The Making of Brad Thomas Ackley
With neon pink shorts, pumped up Airwalk hi-tops, and a flipped bill hat with "RAD" written on it, a 6-year-old Brad Thomas Ackley watched The Search for Animal Chin while practicing his latest skateboard tricks. Growing up under the bright southern California sun, in the epicenter of the surf and skate culture of the 80's, Guns n Roses and RUN DMC were the soundtrack to his youth.
The mashup of modern, raw, and reckless infected and possessed him. It was that energy, rhythm, and attitude that has shaped his life and art.
First, it was Michael Jackson's Thriller. An epic album that played like a movie. It was truly larger than life. Spinning for countless hours on repeat, the undeniable rhythms of Jackson's soul and Eddie Van Halen's guitar shredding were permanently injected into his's DNA. Not long after, Guns n Roses Appetite for Destruction took center stage with bone crushing riffs and Slash's unapologetic guitar wailing. Brad's older brother, Chad, was the real catalyst, supplying endless mixtapes he'd gotten from neighborhood friends, which included the rap rock fusion of RUN DMC and Aerosmith. It was infectious. It was groundbreaking. Crossing color lines and defying genres, it blew the doors to musical discovery wide open.
Life After the Guitar
After months of begging, 15-year-old Brad finally convinced his parents to buy him his first electric guitar. It was a black Stratocaster copy. He began by jamming Soundgarden and Black Sabbath songs, but quickly put a band together which included future Neon Trees guitarist Chris Allen. The scene was very competitive and creative. Inspired by the incredible local musicians around him, such as Rocco DeLuca and the Rodriguez Brothers - sons of LA drummer Art Rodriguez (Bette Midler, Manhattan Transfer, Rickie Lee Jones). Brad joined late night jam sessions and absorbed every scrap of music he could fight for. Infused with the smashing beats, the raw soul and the head banging rock that defined a generation, Brad was attracted to music that could not be defined by a genre or a radio station’s call letters. He knew that music existed beyond labels and stereotypes. And by the age of 18, it paid off. Brad earned a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Berklee College of Music
While the scholarship was for his musical talent, Brad was, and continues to be fascinated by all aspects of music - from how it's played to how it's heard. So at Berklee, he enrolled in the Music Production and Engineering Program. He spent 4 years inside Berklee's recording studios and synthesis labs, producing, recording, and mixing. His musical education included everything from Bach's cello concertos and the Jazz of Miles Davis to rap's Busta Rhymes and the outlaw country music of Johnny Cash. At Berklee, he played all styles of music including sold out performances of The Beatles Abbey Road, in it's entirety, with a full orchestra, and with Epic Records artist Cami Gutierrez featuring Annie Clark (St Vincent) on bass guitar. After earning his Bachelor of Arts in Music in 2002, Brad returned to California, where he first found inspiration, and pursued his dreams in Hollywood.
Upon arriving in Los Angeles, Brad got his first job as an audio engineer on the film The Matrix Reloaded at Cherokee Studios. While he appreciated and enjoyed the experience he gained while working on the film, he knew he wanted more. Back in L.A., the familiar vibes of southern California were calling him. It was time to find a band.
In 2007, Brad joined the electro rock group Ultraviolet Sound with Sarah Hudson and Sami Diament (Brillz). Together they released an independent album entitled O.C.D.(Obsessive Compulsive Dancing) which garnered a total of 135,000 downloads and sponsorship from Adidas Originals. UVS played a 35 city US tour with Family Force 5, shows with DJ's Kill The Noise, Treasure Fingers, Ludachrist, SebastiAN, Kavinsky and more. They also played several one off shows with Lady Gaga, a SXSW performance on a bill with Robyn, N.E.R.D, Katy Perry, and shows with many other top artists. Forever looking for new and more interesting ways to make music, in addition to playing with UVS, Brad produced a rap record with Limp Bizkit drummer John Otto for Jacksonville duo, Red Rock. He co-wrote and produced platinum single "Galaxy" with Richard Vission for Australian artists Jessica Mauboy and Stan Walker. He also played in bands such as Uh Huh Her, JC, The Memorials with Thomas Pridgen (Mars Volta), and OWL with bassist Chris Wyse (Ace Frehley, The Cult) and drummer Ryan Brown (Zappa).
PARIS is Calling
After nearly 10 years on the L.A. scene, a longtime friend and collaborator, Dorion Fiszel, introduced Brad to the French artist -M- (Matthieu Chedid). The meeting proved fortuitous. By the spring of 2012, Brad moved to Paris where he wrote, produced, recorded, mixed, and performed on -M-’s 5th studio album entitled ÎL. The album peaked at number four on France's album chart and went double platinum, selling more than 200,000 records. The sale of the album was bolstered by the popularity of the single "Mojo" which Brad co-wrote and composed the classic opening guitar riff. The song was the second highest charted single for the French artist.
In the fall of 2012, Brad joined -M-'s world tour. After 2 years of sold out shows and performing for over 500,000 fans, the tour earned the Victoire de La Musique, the French equivalent of a Grammy, for the best show and tour of 2014.
Create to Innovate
However, replicating ÎL on stage required Brad to become a human orchestra. Enter the "Basstar". In order for Brad to play and create multiple sounds simultaneously, he engineered the "Basstar" into it's current form. The "Basstar" combines bass, guitar, midi controllerism, and an iPhone into one instrument. Brad is one of the first musicians to embrace controllerism and perform on a major tour with this kind of hybrid instrument. The "Basstar" demonstrates his creativity, innovative spirit, and his commitment to providing fans with the spontaneity of a live show while still meeting their studio album expectations.
While on tour, Brad met award winning engineer Charles Deschutter (-M-, Superbus, Pleymo, Ghinzu). Deschutter was working with iNA-iCH, a French experimental rock band, that was looking to add some fresh hard edge and efficiency to their sound. Never one to walk away from a challenge, Brad produced, re-vamped, and eventually joined the group in its new trio lineup. This new collaboration inspired him to create a second hybrid instrument called the "Octopus". The "Octopus" combines guitar, bass, midi guitar, and controllerism. With the "Octopus", Brad became the nucleus of the group. His driving basslines raucous guitar riffs, and speaker shredding provide the foundation from which the other members of the band shine.
Brad Thomas Ackley is a rare musician who honors the roots of the past while pushing the boundaries of the future. He is an experienced singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer who blends creativity, talent, and technology to transform music. Whether he is composing, producing, engineering, or performing live, Brad takes a multi-dimensional approach to everything he does.
Performer to Composer
Brad is currently touring with -M- . Check out the upcoming tour dates here.
Below are some of the movies, television shows, and commercials that have featured original compositions by Brad Thomas Ackley.
- M6-Quadras (FR)
- Europacorp-Jamais le Premier Soir (FR)
- Mars Distribution- Un Moment d'Egarement (FR)
- ABC-Castle (US)
- Fox-Red Band Society (US)
- HBO-God Save our Shoes (US)
- Lifetime-Seven Deadly Sins (US)
- MTV-The HIlls (US)
- Oxygen-The World According to Paris (US)
- Pantene (UK, EU)
- Renault (FR)
- Lacoste (FR)
- Collette (FR)
- Wildfox (US)
- Adidas (US)
- IKEA (EU)
- Dutch Lady (MY)
- Anlene (MY)
- Ariel (MY)
- Friso (MY)
- Umild (TH)
- Walls Buco (MY)
- M1 (MY)
- Fox Sports (US)
- NFL Network (US)
- Bosch (IN)
- ABC-Barbara Walters (US)
- Vogue (CN)
- Sesa Living (KR)
- Samsung (MY)
- Olay (AUS)
- Canon (ASIA)
- NIcktoons (US)
He has also been a featured artist in "Guitarist & Bass", "Bassiste", and "Guitar Parts" magazines.