Brendon Small Reveals What He Learned from Chris Cornell, Names Biggest Challenges of Playing Dethklok Characters

Brendon Small, the mastermind behind the animated show “Metalocalypse” and its fictional band Dethklok, recently looked back on one of his biggest influences as a musician, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. While speaking on “The Metal Mixtape” podcast, Small was asked about what it was like to produce a music video for Soundgarden back in 2010, as well as how the band’s frontman, Chris Cornell, impacted him. Brendon replied (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“Soundgarden is one of my favorite bands of all time, and to be able to do a music video for them was the coolest thing in the world. I did get to meet Chris Cornell and I got to talk to him.”

“I’m really good friends now with Kim Thayil. He’s such a cool guy. Whenever I’m in Seattle, we have dinner. I love him. And we have a very similar sense of humor. And he’s a cool guy.”

Brendon Small Dethklok, Galaktikon, Performing Thunderhorse & Go into the Water @ Wesfest 2013

Going into how Chris Cornell influenced him, Small continued:

“Chris Cornell is one of the best vocalists that ever lived. It’s such a shame that he’s not with us. And I really love what he brought to music.”

“I talked to him a little bit about how he warms up and he goes through all the processes that they tell you, singing and going *brrrr*, all this stuff that you think is irritating.”

“But his whole body is an instrument. And when I sing now, I think about all that stuff. I think about all that technique stuff. And because partially, he told me that it really is real. It really does help you and that guy’s one of the best vocalists, so I should just shut up and listen, you know?”

Partying Around the World

As far as the fictional band Dethklok goes, Brendon is also writing all the music, arranging it, and even kind of blurring the lines between fiction and reality by performing live under this name with a full band.

During the interview, Small also discussed what it’s really like to voice and play all the different characters in “Metalocalypse” and what some challenges are of playing guitar and doing vocal parts live.

After all, the character Skwisgaar Skwigelf has challenging guitar parts while fictional vocalist Nathan Explosion is pretty difficult to pull off as well. And he does all of that live. Small said:

“Well, it was a challenge trying to get the playing and the vocal at the same time. You know, that’s the tricky thing where it’s not natural. I don’t think anyone can naturally do that, unless you’re just magic, or you grew up with a guitar in your hand.”

Dethklok | "Thunderhorse" | Adult Swim Festival 2022

“I was 14 years old by the time I started taking it seriously. So I had to really break everything down into its most simple form where I’m seriously getting so granular into it, like, ‘Is it an upstroke?’ and then my voice comes in on that beat and then it was almost like ‘The Matrix’, bullet time, slow it down — that slow. That’s the only way that I’m gonna be able to get it up and running on stage.”

“Skwisgaar doesn’t speak on stage, but I am doing his guitar. But yeah, doing a lot of different voices on a show. So I do the manager’s, Charles Offdensen, I do lots [of voices]…”

“I’d do less, but that’s only because of the same kind of thing, like, ‘How many voices can I do? How much work can I get done before we start spending money?’ Because I’m always worried about how much money we have.”

The Creators Voices

Of course, covering all of the different voices is a challenge. And Brendon does a lot of them on stage. Nonetheless, as he explained, it’s a fun little challenge for him:

“So there’s that, and also, it’s a really good challenge. It’s a fun voiceover challenge how different can I make my voice sound from Pickles to Nathan, from Pickles to Skwisgaar, from Charles to Nathan, and all that stuff. And then how do I make it sound like they’re different people with different attitudes talking to each other?”

“Another fun thing, but again, watching comedy heroes like Andy Kaufman change his voice or even… Yeah, so all that stuff.”

Dethklok At Adult Swim Festival 2019 Full Set

“So I just think about all that stuff and like, ‘Okay, this is the challenge. How do you make it work?’ You got no budget, no one’s telling you to do this, but it’s a fun challenge, and it keeps your brain always kind of afraid and alive, which is kind of what you have to be all the time—it’s just a little bit fearful and a little bit of… I really wanted to nail it and also to kind of honor the project properly.”

Photos: bill from jersey city (DETHKLOK – Nokia Theatre – 6.25.08 (2613542964)), possan (Chris Cornell Live 2009 (cropped))

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.