James Arledge – Looking back on your career what are some of the road blocks that you hit and how did you overcome them?
Brent Black – I’m usually my own worst enemy. The persona of the brentalfloss character didn’t evolve in a way that I would’ve mapped out. I did video for a while after Mega Man 3 With Lyrics but before I was anywhere near as well known as I am now and the way I was presenting myself as a person was kinda just a shot in the dark, I was just trying different things. Everybody puts on sort of a front when they are in front of the camera because you kind of can’t help but to think about every single move you make.
Eventually I did two videos that sort of cemented my direction with brentalfloss the character. The first one was the first FAQ, and I thought everyone was going to call me out on being a big jerk, but I got sort of the opposite reaction. Everyone thought It was really funny, so that worked out. Then I did Tetris With Lyrics, which that in of itself was a sort of satire on a certain kind of douche bag, but because the humor was so dry a lot of people didn’t really get it and I never really broke that character. So those two things became this character of this semi sleazy, semi condescending guy, and everyone has a little bit of those things somewhere in their personalities
The road blocks were me trying to reconcile the character of brentalfloss that I continued to be through 2009 or 2010, taking a step back and saying “Ya know I just don’t think I’m that guy.” I slowly transitioned to a brand where there are more options or more emotional states, Stuff like The 2-2 Blues or actually letting people know that I teach, so that eventually there is less of a separation between the idea of Brent Black the person and brentalfloss the character.
JA -Now flip to the other end of the spectrum, what were the best times so far?
BB – There was a guy had something like a pacemaker that you wear on your belt and it is constantly hooked up into him to make sure his heart is working and the brand name of this one was called Heart Mate. After one of my shows he asked me to sign this thing that he wears every day, that doctors have to check and that he has to make sure is charged up so that he will stay alive! Since it said Heart Mate I wrote on it “You’ve got a big Heart Mate.” then I signed it. The fact that he wanted me to sign something so permanent, something he sees all the time and that keeps him alive was huge.
On Craigslist there is something called “Missed Connections.” That is basically like if you go somewhere and you met somebody, or made eye contact with someone and you thought they might remember you from somewhere and you forgot to get there number. Somebody recently put up an add in the Toronto Craigslist Site. This guy had met a girl at Anime North and he really liked her. He went on to describe what they did together and one of the things was “You sang some brentalfloss to me.” I was like Woah! I’m helping nerds fall in love and that is amazing.
JA -Your upcoming album “Bits of Me” is coming out later this year, how does this album differ from your last few CDs?
BB – I’ve only got one real brentalfloss CD (What If This CD Had Lyrics) so it was a new animal even though Joe, the sound engineer, and I had worked two musical theatre soundtracks in college it was something all together new to try and make me the star. The first CD was just us trying to get everything done, worrying less about the product quality and letting a lot of things slide. Thing that I though that weren’t worth it to bring up and seem like a jerk, but then I listened to the CD for two years and even though it is very successful in the scene and the CD alone is what made me able to become a full-time internet celebrity. My point is that if there is one small crack or small something that I would have changed, the second it goes to print, that thing is like a blinking light and I regret not fixing it. I can’t just release a slightly modified version later on down the road.
This time around there was more quality control and making sure that there is nothing that we missed or anything that doesn’t work. Bits Of Me has way less filler and experimental tunes.
JA -So you have built your name as a comedian, your audience on YouTube, and your career on your love for video games and as a lyricist. You have performed live at venues across the country, you are a teacher, you co-wrote and composed an off-broadway musical, you even have your own webcomic. What is next for you, and are there any projects coming up that you can reveal to us?
BB – As far as brentalfloss goes there are going to be more videos with a different flavor and a bit more emotional weight. When I did The 2-2 Blues it was a huge, scary and risky experiment with opening my heart a bit and allowing the characters that everyone loved in the Nintendo universe to suddenly be used to tell stories that were a little bit more like everyman stories, and it worked. Now I am working on a video called “Metroid: A Fight For Love” which is a love story that involves Samus who is a badass and kills things. I’m also working on a video called ” Baby Mario and Papa Yoshi” that retells the story of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island as a story of Yoshi raising mario from a baby. It is a story about Mario and Yoshi but it is more of a human condition story about kids. Kids are beautiful but they are also a pain in the ass but in the form of a montage music video.
I love the video game characters that we all grew up with but I want to tell stories and that is a big thing on the horizon. I do want to return to musical theatre and I know that the brentalfloss thing is a form of that, and making jokes with music and lyrics is one thing, but there is something about writing a show is incredible. I got burnt out on it in 2010 when we had an off broadway show, it wasn’t terribly successful and wasn’t all that well received by the critics, so I thought well you know I have this brentalfloss thing going for me, what am I worried about writing a show for? Now it is sort of like me wanting to have my cake and eat it too. I can do the brentalfloss thing while working on a side project. I don’t know exactly what it will be yet, but I want something to get me back into the musical theatre scene so that I can let that dog out of it’s cage too.
brentalfloss on YouTube
Bits of Me