LIKE A STORM – Skullduggery from the Catacombs

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Auckland hard rockers are preparing to unearth the secrets and mysteries of the Paris catacombs for the rock and metal world to see and hear.  Well, not really, but the New Zealanders did take a trip to France, underneath the majestic city.  It was a real life As Above, So Below, trip to the bowels and they lived to talk about it.  They may never tell everything that happened down there but the band emerged with metaphorical and lyrical inspiration and a more profound appreciation of life.

The four-man band include the Brooks brothers Chris (vocals), Kent (bass) and Matt (guitars) with drummer Zach Wood.  They’ve cranked out three records since 2009, hitting stages and ears worldwide with dizzying displays of highly potent hard rock.

Chris Brooks tells the tale from the underground and below, “It’s one of the most insane sights you could ever witness,” he says.  “Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  Then you got thin dark corridors for hundreds of feet with millions and millions of skulls lined up, all the way through.”  It left them thinking of things people leave unfaced, buried inside through life that stay with them.

The skulls were intact, like the metaphor of personal demons and struggles people bury inside, “We were the last people through and didn’t see anyone else down there,” Brooks remembers.   “No one was coming down after us, so we were winding [past] millions of skeletons, with no one else around, it was eerie.”  Some of the remains were shaped into crosses and heart shaped designs.  “How many different bones were arranged to form this pattern?  Everything down there was creepy and weird when you’re surrounded by rows of human skulls each representing a person.”

The experience translated into the album title, Catacombs, encouraging people to confront their inner demons, inspiring the song and video The Devil Inside.  “That song, in a lot of ways sums up the album,” Brooks says.  “A lot of the lyrics came at 6am after working on music.”  After recording all day and night they wanted silence but the creative process sometimes wouldn’t let them sleep.  Brooks thinks it’s a great way to start the album.

The priest and girl in the video were the director’s idea of the best and strongest metaphor to personify the idea.  “We all have our own demons, they’re different to me than anyone else.  If you don’t confront them they’ll consume you.”

In the studio and live they use a unique wind instrument called a Didgeridoo pipe.  “It’s an Australian wood instrument,” Brooks explains.  “The oldest in the world dating back like 60,000 years.  Growing up in New Zealand my grandparents lived in Australia.  I would visit them every year.  I was always blown away by this unique and hypnotic instrument, fascinated from the time I can remember.  Eventually on one trip I got one and taught myself how to do it.  I locked myself in my bedroom and didn’t come out till I learned how.  Luckily it only took me a couple days otherwise I would’ve been very hungry.  It’s a long essentially hollow tube.  It’s amazing how this primitive instrument amplifies so well.”

Their videos are a collaboration between band and director, “There’s been some videos, Chemical Infatuation or the The Devil Inside where we had an idea of what we wanted to do.  We knew we wanted to make an artistic video, we kinda wanted to keep that edge and darkness.”

They went horror themed on Wish You Hell, “We really wanted a voodoo, Southern old school feel and the culture that went along with that,” Brooks says. “We always have ideas as the songs are coming together and how they can be represented in a video.”

For fun they recorded a heavier version of Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise, “The intro of the song, it’s such an awesome piece of music, from beat one,” Brooks explains.  “From that, maybe it’s the key, that verse coming in and the bass line.  It’s such a heavy, awesome version of the song.  We did it, not thinking anyone would ever hear it.”

Their hometown friends wanted to hear the music that would become Awaken the Fire.  “Every one of them were like, play that again, 20 times in a row and they’re like, you have to put this on the record.”

They did things in the studio, creating ways to carve out each day in a roundabout way.  “For me, it’s difficult to push yourself, get immersed in the music then go, OK, go to bed.  Like your mind is just racing at that point.”

Growing up, influences were a mixed bag. “From the time we were small we listened to a lot of The Beatles and Eagles,” Brooks recalls.  “For me, it really changed when I heard Nirvana.”  Hearing that power and emotion left a permanent impression marking the turning point for him wanting to play rock music.  “Visually, what’s interesting is, I can remember as a kid, we were on a trip to Australia and passed one of those CD stores.”  His parents let them pick one CD each.  He chose Alice Cooper’s Trash never hearing it before, just being drawn to the vibe and cover.  “It’s funny, when I look back, I was always kinda drawn to that sort of dark vibe.”

They moved to Vancouver to record their first album, then L.A., “It was an awesome time, we grew a lot musically, and learned a ton about producing and recording albums.”

There’s a lot of people in the U.S. and according to Brooks, “The amount of people, is just insane,” he admits.  “We live in a city of about 1,500,000, maybe 2,000,000, by far the biggest city.  For us to go city after city where it’s just millions of people…flying into LAX, seeing people from every country in the world, it was a shock.”

They’re touring with Godsmack and Shinedown, going to the UK, France, possibly Norway, Poland, and Eastern Europe.  “That’ll be really fun, then try and get into some headline stuff.”

They’re collecting surreal life moments every day, “Every day is just a constant road story,” Brooks says.  “It’s incredible all the situations we’ve found ourselves in.  So many crazy cities in the world, definitely had a good time.”

From the beginning they’ve always dreamed big, “Growing up in New Zealand, and to see the opposite side of the world.  It’s such a small country, you can’t fathom what playing every night abroad is like.  It’s a constant thing, so many different cities.  You might be in London for the fifth time that year. These places, you thought you might go to once and you’ve been there four or five times in 12 months.  Never take it for granted, that’s for sure.”

He also clears up misconceptions and stereotypes about his homeland, “First one, we’re not part of Australia, we always tell them, its separated by a body of water that takes hours to fly across,” he clarifies. [Second one] “I guess there’s millions of sheep, which there probably are.  There aren’t a lot living in downtown Auckland.”

Brooks has met a lot of his influences and idols on tour but there’s two that really stick out in his mind.  “When I met Slash the first time,” he recalls.  “He was sound checking, shredding it up as only Slash can and I was getting ready to walk up to him.  I don’t get star struck, but its fuckin’ Slash and nothing can prepare you for that.”

Slash gave his stamp of approval, “I was like, man, just incredible, my world turned upside down.  Another, I’ll remember for the rest of my life was Vinnie Paul.  One of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met.  Just so generous and down to earth.  He was incredible to us, we toured with Hellyeah, and it was amazing.”

Brooks hung out with him, while recording in Vegas.  “It was just me, him, his best friend and his girlfriend,” Brooks retells.  We went to this bar and the strip club he owns and he’s buying me drinks, having everything.  Such a genuine dude and we go to dinner afterwards.”  Brooks wasn’t used to hot food and a Mexican pizza was too much for him.  “Next thing I know there’s a country fried steak he ordered for me, saying you gotta try something.”

“We were living in Vegas with my brothers making this record, like incredibly close.  He would always talk to us about how cool it was to have that relationship and what he had with Dime.  Those were a lot of the reasons we got along so well, just sharing those relationships.”

And to their fans who helped and nurtured them along the way, “Thank you.  They’ve supported us in ways you can’t even imagine.  They were a huge part of allowing us to push ourselves musically, and do our own thing.  They’re everything to us.”

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