff.” – Brendon Small
Interview by Russell Eldridge, music editor
Brendon Small is one of the main creative forces behind the Adult Swim program Metalocalypse and the band Dethklok (The Dethalbum and The Dethalbum II on Williams Street Records). Small, who graduated the Berklee School of Music in 1997, handles all the instruments in Dethklok except the drums, which are played by Gene Hoglan.
Between his recording sessions for the forthcoming third Dethklok release, due out later this year, I got a chance to talk to Small about warming up, seven and eight-string guitars and his metal influences. Small will bring the animated band to life with a tour in support of Dethalbum III scheduled for the fall. Dethklok plays Atlanta’s Tabernacle on December 8.
Have you ever developed any hand injuries?
Fortunately, I haven’t. I knew some who did in music school: it was attributed to bad playing posture, usually. I had a friend who would arch his hand forward; he could have accessed his guitar in a different way. One of the teachers called it “driving with the brakes on” because your tendons are constantly rubbing against that bone in your wrist.
Do you do any warming up before you play or get up on stage?
Yeah, I warm up for a long time because when I first throw a guitar in my hand my playing is questionable until I get my hands into a relaxed state. Also, something that happens when you play live is you grab the guitar tighter and play harder than you normally would, and that limits your playing and mobility.
I remember being a very nervous fifteen year old in a guitar competition, and just blowing it because I just grabbed on too tight that I strangled the guitar neck and I played too hard. That was my mind getting the best of me. If I can play 30 to 45 minutes and just run scales, I’ll do that to warm up.
A lot of metal bands are using 7 and 8 strings. Have you though of using either for Dethklok material?
You know what? This is really cool. Steve Vai sent me a 7-string because I hadn’t really messed around with one that often. So of all people, Steve Vai sends me a 7-string. I actually used it and I ended up recording with it, so I told Gibson that ‘We’ve got to get a 7-string because I am going to be going on the road and you don’t want me to be playing an Ibanez do you?’ So, I got confirmation this morning that were going to make some kind of 7-string. I don’t know if it’s going to be on the market or if it’s just going to be a one-off for me. The thing is, if I had Dethklok to do all over again, I would have done 7-string stuff or 8-string stuff because you have all the range of a guitar and the extra low B. I tune by 6-string guitars to C standard, and I found a way to make that work for me because I found a good gauge of strings where they still feel like they’re giving enough and pushing back enough. It feels like a standard guitar with .009s or .010s on it. You have to push a little more to bend the G string because it’s wound.
Are there any Death Metal bands that inspire you to write the music in Dethklok?
Yeah, constantly. I listen to Slayer stuff all the time as well as the new Meshuggah and the new Cannibal Corpse. I listen to all that stuff constantly and a lot of it sneaks its way in there. The cool thing about being in a project like Dethklok is that sure it’s a big combination of my influences, but the fun thing about metal is that there are so many different sub-genres within it, and when we’re sitting here working out songs for the new record we have songs that are straight old school like “Seek And Destroy” Metallica stuff. Then, we get into this weird stuff where we’re playing with poly-rhythms and play over times, and then there’s a Slayer moment. A bunch of different metal influences are welcomed in this doorway. We kind of sneak them into this Dethklok world. From Iron Maiden to what I think is hard rock stuff. Then you have tons of metal guitar players. Incredibly sick players like Jeff Loomis. I buy a lot of music and I listen to a lot of it. Right now since we’re about to start recording I have a bunch of different amps and guitars and I’ll start listening to some of my favorite guitarists from Yngwie to Satriani and Vai.