BLACK ROCKERS UNITED MEDIA

#BRU FOUNDER: NATE OAKLEY (ADMIN SPOTLIGHT #1)

INTRODUCTION | BLACK ROCKERS UNITED ORIGINS AND SCENE STEREOTYPES | STORY CONTINUES | HOMETOWN HARDCORE/METAL | BRU FOUNDER TODAY |

       


INTRODUCTION

NK: And I'm here with BRU founder Nate Oakley: the one who started it all, OG. How are you, Nate?

Nate: I'm pretty good, can't complain. What about yourself?

NK: You're pretty good?

Nate: Oh, yeah.

NK: You're lookin' fly, my bruh.

Nate: [Laughs]

NK: Bad Brains!

Nate: I love the Bad Brains. I discovered them, I'm very late, but you know it's better to be late than sorry, back in 2006 when their Build a Nation album came out. That's how I discovered them. And I found out they've been around for a long time

And you know, I just did my research and started listening to their old stuff. I was like "Wow, this is really kick-ass!"

NK: So kick-ass.

Nate: So I became a fan of 'em. H.R. came to Houston one time. He did a show for his reggae project. Of course, I attended the show. You know, it was an honor to meet H.R. It was a real honor. That dude is a legend! Yeah, you gotta

NK: Yeah, that's actually a good segue! I'm doin' well by the way. It's good to see you. Nate, how did you grow up and where are you from?

Nate: Well, I was born and raised in Houston, TX. You know, currently still living in Houston. My roots, you know, of course I grew up in the hood and stuff like almost every Black rocker.

Growing up, you know—how I discovered rock, you know my cousin named Noya. She was playin' Prince!

I was like four or five years old at that time. And all of a sudden, I just heard the 'Purple Rain' Prince guitar solo, and I just fell in love with it. It was like 'WOW'! And I started listening to other things.She listened to other diverse things, you know, just like me.

I'd been listening to it like, off and on. I was more into hip-hop than rock. And then I switched back and forth. When I reached senior [year] in high school, a friend of mine in Spanish class, let me heard Slipknot's 'Wait and Bleed'.

NK: Clutch.

Nate: Never heard of them, never heard nothing about 'em. So he let me listen to it And the guitar riffs, you know, it's just so heavy and so fast.

I enjoyed that so you know, they gave me a copy of the CD! [Laughs] And I just keep listening to it and I just started adapting to it. But at the same time, I had people who taught me like rock 'n roll, I was teaching myself.

You know, I did a lot of research. I read a lot. And I started collecting Black rock DVD's. You know, gain knowledge of it, the culture. Like I say, when I was in school, one day I was in the library. I ain't doin' nothing. I was just killing time. I was online so I was just looking for a Black rock Facebook group! And at that time, back in 2006...

NK: Okay.

BLACK ROCKERS UNITED'S ORIGINS/SCENE STEREOTYPES

Nate: I didn't find anything. So I said "You know what?" I decided to make the group. What really also pumped me up to make this group was a video called Shennie.

She was saying some stuff in her video, you know, she had Black people telling her "Why are you listening to that devil shit for? You're Black, you need to be into rap more and R&B" and stuff.

And she just broke it down. I was inspired by that, I was really inspired by that. I decided to make the group back in 2006. And I was just promoting stuff, just promoting. Saying, just telling people. You know, whoever joined, I was saying "Spread the word". Just spread the word.

NK: Great idea. That's how you gotta do it.

Nate: Exactly. DIY, you gotta do it yourself.

NK: That culture of the guys that are on your shirt! You know, Bad Brains and the history of Black rock, blues, these different genres was us speaking to each other through word-of-mouth.

"Have you heard of this band? Have you listened to this musician?" Out there as much as possible. So that's really great. Aww, that's so cool! Yeah, Black rock all the way. Okay, nice!

After college, I guess and after you made Black Rockers United, what were other big rock experiences that you remember? Made you more into being a Black rocker and connecting with people like yourself?

Nate: Well, I remember when I was young. I experienced my first punk rock concert fresh out of high school, went to a local concert, the band called 30Footfall. I had some friends that asked me to go with them, so I went with them. The show was pretty cool, you know what I'm saying. That was my first show, I saw the mosh pit for the very first time. I thought it was fighting [laughs].

NK: [Laughs] Exactly. No, I don't blame you at all. Like that's what I thought when I first saw it.

Nate: I thought it was fighting, I was like "Aww, shit!" I thought there was gonna be a gun fight or somethin'!

NK: Yeah, where you're from in Houston, you already know, right?

Nate: Yeah, I didn't know. You know, I was new to the scene, people had to train me. I tained myself. You know, having a good time. Just like the movie Afropunk? Almost everything they said, I went through it.

Going to the show, you see some white people look at you. Everyday, you know, what'chu doing here look. Yeah, I'm overhearing people saying "nigger" and stuff.

NK: That's so heartbreaking...

Nate: Yeah, I really experienced that. It's this place called Fitzgerald's. I was like "I can't believe I just went through that stuff". That's why I made the page so whoever went through the same thing as me. You know what i'm saying? We all got something in common.

NK: They have somewhere to go.

Nate: Yes! Yeah, somewhere to go. Just all get together and be brothers and sisters. You know, reunite.

NK: [rock salute} I'm proud of that. And I'm so sorry that that happened to you. That happened, you know?

Nate: I mean, it's cool.

NK: That's kind of the thing that starts a lot of our journey, you know, as Black rockers—hearing that word, experiencing that conflict with people who are not Black and you know, standing our ground because this is our scene. This is our scene!

Nate: Exactly.

NK: You know?

Nate: I was just being the bigger person.

NK: Right.

Nate: Like I said, I mean that's in the past. So it is what it is.

NK: How much has the scene changed since then for you?

STORY CONTINUES

Nate: Wow, to be honest with you, I haven't been going to shows in a while! Just listening to music and stuff. Actually the last concert I'd been to, uhh, Suffocation?

NK: Yes!

Nate: Last year or two years ago? I think it was last year. So that was the last concert I've been to, 'cause you know, there be a lot of big shows before COVID hit. There be a lot of big shows comin' around and I'm trying my best to attend to shows, but...sometimes I can make it, sometimes I can't. You know?

NK: Yeah, I know how it is.

Nate: Exactly, so you know, just go there to have a good time. Enjoy the music, you know, enjoy the energy!

NK: That's so cool. I love that that was your last show: Suffocation! What were other major shows that you loved?

Nate: Best show...best show I've been to was Killswitch Engage back in 2007.

NK: Ooh, okay!

Nate: Yes.

NK: Right on.

Nate: Yes, that was the best show. You know, Howard Jones was onstage and he was doing his thing. And I will never forget this too! And I swear to God, back then, I was crowd-surfing. You know what I'm saying?

Howard looked at me, that boy reached out his hand and said "Give a man a handshake!" I thought he was gonna pull me onstage.

NK: [Laughs]

Nate: That's what I really thought so he just gave me a handshake, you know. One of the guards had to put me down. That was a nice experience for me. But the scariest, I'm gonna have to say the scariest concert I've been to was Slipknot. Craziest mosh pit I've ever been in! Craziest mosh pit back in 2005 with Shadows Fall, Lamb of God and The Bled.

NK: Lamb of God AND The Bled? You gotta be kiddin' me! What?

Nate: Yeah, that was a sick show. That was a sick show. Yeah but you know, the mosh pit was scary. I will never forget there was this dude, had to be like 6'8" and weighed 300-something pounds. He literally tryna hurt people. He was charging at people like he was a bull.

NK: Whoa.

Nate: Yeah, people had to dodge out the way, you know? He was just so big and stuff, I was like "No, uh-uh".

NK: The energy of metal is just so wild. People just get so into it, don't they?

Nate: Yes! 'Course I've been to a lot of concerts, been to Ozzfest. You know, saw Black Sabbath! That was my first time seeing Black Sabbath live. It was really nice to see Ozzy Osbourne doing his thing. That was a good card that year. Jada Pinkett performed!

NK: Oh, nice! With Wicked Wisdom, right?

Nate: Yes!

NK: Nice, bet that was surreal. A lot of Black rock, you know?

Nate: Yeah.

NK: So Texas is actually home to a lot of metal! What are some really cool bands from Texas that you dig?

HOMETOWN HARDCORE/METAL

Nate: Locally?

NK: Yeah!

Nate: Well, they're not together anymore. Deep Above Surface. I mean, they still have music on YouTube if you want to check 'em out or whatever. They like Kalmah, all that. It's a lot of good metal and punk bands that you know, I really dig. I can't remember the names. It's been so long! You know?

NK: Oh, right! I feel you, Nate.

Nate: Yeah, it's been so long. Oh, I forgot to mention, I used to be in a band. I used to be in a punk band when I was 18 years old! And I played the drums. Yeah.

NK: Yeah! I wanted to hear about your musical experience. That's exciting, that's great!

Nate: Yeah.

NK: What kind of stuff did you play?

Nate: Well, I was in a band called The Unreliables back then, but we were just a cover band. We didn't wrote anything, we did a few shows. But the best show we did to me was like a house party. You know, it was in the backyard and you know, we were just playing punk stuff.

At that time, you know, I didn't have a drumset so I borrowed one of the other drummer's who played there, used his kit. And you know, we were just tearin' it up! And after the show, everybody came up to me and said "Hey man, you kicked ass" on you know, the drums.

I said "Wow". It's a good feeling for me. I said "I'm diggin' this". So like I said, we did high school shows 'cause the bass player, you know, he was a senior [laughs]

NK: That is dope.

Nate: Yeah, we played the song, The Hives 'Hate to Say I Told You So'.

NK: Yes!

Nate: Yeah, so we won second place at that talent show. It was cool though. I don't know if the guitar player still has that trophy.

NK: I love it. I'm so proud of you.

Nate: Yeah, you know.

NK: I'm glad that when you look back on your life, you played a lot of music and you've enjoyed it! And really taken that to the maximum potential. Do you play music still?

BRU FOUNDER TODAY

Nate: Uh, not really. You know, I'm still singing here and there. You know, I try to write some stuff. Sometimes you think about things, gotta write it down on a piece of paper. So I've been doing that every once in a while.

NK: Respect. Aww, yeah, you should share it with #BRU when you feel more confident. It's cool to see you be more creative. I was listenin' to some of your vocal covers for metal on your Sub Negro [YouTube] channel?

Nate: Yes.

NK: It was cool! You should do that more! That was like, years ago.

Nate: Yeah, that was years ago.

NK: Dope!

Nate: You know, my computer crashed so I gotta get another one.

NK: [Laughs] Take your time. I mean, yeah, I've been puttin' up stuff from my phone so...

Nate: Yeah.

NK: Make moves? [Laughs]

Nate: Maybe I will. You know, I never thought of that.

NK: Yeah, like no one really cares if it's on the laptop or not. I think it's just put out the music. Express yourself.

Nate: Yeah, you know, I'm just more about the quality of the video.

NK: Right! I feel you, boo. So what else do you want to share with Black Rockers United, #BRU founder Nate? What are you proud of, in terms of this group and this community and how far you've come?

Nate: Overwhelmed! Happy. You know, I thank you. I thank the crew! You know what I'm saying, the team! You know with y'all's help, I'm forever grateful.

NK: Aww, Nate! It's you! [Points]

Nate: [Laughs] With your umm, #BRUTalks on YouTube and everything, man, they all amazin'. They really are amazin'.

NK: Being a part of this team, it's so exhilarating! It feels empowering as a Black rocker, as a Black person.

Nate: Yes.

NK: ...to be connected to someone who made something so cool.

Nate: Like I said, I never thought in a million years it would reach the numbers...like, growing! I never thought. Starting from back then, you know, before all this big update, it was almost like 1,000. Now we're up to 4,000!

NK: Mm-hmm! Okay! Okay.

Nate: You know, it's growing! The website is up! That's really good. I'm really proud of y'all for that.

NK: I'm proud of you! What do you love about teaching people Black rock and making this more about us? How does that feel for you?

Nate: It feels good, it really feels good. It's like people need to know these artists, musicians, they're important.

NK: Yeah.

Nate: They really important so you know, we have to pass it down to the next generation so their legacy can continue on.

NK: Yeah!

Nate: Like I said, I'm old-fashioned. I'm 37 years old but I'm old-fashioned, you know? I can go back to Muddy Waters to Little Walter.

NK: All right.

Nate: To Chuck Berry, Little Richard.

NK: That's right.

Nate: I can't help that, you know, that's the way I was brought up.

NK: Yeah.

Nate: People always say "Man, you know, what you listen to that old stuff for?" I'm like "You gotta keep this in mind, people like that, they paved the way for the people you listen to right now. You better think about that".

NK: I like that, yeah. Don't stop reminding people these artists are important and we're listening to them because they made a lot of the music that we currently still, you know, bump today. A lot of hip-hop samples those artists. Nasir Jones, Nas, like samples his father who's a jazz artist.

Nate: Mm-hmm.

NK: You know what I mean? All these connections between hip-hop and rap, and rock and blues because one came before the other and that's real. That's real.

I wanted to close with that because it's about meeting your heroes, you know, and telling them that they had that impact on you and saying to Howard Jones that you became a Black rocker because you heard them on Killswitch Engage. It's reaching out to all Black rockers. Black Rockers United, Nate!

Nate: Exactly. BRU!

NK: [Laughs, rock salute] Any closing words from founder? I love you, bruh!

Nate: Love you too. Umm, like I said, let's continue to support each other. You know what I'm saying? Continue to spread the word. If you want to help promote, you're more than welcome to help promote. Share it on your page. Have other people share it on their page, let's continue on. You know. I just want everybody to know rock and roll is not white music.

NK: It's not.

Nate: It's not. We created it, you know what I'm saying? We're the innovators of it. So it's important, you know, to teach that and pass it down to the next generation.

NK: 100%, Nate. Yeah, I love it and I love Black community. And this is a movement, and it feels good to be a part of. Thank you, Nate.

Nate: Yes. You're very welcome, thank you.

NK: Much love!

Nate: Much love.

NK: I'll catch you on the flipside, a'ight, Nate?

Nate: Yes, ma'am. You take care of yourself.

NK: Take care!

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