Just a few weeks ago, we came across a YouTube video of Unlocking the Truth, a blustering band of Brooklyn-based boys, rocking out in Times Square NYC. The video has since caught fire, accumulating more than a million views and garnering the attention of music fans all over the world. This talented, young metal band hailing from Brooklyn, New York consists of Malcolm Brickhouse on lead guitar, Alec Atkins on bass, and Jarad Dawkins on the drums… all of whom are under the age of thirteen. Yep, that’s right. Twelve and under. Needless to say, we had a lot of questions. Are these dudes from another planet? How, at age twelve, are they already so much cooler than we will EVER be? What is it that motivates and encourages such drive and determination?
Feeling truly inspired by the boys’ dedication to following their dreams at such a young age, we decided to drop a line. We spoke to their “MOMager” (band manager/Malcolm’s mom), Annette Jackson, who agreed to bring the boys to GoGo squeeZ HQ for a photo shoot and interview. We were pumped! We had an awesome chat with her about watching the band grow, the importance of fostering creativity in children, and allowing kids to pursue what interests them. We also got to talk to the band about the early days (Malcolm and Jarad have literally been in the band nearly half their lives), how the focus and discipline they’ve learned from playing instruments can be applied to academics, and being stranded on a desert island. Check it!
GGS: You must be very proud of the boys… Can you tell us a bit about what it’s been like watching them grow as a band?
Annette: Yes, we are very proud and happy for our boys. At first, it was just Malcolm and Jarad strumming and banging along to music videos… but once we realized they were creating and playing their own music, we just put them out there. It took off from there. Now they’re performing and being recognized for their talent, so we’re very happy for them. It’s very exciting for all of us.
GGS: Why do you think it’s important for parents to support their kids in following their dreams?
Annette: Remember when you were a kid and your mom said no? I’m not a dream-buster. We think it’s important for parents to support their kids in whatever their interests are because you never know what could come out of it. At the same time, it lets our children know that we believe that they are good at something that is important to THEM and not just to us. Also, there’s more to life than the three R’s. (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic)
GGS: What would you say to a parent who is hesitant to buy their kid an electric guitar, or drum set, instead of, say, a piano?
Annette: Well, to me, if you have the means, just buy it. As a parent, you know what your kid likes; you know what your kid is passionate about… it really doesn’t matter if it’s an instrument or something else. Would you rather have your kid stuck in front of a TV playing video games all day, or being creative?
And now for the band…
GGS: First I want to hear a bit about Unlocking the Truth and how it started, so, how did you all meet?
Malcolm: I met Jarad at a birthday party and I met Alec at a daycare center. We were 3 or 4.
GGS: When did you decide to start playing music together?
Jarad: We started playing around age 6 or 7, but [Alec] wasn’t in the band at the time.
GGS: What inspired each of you to start playing music?
Malcolm: What inspired me to play music was when I first saw Disturbed play live at the IZOD Center… I realized that’s what I really wanted to do.
Alec: During the summer of 2012, I would hang out with Malcolm at his house and I would hear him play electric guitar. He was really good, so he inspired me and let me join his band.
Jarad: Most of all my parents, because my parents come from a musical family – generations of musicians. That’s how I came to be inspired by music. Also, wrestling and animated music videos.
GGS: Did you guys know what instruments you wanted to play right off the bat?
Malcolm: My mom bought me a little electric guitar when I was little… like, from Toys R Us. She let me try out other instruments, but guitar was the one I liked the most.
Alec: First, I was the singer… That didn’t work out! Then I was the lead guitarist –
Jarad: Rhythm! The rhythm!
Alec: Rhythm guitar, yeah. Rhythm guitarist, and that didn’t work out either. Then I became the bassist, and that DID work out!
Jarad: My grandma was a piano player, but I don’t know how I got my drum talent. I guess I was playing on pots and cans and things like that, and that’s how it came to be from then on. I also played the drums in church.
GGS: Self-taught, school-taught, or lessons?
Malcolm: I’m self-taught and I also took lessons.
Alec: They taught me in school. I have this afterschool program where they teach me how to play guitar, and I also take lessons outside of school on Mondays at Brooklyn Guitar Center.
Jarad: I’m self-taught.
GGS: How would you guys describe your style as a band?
Malcolm: I would say Escape the Fate meets Metallica. It’s metalcore.
GGS: How did you guys get into metal music?
Malcolm: I listen to AMV [Anime Music Videos] music videos and watch a lot of wrestling. My dad took us to a lot of wrestling shows and I liked the background music so I started listening to it and really liked it
Alec: I was hanging out with him at the time [points to Malcolm] and he was really into it.
Jarad: Same thing.
GGS: Favorite bands?
Malcolm: My favorite bands are In Dying Arms, Escape the Fate.
Alec: The Witch Was Right, Escape the Fate, I See Stars, Metallica, Motionless in White, and Chelsea Grin. That’s it.
Jarad: For me it’s Chelsea Grin, In Dying Arms, The Witch Was Right – of course us, I really have to say us – Metallica, Slayer, Living Colour… a whole lot!
GGS: Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
Malcolm: My biggest musical influence is Jeff Loomis, he’s a very good guitar player.
Alec: My biggest influence is TJ Bell, the bass player from Escape the Fate.
Jarad: I would say a little known artist called Steve Jordan.
GGS: Do you think that the focus and discipline it takes to learn an instrument is something that has helped you in other ways, for instance, in school?
Alec: I guess it teaches me to work harder for what I want.
Malcolm: It helps me concentrate. It takes a lot of concentration to play the guitar, so it helps me concentrate when doing other things like math.
Jarad: For me it’s focus. If you concentrate pretty well, you can get right through. Don’t let nobody interfere with what you’re doing – that’s a part of focus.
GGS: How do you balance practicing, playing gigs, and getting your schoolwork done?
Malcolm: On the weekdays, Monday through Friday, I play guitar by myself and then do schoolwork. I schedule it.
Alec: I get home around 6, then I take a shower, do my homework, read for an hour, then from about 9-10 or 9-11 I practice the rest of the night.
Jarad: When I get home from school – like he said – I take a shower, then I do my homework, then after that, the rest of the time is practicing.
GGS: What do you do for fun when you’re not playing music?
Malcolm: I skateboard, draw, make stories, and write poems.
Alec: I go bike riding and write stories… and draw sometimes, a little bit.
Jarad: Bike ride and skateboard.
GGS: What have been some of the more exciting things that have happened to you guys as you pursue your passion?
Malcolm: I like performing. My favorite places to perform at are Black Thorn 51, The Apollo, and The Bitter End. I think those are the best shows we’ve ever performed.
Jarad: The best show I would say we ever had – like he said – was Black Thorn 51. Two weeks from now [June 6, 2013], we’ll be going on Totally Biased, the show on FX. The Executive Producer is Chris Rock. We’ll be going on there in two weeks, and that’s going to be one gig that we should never forget. The Bitter End, Times Square, Washington Square Park…
Alec: For me it’s Times Square… Not this weekend when we went, but sometime in April.
GGS: Any crazy fans yet?
Alec: Yes! Just this weekend, there were some Indian people dancing for us… Having this little mosh pit sorta thing going on in front of us while we were performing, and touching us. One man kissed us! Also, Jarad took me inside his school and all the kids were like, “Oh is that the kid who plays guitar?” Yeah, so, I feel kinda popular.
GGS: How does it feel to have collectively more than a million hits on YouTube?
Malcolm: I feel like people are starting to notice us and our dreams are really coming true now.
Jarad: I get acknowledged more when I’m alone now and when I’m with them. They’ll be like, “Oh that’s the boy from Unlocking the Truth!”
GGS: What are your goals and/or dreams as a band?
Jarad: To play at Madison Square Garden, for me. And, for New Year’s Eve, if you play in Times Square it tells you that you definitely made it.
Alec: Same for me, except I want a statue of myself put in Times Square where we were performing, like all of us.
GGS: Close your eyes and imagine it is ten years from now… where are you?
Alec: I see a big crowd. Like it’s a sea of people, like, thousands of people, miles far back… Just a lot of people and we’re performing for them.
Malcolm: I see us performing at Madison Square Garden.
GGS: If you could live and play music in any decade, which would it be?
Malcolm: 80’s. Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, are all the biggest bands now, so if we were made that year we’d probably be big, too.
Alec: I wouldn’t change anything because now we have to work harder than if we were in the 80’s, and that will teach us something on our journey to becoming the best.
Jarad: I would say the 90’s, because from the 90’s to now I would have enough fans and the fan base, and everything would be huge.
GGS: If you were going to be stranded on an island and you could only bring three things, what would they be?
Malcolm: Not a person?
Jarad: Oh no…
Alec: Don’t say it, don’t say it!
GGS: He’s going to say his girlfriend isn’t he?
Malcolm: Yeah! My girlfriend, my guitar, and an amp.
Alec: How are you going to play the guitar and amp?
Alec: A generator, a guitar, and an amp.
Jarad: A drum, a bed cover, and probably a bag of chips.
GGS: Rock on, boys… Rock. On.
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