“He’s figured out he can unlock my office door with a plastic knife and comes so in, so I apologise in advance if Fynn comes in and hijacks the interview.”
Is one of the first things Asking Alexandria guitarist Ben Bruce tells me so it seems as good a launch point as any to start off our interview about the new Never Gonna Learn EP, surprise released last Friday through the bands new label, Better Noise Music. You can check out our review here, and listen to the EP here.
You’ve been home for nearly 2 years now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is it going to be harder leaving for tour now because you’ve been able to spend so much time with your kids?
“Yeah, its, I mean, I’ve contemplated just not doing it anymore, it’s gonna kill me. I just love them so much and I love being a dad so much.” With the pure joy of fatherhood to four little ones on his face, Ben continues. “It’s gotten to the point where it sucks that something I’ve worked so hard on my entire life, and I’m so passionate about music can sort of hinder my relationship with my kids. Being away so long you miss birthdays, big milestones. At the end of the day too they think what I’m doing is awesome, it’s not because I’m a rock star, it’s good for me to show them that if you want something, and you work hard for it you can achieve it. You don’t have to be a doctor, or a lawyer, unless that’s what you want and that’s fine. I want to lead by example and it takes sacrifices and it’s hard, but in the long run it’s important to instill that drive and that passion in them.”
Have they shown any interest in following in Dad’s footsteps?
“Fae not so much, she doesn’t really care, she likes to listen to music, and Rosie is too young, but my 2 boys show a lot of interest. In fact, when James’ (Asking Alexandria’s drummer, James Cassells) son was born he had these drum sticks made that say Stirling Cassells, but Fynn stole them and scribbled all over it trying to get Stirling’s name off because he plays drums. His little brother Theo found them in the last couple of weeks, I don’t think they’re too interested in guitar, Theo might be but it looks like they might both be drummers. Or they’re cavemen, one of the two!”
Sharing a laugh I joked that his boys could possibly be bother drummers AND cavemen, Ben sharing that sentiment with me. I then asked how old he was when he started playing music himself.
“11 or 12 when I started playing guitar, but I started playing piano when I was like 2 or 3. My grandma played piano, and I used to stay with them a lot growing up because we were so close. I just remember watching her and plinking and plonking around on the piano. It’s been a long time and you’d think I’d be better but it never really caught on!”
Well you’re a pretty good guitar player, so I think you’re fine!
“I try my best! I’ve got small hands which is the problem. I’m here to say you can play guitar with small hands.”
Speaking of guitars, I was listening to the EP just before we started chatting and there is a lot of heavy ass solos on there.
“Yes, I can play guitar, I was joking the whole time! I feel like when this band started when I was really young, guitar solos were really taboo. My first love is blues music, I grew up listening to BB King, Eric Clapton and Garry Moore, and that’s all very lead based. There’s a lot fo beautiful leads in blues based music. Then I moved onto Pantera and Metallica, and Pink Floyd and again all these fantastic guitar players. Then by the time I got to the point of I’m signed! I can’t make music! Guitar solos had sort of gone out of fashion. You weren’t allowed to play a guitar solo, which at the time I was happy to be making music nonetheless. But then I got into, not a rut, a comfort zone and I hadn’t played guitar solos in so long, when I was writing it became like a scary thing for me. Danny was always like come on man, play a guitar solo. This whole album he was saying come on, this whole album is about us reconnecting as musicians and not relying on computers and samples and just the five of us going to town. The first one I wrote for the record was ‘Alone Again’, and once I did that I got excited by it again. That guitar solo shaped the record really and pushed me to push my abilities and look at guitarists like Mark Knopfler, who influenced me when I was a kid, and push those boundaries and make what I think is a great guitar album.”
Speaking of the EP, ‘New Devil’ featuring Maria Brink of In This Moment, is really fucking heavy. I love it!
“Thank you! It IS heavy, isn’t it? If this comes out and people are like ‘this isn’t heavy!’ I’m gonna be like I don’t know what heavy is then! It’s heavy, it’s a big guitar riff.”
It’s only been around 3 months since See What’s On The Inside was released, you can see our review here, why the EP so soon?
“Everything we’ve done for this record so far has been so non-traditional. It’s been such a weird time for everyone not being able to go to shows and festivals and stuff, so in the spirit of doing things differently, it came time to do single number two, which is Never Gonna Learn, and instead of doing a press release saying ‘single number two!’ we had a discussion with our label about how we can do something different, how can we mix this up? We came up with releasing an EP, so we’re not like pushing this song you’ve already heard, obviously it IS important and we are pushing it but we also wanted to give our fans some new music to listen to. Especially when things have been so weird at the moment. We look at our fan base and the huge spectrum of fans, on one side we have fans that really love heavy music, then on the other end we have fans that really enjoy the softer stuff and the ballads, and then everyone else is in the middle and the tend to enjoy most of it. So we were like ‘lets hit both the extremes’, we’ve got New Devil which is for the people who still wanna mosh and headbang and get all the aggression out, then we’ve got Miles Away is all the way over here on the sad, slow ballad side. For such a small thing, being an EP and not an album, it’s such a dramatic journey that it takes you on.”
The members of Asking Alexandria live all over the US, so I was curious to know how the writing process works for the band when they’re so far away from each other most of the time.
“It starts in this room that I’m sat in, I just pick up my guitars and I sit and I write and I write. I have basic recording abilities, enough that I can put my ideas down and then from there, I don’t show them to Danny because he doesn’t like to hear ideas before we go into the studio. The way he likes to write is to get the initial reaction of ‘how does the music make me feel?’ and I love that, it’s so cool and so endearing. So it tends to not go to Danny, I show the other guys and then take it to our producer Matt, and he and I will go more in-depth and get it to a point where we’re comfortable to show it to the others and Danny in a studio setting. We’ll do the vocals, then we’ll revisit and re-write once that’s done.”
See What’s On The Inside is the third Asking Alexandria record that has been produced by Matt Good, who Ben has been friends with for a long time. When it comes to working with Matt, because of how close you guys are is it easier having him in the studio because you know he’s gonna be honest, or are you like shut up man I know what I’m doing?
“No that’s exactly it, you know. He was the best man at my wedding, we’ve been friends for such a long time. It’s so funny too because when I was growing up and went through my screamo-emo phase, his band, From First To Last, was one of my favourite bands. I used to listen to them all the time going to school. Our very first headline tour, we got to take out From First To Last as one of our support bands, I think that was 2009 or 2010, and we’ve just been friends ever since. It’s been a 12 years friendship so when I’m in the studio with him it’s easier because he’s not worried about hurting my feelings. He just be like ‘that’s shit’. When you’re working with someone new, there’s that line and you don’t know if you should or can cross. I prefer it if Matt’s like ‘that’s shit’ so I can be cool, next, let’s move on there’s not going to be any hurt feelings.”
There’s been a lot of collaboration with you and Matt, you even had a band with him and Zack Hansen from The Word Alive called Kill It With Fire, right?
Yeah, Matt likes a lot of different music and not just what he creates in the studio. We both grew up massive Blink-182 fans and Matt kind of sounds like Tom Delonge, he’s quite nasally, but it turned into so much more than just pop punk. Every nine months or so I come across those songs in my dropbox and I’ll listen to them and be like ‘damn, these are really good songs’, so maybe we’ll release them on Spotify or something. I’ve made so many songs with Matt.
Speaking of influences, you grew up listening to blues music, now that you’re older do you find yourself still being influenced by them, or are you finding new inspirations?
I find it really hard to find new music, I’m so, I feel like we’re in a time where instant gratification is a thing and songs have turned into two-minute songs and it’s like chorus, chorus, chorus, something, chorus, and I really struggle to find stuff I really connect with. It’s funny because I still listen to The Beatles, Led Zepplin, and Dire Straits every day, I find it hard to sort of branch out of that. I do stumble on artists from time to time that I fall in love with, I discovered Brandy Carlisle recently and looked her up and she’s been going for a while as well. I’m not very good at finding new stuff, but that doesn’t mean there’s no good stuff out there. I hear stuff on the radio and it’s good, but I don’t think it’s going to shape my life the way Brian May and Queen did.
Influences can be a lot of different things and manifest in different ways, and one of those ways is through tattoos, so I asked Ben if he think he will ever be used to seeing his lyrics and artwork influenced by the bands music on peoples skin.
That is a strange one. For me it’s, it just makes me super thankful. I still remember, like it was yesterday, my Mum and me sat in my grandma’s kitchen every summer just putting demos into envelopes and handwriting labels addresses on them and sending them around the world. Now whenever I do see that, I don’t think I will ever get used to it, it’s such a crazy thing. I have that devotion for bands and artists, and to know someone has that for something I’m so passionate about is pretty rare and magic.
2021 was a weird year, but what it did bring us was the series Paradise City, which is a continuation of the film American Satan, in which Ben plays guitarist Leo Donovan, alongside fellow musician Andy Black, and actors like Boo Boo Stewart and the late Cameron Boyce, so I asked Ben if 2022 will see him do more acting.
This time off during COVID has made me realise how much I’ve missed in my kids and my wife’s lives, I’ve missed milestones, I’ve missed birthdays. Being home for 2 years has been amazing so I made the decision that I don’t want to do anything else ever that’s going to take me away from my family. Asking Alexandria’s different, it’s something I’ve been doing my entire life and I will focus on that until I’m walking across the stage with a Zimmer frame. Taking on new projects, all that does is take me away from Asking Alexandria and from my family and that’s not something I’m really looking to pursue. If something pops up and I feel passionate about, I’ll look into it, but as far as seeking out opportunities it’s just not something that’s on the cards for me.
Lightening the mood I asked Ben who he would like to play him, if they ever made an Asking Alexandria biopic, with the stipulation of not choosing himself.
Can I say Sam Bettley (Asking Alexandria’s bassist)? Why is Sam playing Ben? He could just put some platforms. People think we’re brothers all the time, so I think he could do it. He does have a better beard than me though. We’re both getting that sweet Dad-bod around the same time too, so it’s working out.
Lastly, I asked Ben if he thinks that Asking Alexandria will get back to Australia to tour at some point in the future.
Oh my god, it’s literally so frustrating not getting to go to Australia every year, we love Australia. The shows are amazing, but just the country is so beautiful. Every time we come we try to book extra days so we can stay for a little while and it’s so hard. We were booked to play Australia and then COVID hit, and it got pushed to December (Of 2021), and then it got cancelled again. It’s been booked twice, but we’re hoping as soon as things get back to normalcy we can get back there. I’ve got family in Australia too.
We hope you can get back soon, we miss you guys!
We miss you too!
When you do come back out, do you think you’ll bring your family with you?
I always talked about doing that, I’ve spoken to my wife about it and I want her to experience it. But with four kids and two adults, that’s six tickets to Australia. I might go broke! It depends what the pay day is like.
Just move here, save yourself the trouble!
Exactly. But then I’d have the same problem touring anywhere else in the world. I can’t tour anywhere except Australia. New Zealand is amazing too and that’s just a hop, skip and a jump away too!
Thank you so much for your time, Ben, I’m really excited for the EP and hearing what other people think of it too!
You too! Thank you so much it was so nice to talk to you.
Interview by Kelsey Trevan. @kelsey_139
Never Gonna Learn EP is out now via Better Noise Records.
Asking Alexandria – Never Gonna Learn EP tracklisting:
1. New Devil (featuring Maria Brink of In This Moment)
2. Never Gonna Learn
3. Miles Away
4. Find Myself
Chip in a buck or two for the WoS crew!
Want to help Wall of Sound grow and deliver more killer content? Support us by chipping in as little as a dollar to help!