Latest release: From Death to Destiny (Sumerian/Warner)
North Yorkshire upstarts Asking Alexandria will be returning Down Under early next year for a return appearance with the Soundwave Festival. Having tweaked their style from an electronica-laced metalcore to the classic hard rock-inspired output of their latest releases, the band scored a #11 album in Australia earlier this year with From Death to Destiny. Loud recently got the chance to speak to guitarist and founding member Ben Bruce about his band’s evolution, his ultimate bucket-list jam, major musical inspirations and more.
Hey Ben how are you today? We’re here to talk about your impending return to Australia next year.
I’m good thanks! Yes, yes. Soundwave. I can’t wait.
It seems like you weren’t here all that long ago.
I don’t think it was recently. We did Soundwave in 2011 and we either toured again with Amity Affliction in 2011, or very early 2012. So it’s been a while since we’ve been there.
Since then of course you’ve done a couple of recordings. The reviews I’ve seen of the most recent seen suggest that you’re moving towards a more mature sound. How do you describe it yourself?
I think it is a more mature, more polished, more well-rounded sound than our other ones, you know. You know on our previous records we were young, we hadn’t been a band for very long, we didn’t know how to write with each other and we didn’t really know what we wanted to do. Whereas, with this third record, we’re much more established obviously and our fanbase is very loyal, and we’ve done a bunch of EP releases in the past and stuff and we came to terms with the fact that this is probably the time to do the record we’ve always wanted to do. We are influenced greatly by 80s rock and roll bands, and we’ve never had the balls to show that inflence wholeheartedly before. With this record, we really wanted to… we didn’t want to just rehash an 80s sound. We wanted to incorporate our love for 80s rock and roll into a more modern sounding rock album. I think it took us a while to get there, but I think we did a pretty good job in accomplishing that.
It definitely has that noticeable sound in there. But if it’s something you’ve wanted to do for some time, why do it now?
We just didn’t have the balls to do it before. We released our first album Stand Up and Scream when we were between the ages of 17 and 19 and at the time we genuinely loved that music, and we were going out to gigs fucked up all the time and we were at clubs and raves all the time which is why we had all that type of influence in our music. Then when we came back for our second album, everyone had started copying our sound and doing the same thing, and we thought, Well, this is boring. Where do we go? We wanna release a rock n roll album but we’re still new, we still need to establish ourselves but we don’t want to scare everyone away. So we slowly introduced that 80s rock n roll influence into our second album, Reckless and Relentless, moreso in themes than musically just to give people an edge into where we were going. And then we released a bunch of 80s covers from Skid Row to Whitesnake and stuff so when it came to our third album, we were like Well fuck it, man, we can do this now!
And what was the reaction like to those EPs of covers. A lot of Asking Alexandria fans would not have grown up with that music at all. Some of them would have barely known it. What did you think the reaction was going to be like to that?
We honestly had no idea. A lot of our fanbase… our fanbase now is definitely more varied, we have much older fans and much younger fans. But back then it was, as you said, a very young fanbase and I don’t know if they even knew who Skid Row was when we did the Skid Row covers. And we thought that was such a shame. And we looked around at the current music scene and all the bands around that everyone was listening to and said, Where the hell’s rock and roll gone? Not just the music, but the whole attitude and the passion that was around in the 80s has just died. Everyone’s just playing it safe. It’s all kind of boring and monotonous. Let’s show these kids why we fell in love with rock in the first place. And a lot of kids were very very receptive to that and said, This is fucking awesome. So the response we got from the covers was much much better than we thought initially, which again made us more comfortable to be able to do a more rock n roll sounding album this time around.
It’s interesting that you mention boring and safe because that’s an accusation that’s been levelled against bands such as yourself in the past, where it seems like things have got to saturation level and a lot of bands really do have to take a new approach to what they do.
To a certain extent I do agree with that statement. I know a lot of people are saying that about bands such as ourselves, but they’re saying it for all the wrong reasons. Because they say, well, this is generic because there’s only four or five chords used in a song and it’s easy to play… that’s not the point of rock n roll, and if you listen to a lot of old 80s bands such as Warrant or Mötley Crüe, they are very simplistic. It’s not about how hard a song is to play. It’s about what notes you play and how you choose to present them and the energy you get from a song. A lot of people who say this is generic don’t understand why they’re saying it. They’re just saying it to be seen to be saying it because there’s not a million-mile per hour guitar solo playing throughout the song. Well, that’s not necessary. That’s not what we want to do.
Some really technical music can be very boring also. I’ve always thought that music is about feel and not necessarily about how technical it is.
I agree 100%. I am a huge, huge, huge blues fan, and it’s not because of how technical it is, because it’s not. It’s very simplistic. It’s because every note that is played on that guitar means something. It has feel behind it. It doesn’t matter that he’s only playing ten notes in a phrase as opposed to one hundred notes in a phrase, each one of those ten notes has much more passion and musical ability behind it than a hundred of those notes being played up and down the fretboard to me.
What are you doing between now and when you’re back in Australia?
In a few days we got out on a tour of the US with Korn, which will be cool because Head’s just rejoined the band. Then we do a headliner across the States again. Then we fly out to the UK and do an arena tour with Bullet for My Valentine that will lead into a tour of Europe and then, hey presto, it’s time for Australia.
And of course being here for Soundwave, you’ll be able to catch up to some of those bands again.
Which I think is awesome. It’s things like that that we really enjoy about festivals like Soundwave. Obviously you get a meet a bunch of new bands, but you end up touring again with already established friends in other bands and stuff. It kind of makes it easier. It’s like the first day of school; you get some festivals that can be a bit dodgy, and you get a band that you’re friends with that you’ve just toured with and you’re like, Oh, brilliant! Let’s go and get drinks. It’s always a good time.
Festivals really seem to have taken over in lots of ways over the last fifteen years or so. What do see are the differences between playing a festival tour in a place like Australia, for example, as opposed to doing a headlining tour of your own?
There’s upsides and downsides to both. I love headlining because we have the freedom to play almost for as long as we want. When we’re headlining we’ll play for an hour and a half, an hour and forty-five minutes. And having three records out, that’s almost a lifesaver because you don’t have to worry about, you know, Oh my God, we’ve only got half an hour to play three albums. Whereas at a festival, you’ve only got half an hour, forty minutes so it’s like, Hang on, which songs do we play? Which songs are gonna have the biggest impact in such a short amount of time? That gets very difficult. At the same time, playing a festival you’re introduced to a whole new legion of fans that may never have heard of your band or wanted to hear your band before and you get the opportunity to play in front of them and try to win them over.
For some who isn’t a musician but who’s been following the heavy music scene for a very long time, it seems that the whole scene the world over is now healthier and more popular than it’s ever been before. What is your opinions about that?
I completely agree with that, and I think a lot of that stems from the fact there’s a lot of fresh talent coming out now. You’ve got your old school heavy hitters such as Slipknot, Knot, Bizkit… stuff that was big in the 90s and early 2000s when that whole nu-metal phase was big and I feel that it’s almost like the changing of the guard now, the passing of the torch. Those bands are obviously still doing very very well and have established fanbases, but there’s a whole new group of bands and musicians coming out of the woodwork that aim to start something new and fresh. That’s new and exciting for people and it’s bringing in new rock music fans from younger ages out. Whereas before I found it was a lot of middle aged people at festivals, now there’s a lot more younger people coming with their families and parents. It’s a really cool thing to see.
Is there anyone in the music world you’d like to do something with, either yourself or with the band, that you haven’t had the chance to work with yet?
There’s countless musicians, but I guess in terms of rock n roll I’d love to do something with Ozzy Osbourne. Whether it’s play a show or do a recording, anything really. I mean, the guy’s a living legend. He named himself the Prince of Darkness, and without Ozzy Osbourne or Black Sabbath a lot of music wouldn’t be around today and I think it would be an honour to at least even share a stage with him at some point.
So how much of an influence does a band like Black Sabbath have on Asking Alexandria?
I would say they’ve influenced anyone who plays hard rock or heavy metal. They started it, them and Motörhead, really. They started the whole thing, so to deny they have any influence on your band would be absurd. As far as musically and everything, it’s interesting because Black Sabbath have just come out with their new album, 13, and I was really excited, I put it in and… it’s like they never changed. They produced a Sabbath album. It didn’t sound like an Ozzy album, it sounded like a Sabbath album, just with tighter production. It’s funny because I’ve obviously started writing for our next album and I’ve been jamming that record a lot, so there’s probably going to be a lot of heavy Black Sabbath influences on our next record!
Well from my point of view, that could only be a good thing. I have to let you go now, Ben, but is there anything final you’d like to say to your Aussie fans?
Just thank you for their patience. We don’t get out there as much as we’d like to and we do genuinely appreciate that people have stuck around waiting to see us play live, and we can’t wait to get there.
Asking Alexandria will be in Australia for Soundwave next year:
22/2: RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD
23/2: Olympic Park, Sydney NSW
28/2: Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne VIC
1/3: Boynthon Park, Adelaide SA
3/3: Claremont Showground, Perth WA