Behind every great band, there is a monster.
In 2005, two African-American kids from Brooklyn called Malcolm Brickhouse and Jared Dawkins met at a birthday party and developed a friendship over their shared interest in heavy metal music, discovered through WWE wrestling intros. After teaching their pre-school friend Alec Atkins to play bass (from scratch), they formed a band called Unlocking The Truth and started to play gigs in Time Square – one of which ended up going viral online:
The (supposed) novelty of charismatic pre-teen, inner-city black youths playing heavy metal music with emerging competency was too good to be true for some and they were immediately hunted down by Alan Sacks, the record executive who brought the world The Jonas Brothers. Within 18 months they become the youngest artists ever to sign a $1.8million dollar record deal with Sony. Breaking A Monster is the inside story of their transformation from an amateur band of kids, to a lucrative and sanitized pop/metal product.
Yet, seen as a novelty or otherwise, they get to play some pretty amazing gigs pretty quickly: opening the main stage of Coachella; supporting Metallica at the mega-bands request; being interviewed on Colbert…
Seeing as the band members are only 13, it’s ironic to think that the adult viewers of the documentary probably get more of an insight into what is happening to them then they do. We see them getting whisked from corporate board meetings (where all they want to do is play Flappy Birds), music video creative brainstorming session (where all they want to do is drink cola) to costume fittings (where they simply…don’t…care). All along the way they are being told that they are brilliant musicians, yet the one thing they are denied for ages is actually getting into the studio.
At one point, one of the boys pipes up at a board meeting and asks the naïve yet devastating question, “Do record labels make you famous?” To which a suit instantly fires back “you make yourself famous, we work for you now…” Fast forward a few months and they are nearly in tears because they’re being told off for undercutting a Rolling Stone exclusive announcement about their album - as one of the boys let it slip in a live TED broadcast (!) what the plans were – and you quickly realise who is working for whom.
Breaking A Monster is an insight into the mind-numbing banality and systemic risk-aversion of the corporate music industry. I will concede that any individual executive probably does genuinely want to help the boys get famous, but as a whole the machine just wants content to market to fans. The boys get a Verizon advert before they get any music recorded. Actions speak louder than words…