Heavy Metal Guitar
From Times Square to Netflix and Beyond
By NAfME members Thomas J. Amoriello Jr. & Matthew S. Ablan
Article originally published in NJ Music Educators Association journal, Tempo
Every so often a band comes along and captures the attention of the public – but, generally not when the average age of the in the band members is 11! Yet, that is exactly what happened in 2013 when video of the Brooklyn based metal trio Unlocking the Truth performing outside a New York City subway station was posted to YouTube. Soon after the video went viral and the band of youngsters was propelled into the spotlight garnering a major label recording contract with Sony, opening stints for such artists Metallica, and most recently were the subject of the documentary called Breaking a Monster (currently on Netflix).
At 15 years old, Malcolm Brickhouse, guitarist and singer for the Brooklyn based metal trio shares everything from what got him started playing the guitar to what the future holds.
What got you interested in playing guitar – Was there a certain song or maybe certain player that made you think, “I want to do that?”
My mom was always looking for things for me to do when I was younger, so she enrolled me in a bunch of different classes from art to drawing, to magic, gymnastics, karate, piano and guitar lessons, everything. The guitar just stuck with me. At the time I started playing guitar, I started listening to metal and me and Jarad would jam out and cover our favorite bands. My parents took us to a Disturbed concert at the Izod Center when we were about 9 years old and that’s when we knew we wanted to start our band.
Do you come from a musical family?
No, not really. If DJing is considered musical, my dad dabbles in that.
Do you learn from guitar magazines, YouTube, a guitar teacher?
Yes, I took guitar lessons, watched YouTube videos, and I have a guitar teacher, but I find myself rarely using those options. I got better at guitar over time by just experimenting with it by myself.
What is your typical practice routine like?
I really don’t practice, I just create songs when the feeling hits me. But, when I’m with my band, our typical practice routine is to do a set of songs. Then we start to create new music when we are all deeply feeling the music and vibing together.
Who are some of your favorite rhythm players? Lead guitar?
I love lead guitarists. I really like Jeff Loomis of the band Nevermore, for his speedy yet fluent guitar skills and Jimi Hendrix for his creativity, individuality, and uniqueness with his guitar playing. I also like Vernon Reid of the band Living Colour. He plays hard and uses all kinds of effects pedals. As a matter of fact, we have become very good friends with Living Colour.
Did you or do you take guitar lessons?
I used to take guitar lessons on Skype with my teacher, Arnold Strickland. Mr. Strickland is a progressive, fusion jazz guitarist. He plays in a band called STRICK9.
How much time did or do you spend each day playing guitar?
When I was younger, it seemed like I played all the day. Nowadays, I don’t really spend a set amount of time playing guitar each day. I play guitar whenever I have time to. I’m a very busy kid because of school and I also record, mix and master demos for my band and for a few up and coming rappers, which is time-consuming. So, I really have to manage my time. I don’t really practice the guitar, I just continue to create music.
Please discuss your music gear?
I use LTD guitars tuned mostly in Drop B and C. I use an Orange Dual Dark 100 amp and a 4×12 speaker cab, and basic effects pedals, like the Wah and Whammy pedal. I’m not much of a music geek, but I do know the basics.
You’re on the ESP/LTD artist roster – how did that come about?
They saw our band performing in Times Square on YouTube and saw me playing their guitars, and really dug us. They gave us a call and let me pick out a few guitars. They have been so nice to me over the years. I love the relationship I have with Chris Canella and Tony Rauser. They are my artist reps, and I want to keep that going.
What is it about LTD guitars that you particularly like?
I just love how they look and sound. They look metal and they sound metal too. The Slayer ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ model is one of my favorites.
What is the songwriting process like for UTT?
I record demos at my house before going in to the studio. It starts off with a guitar riff. Then I build the sound with Jarad as he’s creating the drums. Then we add the bass and vocals last. When the mood hits me, I write the lyrics. What’s funny is that I can write the lyrics to the song with the guitar riffs, but once Jarad adds the drums, it just changes how the lyrics flow. So, I have to add the lyrics last.
Can you tell us about your experience with music at school? Did you participate in choir or band?
I’m in a really corny school band and I play the bass. It’s really corny, but I deal with it because it’s part of the curriculum. I guess everything can’t be metal.
Do you plan to go to college for music or further your studies?
Of course I plan to go to college. I’m going to go for audio engineering. I really want to be a big time music producer and engineer. I already earned 3 college credits from Berklee College of Music’s online Pro Tools 101 course. I’m going to take Pro Tools 110 with them this summer. Then Pro Tools mixing and mastering and advanced mixing and mastering. Afterwards, I can take the Pro Tools certification test.
Do you have a future project that you would like to promote?
Not yet, but we are working on the second Unlocking the Truth album and we’re sounding better than ever. We have 8 songs completed and more coming. We can’t wait for everyone to hear it. If you thought Chaos was good, wait until you hear this one.
About the authors:
NAfME member Thomas Amoriello is the Guitar Education Chairperson for the New Jersey Music Education Association and also serves on the NAfME Council for Guitar Education as the Eastern Division Representative. He teaches guitar for the Flemington Raritan School District and Hunterdon Academy of the Arts. He is the author of the children’s picture book A Journey to Guitarland with Maestro Armadillo, available from barnesandnoble.com.
NAfME member Matthew S. Ablan is an elementary music educator in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is a graduate of SUNY Stony Brook and The Cleveland Institute of Music as well as holding a Masters in Music Education from Case Western Reserve University. Ablan’s list of teaching credentials include having served as adjunct instructor of classical guitar studies at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA and maintaining a successful private guitar studio for close to two decades. Most recently he was a guest clinician at the 2016 North Carolina Music Educators state conference in in Winston-Salem, NC and is the author/founder of The Guitar Teaching Blog. For more information about Matthew please visit www.matthewablan.com
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