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INTERVIEW: CHRIS BROOKS of LIKE A STORM – July 2018

| 10 July 2018 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “The deeper you dig, the more you unearth. By turning inward without turning back, Like A Storm uncovered the eleven hypnotic, honest, and hard-hitting anthems that comprise their self-produced third full-length, Catacombs [RED MUSIC]. The New Zealand group shoveled raw emotion into an engine of airtight polyrhythmic riffage, cinematic electronics, and primal didgeridoo to fuel their biggest offering yet and claim a spot at the forefront of the modern rock pack. The title holds weight both figuratively and literally for the boys—brothers Chris Brooks [lead vocals, didgeridoo, guitar, keys/programming], Matt Brooks [lead guitar, vocals, keys/programming], and Kent Brooks [bass, keys/programming] joined by Zach Wood [drums].” We got Chris on the phone to discuss the new disc, touring, and much more…

Photo: Tim Tronckoe

Chris: How you doing man?

Toddstar: Hey, what’s up, Chris? How are you today?

Chris: I’m doing great, man.

Toddstar: Awesome. Thank you so much for taking time out. I know you’re busy promoting the brand new album Catacombs that just dropped.

Chris: Oh, my pleasure, man. Thank you for taking the time.

Toddstar: I’ve listened through this, I dig the album, and we’ll get into that a little bit, but I’d like your thoughts on it. What are a couple of things that your fans might not grab the first or second time listening through this disc?

Chris: This is a very interesting question. What might they not grab? I mean, I think there’re a ton of different layers, different instruments we use to just kind of capture the moments, capture the movements. I guess, you always hope that the disc is something that grows on people. Maybe it’s lyrically, maybe it’s musically, but, you know with this record we wanted to make sure that it kind of worked on several different layers. So, I think, I hope every time they hear it, they probably hear something else. A ton of different things in there.

Toddstar: You guys come out as ripping it up on the opening track “The Devil Inside.” Looking over the track list, what songs on this are you looking forward to playing live?

Chris: Every single one of them. It’s funny because that was a huge inspiration for the song selection on this album. You know, we really wanted to make sure that every song would just be so great to play live. You know, and we’ve always had sort of a very musical taste, you know, and we’ve always sort of had softer songs on our albums and that kind of thing. A lot of them we just don’t get to play live. When you’re playing a rock show, there’s only so many songs that you can break it right down for acoustic. So we kind of realized we had these songs we’d written that we were hopefully getting a chance to play. So we kind of wanted to make this album a much more live focused album. A record that every single song we could sort of pick the entire album to play through the night. So, we could kind of start with any song, from this album, the opener on a tour, and that kind of thing.

Toddstar: Going through the songs on this, what song did you guys have the hardest time finishing?

Chris: Ooh, well. There are a few. A few songs stick out for totally different reasons. You know, because we produced the record ourselves, too, there’s finishing the song from an artistic point of view, and there’s finishing the song in terms of logistically just getting it done. One of the ones that sat around unfinished for a long time was actually “The Devil Inside.” Matt came up with that guitar, probably two years ago, if not more. And we had that idea to put the didgeridoo in it. The music came really, really, really quickly. But then, we would have melodies here and there, but we must’ve written hundreds of different melodies for that part. Because a lot of the music is sort of based around one note, we wanted that real sort of primal, really sort of just hypnotic emotion of the music, you know what I mean? Rather than a ton of different notes. But that meant, that for us to sort of feel it represented us artistically, then we had to try and have all those dynamics, and all that melody come from the vocals. So that one sat kind of half-finished for a long time. One night I just got thinking about it. I think I was working on a programming for the intro, or something that has nothing important, really, at all. And then next thing I knew, I had an idea for the verse. And then the next thing I knew, I had an idea for the second verse and the chorus. So, you know, it kind of went from being unfinished, to finished in basically a day or two at that point. But then “Hole In My Heart” was difficult to finish because we were technically over the deadline for the record to be mixed, the last little bit of mixing. And we were in Los Angeles filming the music video and doing a photo shoot and having meetings and everything, so all the stuff that had been scheduled in. Matt and I had taken our studio stuff out, it was just the key pieces out there, and we’d set up at Matt’s house, and every night after we filmed the music video, now, come back and try and finish “Hole In My Heart.” Yeah, that was a pretty insane way to do it – there are a lot of layers in that song too.

Toddstar: Chris, when you guys kicked us off back in 2005, did you think you’d get as far as you have or was it just a pipe dream that you kids had at that time?

Chris: Oh, man, definitely a pipe dream. I think, yeah, definitely. What’s interesting about New Zealand is that, you know, it’s so far away, that we didn’t really know any place like the U.S. When we came here, when we started touring here, and we would meet successful people, you know, dudes in these massive bands, and you kind of start to see that they’re regular people – they work harder, just incredibly talented, whatever, but then you start to see that it’s still a pipe dream, but at least here’s an ounce of possibility in it. Being from New Zealand, we never met any of them. So, you know, there might be a poster on your wall, but that’s about it. There’s no sort of idea that this is actually something that could happen to us. Yeah, I think that definitely helped. When we got here and we realized that there are so many different levels of bands also working their ass off, all touring their ass off. That was sort of a very inspiring thing to learn and then we started meeting those different bands, and you see maybe we have a shot.

Toddstar: Now, you’ve toured with some big bands, you know, Korn, Shinedown, Black Veil Brides, Alter Bridge… the list goes on. What bands do you feel took you under their wing and helped teach you guys the most?

Chris: Oh, without a doubt it was Mark Tremonti.  He took us out on our first tour when they were Creed You know, we just finished a record, you know, but we had never toured the U.S. And he heard it, and he liked it, and he wanted to, give us a shot playing these mess of shows. He’s become a great friend and mentor. He’s always been an inspiration to us, every time we’ve toured with him, we’ve toured with him as Creed, we’ve toured with him as Alter Bridge, we’ve toured with him as Tremonti. His work ethic is insane. And it’s very powerful to sort of witness that. And he’s always been there to sort of help us out. All those dudes have really given us lot of advice. And just, I don’t know, it’s such a great environment to do all these things in. You know, such an inspiring environment.

Toddstar: You guys have played a lot of places, again, here in America and Europe, and you’ve done a lot of headlining. You’ve played many times at places very near and dear to my heart. What can you tell us about The Machine Shop? What is it, for a band like Like A Storm, that Machine Shop is just a perfect fit?

Chris: That’s crazy, because we knew about The Machine Shop before we’d even toured the States, you know. We had a drummer and he had been through on a tour and he was wearing Machine Shop t-shirts when we were having band practices and that kind of thing. We were kind of looking forward to playing that venue from the first moment that we started touring. You know, the venue, unlike any other that we’ve ever played, the layout is so cool, the vibe of it’s so cool, and just everyone there. Kevin’s amazing, all the staff is such awesome dudes. I mean, we always have such a great time. And it’s just an incredible environment. So, always a lot of fun. Sound’s always great. Everything’s always done well. Yeah, it’s a good night, and always involves a lot of drinking.

Toddstar: What’s it like to stand in that hallway getting your picture taken by Minty, and looking around on the walls and seeing all of those who have come before you?

Chris: It’s crazy. It really is, man. That’s one of those things. Every band, it doesn’t matter who they are posts a picture of them in that hall. So when you get to do it, it is unreal.

Toddstar: Chris, looking back through music, if you had to pick one album that you think heavily influenced your decision to go into music, what album would that be?

Chris: Oh, man. You know, mine would be Nevermind by Nirvana. No doubt about it. When I heard Nirvana… that was such a sentiment shared by literally millions of people across that world, but that album really spoke to me. It really made me want to learn guitar. It really made me, I suppose, try and sing. The power in that album, the energy in that album, and the emotion in that album, is something. But I think it speaks to you. It spoke to people all over the world. So, for me, that was probably the album that made me decide I wanted to become an artist.

Toddstar: We talked about you guys kicking this off in Auckland years ago, and the pipe dream, and kids just getting to go there, and playing instruments, but you’re on your third album now. What in your mind is the indicator to let you knew when you make it, or have you already made it, in your opinion?

Chris: I guess there are different levels of making it. For us, we’re incredibly grateful that we get to do this for a living, get to create art for a living. You know what I mean? Get to play shows for a living. I mean, it doesn’t matter what your art is, if you get to do that as a job, I mean, I think that’s pretty incredible. But then when you go,okay when have I made it as a band. God, I’ve played with bands really big, that sort of always think it’s just around the corner. There’s a sort of a drive to always want to get better. So, to some degree, you kind of never want to think that you have. It’s important to reflect on what you’ve achieved, and those kinds of things, and have brief moment of sweetness, but it’s always really important to be hungry and to keep pushing yourself.

Toddstar: I know you’re busy, Chris, and I know you’ve got a lot to do with your album coming out, but I’ve got one more for you before we cut you loose. As you guys were staring out, were there any missteps? Was there something you wish you could go back and redo, even if it didn’t give you a different result, you’d still like to redo that moment?

Chris: That’s an interesting one. I think, there are probably a lot of things that maybe didn’t feel right at the time, and ended up not being right, but we did challenge them to some degree in the moment. For example, I remember having meetings with potential managers and potential labels early on, and they were saying, “Go and listen to the top five of active rock and go and write a song like that. Go and listen to the top five bands or active rock and go and try and sound like them.” You know, we didn’t work with a lot of those people because of that. And I think that that sentiment has set us up really well to be happy where we are. So, I wouldn’t say that there were necessarily things we regret, but in that scenario turning down those kinds of things was such a great decision for us to make, and one I still hold true. I think that pushed into sort of creating our own identity. Get the wrong names of towns, is a fairly sort of common thing, those I wouldn’t mind redoing. But it’s all part of the learning process.

Toddstar: Well, listen, man, again, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it. I can’t wait till everybody runs out and picks up their copy of Catacombs and experiences these eleven tracks.

Chris: Well, thank you, man.

Toddstar: We wish you well until you guys start to tour in a couple weeks.

Chris: Yeah. It’ll be awesome, man.

Toddstar: Awesome. Well, safe travels until then.

Chris: Perfect, brother. Thank you, man.

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Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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