alf drunk and full of Tim Tams, Ben Bruce comes to us live from a rainy zoo in Melbourne. “I came to look at some animals, but it’s raining so they’ve all pissed off,” the guitarist laughs petulantly over a shoddy conference line – yes, we’re still perched in our Sydney office; the exotic birds chirping in the background are giving us some serious FOMO.
At the time of our interview, Asking Alexandria are in the country for their first ever Australian headline tour. They’re no strangers to Stage 3 at Soundwave, but with new frontman Denis Stoff in action, the shred-heavy Brits decided they’d rather not travel down that path once more – or, well, maybe they just had a hunch that their resident fest was about to get the axe.
“We love coming to Australia, and it’s honestly one of my favourite places in the world to tour because we always have such a blast,” says Bruce (though he probably says that about every country, the floozy), “but we always get offered Soundwave – or y’know, we did the Amity tour – and we get put in that position where it’s like, ‘Shit. What do we do?’ We can’t go out and headline against Soundwave, and our agents are always like, ‘Well, Soundwave tickets are on sale from here ‘til here, and then there’s Soundwave itself, and then nobody has any money’ and so I’m always sitting here going, ‘So… Basically, you’re telling us that we can’t ever go to Australia unless we’re doing Soundwave?!’ We were offered to play Soundwave again this year, but we just kind of put our foot down and said, ‘No. Fuck that. We’re headlining. We want to headline; we want to prove ourselves.’ And it just so happens that Soundwave got cancelled! So I guess we made the right decision!”
The last time Asking Alexandria got their ‘core on Down Under was for Soundwave 2014 – it was the final time we’d chuck a mosh to the sloshy yells of Danny Worsnop, but for the most part, that’s more of a blessing than a curse. Worsnop left the band in the early days of 2015 to front hard rock supergroup We Are Harlot, and more recently, he’s branched out into the oft-ignored realm of… country? The Prozac Sessions is Worsnop’s first full-length solo outing, and while, yes, this is an article centred on Asking Alexandria, we have to bring the LP up because of its lead single, “I Got Bones”. Still fresh out of the studio, the track has managed to stun pretty much everyone who’s given it a spin – including his former bandmates.
|“I’m just confused,” admits Bruce. “For one, it’s his debut solo video and he’s not in it, so that confused us, and… I just don’t get it! Y’know, if he’s enjoying himself, that’s great – I’m happy for him – but personally, I just don’t get it. He left this band to be in an ‘80s rock’n’roll band; he’s done that, and now he wants to be a country singer, but he’s still singing ‘80s rock’n’roll vocals over country music? It’s all just very confusing. I don’t know.”
Confusion is a feeling that Asking Alexandria fans are all too familiar with themselves – with no insight into the personal conflicts that were brewing behind the scenes, Worsnop’s exit seemed unprecedented, and the future of metalcore’s shining idols was slicked with a healthy coating of doubt. It wasn’t until five months after their January ‘15 announcement that Asking rose from the ashes with “I Won’t Give In”, and with former Make Me Famous vocalist Denis Stoff behind the mic, the band made it clear that they were far from dead – a statement that would carry on well into the future with their fourth outing, The Black. Serving as their semi-official ‘reboot’, The Black dances around topics of progression, fighting demons (or in this scenario, former frontmen) and slugging through battles with heads held high.
It was also totally going to fail.
Asking Alexandria certainly aren’t the first band to lose a vocalist and then attempt to reinvent themselves with another, but the list of acts that have pulled off such a feat isn’t exactly much of a long one. But, lo and behold, The Black defied industry predictions, brewed more hype than any of the quintet’s records before it, and upon release, debuted at #4 on the ARIA Charts. It’s also received widespread acclaim from both fans and critics, and already, the band have proved that they still reign supreme when it comes to consequential live shows.
“I think [the album’s release] exceeded our expectations,” Bruce enthuses. “When a band loses a singer, it’s a really difficult thing to recover from, and a lot of the time it’s irreparable damage that they don’t recover from. But somehow, we seem to have just coasted on through, and we’re actually getting bigger from that. The support is almost like a viral YouTube video – it’s just spread like wildfire, all across the world. This is our highest charting album in Australia (compared to From Death To Destiny’s #11 debut) – same as in New Zealand, the UK, Canada… It’s insane!”
Coming as a shock to literally no one, much of the lyrical content on The Black revolves around that falling out the rest of the band had with Worsnop. Bruce has mentioned in recent times that he and the former chorister are back on speaking terms, but listening to the record from cover to cover, it’s clear that wasn’t the case during the studio sessions. A common theme – here and on The Black – is how Asking Alexandria beat the odds and rose victorious out of the breakup. Fans relish in the triumph because of those initial fears that From Death To Destiny would be their swan song, but for the band themselves, the question must be asked: Was there ever any point where they felt the end of Asking Alexandria was nigh?
|“No. No, there wasn’t,” Bruce bluntly defuses. “I mean, Danny leaving wasn’t any shock or surprise. It’d been building up to that point for probably around four years, so it got to the point where, when he quit, we were like, ‘Finally!’ It was just relief, like, ‘Now we can move on and do what we love to do, and be happy whilst doing it.’ There wasn’t ever a moment where we were like, ‘Fuck. Fuck this, we’re done.’ Obviously, we sat down and thought, ‘We’re going to have to rebuild; we’re going to have to do damage control; the band might take a dip, and we’re going to have to take some steps back to rework our way back up’ and that was something we were always willing to do, but somehow, against all odds, it seems like there’s just more hype than ever. We didn’t even skip a beat; we’ve just continued moving upwards, which is fucking amazing, really.”
After recruiting Stoff, Asking Alexandria drifted off into a temporary state of hibernation, shuffling away to the studio to record what would eventually become our first taste of The Black (“I Won’t Give In” and “Undivided”). Their love for performing rekindled and energy within the band as fierce as it’d ever been, Bruce convenes that bringing Asking Alexandria 2.0 to life felt less like starting a new band altogether than it did a step back into the good ol’ days.
“Y’know what it felt like? It felt nostalgic,” he vibes. “It felt like when we went into the studio in 2009 to record Stand Up And Scream – back then, we were young, we were hungry, we were excited, we were loving everything that we were doing… Over the years, as Danny got less and less interested, that went away. I often wondered if I was ever going to feel that way again – we all missed it – and when we went into the studio this time, that’s exactly what it felt like for us; it felt like we were back in 2009 and we were 17-19 years old again. We were hungry again! We were excited again! It was one of the best feelings in the world.”
|The future of Asking Alexandria is looking brighter than ever; they have a full slate of touring ahead (with way too many still unannounced), and ideas are constantly being passed around for LP5. Stoff’s involvement has breathed new life into a band that was all but on their deathbed – an efficiency he took on from day one.
“I was still sort of in the pre-production stages,” Bruce reminisces. “I was writing ‘Send Me Home’, and I wrote all of the music and a bunch of lyrics – the lyrics weren’t in any particular order – and Denis was still in Ukraine at the time and I was in the States. It was the middle of the night for me so he would have just been waking up, and I sent him the song and the lyrics, and I was just like, ‘Hey man! Sing over this and see what you come up with, see how you feel.’ I went to bed, and when I woke up the next morning, he’d sent the whole song back, completely finished. I put it on, James was with me, and our mouths just dropped. We were like, ‘Holy fuck! This is insane! This is just the largest sounding song I think we’ve ever written.’ He sent us this huge anthem of a tune… I think we jizzed a little bit.”