We Unearthed Asking Alexandria’s First Ever BLUNT Cover Story
Slip out of the Delorean and into the colourful year that was 2011, back when houses were affordable and Adrian still fronted Northlane. To celebrate their upcoming tour, we’ve rolled up our sleeves and dug deep into the BLUNT vault to bring you Asking Alexandria’s first ever BLUNT cover story. Flying high with the release of second album Reckless and Relentless, guitarist Ben Bruce filled us in on the band’s origins, their ethos and why groupies are bad for your health.
By the time BLUNT and Asking Alexandria main man, lead guitarist and songwriter Ben Bruce get on the phone together, it is after close to two months of trying to tee up an interview across multiple continents and a stack of crappy phone lines. Such is life for the newest mob of British heavy metal upstarts – sold out shows and world tours are already the norm for the young quintet. Receiving an insanely rabid response as a lowly billed act on Soundwave 2011 and associated sideshows with Bring Me The Horizon and The Amity Affliction, a reputation for hard partying and entirely answering a previous BLUNT interview with one of our female staffers by repeatedly telling her what hotel room they were staying in had us quite suspicious of the guys. So it’s best we start from the beginning.
The Asking Alexandria phenomenon has shady foundations, information not freely available on how a group of English lads with roots in the Middle East are America’s hottest underground act. What better way to start off our chat with Bruce than getting the facts from the horse’s mouth.
“My family moved to Dubai (in the United Arab Emirates) when I was six for work and lived there for about 10 years,” explains Bruce. “The population there is full of expat English and Americans so the metal scene was always quite popular, it wasn’t particularly hard to start a metal band. We went through plenty of line-up and name changes before we settled on Asking Alexandria. A month into playing as Asking Alexandria, I moved back to England and moved in with Danny.”
Addressing the story around reusing the name for the English re-boot of the band, Bruce is brutally frank.
“Honestly, I just couldn’t be arsed thinking of another band name,” he laughs. “It was a right pain in the arse. At the end of the day, band names aren’t all that important – I mean, The Beatles made it quite far with a pretty shit name – so we just kept it. Danny introduced me to his mates from school and we went from there.”
“Who knows what might have happened? We were drinking to self-destruction.”
If all that wasn’t enough excitement for the young act, what Bruce describes as pure stupidity set Asking Alexandria off on their next adventure.
“We hadn’t really jammed for that long before we decided to head off for the States and have a go at it,” he explains. “Me and Danny decided to move to America before we even had the line-up sorted. I still don’t know why we did it, we were stupid and thought it’d be cool to go to America.”
Lucky for the band their brash move worked out, though it wasn’t without a few suspect moments.
“I remember calling James [Cassells, drums] before he was even in the band to ask him if he’d be interested. I lied and said we had management, record labels and booking agents all sorted out and interested us in America, just to whet his appetite and get him a bit excited, and he stupidly agreed. We were the first to fly over to America and, once we arrived, I was like ‘Yeah, we don’t actually have anything. We’ve got nowhere to go, no friends, no family and no money.’ I managed to convince Danny’s parents and mine to buy us an RV (American camper van) and we lived in Walmart car parks for a few months.
“It was quite shit really, a really stupid idea,” Bruce murmurs in unintentionally hilarious retrospect. “The others weren’t even pissed because it was all so exciting, no one had been to America before. We had left everything behind, so it was too scary and exciting at the same time for anyone to be pissed off that we didn’t have anything. We had made it all the way to America, and we were determined. If we’d managed to do this, then in our eyes there was nothing we couldn’t achieve.”
Continuing with the history lesson, Bruce explains the jump from Walmart car park poverty to the metalcore big leagues to BLUNT.
“We didn’t want to be one of those bands that records shit bedroom demos that we throw on MySpace for our friends and family to check out. We’d already packed up our lives and moved halfway across the world, so if we we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right – hit with the biggest possible impact as quick as possible. We saved up some money and asked our parents to help us out, then went to Joey Sturgis (current “it” producer) and recorded three demos. We put them online and, maybe because of Joey’s name, people checked it out, and they ended up getting a few thousand plays a day straight out of the gate. We started getting record label offers through left right and centre and decided to go with Sumerian, they gave us a good deal and got us booking and a management. So it has all worked out for the best really.”
After the breakout success of Stand Up and Scream, coupled with ceaseless touring, Asking Alexandria hit back with Reckless and Relentless earlier this year. According to Bruce, Reckless and Relentless is Asking Alexandria in top form.
“This record was supposed to be really personal; an honest, true story, and a look into the lives of Asking Alexandria over the last few years. We wakened a lot of demons over the last few years – drinking too much, partying too much, doing too many drugs, groupies. It took us down into a dark place and that’s basically what this album is about. Danny wrote a lot of the lyrics on this album explaining his side of the story. It’s a really honest album, and I’m really happy with how it came out. I am much more proud of it than I am of Stand Up and Scream.”
Speaking of all this partying and groupie sex, plus BLUNT’s aforementioned anecdote of the boys trying to bed our staff, we had to know are Asking Alexandria really that obsessed with drinking and sex?
Bruce laughs, “That’s something Danny and I are trying to do away with. I’ve been sober for over a year and Danny’s been sober for a while now too, it’s really not a huge part of our lives anymore, or at least until we learn how to drink in moderation. It was affecting our personal lives and our performances on stage, affecting us as people and none of it was positive. We had to change for ourselves and the fans, otherwise who knows what might have happened? We were drinking to self-destruction.”
“Groupies have been the downfall of mine and Danny’s personal relationships,” he sighs. “They were important for a good time, or what we thought was a good time, but a few months ago we come to realise, unfortunately the hard way, that having sex with lots of groupies has its consequences. And no, we don’t have STDs” he laughs. “We’ve been very lucky, we make our tour manager check inside all their c**** before we fuck them to make sure they’re clean. We steer clear of that, but they have made having relationships very difficult.”
Once the hysteria of Bruce’s casual profanity passes, BLUNT presses him on a less hedonistic topic – music piracy. At odds with most bands their age, Asking Alexandria have been vocal in their denouncement of stealing music. Fortunately, Bruce has a much more passionate reasoning than old mate Lars Ulrich’s “greed is good” approach.
“It’s not necessarily about making money off CD sales, it’s a respect thing,” he states defiantly. “We put our heart and soul into all the music we write and release, we work really hard to do that but, and it’s not just us, you’re not showing your favourite bands any respect at all if you’re getting knock offs of their stuff or stealing it, there’s just no respect. It’s just such a shame. It’s nice to have the full package: the CD booklet, the inlay, the disc, something you can hold in your hand rather than being glued to your computer screen all day, every day, which I think is a huge problem.”
“It’s another reason I feel people aren’t going to shows anymore,” he continues, clearly irritated. “They can sit at home and watch them on television or YouTube, music is losing its magic a little.
“It’s like Facebook and all that bollocks, I think it’s a pile of shit, a total wank. Everyone argues that you can keep in contact with friends. But you’re not socialising, you’re being a droid, and it’s the same thing with downloading music, just another droid behind a computer screen, downloading and not enjoying it for what it is, not being a part of it. It’s causing the music industry to lose its magic and passion, which I think is a real shame.”
This “magic” Bruce keeps alluding to is neatly encapsulated in Asking Alexandria’s collective obsession with ‘80s hair metal, a genre that made manly men dressing like women totally acceptable and Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip Mecca, heaven and paradise all rolled into one.
“People used to live, breathe and fuck to the spirit of rock’n’roll – that’s what we’re trying to bring back.”
“I feel we have that old school rock’n’roll attitude that a lot of bands are lacking now. We love that kind of music, it plays a really big part in the music we play [so much so the band’s EP of last year contained two Skid Row covers]. It was really getting to us that kids didn’t know who the fuck Bon Jovi were or Mötley Crüe or Aerosmith, they thought it was old people music no one listened to anymore. It’s such a shame because without those bands we wouldn’t exist.”
Their crusade to inspire today’s youth of the debauchery of a few decades ago aside, Asking Alexandria are not the only young act taking inspiration from the ‘80s. In particular, the polarising Black Veil Brides who, in case you missed it, look exactly like Mötley Crüe circa-Shout at the Devil era, are having a solid stab at bringing cock rock back to the kids.
“Black Veil Brides are good friends of ours,” says Bruce. “I feel like they are doing the same thing as us, but they are going about it in a complete different way. Like I said, we’re trying to bring back that old school-type attitude whereas they are literally regurgitating what happened back in the ‘80s. It is cool because there aren’t really any bands doing that. I respect them and like the music, it really is very good ‘80s pop/rock but we’re trying to do it a different way, to reinvent it so to speak. We’re trying to bring back the attitude and the passion and the love that people had back in the ‘80s. People used to go out and see their favourite bands and buy their albums instead of illegally downloading them, they used to live, breathe and fuck to the spirit of rock’n’roll – that’s what we’re trying to bring back. We want to keep it modern and up-to-date with our old school, rock’n’roll twist and passion.”
It is this vintage attitude that Bruce credits as Asking Alexandria’s secret weapon in standing out in the crowded playing field that is modern heavy music today.
“Everyone seemed to be playing it safe then we came along and seemed to be that band that just didn’t give a shit, we did what we wanted to do, we said what we wanted to say and sang what we wanted to sing about, and it kind of turned peoples heads as they were so used to hearing the same regurgitated song over and over again. A bunch of young British kids come along with their middle fingers in the air saying, ‘Fuck you, we want to do what the fuck we want, you can like it or lump it,’ seemed to hit hard with a lot of people.”
Featured in BLUNT #101 – June 2011.
Asking Alexandria / Blessthefall / Buried In Verona
Tue April 5th – Powerstation, Auckland, New Zealand (AA)
Thu April 7th – 170 Russell, Melbourne (U18)
Fri April 8th – 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+)
Sat April 9th – The Met, Brisbane (AA)
Sun April 10th – HQ Complex, Adelaide (AA)
Wed April 13th – Astor Theatre, Perth (AA)
Fri April 15th – UNSW Roundhouse, Sydney (AA)