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Transcribed by Eric Alexander Moore
In this episode, I’ve got Brendon Small of Metalocalypse, Home Movies and Galaktikon. This interview was recorded at Brendon’s home studio in September of 2017. You might notice this is my second podcast interview with him, and this time we got into a lot of tech talk about his comedy and storytelling writing process during Metalocalypse and other stuff. I loved this talk and we both had a lot of fun. What an okay guy that Brendon Small is.
Anyway, here we go. Are you ready? Brendon Small.
CK: So, I think you’re the first person to appear on my podcast twice, so-
BS: Oh really? Oh thanks, man.
CK: … congratulations Brendon Small.
BS: I made it back. I made the cut.
CK: The Brendon Small Band. To celebrate, I’ve decided to ask all the same questions as last time.
BS: Oh perfect. Maybe some stuff’s changed.
CK: I’m hoping that you have your story straight.
BS: This is how you break somebody down. Keep asking them the same questions over and over again. Eventually they’ll go, “You know what? I did it. Send me to jail.” You may hear a little bit of jingle bells over on your couch. That’s just because I have some jingle bells over there.
CK: There are jingle bells over here.
BS: Yeah. I think I have that somewhere. I think I made Gene play those in Galaktikon. I wanted the Phil Spector wall of sound, shoot-a-lady, murder-a-person sound.
CK: We can get into the whole trumpet flute thing that you’re doing on the side as well.
CK: Walking in here, one of the things I noticed maybe the first time I came here was that Flash Gordon poster.
BS: Oh, yes.
CK: And I did see a reference to it in a recent interview you did. There was some little … it doesn’t matter, but there was a little block of a quote from you and it said something like, “I maybe would have never gotten into music if it wasn’t for Flash Gordon,” something like that.
I was in the theater when I was six years old seeing that movie, and that’s a gift from Bryan Beller, by the way, that Flash Gordon framed thing.
CK: I got the same gift from him. That’s so weird.
BS: He gives everybody that. He’s got a whole trunk full of them. He gave me that knowing that I love the folly of the movie, the music, of course, by Queen, and just Dino De Laurentiis as well as a producer who made these fantastic, weird, cheap but interesting sci-fi movies. It’s amazing that he did Barbarella, Flash Gordon, King Kong, Dune, or Raffaella De Laurentiis, I guess, but it’s all in the Laurentiis family. So stuff that really penetrated my brain when I was a kid. And the entry point for me was Flash Gordon but all those other movies, too, were really interesting to me. Barbarella, I think I said that, but-
CK: And also Barbarella.
BS: Yeah, and Barbarella, which is a movie that’s a difficult movie to get through these days.
CK: No, but there is a-
BS: Aesthetically totally interesting.
CK: Aesthetically. I was going to say that there is continuity between those movies. They have outrageous costumes.
BS: They’ve got crazy costumes.
CK: And all that stuff. And the look of the movies are very distinct.
BS: Without a doubt. Yeah, there’s some kind of art direction. Maybe they used the same art director. I didn’t get deep enough into it, but that excited my mind as a kid, so I thought that was probably … I couldn’t believe how cool the music was. I couldn’t believe that … What a position to put your movie into where the opening theme song, the Flash Gordon theme song happens, with all those comic book pieces that are stretching across the screen, shifting from left to right, that the movie was going to have to follow that, that opening sequence. What a position to put yourself into when you’ve got Freddie Mercury and Brian May and all this crazy stuff. Now your movie, now you’ve got these actors that have to kind of pick up where Queen just left off and try to pick up the pieces and make this movie work somehow. It’s insane, but it does. It’s not a perfect movie. It’s a hero’s journey and I think we all know what it is.
CK: But it was sort of considered camp at the time, right?
BS: Totally campy, and it’s not that I only like camp but I also like camp, and I’m in the middle of prepping for a music video right now and there’s a lot of that in it.
CK: Oh good.
BS: So we’re taking a lot of the … The whole idea is … I mean, I’m sure you’ve heard of Dogme 95. Do you know what that is?
CK: I know that phrase. I don’t know what it means.
BS: So for listeners who don’t know what it is, Lars von Trier, the Norwegian director who did Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark and Antichrist and all kinds of really experimental, interesting movies, he and his filmmaker buddies, and I think it was in the ’90s or maybe early 2000s, they decided to have this … to enforce limitations, because there are so many options … I mean, for you being a filmmaker and a musician, you know that we can lose our minds, never ending with options and I just made a record where I lost my mind with never-ending options, but they enforced this thing called Dogme 95 which is a filmmaking process which is you only shoot on video, you can only edit in camera from take to take, you have to commit to the take and then move on.
CK: I feel like maybe we talked about this in the last podcast.
BS: Maybe we did. Yeah, we very well could have. Anyway, I’m trying to do the same thing with this video, with limitations, but only things that could be achievable in 1978. And so I don’t know if I’m calling it De Laurentiis 78 or Corman, Roger Corman 78, but something along those lines where I’m going to make a sci-fi video and I’ve actually been prepping it for months at this point because my brother works in makeup effects and he’s building a huge amount of stuff which I’ll show you afterwards.
CK: That’s true, and I do want to ask you about that topic as well. That’s here in the questions. But sorry to cut you off, we were talking about something. The other thing that I notice when I’m in here is now we have two references to Buckethead.
CK: There’s only limited wall space in a space usually and you’ve chosen to have a poster of Buckethead.
BS: I bought that poster … I wasn’t at that show. I just thought the art was cool. I love that it’s a Buckethead poster and maybe you’ve seen it in the background of my studio things in the past, little videos I’ve done here, and I saw that poster when I was at South by Southwest and I just thought I like this poster. I think Buckethead’s a great guitar player and a totally interesting, mysterious force of nature, and-
CK: But I mean that poster could have easily been something else with the wall space that’s available.
BS: Yeah, why that? Yeah. Because I hung it there and I didn’t want to move it again.
BS: The more important wall fixture I have is probably my dry erase board, which has got Steve Agee’s record that we’ve been working on plastered on it, which we finished, I think we finished. It says “done” after everything.
CK: It does, except for one of those things.
BS: I use the dry erase board like crazy from organizing music, organizing story, organizing all kinds of stuff like that, but it’s really helpful for me to visualize, and I notice in a writers’ room it’s really helpful for me to get from the beginning to the ending of a project, just visualizing just little sentences and stuff. What else are you looking at?
CK: I saw some sort of little statue with horns.
BS: Yeah, there’s a little statue. Like I said, my brother works in makeup effects, but he made this. I guess I just gave up on finding a place for this.
CK: Oh, I see it now.
BS: So this is a weird hedgehog kind of a thing that looks like something from Mr.-
CK: I’m scared that you’re holding it with one hand. It worries me.
BS: Yeah, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Oh, good. I like that I have that power. But yeah, I’ve not found a place for it. It’s a big piece of stone that he sculpted.
CK: So you mention your brother is into doing puppets and sculptures and special effects and things like that.
BS: Yes. That’s how he makes his living. Yeah.
CK: What? No.
CK: Now, I remember years ago I was at Steve Allen Theater and there was sort of a private screening or something of sort of an evil muppet type of a short horror film, and you did a little bit of scoring for it.
BS: I did it because my brother was doing this movie. It was kind of a crazy thing, a really cool idea, but executed in a way that I think needed a little more … needed to be cooked a little bit longer, but the cool idea-
CK: I think it was an early edit or something. I don’t know what it was.
BS: I think it was an early edit, and-
CK: Trying to get funding for it or something like that.
BS: Yeah, yeah. That was something that he didn’t completely own himself and then kind of got lost in … but it was a really cool idea and I hope that someday he can get it back and make it work. But I said I’d do some music for it. It’s like there’s the longest sequence of muppets chasing each other and I’m sitting there over my keyboard going, “I don’t know how much longer I can build tension. All the tension’s used up.”
CK: So it seems obvious you are … You’ve done Metalocalypse, you do music, you’ve been involved with the animation industry cartoons. What’s stopping you from getting into more film scoring? Is that something you’re interested in?
BS: You know what? I don’t chase that at all. I think it’s really cool and I would love an opportunity, but I want to do other stuff before I do that stuff, and I think it’s great and I think I’d be able to score a film well, and I have friends that are really good at that stuff and better than me at it, but I have not really chased that down. There was a time where I think an agent was pursuing me to come and write some stuff and I think I was just so knee-deep in Metalocalypse that I couldn’t … And they had a lot of guys that were kind of guitar guys, that were orchestral guys and stuff like that, but I didn’t really hunt it down and I think it’s a pretty crazy business to do a ton of work and make not as much as you can make, money-wise.
CK: Well, as you said in a previous interview, you could be making 100 bucks a year making cartoons, so why bother with-
BS: [inaudible 00:11:16]
BS: Yeah. Have you ever thought about scoring films?
CK: Yeah, yeah, I thought about it.
CK: All the time now for the past couple of years.
BS: Yeah. Now what do you do, right? Now that you’ve been thinking about it, what’s the next step?
CK: Just do something else, is the-
BS: Do something else, yeah.
CK: Step two.
CK: I do want to ask you about that as actually the next question, is do you ever feel a conflict between investing your time and energy in these different worlds of comedy and music? Because now you seem to be really involved in the band thing, or the making your record.
BS: Right, this year’s more about Galaktikon for me, and Galaktikon is also … it’s not just music to me, it’s also … Well, it’s me kind of just rebranding everything since Metalocalypse finished. I just started slapping this logo on everything. So right now I’m holding up my gig bag for the Epiphone [inaudible 00:12:07]-
CK: It’s a gigantic, white, triangular-
BS: It’s a huge, white, gig bag that says Galaktikon on it, and I just knew that I was probably going to … I just wanted to create a project that I didn’t have to worry about someone else owning. I wanted to keep making music that I thought was interesting in that genre, and I wanted to also kind of expand the narrative form, so I made this record that’s an expanded narrative and then I got together with Eric Powell who is known for The Goon, which is a great comic book series on Dark Horse, and he has his own comic book company. He called me at the top of the year and he said, “I see you’re putting out this record. Is this record a comic book series?” And I said, “You know, this new one, I don’t want to do it as a comic book series right now.”
But the previous record, Galaktikon I, the first one, is a really interesting intergalactic divorce story that’s a comedy in nature and it’s got space lawyers and stuff like that, and space litigation and people repossessing people’s unpaid creditor, space creditors and stuff like that. So I started getting into that and I said, “You know what? That’s really funny and that’s interesting to me and I can tell that story in comic book form.” So we’re kind of rolling that out as the year continues. So, that is comedy and music all put together, so I don’t know, I don’t want to just do one thing. I get bored very easily. I really like being in a writers’ room but I also like being outside of a writers’ room. I really like being on stage, I like being in a studio.
CK: How much on-stage stuff have you done as far as your improv or stand-up lately?
BS: Lately I do a lot.
CK: In the past few years?
BS: I’ve been doing more lately than I have when I was in Metalocalypse.
CK: I haven’t seen any mention of that anywhere otherwise I would’ve-
BS: Yeah, it’s all on my Twitter. It’s the thing that no one gives a shit on my Twitter timeline-
CK: It must be the algorithm.
BS: So I go, “Hey, I’ll be at The Improv tonight. Hey, I’ll be in Pasadena at The Ice House. Hey, I’ll be doing some stuff at the thing over here.” Those are the things that everyone’s like, “No guitars or dogs or double kick drums or sweep arpeggios?” So I do it and yeah, last weekend I think I did two shows at The Improv … Or, two shows at the Ice House and then one at The Improv. So I’m doing that stuff all the time, and-
CK: Well, I mean, you say you’re doing it.
BS: Oh yeah, I say I’m doing it. There’s evidence. There are even photos. A couple weeks ago when the record came out, we did a big show at The Improv with Baked, with Joe Travers, with Mike Keneally, with Walter Eno and Zach Galifianakis was on the show and David Cross and Thomas Lennon from Reno 911 and his film work and screenwriting. So it was a pretty big, splashy event. I don’t know what else I can tell you. I mean, you’re going to have to believe me.
CK: Fine. Fine. I mean, fine.
BS: We’ll have to start just making the … just flipping the switch to believing me, but I do do a lot, and the funny part is that I do it because it’s really, really fucking fun. There’s nothing-
CK: I can tell that because you’ve … I’ll just be honest here, you’ve done some shows that are kind of hidden and underground, weird shit where you show up and do a show and it’s material that is very questionable-
BS: You were talking, probably … I think what you’re talking specifically about is The Tomorrow Show-
CK: Yeah, and you were doing that in the midst of all of the Metalocalypse stuff-
BS: But that’s not stand-up, that’s what I call me and Ron Lynch and Craig Anton running out the clock and seeing how far we can push an audience. That was when I first started Metalocalypse, so that was like 10 years ago.
CK: But it’s obvious that you didn’t have to be doing that stuff, you know what I mean? Like you could be doing something else, so you were obviously there doing it because you enjoyed doing whatever the hell you were doing up there.
BS: But it’s funny, going back to that time-
CK: But that’s some of my favorite shit you’ve done.
BS: Oh, interesting. Yeah, well, we definitely were playing it as … There was a time … So, I was getting really busy with Metalocalypse and I kept this show going, which now Ron Lynch has extended past the 12 year mark maybe, and he’s still doing it while Craig and Anton were like, “We don’t have our weekends,” and I’ve got to run a show and I’ve got to go on tour and I’ve got to do all this stuff, so I have to not do that. Plus, my relationship with comedy at the time was really questionable, wherein … and this is probably where I think that your dissertation or your understanding of what I did on stage was probably like, “What is he doing? This is crazy. This is absurd.” And we were really pushing the envelope as far as-
CK: It was exactly my type of material.
CK: And you don’t do that stuff unless you really enjoy what you’re doing, because it’s not commercially-
BS: There’s no market for what we were doing on stage at the time.
CK: It’s like the bonus content on a DVD of Metalocalypse or something that’s just way back there like, “What is this?”
BS: We would have like a fog machine that would just go off and we would improvise some kind of weird, absurdist, long-form sketch with delay on our microphones and reverbs and just infinite repeats where we would just lose our minds, and the audience … and the show was at midnight too so people are already tired and punchy or half in the bag or whatever it is or the bring a six-pack and lazily get through a show that ends at 3:00 in the morning. But I was also really … I didn’t know what my relationship with comedy was at the time. I feel like I understand it a lot more. There was a time where I was like, “I don’t want to be here and I’m going to punish everybody because I don’t want to be here.” And you seem to like that.
CK: Yeah, I love it. No, but explain that. What are you talking about? What do you mean you didn’t want to be there?
BS: Meaning that I didn’t know that I was interested in … I think I was so exhausted at the time from doing Metalocalypse and stuff that I wasn’t generating new jokes, and if you’re not generating new material, it’s really hard to keep excited about anything. Just imagine if you’re just only playing the same songs over and over again. At some point you’d probably just lose interest in the thing, and that’s what was happening to me because I didn’t have time to write new material. So we would hopefully either get in a really cool, like some kind of strange, funny jag on stage between super creative Ron Lynch and Craig Anton and we were just always … It was this very strange comedy team, and it was just absurdist in nature.
But I was kind of losing interest in performing live stand-up because I wasn’t generating anything new that I was proud of, so that’s when I really … and also, I was so busy with Metalocalypse because as it would turn out that I’d have to do more jobs than I wanted to do as far as writing and wrangling and all that stuff. The show was definitely working out nicely to everyone’s advantage, but we could definitely see the boys and the men and we could see that demarcation point where some people weren’t doing their job and some people really were. So I wanted the show to succeed like crazy, so I would stay in and work and lose sleep and wouldn’t have a girlfriend or whatever it was. I just wanted the show to succeed and I wanted to make the music work and all that stuff at the same time. So I kind of put comedy to bed, and then I returned to it. I got pulled back-
CK: Was that the Baked sort of rebirth?
BS: No, it was even before that, where-
CK: Before that?
BS: Yeah, and I’ll tell you … I wanted to start kind of going back up on stage and this is around the same time I was still doing Metalocalypse but then I was like, “I need kind of a big challenge, kick in the ass thing.” I don’t know if I talked about this last time but did I talk about acting class?
CK: You did, I think.
BS: Yeah, so it was like a big kind of … It was an important thing for me to go through which was just kind of to be reduced back to … like you’re not so special, nothing’s great and whatever you’re doing is-
CK: It’s your St. Anger project.
BS: Thank God no one had to see it. Yeah, exactly, and that happened very far off screen where it was just almost like therapy, where I needed to kind of just come back to Earth in so many different ways, where I was just busy working and being successful, but I needed to kind of ground myself. And for some reason an acting class will fucking kick your ass like nothing else. It will just-
CK: No, I remember you said that your teacher told you, “Well, at the end of this class now I think you need to decide whether you’re going to come back next week.”
BS: Exactly, so I got humiliated in a-
CK: “Whether you’re going to stop your sarcastic bullshit,” or whatever you said.
BS: Yeah, he said, “Well, if you’re going to speak again in this class, you have to say something genuine,” and I think probably what I told you is at that moment I realized I don’t know if ever said anything genuine in my life, and so I remained silent and then I became very good in the class because I tend to work best if pushing through failure. So I had failed and I needed to redeem myself, and that’s a lot of the history of how I work. So, at the same time, I was kind of really interested in getting back into comedy again. I’d done some shows here and there, loosey-goosey kind of like people enduring me because I didn’t want to do any old material and I kept on kind of working on just different bits and talking my way through them and then eventually the audience would just remain silent and just listen to me and I’d be like, “Okay, well I’m obviously bombing.”
Then a friend of mine in New York put me on a show, my good buddy Eugene Mirman put me on a show in Brooklyn in front of like 250 people, and what I did was I ran out the clock for like 25 minutes with bullshitty, half-ass comedy and I just ate shit really hard in a show, people that really had their shit together, like really had their shit together. Like just comics that are working every day at comedy where you get off the stage and you go on another one. You walk off this stage and then you just jump on another one and everyone’s warm and they’ve got their shit collected and they’ve been working on this material and it’s a constant work in progress where I was just back in and dabbling in this way where I had to … Maybe I subconsciously did this, where I put myself in a position of just abject failure, and I did. I totally bombed, where it’s the kind of bombing … This only happens really in comedy where you get off stage and no one wants to make eye contact with you. Maybe you’ve done it before. I don’t know.
CK: I did that at the El Cid once.
BS: There you go.
CK: The sort of performance art thing. I did the Dr. Zoltan thing at the El Cid-
BS: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
CK: It was painful. It was so silent.
BS: Yeah, exactly.
CK: I was like, “Oh my God.”
BS: And then you walked off stage and you’re wrapping up your cables and everyone’s trying to avoid you, right? You slowly make your way to your sad car and you go home, right?
BS: So that’s what I did that night. It was really funny because I ate hard shit and I knew it and the people in the back that I was talking to, my whole countenance changed where I was … And this isn’t the first time I’ve bombed, but this one was an impactful bomb because I really realized that I wasn’t taking this … This is just where I was. Those muscles that made me confident and good on stage before, those had atrophied, and that happens with comedy if you don’t do it, and I was so busy in production on that stuff that those muscles had atrophied pretty hard. And I remember I went outside just to get out of the room, just to talk away from people and kind of just keep my head down, and there’s some lady outside smoking a cigarette and she looked at me and she goes, “Oh. Oh, that was uncomfortable.” Like she’s locking eyes with me and telling me how … And I was like, “Hey lady, I know. I was up there. You think that’s what I wanted it to be like? I didn’t know what the fuck I …” She was like, “That was horrible.”
I became kind of obsessed with how terrible I was, and I remember Eugene and I took a long train ride back to Boston and we were talking and I was just shaking my head going, “How did I fucking get so terrible at this?” He was like, “No, it’s just … Well, obviously …” Eugene’s really obvious in the way that he speaks. He said, “You don’t want to … The idea is to never bomb yet you bombed for 25 minutes.” And I said, “Yes, it’s true.” And he goes, “Yes, but you … It’s our goal to never, ever bomb, and you broke the rule.” And I was like, “Yes, this is true. I think we’ve identified the problem.”
So I was like, “Fuck, I just …” It’s exactly how I do this stuff all the time where I put myself in a position of failure and if I don’t deliver, I become obsessed to the point of correcting that, where I get good at it. That’s how guitar happened, that’s how everything happened. And then some points I’m prepared enough and I get lucky enough where I’m not nervous and I do well. But the truth was that I was study … Acting is the study of the vulnerable, of being vulnerable, and comedy is the act of being invulnerable. As subtle as you want to be, you can be Steven Wright to Gilbert Gottfried, but you’ve just got to be completely confident and in charge the whole time. So, I started working my way back up and that was about four years ago. Now I feel very confident.
CK: Okay. Now, you said something way back there a while back, like 10 minutes into that answer, and I didn’t want to lose it because you said something like you weren’t sure of your relationship with comedy as much as you are now, something like that. What did that mean? How do you define that?
BS: It’s funny because I think you start … You want to be funny and you want to be funny on your own terms, not the terms that comedy put out for you, and then you start blaming the audience for your not doing so well or the fact that you’re sick of it, you’re bored of it and you go out there and you’re like, “I don’t even want to entertain you.” And that’s the thing that I felt like. I didn’t want to entertain a comedy audience because I didn’t know how much I liked comedy that was happening at the time. So was like, “I don’t even know what club I want to be in.” And then what I realized somewhere … and maybe it’s growing up or whatever, just some slight amount of maturity, but I think what I realize is that I really like when me and an audience get along well, where it means if I said something funny, it means that we’re kind of on the same page, and I like being in the moment with that energy, and the more I do comedy, the more I like to embrace those little moments where we’re on the same page and this group of strangers, for some reason, decided to leave their house and come out to a show and I made them laugh really hard and we bonded over that.
There’s something really human about that, and that’s when I realized that’s my relationship with comedy, is to prepare, to be as funny as I can, to trick the audience to tell all these jokes where I can pull the rug out from under them, and then also to be able to bob and weave and be in the moment enough where if somebody starts talking to me, I’m ready to go and I’d love to hear what you have to say, because this is going to go somewhere that I had never expected. So those kinds of things to me start getting exciting. And then I start going, “Oh, wow, we’re not just a bunch of isolated idiots. We’re all here in the same room and we all decided to leave our houses, the comfort of Netflix and all that stuff, and we decided to come here and try to enjoy ourselves. And if I do my job right, which now I feel really confident with, I’m going to make sure that happens.” So at some point I became an entertainer, which is what I didn’t see myself as before. I was a snotty kind of like, “Fuck you,” like, “Oh yeah? Well …” And then I was still trying to get laughs but I didn’t love the audience. Now I do. It’s really strange, and I realized I had to get over whatever that hump was, and maybe it’s me liking myself or liking what I’m doing and being confident in what I’m doing, and then it just all transfers in this big bowl of stuff. So I think that’s what it is.
CK: That makes sense.
BS: Yeah. It’s my relationship with myself and my relationship with strange people who showed up because they wanted to smile or whatever it is. And if I can get that happening, God damn, it’s really hard to beat that in music, you know what I mean? Even playing for like 40 people, 20 people, just doing stand-up is such a different rush than playing for, I don’t know, I’ve gotten to play for 20,000 people opening up for Iron Maiden or substituting for Megadeth, playing for 30,000 people. That’s really cool, but it’s hard to beat the intimacy of a small room and connecting. It’s really strange and it’s something I don’t think I would have done as much as a comic in my late 20s, early 30s. So, it’s strange.
CK: On the topic of dry humor-
CK: It’s opened up my curiosity about dry humor and thinking about some of the Metalocalypse humor is very dry, Spinal Tap is very dry.
BS: Super dry, yeah.
CK: And that’s the type of humor I like. I don’t like it when it looks like someone’s hitting the easy button, like, “Ha ha, this is the funny thing.”
BS: Yeah, yeah.
CK: So how does that fit in with your new sort of relationship with comedy?
BS: My favorite comedy growing up was … I like comedy that’s all dressed up but then there’s something very human underneath it. So I even think Monty Python and the Holy Grail, that was the movie that made me lose my mind as a kid, where I thought, “This is really funny. Here they are, they’re talking about the … They’re covered in mud but they’re talking about politics. They’re talking about some weird kind of just maze of politics where that guy became a … how he became a king, and it’s a very dry conversation where they’re just kind of pulling apart the fabric of logic in telling everyone they’re …” I thought that’s really funny, but here we are on the side of a mountain in England and you’ve got a guy dressed as a king and this other person that’s supposed to be a woman or a man with dirt and filth all over them and slime but there’s something kind of relatable about this conversation. And that’s the weird part also. I mean, through Metalocalypse, through whatever it is that I do comedy-wise, I’m trying to relate and see if anyone feels this same way, and that’s another reason that stand-up works for me, but-
CK: Go ahead.
BS: Yeah, go ahead. No, no, I want to know-
CK: Did you have a resistance to sharing those things that everybody might relate to because they were too easy? Or common? You wanted to find that rare thing that everybody might-
BS: Yeah, that’s the thing I want. I mean, I want specificity. I don’t want … You know when they talk about broad comedy, sure, I’ll laugh at a broad comedy movie or something like that, some big, huge … I loved Bridesmaids. I thought that was a fantastic movie. The humor was very broad, but underneath all that stuff, there was a main character, Kristin Wiig’s character, who was a love-lost idiot whose life had not turned out the way that she wanted it to, but she put so much of her own personality inside of that main character that I was onboard, because there’s something specific in there, and that’s usually something else in the writers’ room which is like, “How do we make this more specific?” So if I’m doing Nathan Explosion’s voice on Metalocalypse, my main goal was to ask how this crazy guy with this big, scary voice could talk like a human and have an argument on the phone with his girlfriend. What would that sound like? And the more it sounds like something that we kind of understand or can go, “I’ve had that happen to me before” through all this, like again, all the goop, like he may as well be wearing a king’s outfit and covered in mud, but to me he’s like a death metal guy in jeans and a t-shirt who’s the seventh largest economy having this conversation and he’s embarrassed to say “I love you” in front of his friends.
So to me that’s dry but it’s also human. So I’m noticing the pattern where I react, where I get excited and then creating comedy or working comedy is where I can build on, pile in all this craziness and then underneath have a human moment that’s totally specific to how I see the world and how I interact with people. So I will take without a doubt Metalocalypse’s … the big thing that no one really knows about Metalocalypse is that the show is about the making of the show, you know? Where all these personalities, that there was really a Toki and a Murderface in our office and they would give us so much material that they didn’t know they were giving us and they didn’t even know they were filtering this part of the show, where someone’s trying to drive the show forward and some people are trying to pull the show backwards.
That’s what a band’s like too, so this creative relationship, if I’m smart enough, I’m going to listen to what’s happening as we’re making the show and that’s going to be the show and that’s what it was. So the stuff that you’re laughing at, all the dryness and the stuff is probably because it happened, and there’s some kind of kernel of truth that rings through you, and that’s part of what laughter is. That’s one of the things that makes me laugh, being surprised like crazy, absurdity, all that stuff. But the human side is where I get excited. Dryness is a tonal choice, and usually dryness is like instead of screaming this, if I say it as quietly as possible it may be more impactful. If I’m saying the most fucked up thing in the world in the most inside voice can sometimes be more exciting.
CK: Well, maybe I’m not using the right term, but I find American Movie that type of dry humor to where I can’t … It takes a certain amount of effort in my brain to watch it and tell if it’s a joke or not. Did this really happen? Was this staged?
CK: How much of this is fake? Is there really a Mark Borchardt? Et cetera, and I get that same thing with Andrew W.K.
BS: Yeah, yeah.
CK: You know what I mean?
BS: I don’t know him personally but when I hear people talk to him, they say that they … First of all, he’s supposed to be charming and nice and likable and stuff, and I only know him from his ’90s persona kind of a thing, but people love him-
CK: There’s this whole thing about he actually might be a different Andrew W.K. than the original Andrew W.K., like a different actor took it over.
BS: Oh really? Oh jeez.
CK: And if you compare the pictures, you’re like, “Wait a minute, this wasn’t the same guy.”
BS: Oh, he may not be the same guy?
CK: The voice is different.
BS: Oh, hilarious.
CK: It’s almost like listening to prog rock or something, where you’re like you’re trying to get that 7/8 beat and once you get it, now you get it. You know what I mean?
BS: You’re saying a lot of stuff but let me start off where you started. American Movie. I remember when I saw it for the first time. Let me move that keyboard out of the way for you.
CK: No, it’s fine. I like having it near me.
BS: No you don’t. I saw it at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Boston, American Movie, and I think I saw it with some good friends from Home Movies, and I saw it and at first I was like, “I think the filmmaker’s kind of making fun of these guys.” That was my first thought, and then I was like, “I think this also may be kind of like a Spinal Tap thing. I think this may be fake.” And then I saw all the footage with them as kids and I was like, “It’s not fake because I think that’s the kid and he’s grown … That’s obviously them as kids. They obviously have been doing this for a long time.” And I know why I love that movie so much, and this has nothing to do with what we’re talking about, is it’s a portrait of an artist trying to make it work.
CK: Yeah, exactly.
BS: It’s just perfect-
CK: It was me struggling in the middle of nowhere trying to make an album.
BS: It’s all of us at current times. It never stops. It never goes away. It’s always a struggle. You’re always in some moment of self doubt. The way that he starts that home movie where he goes, “I’m a failure. Sometimes I get sad and depressed about it.” All that stuff and he goes, “I can’t be that no more. From now on I’ve got to make Northwestern. I’ve got to do this shit,” and he’s just making this manifesto of creativity which is so hard because it’s all self-propelling. No one’s going to tell you to make a movie. No one’s going to tell you, “Get out and gather your friends and put them in the snow and make sure they have … ‘Does everybody have brown gloves?'” That whole scene with Mike Schank. So then I watched the movie again. I think I kept getting drawn back to it when it came out on DVD, and I started listening to the commentary with Chris Smith and all that stuff, and I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong about the director’s relationship with Mark and everybody in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. And I realized that this is a love letter to these people and this is a love letter to people that are creative trying to get it together. But there is human … I mean, there’s a regional dialect. There’s so much specific … again, specific, specificity, that’s such an interesting … He’s such an interesting, poetic, specific guy that comes across maybe as not intelligent or poetic at first, but once you get to know him through this movie, and how many times have I … I’ve watched this movie over a hundred times probably at this point. It’s one of my comfort films. I’ll bring it on a plane with me. So just hearing Mike Schank play … What does he start the movie with?
CK: He does like a Bach thing.
BS: No, no, Mr. Bojangles. He plays Mr. Bojangles on acoustic guitar, and yeah, later on he plays a blindfolded Bach piece and he plays Randy Rhoads, Dee. You know everything about these guys and you know these guys, you grew up with these guys in some way. Everywhere in America has some guy who learned how to play Dee and he thinks it’s a classical song, and it is. It’s Randy Rhoads, it’s awesome. But every part of that movie, I don’t know what it is, I don’t know if it’s dryness, because they are dry, and most people are dry. Go to a gas station and ask them for some Doritos and they’ll dryly give you some Doritos, you know? I think sometimes it’s refreshing for people to just lower their tone. I remember in Home Movies, people thought our show was smart and I said it’s not smart, we just talk quieter.
CK: Actually my friend Mike Stone submitted a question related to Home Movies.
BS: Oh yeah?
CK: He says, quote, “I’m a huge fan of it and more people are likely aware of Metalocalypse but Home Movies has a significant level of charm and relatable humor that I think even more people may relate to. Are there any plans to do something more in that direction, or was that show more of an early stage of your development?”
BS: I really liked doing that show. It was really fun and it came really easy, and I was with a group of people and there weren’t that many of us, but everyone was lifting the same amount of weight and it felt really nicely distributed.
CK: That’s a crazy feeling when you’re working with a team and everybody is firing on all-
BS: Yeah, it’s a nice feeling. Yeah.
CK: It’s really rare.
BS: Yeah, once you get there it’s really cool and sometimes it’s hard work and sometimes you realize, “Oh, we let some lunatics into this crazy batch and we have to weed them out.” I really enjoyed making that show, and the reason that I didn’t follow it up with a show like that is because I wanted to preserve what Home Movies was to me, which was a charming, low-key, dry, dialogue, human-based humor kind of thing that didn’t have a lot of crazy bells and whistles and explosions and fire and tits and everything. It was meant to be kind of like an idealized version of any of our relationships with our parents and friends, where we wish we were this clever, we wish we had a relationship that was fun with our mom, that was like that quick and everyone had a line ready and stuff. So that’s what that was to me. It was my take on a family show, which I don’t really like standard family show kind of things. It doesn’t really do a lot for me. So if I was going to do one and this was going to be my only shot into show business, I was going to make it the thing that I was interested in.
So all those stories came from … They would generate either from me or the other writer or just little moments that we could find that were all … All we would do is just tell each other stories of something that happened to us the other day, and that’s the best way to start any kind of writing, and you filter it through characters and stuff. The weird part is that show still doesn’t go away. Maybe it’s just because I’m me and people associate me with the show, but I get a lot of people who are still, to this day, just as excited about Home Movies, because it never was a big hit, and Metalocalypse definitely had a broader kind of … It got known and had better numbers, but Home Movies, the people that like that show like it way more than other shows. So they get really crazy about it. I would love to do some kind of a high school version of something like that, but not that show. Something different. Not with those characters. Those characters, we got to end that show the way we wanted to.
CK: When I think about Metalocalypse, I remember the first time I heard about it, that this guy … I think somebody sent me an email and said, “Hey, you remember that guy from The Tomorrow Show? Well he’s doing a cartoon and there’s a character that’s based on Devin Townsend or something-“
BS: Oh, right, right, right.
CK: “… and it’s going to be on Adult Swim,” and I was like, “Huh, that’s really something.” But I guess to get back to my point on what-
BS: By the way-
BS: … that guy was more based on Mark Borchardt than it was anybody else.
CK: Oh yeah, you were telling me that. Yeah.
BS: Yeah. Or at least his regional dialect. Yeah.
CK: The thing I think about Metalocalypse is it has … The whole metal thing to me seems like more of a superficial aspect and not the true value of it.
BS: Interesting, yeah.
CK: The whole metal packaging, the character … the death metal band. It’s kind of almost like a vehicle for all the story behind it and all the characters that are interesting.
BS: Right. That one has more of a lore and kind of a mythology to the whole show.
CK: But, I mean, someone else could have made that show. Any other metal dude that was some … could have made Metalocalypse or whatever, the same concept, but it wouldn’t have been what I find special about those types of things, are the fucked up writing and the weird characters. It might have just been a boring, mainstream thing, you know what I mean?
BS: Yeah. I mean, I think all TV shows reduce … I mean, like I said-
CK: Wasn’t the first … the first episode or the pilot or something, I think I saw it. I haven’t seen a lot of the episodes, but wasn’t it like them standing around in a grocery store kind of mumbling and talking to themselves?
BS: Well, yeah. I’ll tell you how the show was conceived of.
CK: Because, okay, you sell the show, it’s these metal dudes, an animated metal thing, but then it’s not at all. The characters are not like that.
BS: It’s not like meat and potatoes metal, but that’s what you get on a kids’ Saturday morning commercial, and I didn’t want to do that. So, what I wanted to do, again, was to dial it in until it was totally in focus and it was specific. So, what happened was at the time-
CK: I want to hear more about this specific thing too because I’m not getting it.
BS: What you do is you sit there and you have a big, out-of-focus thing and you start drawing the eyes in better. This is just a metaphor. And you start going, “I have a lot of noses to choose from but what’s the one that makes me feel like this is a person that exists?” So let me go back to the top of it. So, I knew that I had … after Home Movies, the door was kind of open at Adult Swim and it was kind of the golden era and they were buying lots of stuff. And so they trusted me to run a show and all that stuff, and they knew that I could write music because I wrote a little piece for some other show, and I handed in an hour, and they were like, “This is great.” They were like, “It’s magic.” Anyone that doesn’t do music thinks it’s magic if music happens. And so-
CK: So I shouldn’t be telling people that it’s not magic?
BS: No, tell them. Let them believe it’s magic, but you and I know that it’s not magic.
CK: Oh man. That’s what I’ve been doing wrong this whole time.
BS: [inaudible 00:42:49] we worked hard and learned how to do this stuff, you know?
CK: Damn it. Okay.
BS: Yeah, it takes all the hard work that we did out of it, but … So I knew I wanted a show and I had only just … and I was kind of just falling back in love with my guitar again and I was just going to metal shows all the time, and I knew I wanted a show that had something … and I was actually talking to the guy from The Venture Bros., Chris McCulloch, who’s a great guy, and I had another show that was supposed to … It was kind of in some stage of development at another network, and I was just complaining about that when we were having dinner one night or something, and my buddy Chris says, “Look, you’re complaining about the show but all you do is talk about metal and why it’s so fascinating to you and why you like it so much and why you are just immersed in it.” And I said, “Yeah, it’s true. I can’t believe I’m …” He goes, “Why isn’t that a show?” And I go, “I can’t believe you had to tell me that.” And sometimes the shit that’s right in front of your face, you don’t even see. And I said, “You know what? I’m going to start working this out.” And I started kind of putting this stuff together. What I knew at the time was that I really hated reality TV because I just thought it just meant the death of written TV, and it is, and-
CK: Even though it’s all written.
BS: [inaudible 00:43:57] we have a … I mean, right now we’ve got the results of reality TV is that we have Donald Trump in the White House, which is directly related to how people see reality TV. Reality TV is nine times out of ten negatively driven, just like people being stupid and other people harassing people and people being exploited for not knowing things and for being dumb and inept and all that stuff, or hurting people’s feelings. Whatever it is. It was just a wad of negative energy and I hated all that stuff, because I just didn’t think it’s not what I grew up enjoying. It’s not what great comedy is or any of that stuff. It’s really half-assed. So I thought, “What if I took the biggest … What if the Kardashians were a death metal … What if I got to make it about the thing that I was interested … What if I had the biggest celebrities on the planet?” Because I couldn’t make them a band on their way up because Spinal Tap nailed that and Tenacious D nailed that and Flight of the Conchord … I don’t know if they were out yet but they were kind of doing that too, so I was like, “Everybody’s doing the same story and it’s funny every time but I want to do … What if we went completely the other way and they were the biggest entertainment act?” So you have all this stuff, and what if they’re the seventh largest economy and what if they’re a thousand times bigger than the biggest band that we’ve ever thought? What if they’re bigger than The Beatles? How would that affect the world? How would that affect the aesthetic of the planet? How would that affect everything? How would that affect the economy if music were the biggest commodity in the world? Like just all these fantasy … It’s like sci-fi more than anything because none of this stuff would ever happen. So, I started doing that.
Then I thought, “Okay, I want a band,” and I started picking out the people and the band, and I thought, “Okay, how are they similar to me? How are they dissimilar to me? How would they do things that I would never do? How am I not them? How do I know that person inside of me?” It’s just like how you start acting. You have to go, “Okay, I have to … Even if you’re a bad guy, I have to kind of take your side on this shit, otherwise I can’t perform as this character. I can’t be judging them. I have to take their point of view as hard as I possibly can. Then if I can start improvising in the voice of these guys from Pickles to Nathan to Skwisgaar to whatever, then I can start inhabiting the characters and they start actually being a little bit more realistic and not a bunch of cardboard cutouts.” And that’s what I wanted to do. So that kind of worked, that kind of just like writing out ideas of what they’re like, how they would be in a conversation, have three of them just talking to each other on paper. That starts reeling in what I want and what I don’t want, you know?
And that’s where it starts getting specific to me, and their voices, how do they sound different than any other TV show? How do I go from this death metal singing voice to a quiet conversation that … Again, I keep thinking about this one episode where he didn’t tell his girlfriend … Where he goes, he’s talking to his girl, “Okay, well I [inaudible 00:46:41] too.” He says something like that, where all the guys are kind of watching him, where he can’t say “I love you” in front of them and he also … Isn’t that the point of the relationship where this is really yielded? So all these little tiny things that are actually pretty human start coming out of this crazy, fucked up world and that’s, in my opinion, first of all, you’ve got … It’s like The Sopranos. I think people stayed for the tits and the violence, but the real reason that people were watching that show is because this is an interesting portrait of a world that I don’t fully understand, but it’s crazy how relatable it is because he still has kids that are telling him to go fuck himself, not listening to him. He’s trying to take their cars away, ground them, but he’s got to go hit somebody and he’s got to go … And then his wife is worried about all the … so all this stuff that happens to human people on this planet that you can exaggerate or magnify or make quieter. So, that’s kind of how it started happening and then it started evolving, but from the very beginning I knew what the trajectory of the show was. What, are you going on Facebook?
CK: Were you talking about something there? Oh, there was a moment that happened in Empire Strikes Back. You’ve seen that movie, I think.
BS: I have, yeah, yeah, I’m familiar.
CK: There’s a guy with a space ship and he lands and the place with the clouds and the other guy comes out who used to own the space ship-
BS: Yes, Lando, yeah. You’re talking about the characters Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, yes.
CK: Whatever their names are.
BS: Yeah, sure.
CK: Star Trek stuff.
BS: Same thing, right?
CK: He says, “You’ve got a lot of nerve.” And the interaction doesn’t go as you would expect it to go and there’s this tense moment. And I was thinking, “Where have those moments been in the recent movies?” You know? And that’s one of those things where there’s an interesting interpersonal thing there that is like, “What? What happened there? What’s going on?”
BS: Yeah, there’s levity, there’s a little bit of … In that scene, Lando’s fucking with Han. We don’t know that. Han’s not sure where he stands with Lando right now. They just know they’re on the run and they’ve got to duck out in this little area and this guy comes in and he goes, “You old snake …” Whatever he says.
CK: Yeah, but it completely didn’t need to be there, and in a … It was great, it was valuable and I love it, but if it was written into the Star Trek episode eight or whatever, you know? They would’ve cut it by today’s standards. They’d be like, “Why are they doing that? Let’s get rid of it.”
BS: Right. I think I understand what you’re saying, and I know how I would defend that scene to anybody who wanted to cut it. I’d say, “This is really important that we show that these guys not only know each other but they can fuck with each other. That’s a really important part. That’s an intimacy, to be able to lampoon each other is an intimate thing that … You don’t fuck with people you don’t know that well because you’re going to get a weird look, but if you know if you talk to your brother or your friend that you’ve known your whole life and you fuck with them and you kind of break balls, that’s intimacy. It really is. So that shows intimacy, and the other important part about that, story-wise, is that Lando’s going to give Han and Leia up later on to Darth Vader, so we need to make sure we think they’re friends because at some point Lando’s going to have this turn where he fucking … There’s Darth Vader at the dinner table and they’re going to start torturing Han and not even ask any questions.”
CK: Well, but that was part … Well, I don’t know why we’re getting into an analysis of Star Wars, but-
BS: No, but that’s part of the story. Later on though there’s one third turn which is another just smart thing where he goes, “Hey, I had to give him Han, whatever. He was fucked anyway. But I can get Leia and Chewbacca and Luke out of here,” and because he has this ability, he’s the one that kind of … he’s the impetus behind saving Luke and going back for him when he’s crucified on an upside down cross underneath the thing. So all that stuff, I would say I would also defend J.J. Abrams. I think he brought a little bit of fun back into it on The Force Awakens, but the brooding quality is not in the other one, the-
CK: But I think that that scene might have been considered too challenging these days in a lot of projects.
BS: Well, you could be right. You could be right. Well, let’s see. Lawrence Kasdan was the writer and he’s written … Anyway, I would say that there’s enough reason to defend that but I also think there’s a lot of … It’s fun in its character stuff, but you like the scene, it sounds like.
CK: Oh yeah.
BS: Yeah, and you think that this is … normally it would probably be filled with just information or seriousness or something?
CK: Yeah, and that’s one of the things that would have been cut out of if someone else made a Metalocalypse.
BS: Sure, yeah.
CK: Not by you or your weird friends or whatever.
BS: Right, right, right.
CK: They would have just done it on an obvious, non-ironic level and it would have been a metal band that plays music videos and that’s it.
BS: Yeah. Well, the funny thing about when you’re writing a show is that you’re not just attacking it for one thing. You have to know why people are watching your show. You have to know that it’s connecting, hopefully, but it’s almost like making a record, where the truth is that you’ve got to like it too. If you don’t like the music you’re putting out, you just may as well throw it all away, because people are going to say good stuff, people are going to say bad stuff, but at the end of the day, you’re left with your opinion of your own work and the critical analysis that you have to give yourself, where it doesn’t matter if you’re in a scene study, acting on stage, doing stand-up or recording, playing live, whatever it is. You still have to go, “Okay, that wasn’t terrible. Here’s what worked. I made it to the show. I got there on stage. My guitar was loud enough. Here’s what didn’t work. I choked at this one part and I need to find out why I did that. I need to find out why I lost the nerve at this point,” and I needed to really go through that transition and get the energy back or whatever it is.
So you have to analyze yourself. Even when you’re like … with the song, you go, “I finished the song, I did the song, but you know what I would have done later on if I were to really critique myself is I think I did the best job with my resources and amount of time and the available creativity that my brain barfed forth, but in a perfect world, I would have done X, Y and Z,” and that happens all the time and you just have to move on and just keep moving forward.” I figure for comedy, comedy’s weird because I can say stuff that makes me laugh. It doesn’t mean it’s going to make everybody laugh, so I do have to try it out first. Music, you don’t have to. It’s either landing emotionally or in some kind of psychic fucking strange undercurrent of your brain, some weird subconscious level, which music can do. It can penetrate quicker and faster, I think, than anything else and it can live inside of your head. There’s a reason you play music. Something bit a chunk of your brain and you got infected with the music thing.
CK: They say it has to do with girls, but-
BS: I don’t think that’s true for a lot of us nerds though.
CK: But I did get married out of the whole thing.
BS: Yeah, you managed to meet a girl. Yeah.
BS: No, I did too, but I wanted to … I knew that it was more of a self … I wanted to be proud of myself first, because if I can do that, then I’m going to … Basically if you can fix whatever’s wrong with your stupid head, you may stand up straighter the next day and a girl may notice you and you may have a little bit of confidence.
CK: Yeah, it’s kind of funny. Yeah.
BS: Not just because you play guitar, not just because you were playing guitar, but the fact that you decided to challenge yourself to play guitar.
CK: There’s this nice synchronicity happening here where my questions were totally out of order but I’m scrolling through them and I would kind of queue up the next question and think, “Well, let’s see if we can go to that next at some point,” and then this-
BS: Do you believe in the subconscious mind?
BS: I do, so [inaudible 00:54:17]-
CK: I don’t believe in it.
BS: I do. I think so.
CK: But I think this question leads right into that. I’ve always had an interest in the topic of cult leaders and the parallels with rock stars, and you are sometimes a cult leader, and I notice you could be culting it up more than you do.
BS: Oh, well-
CK: But why is that? Because what I mean is, I see you doing your thing, you don’t post tons of photos of yourself on Instagram posing and making a cool face.
BS: Right, yes, that’s true. Should I be?
CK: There’s a lot of people who, in your position, they would be trying to milk it in some weird way that you’re not. What’s up with that?
BS: What’s up with that, right?
CK: What’s your problem?
BS: “Are there not enough selfies in this world?” is the question.
CK: We need two more.
BS: I think that’s the core of this thing. I really like my relationship with the outside world because I like … Look, I’ve been promoting this record, so I’ve been going out and doing stuff. Most of my work is indoors and then rarely do I get to go and show it to people. So it’s nice to check in with the outside world every once in a while, and I feel very comfortable … I was in New York doing press and promotion stuff and it was just nice. I guess it was good for my ego but I was happy beforehand, but it felt really nice just to talk to people who were like minded, who may have … Maybe they’re like minded because they like my work and I know the work because I did it.
CK: “Oh, you like my work too?”
BS: “Yeah, hey, we both really enjoy my work.” But I don’t … just so you know, I’ve never watched an episode of a TV show after it’s done, after I really put it to bed. From Home Movies to now, I just, I don’t-
CK: I never knew that.
BS: And my wife, she’s like, “Let’s just put on some stuff,” and I’m like, “Are you kidding me? Are you fucking with me? I’m never going to watch this stuff. I mean, maybe years from now,” but as far as doing the social media stuff, I wince as I’m trying to promote this record. I feel like it’s obnoxious when I’m posting Billboard chart positions and all that stuff. It’s totally obnoxious and I-
CK: I was going to congratulate you on selling over 12 copies of Galaktikon II-
BS: Thank you very much, yes.
CK: … and making it in the Billboard charts, because-
BS: Yeah, that’s all you have to do.
CK: … it is difficult to sell that many physical copies these days.
BS: It very much is. Oh yeah, yeah. From 10 years ago to now, the things have changed like crazy, but thank God for Spotify. Anyway, I think social media is a totally obnoxious trend, and I joined all that stuff … I don’t have an account on Facebook where I just hang out with … I did for a while but then the election stuff happened and I just didn’t want to hear anything, and it didn’t change my life at all to not be on any of that stuff. I am on Twitter and I am on Instagram and those are the things that I kind of control, and there’s a lot of other fan Facebook pages that … the stuff gets back to me, but I don’t have to go on there, but important messages do get relayed back to me. I don’t like social media. At its worst, I’m consumed by a news thread that’s constantly happening. I don’t know if that’s making my life better. I think I’m very aware of things, but I don’t know if that’s making my life better at all.
CK: So wait, you’re saying you don’t like social media.
BS: I’m saying I don’t, I don’t-
CK: But you use it.
BS: Yeah, so what I did-
CK: Do you get sucked in like I do?
BS: I get sucked in way too much. I get sucked in into a point where I was like, “Oh, I think I’m getting carpal tunnel from my phone holding hand.”
CK: You know what? Here’s another fucked … I have a similar thing like that. It was getting so bad that I would wake myself up at night. My thumb was scrolling by itself.
BS: Oh my God. That’s crazy. It’s like a ghost phone in your hand. You’re haunted by your iPhone. Yeah, I know that. So, I knew that it’s probably in my best interest as a business person … I really enjoy the creative lifestyle I’ve managed to fall into where I get to make music or I get to make shows or get to make … you write scripts or sell a show or do a thing or produce something. I love that, and I knew that I would probably have to start trying to round up an audience at some point just so if they liked my other projects, maybe they’ll like another thing I did. So I thought it was in my best interest business-wise to start doing that stuff, and maybe find a couple patches for jokes here and there. But for the most part, I kind of wince when I do it and I feel like I have to apologize because … But also my friends who are also in show business, they do the same thing where they’re promoting something in just a windfall of, “Hey, this is coming out. Hey, this is out. Hey, please buy this thing.” Everyone’s a carnival barker trying to get everyone into their tent to go see the bearded lady or the transgendered, comfortable-in-their-own-skin person, because I don’t think it’s strange anymore. There you go.
CK: But, okay, you and I both somewhat know Steve Vai. You might know him a little bit better in some ways than I do. Steve was the first episode of this current podcast chain. So I’ll put him out there as an example, that when I watch one of his videos, he’s very much making himself the center of the dancing around and the legs going everywhere and how’s everybody doing tonight and all of that stuff. What is it that stops you from doing something like that? Why don’t you want to put on the leather pants and the tassels and stuff?
BS: Put on a bunch of silver pants and …
CK: I mean, you could do that and you don’t … Well-
BS: I suppose I could. I suppose any of us could.
CK: You don’t do that stuff. Not just that specifically, but things like that, you don’t tend to make what you do … you don’t try to make yourself the star of it like other people might.
BS: Right. You know what? I think you’re right to say that-
CK: You could have been on the album cover. Two album covers.
BS: Well, what a great way to never sell an album.
BS: But I think it’s true, but the way that I’m interested in music is I enjoy the mystery of it a little bit. I’m old enough to have taken my parents’ vinyl LPs out and look through them and try to figure out everything I could and try to put the whole picture together in my mind. And I wanted for this to be a little bit more like that, where people … and it’s kind of been working, where people are trying to figure out this record and figure out what it means, because it means something, and I’m not going to say anything about what I think it means because I think that’s the most boring way to go about it. I’m more interested in hearing what they think it is, and I haven’t gone on there, but there are Reddit subreddit worlds of deduction and pulling the fabric of this record apart, which I’m happy because that means they’re engaged and they care. If I slather my stupid face all over it … By the way, I’ve been more out in front of this record than I have been in Dethklok. The whole thing about Dethklok was I thought it’s not important … I think it ruins the mythos if you see me and associate me with this thing. I think the show’s got to live in your imagination, and so when we played live, I would yell at the lighting crew if I was lit because I think that … I’d rather have a-
CK: But that’s a temptation that is so hard for so many people, because they want the spotlight on them and it’s addictive.
BS: Yeah. But can’t you smell it from a fucking mile away when someone’s desperately trying to get attention and you know they don’t have the goods and you know that they’re selling fucking schlocky garbage?
CK: I will say Vai has the goods even though he’s-
BS: Vai has got … Oh, Vai-
CK: … got the tassels and the goods and the sunglasses.
BS: And I’m not talking about Vai because Vai is an amazing, well-rounded, super creative lunatic who’s also an amazing performer. He’s got like Prince meets Jimi Hendrix and he’s having so much fun. You can tell he’s having the time of his life and he is just this porthole of expression, and I love that he’s that way, because he also came in … Look where he started in David Lee Roth’s band and Frank Zappa’s band and all that stuff, so you had to be a song and dance man, like a triple threat up on stage, where nowadays it’s … Some of my favorite musicians are that, and some of them aren’t, but I also think I’d rather … that’s just my personality. I’d rather play my cards close to my chest. I think that’s what feels comfortable to me. But I guess I could be a lot more obnoxious than just going, “Hey, hanging out with my buddy” and trying to tag people in photos and stuff. I mean, I’m doing a version of that, I think. I think what I’m doing is just obnoxious enough.
CK: I’m not suggesting that you do that stuff.
BS: Yeah. You’re curious why.
CK: I’m just curious to hear your take on it.
BS: I don’t think it’s-
CK: Because I struggle with it when I make my stupid album and I’m like, “Now I’ve got to make the decision, is my face going to be on it? Am I going to tell people about it or not?” I may as well tell people about it.
BS: Well, you’ve got to do it because at some point … again, I try to take my ego out of it and I go, “Look, if I were the manager of this artist, I’d say blab about it, sell records, make it work, but there’s a way to make it work to make a project I think intriguing enough if the project itself is worth being intrigued over.” But to sell it in an intriguing way, I think, is more interesting than coming out and just going, “Hey, you like rock music, right? Well guess what.” I don’t want to do any of that stuff. And luckily it’s been working to my advantage, by not being … I mean, I really like doing stupid, insane stuff, and like I said, I think I have put myself out in front of this one a little bit more and it makes more sense. It’s got my name on it. It’s not like another fake band that I just make the sounds for, you know? I bet in another part of the world, people would say that what I’m doing is annoying and obtrusive and obnoxious.
CK: It’s way overboard.
CK: With the hat and everything, it’s just too much.
BS: Yeah, yeah, it’s too much. Yeah.
CK: You know, you talk about your white board and drawing out your ideas and all of this stuff. Curious what your day or any random day while working on Metalocalypse, what the hell is that process like? Because you had mentioned at one point you drive over to Titmouse. How does a day like that go in your mind as you recall?
BS: It would depend where we are in the production, so there’d be like-
CK: Yeah, there’s a lot of different phases and things you do here, things you do there.
BS: Yeah. If I’m at the top of the season, as we kind of really got our shit together on the show, if I’m at the top of the season, then I would have a bunch of writers in a room and-
CK: Like how many writers, would you say?
BS: There was a season where we had four writers, there was a season where we had six writers, and then we’d had a season where there were … Oh, then The Doomstar was just me and two other people just talking through this story. Then I’d go and write the music and all that stuff.
CK: You guys would get together at like … I’m trying to visualize this specifically. Like you get together at like 8:00 AM at Titmouse or 2:00 PM?
BS: Never 8:00, yeah. 11:00 at the earliest, because just the way my brain works is that things don’t get funny until around noon, so I will get there and I’ll drink coffee and I’ll dryly … If it’s the top of the season, what I’ll do is I’ll say, “Okay, here’s where we left off. Here’s where I see the end of this season. So let’s talk about how we get there and how we can just slowly kind of move the story along, and then let’s also …” And that’s just the nuts and bolts of what the storytelling is over this whole seasonal arc. And then I’ll spend a lot of time just with articulating that and then I’ll take a big whiteboard like this and I’ll almost do like a timeline. “Here’s where we left off, so we’ve got this stuff we have to clean up to get from here to over here. The middle of the season somewhere, let’s say episode seven,” and I’ll just write seven, I go, “this is like the point where we’ll meet this other character, and then by the end of that … two episodes later he’s going to do his thing, but we have to set him up first and we have to get that idea happening.” So it starts making a lot of visual sense. And then what we’ll do is we’ll go, “Okay, everyone understands this? Okay, so what we’re going to try to do is now we’re going to take just funny ideas that we have that are somewhat relatable … Again, tell me a story of your … what did you do last weekend?” “I hung out with my mom.” “Oh yeah? Tell me about that.” “Oh, it was a fucking nightmare.”
CK: Okay, but are these comedians or who are these types of people?
BS: Yeah, they’re writers, so I’ll say in the last one I had Janine Ditullio, who played Paula from Home Movies. She played my character’s mom. She’s a really great writer.
CK: Now, are these people that are experienced in metal music at all or in any way?
BS: No, not at all.
CK: It’s completely unrelated to metal.
BS: Totally unrelated. What’s most important to me-
CK: And were they familiar with the show enough?
BS: They had to be, yeah.
CK: The needed to watch the shows?
BS: They had to watch the show.
CK: Okay, got it.
BS: If they don’t know what’s going on in the show, they can’t work on the show. They have to know what’s going on. So they have to know the show, they have to have a script or someone has to vouch for them, or they have to have a really funny script and then they also have to know that I reserve the right in that particular case on this show to rewrite everything. I reserve the right to rewrite, and that’s often times just to get it in the right voice to make sure it’s coming from the show. And there are some episodes that started with one script and ended with a completely different script because whatever wasn’t taking or whoever was handling this show or the story didn’t get it or something. So sometimes we’d be in places where … I mean, we were understaffed almost all the time, so that’s why I would have long bouts of just being alone, rewriting. But the writers that I did work with were all super talented and super great and I’m glad I worked with them, but I just reserve the right in our production capacity to change things, and they had to know that. So Janine again, I’ll use Janine as an example of someone who I’ve known for a long time and trusted, and she’s really funny and very dry, and all I want to hear are human stories, and I want people to tell me stories of stuff that have happened to them before. So Brian Posehn also is a guy who would tell great stories about what it was like growing up with his mom, dating-
CK: So you guys would literally sit there for four hours telling stories that happened to you?
BS: Yeah. It would start when you’re breaking stories. Basically it’s called breaking story, where someone would go, “I had an idea for an episode,” and everyone goes, “Okay,” and I’ll either go, “That’s great,” or, “What else you got? What else you got?” And remember, I tell everybody, “Don’t take this the wrong way. I’m going to say no. It’s my job to say no more than it is to say yes.” And that’s what it’s like running a TV show. You’ve got to say no almost all the time, then somebody says something and you go, “Wait a minute, that’s fucking perfect,” and everybody, once they’re all kind of in tune with what the show is and we’re all kind of understanding what I’m looking for, which I try to be as … it’s my job to be as articulate as possible, what I’m looking for, and once somebody hits just the tiniest little threat of what that is, then we go, “Okay, now we’ve got a conversation.”
And then we’ll get to a certain point, and I’ve learned a lot of different ways of working with people, on what the best ways of working with people have kind of … It’s 45 minute sessions, and then you take a break. You get to a point where you go, “Okay, now we know what the story problem is and we know how to solve it. Let’s get out of here. I’m going to go walk to 7-Eleven, who wants to come with me?” And then someone will come with me and we’ll go … Someone will go, “Oh, I saw this movie,” and you go, “Oh, that’s cool.” And then I go, “Wait a minute, I got the fucking answer right here,” and that happens. The second you move your body and stop being physically stuck and mentally stuck, your brain just opens up. So I really do believe that the subconscious does unlock a couple of things in writing. If you give yourself a problem and go, “I’ve got to solve this problem, but first I’m going to go read a fucking comic book or I’m going to go to the movies,” and then something will happen when you know you’re not working. You’ll go, “I can do this, I can do that, I can do the other thing. I have so many options now because I treated my brain properly. I knew when to let the idea go, and then it starts kind of doing its own work. It really does. I really think so.”
CK: No, I think that’s true. I think you were mentioning the collective unconscious before or something like that. Synchronicity and all of these things.
BS: Subconscious, I think. Subconscious, I think, is the thing that’s just always happening, and I really think great work-
CK: I see.
BS: I think great works of art from David Lynch to … Again, I keep thinking about The Sopranos. They can puncture through on the subconscious and shows that can do that just a little bit, they’ll be … it’s like I got hypnotized by a show in the best possible way, where it’s just inside of my mind, and David Lynch can do that really well. He understands the subconscious, I think, really well. So that’s writing mode. And then we’ll disappear and we’ll do scripts or punch up scripts and we’ll meet up-
CK: So everybody will go out on their own and take a script and work on it, or two scripts?
BS: Yeah, and my whole idea is, how do I get everyone out of this office? How do we give them things and get them the fuck away from these horrible fluorescent lights and this decrepit … it looks like a shitty junior high. Get me out of here. Go in a café somewhere with a good view and get your legal pad out and start taking notes. I want you out looking at people. Get out of this place. This is a den of torture, and that’s all I want to do is not be in an office. I also found for writing a group of three was a really important amount of people, because two people are having a conversation, and a third person, it doesn’t matter who’s having the conversation, the third person is usually kind of in a place of listening but also just solving problems. So while we’re talking about something, someone goes, “I got it.” And I go, “Shut up, you’re not even in this conversation.” “No, no, I got it,” and then they’ll tell us five or six options that we could do. And you go, “Yeah, and we start talking.” That person goes, “I got it.” And then those two people talk, and I go, “I got it.”
So there’s a weird handoff kind of thing. It’s almost like two people are playing frisbee and the other person’s figured out the game over there. And we also did a thing where we didn’t need to be in the same room. Some people would Skype in, and I realized that the same energy is there and it’s even better because their disconnection to the room is helping them solve the problems we’re working on. It’s a really interesting thing. So, I found a lot of that stuff through acting class too, don’t get stuck. In a scene, don’t get physically stuck. Take the power back. Whatever it is that you need to do, bu the second you get up and start moving … So I’d start to feel a sense of stagnation in the room and I’d look at my watch and I’d go, “It’s 45 minutes.” It’s the perfect amount of time where we all lose interest and our attention span has dissolved, so I’ll go, “Okay, let’s go. Remember when we come back … I’ll see you guys in 20 minutes or so. When we come back, we’re going to work on this.” Give them an assignment before you leave, and then they’ll go, “Yeah, yeah, I’m just going to go eat a sandwich.” But they come back with ideas. “I was thinking the same thing. Yeah. What if that guy, what if instead of him saying it, the other person said it?” So little stupid things like that, changing exposition from one person to another person. So that’s what the writing looks like on the show. And then I would go-
CK: You got into some directing later in it, didn’t you?
BS: I mean, I was directing all the time but I just wouldn’t take the credit because I had so much stuff to do, but I was … there were some people who I … they didn’t make a move unless I would tell them what to do in the room. But then I’d have more time if I got my writing finished. You’d see how organized our writing was by how many director credits I would take, because I would have more time just to babysit just one episode as opposed to bouncing around from five episodes at once. Anyway, that’s if I got my writing done, I would take more directing. But that’s the same thing. I feel like in Metalocalypse, since it was such a visually-driven show, a sequential show, I had to figure that stuff out in the script first. And hopefully, hopefully if I’m paired with a director, they’d go, “Hey, I thought of a really cool visual idea that’s not in the script,” and I’d go, “Please, beat my idea with a cooler one whenever you can. I would love it.” So, that’s part of it too, and then I’d just come in and do art approvals where you just look at stuff and go … you have to forward-think and go, “Is this color going to rub with this other character over here? Can we maybe put that guy in a different color jacket? Because I want them to see him from far away, or you have to think about just the physicality of the space and then you start thinking about certain things like compositing, something that’s usually way in the end of the thing.
And I’d notice we’re getting in trouble with the amount of time that we have compositing where we could bring them in way earlier in the process and start solving problems immediately. And we started doing that later on too, which was … I thought that was a really helpful thing because we wouldn’t have to do a 12-hour render and realize that the move sucked and realize we lost a day and a half of work just because a computer’s rendering something. So I’d bring those guys in and go, “Look, you’re creative. You’ve solved these problems before. Get onboard.” And then it starts feeling like a real community, and it took a while to get there with that show. It was tricky. But I’m trying to think of other things. We do long art approvals, long note sessions, like an early version of something which is like a painful process, because the whole idea of animation is it doesn’t look good, it doesn’t sound good and it’s not funny until the very last day. And it just looks like-
CK: And you’re looking at animatics or whatever-
BS: Animatics are boring. You know what it’s like? It’s like listening to raw, unproduced drums with the room mics on all the way up the whole time, and the last day someone finally edits the toms and EQs the kicks finally. It’s just what it feels like. Once you finally start dialing in your mix, you know that’s … but most of the time … but even a rough mix of a tune, you’re still getting the energy and the idea and it’s not bad, but with animation, visual and audio, when they’re not in sync perfectly, it is a torturous, miserable, until the last day … That’s why live action is so much nicer, because you shoot it, grab it in camera and it just looks good. You can see on the monitors [inaudible 01:16:07]-
CK: And then in a few months you’re going to say, “That’s why animation is so much better.”
BS: I know. Well, yeah, yeah, I know. Well, luckily I’m interested in both, but yeah, there are great things in animation you can do that you can’t do in live action, which is fix everything in post.
CK: On the topic of comedians, wanted to get this in. I wondered if you could point me towards some comedians I may not have heard of who might be doing some interesting work, and might be difficult for you to answer because you have a lot of friends that are comedians who listen to my-
BS: Yeah, yes-
CK: … podcast. All 12 of them are listening to it, but I kind of miss running into those oddball people at Tomorrow Show. I wonder, who’s out there?
BS: All those guys at Tomorrow Show have all gone on to do … Garfunkel and Oates started out there and they’ve become … they’re in movies now and they’re doing all kinds of cool stuff. I remember Anthony Jeselnik starting out around those times and he would just go do the show at night and now he’s all over everything.
CK: But is there someone that’s personally really exciting you out there?
BS: Yeah, there’s a guy … Comedy is in this overflow period right now. I mean, how many specials do you see on Netflix? There are so many specials.
CK: There are a few.
BS: And they kind of look the same from even the little thumbnail. So many things look the same-
CK: And they auto-play.
BS: Yeah, and they auto-play.
CK: Have you seen this?
BS: Oh yeah, when you-
CK: That Netflix auto-plays now?
BS: Well, it auto-plays a trailer or something, right?
CK: Yeah, it drives me insane.
BS: Yeah, I know, I don’t think-
CK: I don’t want to use Netflix now. I’m like, “No.”
BS: There’s a comic who I knew when I first moved to LA and I reconnected with him recently and I’ve been doing shows with him, but he’s a monster comedian. Ian Bagg I think is really great.
CK: Ian Bagg?
BS: Yeah, Ian B-A-G-G.
BS: If you see him any night, the coolest thing about … There’s so many things about him that make him great. First of all, he’s just incredibly likable and that’s just an important thing. And then he’s … It’s almost like he was on the road for years and he threw his act away and just started talking to the audience, and he became … His synapses are firing so fucking quickly and he is taking an audience of people that are all very different, Republicans, Democrats, whatever it is, just the smattering of people that decide to go to a comedy show or get free tickets or whatever it is but they left they’re houses and they’re all in this big room and he starts talking to them in this way where everything is fucking funny. He can unite a room in a way that I’ve never seen before, and again, there are people who are like … Again, right now the world’s so divided that blues and reds don’t even want to be in the same room. They just hate each other so much. They just object categorically to one another.
CK: Well, there are also algorithms that just keep us apart, so we just don’t even run into-
BS: It’s very true, yeah. Yeah, if I only want to hear what I want to hear-
CK: The computer doesn’t want us to-
BS: Yeah, totally. But in a room of actual people, it gives you a little bit of hope for humanity, because I will see him making fun of all kinds of different people and he’s just also like, you came out to a show and this is what happens. This is comedy, and I’m going to fucking ream you, but it’s going to be really funny. And he’s not like Don Rickles. He’s not evil or anything but he’s just really funny and very human and I’ve been doing … He’ll just ask me to open for him every once in a while. I’ll go to Vegas and I’ll do different shows, whatever, but he is really … Todd Barry does that … like a crowd work kind of a thing, and Todd Barry is like B.B. King which is a great guitar player who always sounds fantastic and he’s an important part of the fabric of musical culture, but Ian Bagg is like John Coltrane. He’s just blowing over the Giant Steps changes, you know what I mean? So they’re both really important and great, but what Ian Bagg does with an audience is really interesting.
Then I’ve got friends that I think are really creative and unique and I just want to see them get the kind of shot that they should get, guys like … who we met, we met just because we have the same first name and spelling is Brendon Walsh, who I think is really funny, and every time I see him do stand-up, he’s hilarious, totally funny. But he’s like a working comic, but not everybody knows him but they should because he’s really funny. So those are the two guys off the top of my head. Randy Liedtke is a guy who also started out at Tomorrow Show who I think is a great stand-up. I think he was doing crazy sketch stuff with a bunch of people and-
CK: Some of those anniversary shows several years ago when I was going to them were just so packed with creative talent on stage-
BS: It’s insane, it’s insane.
CK: It was like this is where it’s happening. This was just great shit.
BS: It’s true and I think that’s to Ron Lynch’s credit. I think he really did create an atmosphere where it just can be as weird and loose and funny as it wants to be, and that’s an important thing in growing as a comedian.
CK: Claire Titelman.
BS: Claire Titelman?
CK: That name just popped into my head.
BS: Do I remember that?
CK: There was a Claire Titelman, a hilarious lady. Anyway, Noah Hawley. Familiar?
BS: I don’t know.
CK: No, director.
BS: Oh, director, okay.
CK: Writer, director, cinematographer even I think.
BS: Oh, of TV shows?
BS: Yeah. I haven’t watched Legion and I’ve only just started watching the third season of Fargo, because the movie Fargo is one of my favorite movies of all time and I started watching the TV show and for some reason I had this aversion to the accents because they felt like the thing, and everybody who has a good sense of humor and a good sense of … good taste would tell me how wrong I am, and I finally started watching the season with Ewan McGregor and I was like, “Oh, this is masterful craftsmanship at work.” So now I have to go back and watch everything. I’ve heard the same thing, people love Legion too.
CK: I think Legion is the greatest thing that’s ever been on television.
BS: I’ve got to check it out. I know people like it, people who have good taste. There are a lot of things that people who have good taste tell me about. I just have time. You know what I do? I keep re-watching The Sopranos. I swear to God. Have you gone through it?
CK: I started watching and made it a couple episodes in and I think maybe my wife was like, “Oh, this is too depressing,” so we just didn’t watch more.
BS: Oh, I see. You’ve got to make sure the wife’s onboard.
CK: I’m not a good person.
BS: Well, yeah, that show, I’ll tell you, it runs the gamut of every emotion from elation to faith in humankind to just desolate desperation and everything. It’s an amazing show. I think it’s the show to beat on TV, of all the shows that I’ve ever seen.
CK: Just real quick, you mentioned David Lynch earlier and I’ve never been so disappointed in something than this latest Twin Peaks. I hate it so much.
BS: Yeah, yeah. What do you think it is?
CK: And I forced myself to watch it and I kept fast forwarding and I was like, “I just can’t take it.”
BS:I get that.
CK: It’s like a cliché of David Lynch.
BS: Were you a fan of his before?
CK: Oh yeah, huge. The original Twin Peaks.
BS: The original Twin Peaks, yeah.
CK: Blue Velvet, and I always said Twin Peaks was the greatest thing that was ever on television until I saw Legion. But anyway, yeah, Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, all of that stuff.
BS: Yeah, Mulholland Drive I think is exceptional.
CK: And I just can’t think of anything in this whole season that was interesting to me at all. There’s nothing I take away and go … Like I had a moment, I was thinking of a scene earlier today in one of the old movies and I was just like, “God, what a fucking great scene.” And I was like, “I can’t think of anything that has stuck with me, that is like-“
BS: I’ll say this. If you’re going to reduce … I think there’s a lot of extra fat in this whole thing, if I were to become a TV critic for a moment. I think there’s definitely where he’s pushing what we can handle as far as just wasting time, you know? I also think TV is so fast and clippy and edited in a blender that it’s really refreshing to see a camera take its time finding what it needs to do. The other thing I think … Okay, so I’d say edit’s worse. It definitely flirted with wearing out its welcome often, but I stuck with it, because what I was getting out of it that I found pretty fascinating was he did something with that show that I think is an important lesson from the first episode on. I’m sure the first episode you found pretty intriguing, right?
CK: I don’t even remember. It was so unmemorable throughout.
BS: It depends where you are when you’re watching it, too, because it’s a show that you need to focus on.
CK: Oh yeah, I’m sitting there. I’m like, “Fuck yeah, Twin Peaks,” and I’m like, “Oh, okay.”
BS: Well, what I loved about what he did, and I think this is an important lesson for me to learn from it, is that he’s never telling, he’s always asking, so I even think the first scene of the whole thing, to not give anything away, is … the first thing we see is a plexiglass box, a gigantic plexiglass box that’s supported and suspended in midair through beams and all this stuff against a brick wall, and we just open on that and a person watching it, and we’re cutting back and forth and we’re pushing on this black box and we hear that sound, that kind of low fucking-
CK: The David Lynch sound.
BS: The David Lynch sound, which I think is an important sound. I think it’s a really important sound effect. I think his sound design is part of his masterfulness, because it is like inside-
CK: And I agree-
BS: … inside of the womb and it’s everywhere, yeah.
CK: In the past, I would agree. But anyway-
BS: But I think what he does-
CK: How did we end up being movie critics on this fucking-
BS: I don’t know.
CK: Who are we? What’s going on here?
BS: Because we’re interested in cool stuff and we want to know why it works and why it doesn’t work. I think that’s part of this whole thing. I think that’s an important part of being creative, is to know what you like, but almost more importantly to know what you dislike so you can never turn into that. But I think the cool thing he did in my favorite parts of this scene, because I also think it definitely took a few left turns and I think you could have done the same amount in less time, where it ended, which I thought was interesting, confusing, and I don’t even know if I’ve processed it completely yet. But what he did with the camera was he would not show you and tell you what something is, he would leave the camera on something that I think is interesting, and that’s something that I keep coming back to, is something just simply interesting or not? Just that simple. Is something from your song … to hopefully be interested in what you’re hearing, to hear it evolve on its own or to be dead on arrival, you know? Not that those are the only two options. You can have dead and alive things happening in the same piece, but what I think he did that was really interesting is I think he asks a question with a camera and I think he asks a question with a story and he doesn’t give you information. He makes you have to kind of lean in just a little further and I think that’s a subconscious thing too, because when he shows me something or a new character that’s going through something, I’m like, “Why are we here? Who is that guy?” And I think that’s the best thing you can do, is get someone interested in that way. But you have to pay it off, too.
CK: Right, but that’s what his previous stuff would do for me, but not this, so I guess that’s why I was so frustrated.
BS: I’ll say something else that I thought was interesting, and maybe because I was high at the time, but I think it would have worked without it. That sequence of the nuclear bomb or the hydrogen bomb …
CK: Somehow I don’t even remember that but I remember there’s a giant poster on Gordon’s wall, which I thought was hilarious.
BS: What was the poster?
CK: Of a nuclear explosion.
BS: Oh, okay.
CK: And I thought how fucking funny it is that this Gordon Cole guy has … he decides to have on his wall, the entire wall-
BS: Well, this episode is probably in the middle point of the season, and at that point I was watching this, and I know that I was high at the time, and high is … being high for me, it only enhances something if it’s good, but if you eat bad pizza when you’re high, you’re like, “This is pretty bad pizza.” But if you’re eating good pizza, you’re like, “This is the best fucking pizza I’ve ever had in my life.” But if something’s not great, it just bums you out. But if something starts working, it just enhances it in this really cool way, and I was just hyper focused, and I was watching this sequence and I said in my mind, “There has never been anything like this on TV before, and this guy broke out something new,” and I think it happened in a couple different places where I’ve seen visual things on that show that had a lot of just courage, balls, bravado to be able to pull some of that stuff off. So, I know it’s a lot of hours to log. I don’t know that he needed to do … How many episodes did he do?
CK: Like 19 or something.
BS: Yeah, it’s like 19 solid hours of crazy stuff. I’m kind of onboard … I would rather have someone doing something and take it to fucking outer space than see a rehashed something else, you know what I mean? Even when I get out of the movies and I go, “That movie didn’t work but thank fucking God they wrote a God damned original screenplay and an original idea.” I may not like it but I’ll respect it like crazy, and that happens a lot as I get older. I realize I’m not a fan, but God damn, I wanted to hug you and I’ve got a ton of respect for you for doing it, and I get excited, you know? It’s even better when it works and it lands for everybody. But I think there’s a lot there. I think it’s hard to brush off this new Twin Peaks. And I re-watched the original one, which I think it’s a masterful ending and that’s what we really remember, but season two got into a place where it was so silly and I was like, “Yeah, this is when David Lynch kind of checked out.” He was working on Blue Velvet or something, or some movie at the time. Anyway.
CK: Yeah, well that’s all I’ve got.
CK: All right, bye.