It ’s not an earthshattering realization, but it’s still a bit unsettling. You see, the Monkees can’t tour or release music as the Monkees unless they get permission from the entity that actually owns the name, the Monkees. The public may envision Micky, Peter, Davy, and Michael as a band, but “the band” was actually a television show, and none of the members of the Monkees actually control the rights to be the Monkees.
What does any of this have to do with Brendon Small?
More than you might think. In 2006, Small created (with Tommy Blacha) the cartoon series Metalocalypse—and the mythical legendary metal band Dethklok—for the Adult Swim network. The popular TV show launched four Dethkolk albums (one, The Doomstar Requiem, a full-blown metal opera), and actual live tours where Small and his band performed Dethklok music for the masses. But Adult Swim owns the rights to Metalocalypse, and when the network tanked the series in 2015, Small was left without the rights to the very thing he created. See? It’s kind of a “Hey, Hey, we’re not the Monkees” scenario.
But, instead of mourning the possible demise of Dethklok, Small went to work on his second solo album, Brendon Small’s Galaktikon II: Become the Storm, which features Dethklok alum Bryan Beller (bass) and Gene Hoglan (drums).
“I don’t think I wrote this album like a Dethkok album,” explains Small, who produced his previous Galaktikon release in 2012 when, perhaps prophetically, negotiations with Adult Swim over a Dethklok album stalled. “I think that after making six albums, my main question to myself was, ‘What haven’t I done in this genre that I’d really like to hear?’ The answer was pulling away from some traditional metal restrictions and blending styles with other musical genres I grew up with. Another thing that happens when you start piling up albums is every time you write a cool song, it means you can’t write that song again—your options are more limited. But I’ve developed a particular sound over the years, and the challenge is to maintain some parts of that style while breathing new life into it. So, for me, Galaktikon II was more about arranging and messing up song structure and form.”
Small tracked the majority of his guitar parts for Galaktikon II in his Los Angeles home studio.
“I used a charcoal-burst Gibson Explorer prototype called ‘Night Horse,’ and my Gibson ‘Snow Horse’ prototype—which is an all-white Explorer with a really fat neck and Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickups,” he says. “Then, there was my original Gibson Thunderhorse prototype with Gibson Burstbuckers. That guitar just sounds the best. For ‘Rebuilding a Planet,’ I played my ’59 reissue tobacco-burst Les Paul, as well as Joe Satriani’s Ibanez JS with a Sustaniac pickup for some fun ‘sustain-y’ moments and harmonies on the song’s breakdown. On ‘Nightmare,’ it was a Keisel DC800 8-string, although the Snow Horse was onboard for the song’s contrapuntal solo. My ’57 goldtop Les Paul appeared here and there for a few quick bits. It was a lot of Gibson and Seymour Duncan on the album. I typically plugged into the Clean channel of my Marshall JVM410JS Satriani Signature along with some pedals—mostly the MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive pedal and the JHS Andy Timmons Signature Channel Drive. I also used a Line 6 Helix for some fun splashy overdubs. I should mention—especially after detailing all this gear—that I think guitarists forget how important the mixing stage is for guitar sounds. I love that I can zero in on guitar frequencies and manipulate them as an album reveals itself to me.”
Although Hogan stated in an interview that Galaktikon II is a Dethklok album that can’t be called a Dethklok album, Small has a different take.
“I was actually in the mindset of the Galaktikon II sci-fi narrative,” says Small. “I had this big, embattled outer-space war story, and the songwriting had to suit the plot. It was like The Doomstar Requiem, in that when you listen to all of this music in the album order, it will tell a story.”