Even in New York City, where people have seen it all, a trio of African-American pre-teens playing brutal heavy metal commands attention.
Unlocking the Truth frequently perform on the streets of NYC, filming their outings to share with the rest of the world. One video, for their original song “Monster,” was filmed in Times Square and is currently closing in on 200,000 views on YouTube.
At one of their outdoor performances they not only caught the attention of a few nice folks who dropped a little change in their bucket, but the producer Steve Jordan. The former Saturday Night Live drummer told Radio.com that when he happened on the band, who at that time were performing as a two-piece with Malcolm Brickhouse on guitar and Jarad Dawkins on drums, he was stopped in his tracks and almost late to a gig with another artist.
“I was walking to the studio to work on Keith’s album,” — that would be Keith Richards — “And I heard this music and I thought, ‘Oh, that sounds pretty cool,’ and I looked and it’s these kids,” Jordan explained. “And there’s a crowd gathering. They were amazing, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I’m going, ‘Holy cow, this is unbelievable.’ I felt compelled to know more about them immediately.”
Jordan happened to be standing right next to the man who could help him connect with the band. “I said, ‘I think they’re fantastic, and I’d really like to work with them,'” Jordan explained. “So he called me later that night, and I met with them.”
Let’s go back a bit to talk about how the pre-teen band got together. Well, how else do kids meet? “Me and Jarad met at a birthday party,” Brickhouse, the de facto leader, says. Brickhouse met Alec Atkins, who plays bass, in pre-school.
The boys’ interest in metal also started in a rather juvenile place.
“We got into this music by watching Japanese animated shows such as Naruto and Dragonball Z, things like that,” Dawkins said. “The music in the background inspired us to play heavy metal. And also how wrestlers came out to heavy metal songs.”
Brickhouse and Dawkins studied their instruments and got really good, really quickly. Soon they taught Atkins to play bass, and he joined the band.
The band has quickly built a buzz “all over America and also in Germany,” Dawkins points out, and now have a sizable following for any up-and-coming band. It can be a bit much for kids who have to balance school with music, but Atkins says, “I don’t feel better than anybody, it doesn’t make me feel special in any kind of way. When I perform, then I feel special.”
Still, Brickhouse says that he uses his band “to win arguments,” and having over 23,000 Facebook fans is a point of prestige anywhere, but particularly in junior high school.
Not to mention that they played Brooklyn’s Afro Punk Festival over the summer where they shared a bill with Living Colour, Questlove, Chuck D of Public Enemy, punk rock legends Death and Jada Pinkett Smith’s band Wicked Wisdom, which led to photos of the trio with Will Smith and his two kids, Willow and Jaden. In a few weeks, they’ll perform at Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Festival on a lineup that includes M.I.A., the Descendants and Slayer. “That’s the only one I know about,” Brickhouse says of the latter.
For now, they play mostly instrumentals, but are starting to think more about a singer. None of the boys’ voices have dropped yet, so they don’t know what their singing voices will sound like in a year or so. Brickhouse is fairly intent on having just one singer: “They’re trying to give us all singing lessons, but I don’t want us to be like a boy band, there needs to be a lead singer.”
Atkins has also thought about the matter: “I think we need a singer that can play rhythm guitar. Then they’ll look at all of us, instead of just the singer. It’s not ‘James Hetfield featuring Metallica.’ It’s everyone, together as Metallica.”
Jordan has spent time with the band in the studio already, and says, “I want to establish them as an instrumental group. There’s a lot of people who want to sing over their stuff. So, we’re gonna develop that, cultivate that whole thing.”
“They’re wise beyond their years. They’re special, special people,” Jordan said. “I wanted to help them. There’s gonna be a lot of stuff rollin’ in their direction.”
Want to read more about metal? You’re in luck, October is Metal Month at Radio.com. Throughout the month, we’ll have artist interviews as well as mini-documentaries about metal, metal fans and the birthplace of the genre. And book reports: reading is fundamental, even for headbangers, and we’ll have reviews of some of the best recent books about metal.