UK metalcore/rockers Asking Alexandria took the scene by storm in 2009 when their debut, Stand Up and Scream was on rotation in everyone’s ears and MySpace profiles. Following it up a mere two years later with their sophomore release, Reckless and Relentless and you could say that Danny Worsnop, Ben Bruce, Cameron Liddel, Sam Bettley and James Cassells were unstoppable.
What alot of fans may not realise about the early days of the band though is that the guys were very young, and well under prepared for the significant success they’d already received thus far in their career. Reflecting on the whirlwind start of their career, guitarist Ben Bruce shared with us:
It was all a whirlwind and everyone was like, ‘You’re the next rock and roll band, you are saving rock and roll.’ Even to the point where bands like Skid Row and Twisted Sister and stuff were holding stuff with a pedestal going, ‘Yeah, this band’s going to…’ It just fuelled the fire and we just went nuts and I think people were pushing us in that direction and we got lost.
We lost ourselves along the way somewhere. I mean, even just for instance, growing up, I was never a drinker. I didn’t drink really much at all when I was younger…”
Writing their seventh studio album, See What’s On The Inside (our review here) has finally allowed the band to self-reflect on their past behaviours and somewhat allow a kind of a rebirth for the band. One song on the new record (coming out this Friday), ‘If I Could Erase It’ really digs deep into the process:
It’s one of the first ones we sat down and wrote. Obviously the world’s kind of gone a bit crazy and we’ve all been forced into somewhat of an early retirement, which has given us a lot of time to sit back and reflect and think. We started this band and we got signed very, very young, and very, very quickly.
It wasn’t until this started that I really started drinking and that song addresses all of that. It’s the main hook in the chorus, If I could erase it, I would erase it. The song looks back at some of the antics that were thrown at us and how we felt we had to be, to be rock and roll and the direction we were pushed in. That’s not who we are as people, you can see that now that we’ve all stopped taking drugs. I think the only thing I drink is a glass. I drink red wine, I love red wine.
(But) we’re very much comfortable within ourselves and our own skin now that we’ve found ourselves again. That song was just addressing that. That’s not who we are. It’s not who we ever wanted to be. I feel like there’s a lot of people in life that get pushed into whether it’s a career or a situation or a relationship. There’s so many times in life where I feel people have pushed a way that they don’t necessarily want to go, but they feel pressured to go that way. That song’s just about addressing that. Everyone goes through that they wish they hadn’t had to have gone through. It’s about moving on from it.
With this song and new album finally seeing the band being comfortable in their own skin and in what music they’d like to play, going into the studio for See What’s On The Inside, they didn’t exactly have a roadmap for the record either, as Bruce explains:
“For us going into the studio, we never really have a plan. It’s always just well, what are we really into at this time? What are we feeling? Because I think first and foremost, when we are making a record, we have to enjoy it. We have to be in love with it. We have to enjoy what we’re doing at the time or else it’s pointless. So it’s always hard to sort of say what mindset we’re in going into a record.
With this album in particular, we definitely wanted to dig deep and get back in touch with our roots and pay homage to the bands that we grew up listening to that made us fall in love with rock and metal music in the first place. We did that by cutting everything back, going back to basics and just being a five piece band and literally listening to all our favourite bands from when we were growing up. It was a really, really enjoyable experience making this new album.”
Even throughout Asking Alexandria‘s discography, you can definitely hear the pure enjoyment the boys receive off of each record, in playing an array of styles where each album and their latest offering in particular shows a different side to the band and their assorted musical influences from metalcore to rock’n’roll to the classic heavy metal of the 70s and 80s. Ben was brutally honest when he explained:
“The thing that I love so much about Asking Alexandria is we don’t like to follow trends or do something that we’ve already done before and just keep releasing the same record. We’re all such gigantic music fans, whether that’s rock, metal or hip hop, and country, blues and classical. We listen to so many different styles of music.
Growing up we’ve always been inspired by those bands too. I grew up listening to Queen, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Metallica, Pantera and AC/DC, so it’s nothing new. Those elements have always been in our music. I feel like we were just not ready to jump head first in. We did covers, we covered Skid Row and stuff a long, long time ago. So that’s always been part of our DNA, but I just think we’re in a place now where we’re diving head first in because that’s just where we’re at now.”
And it looks like the fans are already enjoying what they’re hearing so far with leading single ‘Alone Again’. Ben is blown away by the huge reaction the song’s had since its release and is excited for everyone to hear the rest of the album:
“Me and the guys have talked about it and we’ve obviously talked about it with our management. I think it might be the most positive, initial reaction we’ve ever had as a band to a single, which is exciting. It’s always nice when you’re seven records deep and you’re still doing stuff that people are enjoying. It’s always a fine line to trade with keeping yourself interested and engaged and also keeping your fans interested and engaged. So when you read something new and it’s got a reaction like this song has, it means a lot. It feels really good.”
While ‘Alone Again’ proved worlds away from the band’s earlier records, there’s always going to be some listeners scratching their heads and wondering what happened to the band known for emo club anthems ‘The Final Episode’ and ‘Not the American Average’. Well, Asking Alexandria are older these days (too old to be screaming lyrics like “you stupid fucking whore!”) and constantly learning and growing with each new record they produce. Ben is adamantly clear that they’re not the young lads from Stand Up and Scream anymore:
I think at the end of the day, those records are still very much there. They’re available. The thing about me is it’s supposed to make you feel something. It’s supposed to be there. For me growing up, music was something I leaned heavily on when I needed guidance and I needed help. And I needed anything. If I felt a certain way, music was there and it made me feel like I wasn’t so alone and that doesn’t change, that hasn’t changed now.
For me, if you’re feeling particularly angst or angry or feeling a certain way, Stand Up and Scream is still there, or Reckless and Relentless is still there for you to listen to, for you to lean on and for you to utilise. If every record was the same, I feel like we wouldn’t be doing ourselves justice and we wouldn’t be doing anyone else any favours, or justice either. I think this way our discography is so widespread that there’s a mood in there for whatever you are going through at some points in your life. I think that’s the beauty of music.
If people still want to listen to ‘The Final Episode’, I implore to listen to ‘The Final Episode’.
They are songs that I’m so proud of. We wrote those when we were super young, but we’re not anymore. We’ve done that journey. We’ve been in that place and we’ve written about it and we’ve moved on to the next chapter. And the next one. It doesn’t make sense to keep going back.”
Outside his Asking Alexandria duties, Ben Bruce has also been quite the busy man in recent years sharpening his acting abilities with a major role as Leo Donovan on cult film American Satan and later, Amazon Prime’s bingeworthy TV series Paradise City. If you’re like me and binged the series and wondering what the status on season two is, well, there is a tiny glimmer of hope out there:
“Apparently there is a season two I’ve seen announced. I have no idea. I spoke to my friend Booboo Stewart (who plays fellow Relentless band member Vic Lakota). I was like, ‘Did you know, there was a season two?’ And he was like, ‘I had no idea.’ So who knows? But either way, I’m sure it’s going to be awesome. Ash Avildsen, the writer and creator of the show, he’s super passionate about it. His background from his father’s side is movies and stuff. So he definitely puts 100% into it. So if there is a season two, I’m sure it’s going to be pretty awesome.”
Ben’s acting career was quite the success too, until the COVID pandemic hit in 2020 which like many of us, kinda forced him to think about his life and what remained a priority to him:
It was going really well. I was really enjoying it and I got picked up by an agent and I got so many auditions, a few of them, I had to turn down because of touring commitments and family commitments, others I just didn’t get, but I did auditions for big shows like Ballers, movies like Scooby Doo. I did loads of auditions. I got some, didn’t get others, but I think this time off that I’ve had over the course of this pandemic, for the first time in my life, I’ve been able to sit down and take a breath. Instead of being Ben Bruce, I’ve been able to just be dad or husband. And it’s been so nice. I just love my family more than anything in the world. I made the decision during this time that I don’t want to venture out anymore.
I don’t want to do anything else. My priorities are my family and Asking Alexandria. If there’s other things coming into play like acting and stuff, it just takes me away from either one of those. It takes me away from Asking or it takes me away from my family and I don’t really want to do that. That’s not to say if something amazing comes up in the future and I’m like, ‘Well, I can’t turn this down. It’s just too cool of an opportunity.’ There’s a conversation to be had, but as it stands, I’m not really looking to do anything that takes me away from either one of my priorities.”
Just like that, musicians are just like the rest of us, with this pandemic giving the boys that much needed rest and reflect on what matters most to them — family and keeping grounded:
“I think it’s made people realise what they really love and what they really don’t love. I mean, I know a lot of people that have gone, ‘I don’t love what I do for a living’ and they’ve taken this chance, this opportunity to change career paths and learn something new. So I think it’s always been necessary almost like a reset button for humanity in some ways.”
Looking towards the future, upon See What’s On The Inside’s release this week, Asking Alexandria have already announced the first leg of their tour in UK/Europe for 2022, with other destinations (like Australia!) very much in the pipeline:
“The plan is obviously to tour as much as we possibly we can. We’re booking shows right now behind the scenes. So for instance, we were supposed to be in Australia in December, but that got cancelled. So we’re just taking every day as it comes. Once we get given the green flag to travel and tour and stuff, then we’re ready. We can’t wait.”
By the time the band get that green light to enter Australia though (it’s coming guys, I can feel it!), they’ll have three new albums of music to play for us, plus all of the OG favourites. Narrowing down that setlist is going to be a tough gig:
“I know. It gets harder and harder the longer you’ve been a band. Because when you’ve got one album, it’s cool. You just play the album and we’re on album seven and you only get an allotted amount of time. We want to play for three hours, but we can’t. So yeah. It gets tough!”
Interview by Tamara May @citylightstam
Asking Alexandria release See What’s On The Inside this Friday through Better Noise Music.
Asking Alexandria – See What’s On the Inside tracklisting:
2. Alone Again
3. Faded Out
4. Never Gonna Learn
5. If I Could Erase It
6. Find Myself
7. You’ve Made It This Far
8. See What’s On The Inside
9. Misery Loves Company
11. The Grey