The Women of ArA’Kus – Part 2

And now part 2 of my interview set with the women of ArA’Kus featuring keyboardist Rachel Brunson. If you didn’t read part 1, you can do so here. You can also check out the ArA’Kus’ website, and your favorite social media,  facebook, bandcamp, and youtube.

A little background (from previous post):

Seattle-based heavy metal band, ArA’Kus, weaves a musical tapestry of opera, fantasy, and theatrics into their live performances and musical craft. This web of darkness, epic storytelling, and fervent metal love was founded in 2001 with a little hope, and a big idea. Since then ArA’Kus has been plagued with a variety of line-up changes, yet, has still remained steadfast to producing a live show that combines the best aspects of music with a visually appealing experience. The band consists of 6 members and auxiliary performers including a twelve member chorus, marital artists, fire dancers, and an aerial acrobatic troupe.

Additionally, costumes are an important part of the show. Mixing early medieval influenced outfits, with fantasy art and leather from local vendors, ArA’Kus is a living, breathing LOTR with a metal soundtrack. That soundtrack includes throaty growls from the depths of the beast, ethereal chants via the chorus, hell-rasing guitar solos, and spoken interludes that transition the songs and give a back story to the lyrics. Their debut  work, “Aeterno Elementum” is a three-part concept album, which will be released in stages this year, along with a novelization of their music’s storylines.

If anyone knows how to spin the magic and madness, it’s Rachel Brunson, keyboardist, and lover of doing things differently from the crowd.


Jukebox Heroines (JH): Thanks for doing this interview! So, give Jukebox Heroines the scoop on who you are. 

Rachel Brunson (RB): I’m an artist, musician, and a full time student. I have a degree in photography/multimedia design from Notre Dame and am working on my second Bachelors at Evergreen in psychology. I (hopefully!) start grad school in a year for a Masters in Art Therapy. I grew up in Indiana and moved to Olympia 8 years ago. My main reason for moving was wanting to find a place to live that was more artistic and had a bigger music scene then where I’m from (which is pretty much non-existant!) Other then music, I love to read. I’m a total bibliophile and want to die with enough books to open a library. No kids, just 2 cats and a plethora of fish.

JH: How did you become part of Arakus?

RB: Looong story! Suffice to say, I dated a guy that used to be in the band and used to do their photography. Many years and convoluted stories later, I came on as a guest musician to fill in while they searched for a permanent keyboard player. I ended up loving it, and they were happy with my musical capabilities and asked me to stay on permanently.

JH: What draws you to metal music? It’s known as a rather masculine genre?

I’ve always loved music of all types. My first love was and always will be classical. I started listing to metal in the 80’s (I was a kid so I don’t really remember who introduced me to it.) I love that it is such an expansive genre. It seems as if you can meld anything with metal and it will work. It can be either obnoxiously loud and fast, or soft and melodic. It never fails to surprise me so it keeps me interested. I feel like a lot of other genres seem to strive to emulate each other, whilst metal seems to strive to be different regardless of corporate approval and radio playability.

JH: What are your female artist/musician influences?

RB: Not many to be honest, I’m mostly drawn to male fronted bands. I do have a thing for Tori Amos though.

JH: I totally do too!

JH: When did you begin playing the keys and what made you pick that instrument?

RB: I began playing piano 24 years ago (at 6). My parents bought me a piano at 7 as I was obsessed. I just love the sound and the versatility of it. I didn’t start playing keyboards until fall of 2008 for ArA’KuS. It was a hard battle for while the layout and conception is the same, the feel of the two are completely different.

JH: What kind of keyboard do you use? Any preferences or sounds you use?

RB: Why? I’m using a Casio CDP-100. It’s actually a digital piano. I’m finding that they are easier for me to play as opposed to non-weighted keys. I have the advantage of a computer interface and the feel of an acoustic piano. I’m using Mainstage with an m-audio midi adapter to run them. I actually like the sound of harpsichords but have yet to find an applicable use for them for ArA’KuS. Someday maybe…

JH: What do you want people to experience with your music/live show?

RB: I want them to stand in awe of our greatness! Kidding (sort of). I want them to enjoy it. I want people to come and be completely surprised by a metal band and leave wanting more. I want it to inspire them to be more creative and to not be afraid to do what seems crazy at first.

JH: How are you feeling about the big July 31st album premiere?

RB: Nervous, excited, nervous again. I haven’t performed on a stage in about 15 years (theater stage that is). It’s so different from bar shows! I’m excited to perform in a setting that I love though.

JH: If Arakus was a type of animal, it would be: ________________. Why?

RB: Duck billed platypus. A little strange and is nothing like it appears at first glance. Can be soft and fuzzy but with sharp teeth.

JH: Any advice for other lady-metalheads out there?

RB: Loads, but I can’t type all of it out here. I’ve been in this business as either a fan, photographer, promoter, booking agent, designer, and/or musician since I was 16. I’m not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination, but women have it hard in this business sometimes. There are a lot of people out there that have some pretty awful misconceived notions of female metal heads. So if you run into someone that thinks you are something that you’re not, do what you can to change their minds. There are so many talented women out there that are afraid to push the boundaries of a traditionally male ran subset of musical society. We all need to show them that we can be a force to be reckoned with.

JB: Come to the dark feminist side Rachel! 🙂 We need more female metal heads here.

Thank you so much to Rachel and Whitney for taking the time to speak their minds here at Jukebox Heroines. Be sure to stay tuned for more updates on ArA’Kus and special features from their show.

Speaking of, you can catch ArA’Kus at their premiere show July 31, 2010 7:00 pm at The Everett Historical Theater in Everett, Wa. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online or by calling 425-258-6766.


Posted on July 15, 2010, in Mic Talk - Interviews, Seattle-Portland Music Scene and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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