Malcolm Brickhouse was excited but confident after his band, Unlocking The Truth, recently performed its first headlining gig, at The Troubadour, in Hollywood. The 13-year-old guitarist has seen his Brooklyn-based band emerge from humble beginnings – playing for tips in Times Square – to, in the span of just months, play the festival circuit and acquire a $1.8 million record deal from Sony.
While blacks performing thrash metal is a rarity, teenaged Blacks playing thrash metal is even more so. Unlocking The Truth’s success stands upon the shoulders of ’80s-era black metal bands that fell victim to inept record executives, but its time has come, and Brickhouse is enjoying every minute.
Your life has changed dramatically.
Yeah. A year ago, we were going to school and performing at Times Square on weekends. By late 2013, though, we had played the Fun Fun Fun Fest, in Austin, and then Coachella. A lot of kids dream about this, and I appreciate it because I worked hard for it. When you work hard for something, you always appreciate it more. We did a few days on the Warped tour, then a few days with Queens Of The Stone Age. More lately, we did the Aftershock tour and toured with Living Colour.
You site Disturbed, Chelsea Grin, and Living Colour as influences. How about guitar players?
Dan Donegan, from Disturbed, really inspires me. Also, Jeff Loomis and Vernon Reid. Vernon is my friend! Have you seen our videos?
They’re horrible! We are so much better than those videos. I hate the fact that the videos that are really famous are the ones that suck the most. I hate when people judge us saying how much we suck. Those videos are horrible.
Which ones suck?
All of them! They won’t put up any new ones!
Even the ones at Times Square?
Those are horrible!
How about Coachella?
Coachella was good. We were okay. We’re better now.
What kind of gear are you using?
I just got a new ESP LTD! My other guitar is the Slayer model. I’m not that picky – all I care is that it has EMG 81 and 85 pickups and strings that are good for drop C. That’s the tuning we play in the most. I like the way Ernie Balls feel; they’re very smooth.
I like guitars with graphics. I don’t like plain-looking guitars – give it monsters, superheroes, and planets exploding. That’s what I asked ESP to send.
Which amplifiers do you use?
I use Orange amps. I personally use the Dark Dual 100. Before that, I played a Line6 Spider III.
You get some diabolical thrash tones. Are you using any pedals?
No. I’m just using the amp with the right amount of clean – I have the Gain around 7, the Treble around 6, Bass 8, and the Mids at 7. I also use an Orange Rockerverb MK II head.
How do you compose for the band?
Before I write a riff I have an idea of what I want it to sound like. Then I figure out the notes and record it. My favorite song to play live is called “Chaos.” The funny thing is, I wrote that song a long time ago. All we did was take the main riff and build off of that.
The band is about to release an album, right?
An EP with six songs. We released the single first, but it’s more pop-ish than the rest of the album. We wanted to reach a broader audience. The other songs are really heavy.
You also write lyrics…
I sing about a lot of stuff. I have a song called “Ravens” that’s about suicide. I guess I’m too young for that, but I know about it. “Chaos” is based on an anime show called “Naruto.” It’s about a corrupt world and trying to overcome it. I also wrote a song called “Escape.” I had a serious problem with writer’s block on that song; I wrote four different sets of lyrics and hated them all. It’s about overcoming corruption – being above it – and not letting anybody push you down. The title track is called “Free As You Wanna Be,” and it’s what we stand for. If you have a dream, just do it. Don’t listen to what anybody else says. Be free as you wanna be.
This article originally appeared in VG February 2015 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.