The show has been advertised for weeks, and the venue is filling up fast. The anticipation builds as fans prepare themselves for a few hours of head banging. At the same time, three African American guys, and one Mexican-French-Canadian guy, make their way backstage. “Are you a Reggae band?” asks someone from the crowd. “Yes!” they say as they disappear from view.
But there will be no Reggae tonight; these guys have pure metal coursing through their veins. As the crowd looks on in awe, those brothers from the hood dish out as much hard core, loud, growling metal as humanly possible. This audience has just experienced Ghettometal, and their perception of metalcore has been forever changed.
Ghettometal is: Scoonie Gee (Lead vocals, Guitar, Keyboards), Ernie “EJ” Martin (Drums, Vocals), Kacy Jones (Guitar, Vocals), and John Paul “JP” Daoust (Bass, Vocals). Formed in Los Angeles in Summer 2013, the four decided to come together after being members of other predominately Caucasian bands. Not that race was ever an issue for them personally, the guys just felt it was the perfect time for an all black/brown band to enter the metal scene. And though the band already had connections in the industry, building a fanbase was sometimes easier said than done. “We've had to earn the respect of every diehard metal fan,” explains frontman Scoonie Gee. They knew they had to break the mold of the typical stereotypes of African American musicians. Needless to say, they had their work cut out for them.
Scoonie, who was given that name by Snoop Dogg, did not want to just throw a band of black musicians together. He wanted musicians who were so unique they had no choice but stand out. After finding the best three, the band released a single “Bang Yo Head” for which they enlisted director Derrick Cleveland to shoot a video shortly after. The video captured much attention online as it featured people from all races and walks of life banding together. Some of the “stars” of the video include active gang bangers, a popular Playboy porn star, a current Miss Beverly Hills, and a Russian supermodel. Although the video was quite popular, the guys didn't feel they were at their full potential so it was back to the studio to regroup. They knew they wanted their sound to be more hardcore, and were not going to settle for anything less.
Working from their own studio, their first EP came together. Working with Tore Fagerheim, a guitarist in the Norwegian band Shadowmind, the five song EP has that harder edge they were striving for. Nikki Lane Taylor, from the band Hammer of the Broads, filled in on drums for the song “Turn It Up” with EJ being out on tour. Plans are in place to release videos for each song, as they have a video director on their team. Ghettometal fans, who have grown tremendously in number worldwide since their first video release, are now demanding a tour. EJ is currently on a world tour with Robin Thicke; however, when the tour ends, there will be more concrete tour dates. As it stands now there are tentative dates for a European tour but nothing is set in stone. Scoonie toured in Hungary and Germany as a solo artist and would love to return. Touring aside they currently play local venues. Scoonie, a Music Therapist at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills states, “We actually prefer to play parties or events, especially charity events that have some kind of cause attached to it. [Cedars Sinai] sponsors events and music is always needed.”
While Sunset Strip is a favorite place to play, the guys would rather play larger venues such as stadiums and festivals because their big sound is more suited for such venues. “We want someone to sponsor a “Blackapolooza” tour. The line up would be: Sevendust, Kings X, Living Colour, Body Count, 24-7 Spyz, Year Of The Dragon, Animals As Leaders and Ghettometal. All these bands are active now and individually touring so that would be a dream tour for us! Whoever sees this and has the money, backing, and balls to do it…do it and make history!” Such a tour would make history indeed, and the timing couldn't be better. Fans could potentially help make it happen by getting involved and lobbying the right people. There is an abundance of sponsors out there as well as organizations such as the Black Rock Coalition who could make this dream a reality.
We end now with some great advice for budding musicians from Scoonie Gee, “Play as many hours as you can with other musicians. It’s called 'jamming'! An art form almost lost in this day and age. Jamming with other like-minded musicians frequently will do more for you and your music than spending all you time holed up in your room learning cover songs alone. Learning cover songs is cool, and staying home to 'woodshed' and write is cool too but what has been lost is the getting out and spending just as much time, if not more, JAMMING! Surround yourself with awesome people and musicians. Be the worst player in the room. It will cause you to rise to the level of musicianship of the better players! If you are the best player in the room, you are in the wrong room!”
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