#BlackAltBae: Malxolm Brixhouse

Malcolm Brickhouse co-founded heavy metal band Unlocking the Truth, and now works as a solo artist in New York. It was an honor to complete this interview with him on October 3rd, 2022.

Malcolm, thank you so much for doing this. Now, you’re best known for your work in the now-disbanded Unlocking the Truth, a group that was known for being extremely talented and very, very young. How and when did you first get into music? How many instruments do you currently play and what’s it like being a prodigy?

I always say I was attracted to the background music in anime, wrestling and monster trucks. Then my parents had me enrolled in all kinds of activities (e.g., karate, gymnastics, soccer, magic, art, music, etc.). You name it; I've done it but I really liked the guitar.  My old drummer used to come to my house every weekend and we played band like girls played house and here I am.  At the moment, I play the guitar and the bass.  About being a prodigy, I'm too modest for that but I do love writing, composing, producing and engineering.

Did you have any formal training?
Like I was saying, my parents had me enrolled in all kinds of activities, including guitar lessons at LaGuardia Community College’s College for Kids. I was about 7 or 8 years old.  Arnold Strickland was my guitar teacher (a progressive jazz guitarist; professor at Long Island University’s Roc Nation; STRICK9 his band; just Google the man. He’s good).  
After about 3 months, I was hooked.  Mr. Strickland also gave me virtual lessons when I was in middle school.  
Then, my parents hooked up me and my old drummer with a guitar, amp, pedal and a drum kit and here I am.

You’ve performed some major concerts. What’s it like performing on big stages like Bonneroo? Do you get nervous? Do you spend the whole day practicing?

No, I don't get nervous. Remember, back then, we played band and played in Times Square all weekend. That was more than enough practice. I couldn't wait to get a real show!  I really loved playing at those festivals, though. It was an adrenaline rush. The fans, the crowds, the sound system.  All that drama that came with dealing with the band and the business, somehow just magically disappeared.

Quick confession: you’re actually one of my favorite musicians of all time. I am in awe of how you balance and layer your vocals, as well as how you compose music and then perform it. What (or who) inspires you and what is your process?

I'm really flattered by that "My favorite musician of all time". We gotta be the same age. LOL!  About my process, it's like I have all these melodies playing in my head and when the moment hits, I plug in my guitar and start recording. Usually, the vocals come last. Truthfully, the band Disturbed inspired me to start my own band. The first riff I really played was from their song "The Sickness".

I’m actually old enough to be your mom, lol. But I am serious about you being one of my all-time favorites. Songs like “Pretend”, “Come Closer”, and “My Chains” stay on repeat in my car. I can really FEEL your music. Which songs hold the most meaning to you and what’s the story behind them?
All-time favorites, huh??  The songs you just mentioned were the first ones I wrote as an independent artist.  But, the song that has the most meaning to me is "Caroline".  It expresses the metamorphosis of little Malcolm Brickhouse into the solo artist, Malxolm Brixkhouse (with the Xs).  
"Caroline" was composed during the peak stage of my anxiety and that song helped me grow.  It was also during that time that I experienced the most rawest pain I’ve ever felt. This song allowed me to express my pain in the most meaningful way – in a song!
The opening verse: “If you could see what’s inside of me, you’d be shaking too with anxiety.”
The closing verse says it all: “Adolescence, don’t make me question. You’ve been so restless, so just take a breath in. So much resentment to just count my blessings. And with your investments and your evil intentions. Said what would you do if you were me, when we all seem confused in this unity?  Dreams don't come true for me. Yeah, ain’t shit new to me, but I never knew the sounds of hate could play out so beautifully.”

I love "Caroline".

Your style is very distinctive. Who are your influences and what all genres do you listen to? I ask that last part because it’s been noted that some of your songs will have, like, a touch of reggae to them, for example. Do you enjoy genre-blending?
Truthfully, the bands Disturbed and Escape The Fate really influenced my early material.  Growing up, I mostly listened to rock and metal but my parents listened to R&B and rap.  Nowadays, I mostly listen to rap. 
Since you’ve mentioned it, I never considered what I do as genre-blending. I just play what I hear in my mind. I don’t really hear the reggae but I do have one song (Liar) from when I was kid that definitely has that reggae vibe to it. I don’t think I’ll ever record it but there’s a video of us playing it in Times Square.

I assume you write your lyrics as well (and I love them). What’s that particular process like for you?
Thanks for that too!  My writing process is really just me pouring out my soul and turning it into a song but the melodies always come first.

Your fans have to wait a long time between singles. Is there a full album coming soon?

I apologize to you guys but I have to write, compose, arrange, produce, mix and master all of my work.  Then I have to create the cover art and shoot the videos too.  So, until I form a new back-up band, my plan is to keep dropping singles to build a new "solo" buzz.  And, yes, you guys can expect an EP or full album in the future.  I'm working on it!

No pressure! I’m assuming you’re dealing with school and the fallout of the pandemic, which must make you very a busy young man. How do you balance life outside of music?

I graduated a few years ago, so I'm not in school.  Besides, I really needed a break anyway.  My life was so stressful during the years with my old band and I'm dealing with other stressful life issues too, but the goal is to keep it moving!  I'm trying to find the "life outside of music"!

Any plans to form a new band?

I absolutely have plans to form a new back-up band but it's kind of hard finding musicians in New York City, because everybody wants to be a rapper. LOL!

I wonder if all those musicians want to be rappers because they know if they go alt, they won’t get any love.

I wouldn't say they wouldn't get any love. I think it's just that a lot of kids just don't know how to play an instrument, which makes rapping so much easier.  They can go online and buy beats and rap over it.  Shoot, I'm an engineer for some of my friends who rap.  They send me the file, pull up, I record their vocals, mix and master it.  POOF!  Song is done. Meanwhile, I have to compose the lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, drums, write lyrics, then I have to mix and master it too.  You know that takes days, hours, months, feels like forever, but I love it.

I’ve spoken with your mom, which I’ve never gotten to do before with an interview subject; lol. She strikes me as a very supportive and understanding woman. Did she help introduce you to the alternative subculture? Or did she just go along with it when you brought it home?
My mother?  Yes, she is a bit too much for me (LOL) but she and my dad are and always were very supportive.  Again, they were the ones who hooked us up.  They bought the gear, set up the basement, got the sound permits, got us gigs and just put us out there.  She keeps telling me, “Just do your thing but don’t waste my time and don't waste my money.”  For real!   
The only thing she said about playing metal was, “Please don’t sing that I’ll kill your momma music." All jokes aside, she’s one of the main reasons why I’m still doing my thing today.

Who are your favorite Black alternative artists and how do you think the Black community (especially Black-owned media) can be more supportive of them?
I apologize.  I really don’t know any black “alternative” artists.  I was always just into metal, nu metal and hard rock that played during wrestling matches, anime and monster trucks shows.  Then I started listening to rap.  
With respect to the Black community’s support, I believe if and once people get exposed to our kind of music, they will like it.   It’s hard because we’re being flooded with rap music all the time.  But even my friends, who are really into rap, are starting to feel my music.  Since you mentioned my mother, she keeps saying “how on earth did R&B go out of style and how did rap take over everything?
I want to commend not just your use of Black girl representation in your videos, but of dark-skinned Black girls. As you may be aware, we live in an age where if you even simply compliment Black girls, there’s almost immediate backlash. Have you experienced this?
I haven’t necessarily experienced any “black girl" backlash but I was bullied as a kid for listening to metal.  
I guess being an independent artist does give me the freedom to cast whoever I want in my videos.  Most of the people in my videos are my friends.  
Back to my mother on the other hand, she “strongly recommends” -- in her words, “Please find a cute sister to be in your videos.  All them little girls that come around here; one them will certainly do but please – just don’t have them looking like hookers."  LOL!
What can fans expect next from the legendary Malcolm Brickhouse?
Now I can really get used to that “legendary” part too!  As mentioned earlier, I’ll be dropping singles to get my solo buzz going and you guys can expect an EP in the very near future!

You are such an amazing person, and I expect great things from your career. It’s been an epic pleasure and honor to interview you.

Thank you too for this interview and I appreciate you introducing me to your Black Alt Mag audience.


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