Brian Posehn links his passion for metal and comedy with ‘Grandpa Metal’

Photo Credit: Seth Olenick

With the talents of everyone from Scott Ian to ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, the comedy big man has curated a headbanging, gut-busting good time

It’s been six years since Brian Posehn began what would become a bonafide journey through metal and comedy mastery. Now, with the help of some of his best friends in the metal and punk community including Corey Taylor of Slipknot, Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, Michael Starr of Steel Panther, the late Jill Janus of Huntress, and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden just to name a few, the dream was realized on Friday (February 14) in the form of comedy-metal mash-up Grandpa Metal.

Posehn’s meshing of the two world’s showcases not only the funnyman’s already-proven abilities in metal and comedy, and a hella serious lineup of legends in the metal scene, but also his undying passion for both of his lifelong loves.

Vanyaland got the chance to chat with Posehn about the new album, the process of assembling such an absurdly talented group of musicians for the project, how it feels to finally see it hit daylight, and how surreal of an experience the entire process really was at the root of it all for the tried and true metal head.

Jason Greenough: Jumping right in, you’ve got Grandpa Metal coming out on Valentine’s Day. What are your overall thoughts on the album?

Brian Posehn: Well, it’s been in my head for so long, so it just feels amazing to finally be talking about it, and actually, while it sounds corny, hear from journalists like you guys who have listened to it already, and to know that other people are spending any time with it is cool, man. For so long, the only people that heard it were the people who had parts on it, my wife, and my son. 

They’ve heard every version of these songs as I was adding vocals and getting guitar parts, and my kid has heard it for half of his life. He’s ten now, and he’s heard all of these demos for the last five years, so it feels good to be done with it and talking about it, and now working on shooting videos for it. I’m working on shooting some videos over the next month, so that feels good to have the songs out of my head, and now focusing on the visuals and getting these jokes out there.

Right on. That pretty much answers my next question, which was about how long it was in the works. Jesus, five years. That’s a hell of a time frame.

It’s actually six total. I had other things get in the way. I wrote a book, I’ve done a ton of stand-up, and stand-up has always been my main focus. It’s a tough thing coming up with all of those tracks, too. We wrote a couple of songs in that first year, and then other things, like having songs that didn’t work out, and a couple of other things that made it take this long, but the main reason is that I was busy, Scott Ian was busy, and our producer was busy too. 

There would be times where I would let him know I was able to do vocals, and he would be like “Well, I’m recording Amon Amarth now,” so I had to bring Brendon Small in at one point a couple of years back to work on a couple of things, and he’s crazy busy, then I brought Joe Trohman in to help me, just in the last year and a half, to wrap up the few songs that were in different states of being finished. He and I wrote lyrics for three songs, and that’s all just within the last year and a half. 

I got the “Weird Al” thing in right before we were turning the record in, and recorded a couple of the little interstitial sketches like the grandma thing. I was going to hire an actress for it, like have Maria Bamford or someone else do it, but the record just needed to be done, and I didn’t want to hear one more person’s schedule, so I decided that I would do a terrible Swedish Grandma voice, and get this album finished and out there.

I gotta say, though, it adds another comedic layer to the record with you doing that voice.

Oh, for sure.

You’ve never been shy about your love for metal. You’ve always been very vocal about it, and have a lot of friends in the metal scene, as we’ve seen, so maybe this is a dumb question, but what sparked the idea to do this album to begin with?

Well, the idea came from the other songs I had done on my stand-up records, from doing “Metal By Numbers” (from Live In: Nerd Rage), “More Metal Than You” and the cover of “The Gambler” (from Fart and Weiner Jokes), I had a blast from the time I had done it. We’ve been talking for years about doing a record, for at least ten years I’ve been talking about doing this. Once we signed with Megaforce, and pitched it to them about six years ago, even though it was called something different at that point, there was always the idea that we were gonna write a bunch of songs that either commented on different genres of metal, or addressed different tropes of metal. So, they signed on and I said “oh shit, now I gotta do it.”

You’ve mentioned a few names that were part of the project already, with Joe Trohman and Scott Ian, but on top of them you have Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour),  Michael Starr (Steel Panther), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Chuck Billy (Testament), and the list goes on. The contributors to this album are absolutely not screwing around. How did all of these come together for this record? What was the search criteria? Did you reach out individually, or was it more of a general casting-call type of thing?

No, no. I really did it the way I’ve done other songs. With the things I had before with “Metal By Numbers” and “More Metal Than You,” I had done it with Scott, Joey Vera (Armored Saint) and John Tempesta (White Zombie, Testament), so it was like what I had already been doing. I had also had guest guitar players before for solos like Jon Donais (Anthrax, Shadows Fall), and Mark Morton (Lamb of God), so when I started working on this record, it was always going to be like this, to get as many people as I know to do solos. 

I was always going to reach out to Alex Skolnick (Testament), but then things that started happening organically, were when I was working on [“Satan’s Kind of a Dick”], I thought about how I should get Gary Holt for it, because he plays in Slayer, and he can do a Slayer-like solo, since one of the punchlines in the song is the fact that they don’t play Slayer in hell. That kind of happened where it just fit perfectly. With the other solos, one of the last ones was Bumblefoot (Sons of Apollo, Guns N’ Roses) on “Monster Mosh,” and I had just met Bumblefoot. We had talked to John 5 (Rob Zombie) about doing the solo, but he just got busy, and couldn’t get us the track, but I thought about good of a fit Bumblefoot would be for it, and he put it in for us.

With the vocals, it was always the intention to have guest vocals. I can’t really sing, but I can do my version of heavy metal signing with my own limitations, and to make the tracks better, I’ll get guest vocalists. So I always wanted to get Corey Taylor, and he was one of the first, because we actually recorded “What Does The Fox Say?”, I think, four or five years ago now, so that track was the first completed track.

This album certainly has one hell of a story, especially given how long it’s been since you started it. 

It really wound up being a labor of love, as they say, and my friends really stepped up to help me finish it.

Obviously this album has a lot of collaborations, but were there any collabs in particular that really stick out you as an “Oh, my God” moment?

Almost all of them. I’m a fan, man, and I was fan first, before any of this, before I became friends with any of these guys, so to get Rob Cavestany (Death Angel), who is one of my favorite guitar players — well, all of the solos are from some of my favorite guitar players — and Kim Thayil’s solo. When I got all the solos, I listened to them all hundreds of times, and I was so excited that I just played them over and over. Almost every person who turned them in, I was just like “This is better than anything I ever imagined”.

First, hearing Alex Skolnick’s solo, and then I wasn’t around for the recordings with Jill Janus (Huntress), who unfortunately is no longer with us. It’s super sad to me that she isn’t around, but she absolutely crushed it on those songs, so when I first heard what she did on “Goblin Love,” I realized that I had to redo my part in it, since I was really only kind of half-assing my goblin voice on the track I had sent to her. There’s a bunch of examples like that where I was getting these recordings from people and just thinking “oh, my god,” to have these people doing this. Like I said, to have the dude from Soundgarden? I was working at Tower Records when Soundgarden put out their first record. It’s just insane.

So there’s a bit of a full circle sort of feeling to this record?

Absolutely, but my life already feels like that. Getting to be in The Mandalorian, and just all these other things, it’s pretty crazy for a guy who has loved heavy metal since the first time I heard it, but I started in heavy music at nine or ten years old, and I still love it as much as I do. So, to be blessed to have all of these guys play on my silly record, because at the end of the day, it’s a goofy record, is pretty crazy. They all signed on and just did what I asked them to do.

You bring up the Jill Janus tracks, and with her having passed back in 2018, she’s further immortalized with this record, and it’s kind of a time capsule. Looking back on that now, with the significance of that, how does that feel?

Her passing devastated me, because she hadn’t fully made her mark yet. I mean, she made a mark, but I feel like no one outside of hardcore metal has any idea about how special she was. Her voice was fucking amazing. The first time I heard her, it was just “holy shit” because he has this thing, and she was such a great front person, and it’s such a big loss to the community, and to me personally, and to a bunch of my friends who loved her. Here’s the thing, I had gotten the final version of “Take On Me” when she had passed, and I was crying, but the first thing I thought was “I can’t wait for people to hear this.”

“Goblin Love” to me is just so funny, and she was someone who didn’t think she was funny, but she is, and was, and I really couldn’t have done that song with anyone else but her, so it’s bittersweet that she doesn’t get to hear it, and nobody will be able to go up to her and tell her how awesome it was and hear all the praise from it, but without being corny, I don’t even know how to articulate it. It’s overwhelming, really. It feels good to have it out there.

Another collab that really stuck out to me on this album, as a lifelong fan of him, was “Weird Al.” To see him on this album was just great. How, even without him physically playing music on a metal album, did you fit “Weird Al”, a cornerstone of pop culture and comedy, into that mix?

I’ve known him for awhile, so as I was working on the record, it was one of those things where I felt like he just had to be on it. I was going to find a way, no matter what, to use him on it, and I may even use him again in a video, but this guy is your pal. I didn’t do a parody record, but like you said, he’s a cornerstone of comedy, and any time I do music, it’s because I grew up listening to him. Of course, there are other influences like Cheech and Chong and Scatterbrain, but I always knew I wanted to put Weird in it. I honestly love just calling him “Weird” and not Al, but I’ve done bits about him, and done jokes about him in my stand-up about how I was going to play his parodies, and never play the originals for my son, so the first time my son hears Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” he would go “What the fuck is this? This guy is ripping off ‘Eat It’.”

So it was a similar joke going into this, where it was me being clueless, and I thought it would be even funnier than putting him on a song to have him turn me down. There was originally going to be a running gag where I was calling all of these rappers to be on the record, but all those artists were saying no to even doing that. I went to Redman and Method Man, who I’ve worked with before, and asked them if they would do the sketch, and they were like “Nope!” [Laughs], so I ditched the idea of getting hip-hop guys, but I figured I could still get the self-deprecating turndown for the record, but I’ll get it from “Weird Al.”

I feel like it being with “Weird Al”, who is the quintessential nice guy that you never hear bad stuff about, makes the sketch even funnier.

That was totally what I was going for, because he is the nicest guy in the business, and to have him scream at me, I just knew it would be funny. Also for me, comedically, to be a complete dick to the nicest guy in the business, that was always the intention.

As we’ve discussed, this album is a unique meshing of worlds. But how has it affected your creativity going forward now that this labor of love is out, whether it be in stand-up, or TV, or whatever you work on in the future?

Part of the reason it took so long is because I always had things on my plate, so now that I don’t have this to work, I have all of these ideas coming up, and some comic book stuff I’m working on. As soon as the promo for this record is finished, I’m getting right back into that, and getting a new special out, but also do some new comic book stuff over the next couple of years.

What is your biggest hope for this record, and what are you hoping people get from it?

I don’t really know, man. I want to do some videos, so there is some visual representation of these songs out there, and I just hope people dig it. I don’t think it’ll change the world, but I hope metalheads who also have a sense of humor about metal can enjoy it, and I hope it turns some new people onto the genre.