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Brian Posehn on the late Jill Janus, Weird Al, new music that doesn’t suck, & ‘Grandpa Metal’

Posted by on April 3, 2020

 

This past February feels like ages ago when everyone was looking forward to a concert, festival, or simple things, including hugging one of your friends. During this timeframe, a great comedy-metal album was also released: Brian Posehn’s Grandpa Metal via Megaforce Records. Who would have thought just a month after its release, this LP would be the record we need right now to maintain a laugh or two while the world has essentially shut down due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The album features a plethora of guest musicians, including the late Jill Janus, Testament’s Chuck Billy, Exodus’ Steve “Zetro” Souza, Weird Al, Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, Steel Panther’s Michael Starr, more. Posehn teamed up with Anthrax’s Scott Ian, Fall Out Boy’s Joe Trohman, and Dethklok’s Brendon Small along with producer Jay Rustin to create fourteen-tracks filled with metal and hilarity. We caught up with Posehn to discuss his overall career, new music that doesn’t suck, comedy, and all things Grandpa Metal. 

 

Let’s start with Grandpa Metal. I noticed it took six years to finally create the album and it has everything from Satan to goblins to slamming new music. How did this all come together?

Well, I had done other songs with Scott Ian over the years and then even Jay Ruston, our producer. Scott and I had done Metal By Numbers first, almost 16 years ago now. It was a blast. It was fun on my comedy records having music because it made sense. So, it was on Relapse Records for me to mess around in and then we had so much fun doing that. About six years later, we did More Metal Than You. Around then, I was like, “We should do like a full record of this.” We signed with the Megaforce for this. Then it just took forever. It’s my crazy schedule, Scott’s got a crazy schedule, we’re dads, and we’ve got all these other things going on. And then everybody else involved also had a ton of things. So we got Brendon Small to help, but he had a million other things on his plate. Jay Ruston, our producer, also was taking other gigs. It was people’s priority, but it wasn’t our number one priority. And I’m kind of glad it took as long as it did because there’s so many things that wouldn’t have happened. If we had to crank this out, like if I had to have it done four or five years ago. Well, I don’t know what would have been on the record because we only had two songs at that time, but it couldn’t have been what it is.

 

 

There’s also quite a number of guest musicians, including the late Jill Janus. How was it getting everybody together?

It was really easy. That part of it was just me calling in favors and asking friends. Chuck Billy was around when I had done those other songs and so he was always like, “Hey, I’d do that if you need me to do something.” And I was like, “Okay, I’m going to hold you to it.” And then I’m like, “Here, sing on Take On Me.” He’s like, “What?” But everybody came easy. Jill’s a friend, so I made her do two songs. But I asked her and she was super sweet about it. It sucks that she’s not here to be in a video with me because I wanted to do both her songs as videos. I wanted to do Take On Me and I wanted to do Goblin Love. But since she’s not, I’m not going to even do videos of those because it wouldn’t be the same without her. And if we’re just showing stills, it just doesn’t… But what’s great is now people get to hear her and know how awesome she was. She has a million fans. But if you’re not aware, check this out because she killed it on both tracks.

 

What made you decide to cover a-ha’s Take On Me?

 

Well, that song is such an earworm. I’m super old, man, so that song’s been in my life since it came out. I don’t love pop music, but pop music like that can be everywhere, pervasive, ubiquitous, and whatever other big word. I’ve always said any song would be better as metal. I have always loved when metal bands covered pop songs, rock songs, or even traditional songs and then made them heavier. I know that people have covered it, but I wanted to do it with thrash vocals and literally get two of my favorite guys, Zetro and Chuck Billy, and then get Jill to kill what she did on the chorus.

 

It’s also one of those songs that you actually don’t get tired of hearing at a bar.

Right.

 

I thought the phone call with Weird Al was hysterical.

 

Oh, thanks.

 

Especially, I got the Shazam reference. Can you talk more about getting that conversation together?

Yeah, so that one… I knew I wanted him on the record and I had mentioned it to him a while ago, “Hey, I’m doing this thing.” Everybody I approached, I was pretty self-deprecating about it. Like, “Hey, I’m doing this dumb record. Will you be on it? It’s going to be silly, but it’ll be fun.” And with him, I pitched it the same way and he’s like, “Yeah, anything you want. Whatever you want to do.” And then I was like, “Whoa, what am I going to do? He said he’ll do something.” And it had a running gag that I bailed on where I was going to have me calling rappers and getting rappers to do a guest rap on my song, but then have them turn me down. And since I didn’t do that, I was like, “Well, why don’t I call Weird Al and have him turn me down?” If people know Weird Al, they know he’s this creative guy. But if you know him at all as a person or if you’ve looked into him, everybody thinks he’s the nicest guy in the world because he is. He’s the Tom Hanks of song parodies and he’s just a sweet guy. I was like, “Well, let’s have him be a dick to me. I love writing things where I get to be the irritating guy or the clueless guy of that. So, that was the comedic take of let’s have me be kind of a dick to Weird Al where his only out is to be an equal dick and hang up on me at the end of it.

 

It’s actually brilliant. I have to say, it felt realistic.

Well, thanks.

 

It reminded me of one of those crank calls from years ago.

It’s fully written, though. It’s not improvised at all. I wrote it like a sketch and then I sent it to him. We did a couple of takes. We did one that was more improvised, but the one that you hear was completely just written out where it’s every beat of… I just wrote it like I was writing a visual sketch. I’ve never really done audio sketches like that.

 

Well, it worked. You’ve actually expressed how new music sucks quite a number of times in this record. I was curious, are there any newer artists that you’ve been listening to lately?

Newer metal?

 

Yes, of course.

Yeah, there are. They’re new for an old guy. Last year I got into He Is Legend and people are like, “Dude, they’ve been around 15 years.” And I was like, “Well, they’re new to me.” They were one that I caught more recently and I liked their last record. But I’ve been a fan of Power Trip and Havok for the last couple of years. I like them. Red Fang’s not new anymore, but I listen to some newer stuff. I’m open minded. I just haven’t heard other things that have clicked with me like Havok and Power Trip. Those are more recent.

 

Definitely not Taylor Swift’s new album or anything like that?

No, no pop. I don’t hate the Lizzo. People like the Lizzo. She seems nice. I think it’s just Lizzo, but I’m old so I’ll call her the Lizzo. She seems nice and a good kid and the people like her. And that other one, the kid that doesn’t like Van Halen, she seems nice… because you don’t have to like Van Halen. I like Van Halen, but I don’t care if Billie Eilish likes Van Halen at all. It just means she has shitty parents, that’s really all. My takeaway was that her parents dropped the ball. I don’t think any less of her, I just think less of her parents.

 

It seems like morphing genres together is a new attempt at exposure. For example, Post Malone and Ozzy Osborne’s collaboration. It works and then it doesn’t.

Yeah, I don’t love those tracks.

 

Okay, there we go. So, it doesn’t work for you.

And I love Ozzy-

 

Who doesn’t?

… and I love that the tattooed face kid is trying. When I first heard about Postmates [Post Malone], people were like, “Hey, Postmates Malone, he likes it.” I know that’s not his name, but I’m old so that’s how I talk. “Hey, Postmates, that guy, he likes metal.” I’m like, “Well, yeah? Fucking prove it.” Then he did and now I wish he didn’t. Same with when Lady Gaga performed with Metallica. It’s the same thing, “Oh, that’s cool. Mm-mm (negative).” That’s great that this pop artist also likes the same things as I do because I had heard that she was old school. Somebody from Anthrax was like, “Hey, Lady Gaga likes Saxon.” I was like, “No fucking way does she like Saxon.” And the dude would be like, “No, she really does. She’s a metalhead.” I was like, “Well, prove it,” and then she did. Moving on.

 

You have quite the resume from acting to writing to metal and comedy, and it’s impressive. Some people still have a screenplay collecting dust, but you’ve done it all. With that being said, is there anything between any parts of your career that you found more challenging than the other?

Well, I too have screenplays collecting dust. No, a lot of it. None of it’s been easy. For me, acting hasn’t been easy. A Lot of the things you’ve seen me in, it was just people putting me in it. Auditioning, I’ve missed out on a lot of things because that is not my skill… being in the room, being funny, and then getting them to like me. But when somebody writes a part for me and I’ve been able to go in, that’s been really great. It’s all been work. The only things that have fallen into my lap are the things outside of comedy, like getting to do metal stuff and getting to be in The Devil’s Rejects. I did not audition for that one. That was Rob Zombie just going, “Hey, do you want to do this? Do you want to get shot in the face?” And I’m like, “In a movie?” And he’s like, “Yeah, sure.” So, “I guess so.” Marvel Comics came from hanging out with Marvel Comics people at Comic-Con for years and just being… Half of the stuff I’ve gotten to do is because I’m a legit nerd and I put it in the time. And with the metal record, I’ve been friends with all these guys… Scott [Ian], 20 years now.

 

I saw that you wrote an episode for the show Space Ghost Coast to Coast. What was that experience like for you?

That show was a trip to write too. All the interview stuff they did on their own. Then you would take interview footage, rework it, and then have Space Ghost responding to these people or asking them questions. So, we had their responses pre-taped, if that makes sense. For my episode, I wrote it with an Onion writer, who later on ran The Daily Show. This was my friend Ben [Karlin]. We just took a couple of SNL people and then had Space Ghost do this. It was an SNL-themed show. It was a fun exercise to write something like that. It was a cool thing to take this and then make it funny.

 

How do you think comedy, or comedians in general, has changed over the years?

How has comedy been changed? Well, it’s everywhere… so many places to get it, so many different types of people doing it, so many different styles, so many voices. It’s good. I think it’s in a good place. People say that now it’s harder to do certain jokes, but I think, “Good.” I think it should be harder to tell certain jokes because some of them weren’t worth doing. Punching down, I’m not a fan of unless it’s musically. I can make fun of bands and do that kind of shit all day and be kind of mean about it. But punching down on people that are different than you and that kind of thing, that to me was never my style of comedy. So, I’m not hurt by the new rules. “You can’t say things.” Yes, you can. Just be funny and don’t be a dick just to be a dick, I think, is the biggest thing that I hope comedians are learning from. People finally going, “Hey, no. Stop doing that. Don’t make fun of those people.” In the ’80s comedy, it was so… I look back on some of that and it’s hard to listen to. I’m glad that it’s hard to listen to because that means I’ve grown up. You know what I mean? The things that even made me laugh 20 years ago, don’t make me laugh anymore and things I’ve said even. There’s a couple of jokes I made on my first record that I would never do now because I’ve grown up a little bit. I’m just like, “That was unnecessary.” That was low-hanging fruit or that was too easy or punching down, whatever you want to call it. People can do better.

 

 

That’s a really good outlook. I didn’t even think about that side of things.

There’s so many comedians my age that have gone the other way now. I see guys that are angry that used to seem liberal. Everybody now is so political onstage too. For me, I’ve always been myself in real life and in comedy. I just want to do my thing. But seeing guys be assholes, it makes me want to go the other way even more. I just want to be a contrarian and just be more open. I don’t know what that means. I’m finding it.

 

Is there anything else that you want to say or add about Grandpa Metal?

I mean, I had a blast doing it. You don’t have to experience it this way, but I think you’ll like it even more if you sit down with it, if you listen to it in a way that you don’t always listen to music. I know a lot of people listen to music on their headphones on their phone or whatever on their way to work, ways that I didn’t. But I feel like sitting down, smoking a joint, having a scotch, drinking a beer, whatever your thing is. Sit down, put your headphones in your living room, or crank it in your living room, but don’t do it on the subway. You can, but the way to really enjoy this record, I think, is to listen to it from front to back in a cool experience. Or crank it in your car, I don’t care. But for me, I’ve listened to it already with my headphones and I love the way it sounds. I mean, Jay Ruston killed it with the production and it feels like one of those fun records, like Cheech and Chong, that I grew up with. Or hearing Stormtroopers of Death, that first SOD record, listening to it front to back that way. That’s how I think Grandpa Metal should be experienced.

 

 

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