When Asking Alexandria guitarist Ben Bruce sat down to write the material for what would become the band’s sixth LP Like a House on Fire there was only one obstacle in his mind.
“I said to my wife ‘I don’t know how to do this…I’ve never done it sober.’”
Asking Alexandria are the modern Sticky Fingers of the global metal scene, a band that became so synonymous with partying and substance abuse that things went from loose and fun to dark and dangerous in the space of just a few months.
“When we did the self-titled album my wife nearly took my daughter and left me because I’d racked up such a bill with the local dealer, I was so fucked up all the time…and I was worried that I couldn’t write music if I wasn’t fucked up,” says Ben, sounding shaken at his own reflections of the first decade of the band.
“We’re in the happiest places we’ve ever been – we’re clean from drugs…which is huge…I’ve got two kids, I’m happy and I’m married. People that are upset about our new sound…if you listen to Stand Up and Scream to Reckless and Relentless – they’re really different too. We’ve evolved over the years.”
“However, we’re not going to go back and gain ourselves another notch on the belt of drug addiction, just so we can cater to what other people want us to sound like.”
Like a House on Fire details where the band find themselves after fourteen years, with the group’s well documented addiction and debauchery taking centre stage throughout all fifteen tracks.
They have a lot to say on the issue – but as Ben notes, breaking the cycle of addiction is a major task that affects every facet of life.
“As soon as I sat down behind my guitar I was like ‘Oh my God, I can feel the strings and see the notes and I know what I want to do’ – it was really liberating.”
“A lot of bands sing about drugs and partying….we lived and breathed all of that, and it was bullshit.”
“I used to get really drunk before I played a show, and the first few gigs I did after I stopped drinking I thought ‘man this sucks’ – but now I can’t even imagine performing while being drunk – it was the same with songwriting. I was really able to fall back in love with it this time around.”
Like a House on Fire once again sees the band taking their trademark experimentation with them – however, this time around things sound a bit more risky, dangerous and polarising.
Gone are the obscenities screeched before glitchy, dub-infused breakdowns, and in are the melodic layers and musical textures that follow a much more streamlined approach.
“If people can forget for a second that the flashiness isn’t there I think they’ll see we’ve grown leaps and bounds as writers,” says Bruce of the new direction.
“We’ve gone through a lot as a band, and as people – what we’ve realised over 12 years is that when we release something, people will complain, and it’s really easy to sit back and be depressed about that….but if you look at our whole career, we’ve actually been getting bigger and bigger.”
“We thought that if you combine everything we’ve been through, people have been through the same thing….so hopefully there’s something for everyone on this, because we just want to really reach as many people as possible.”
It’s a mission statement as bold as Asking Alexandria’s reputation, and Bruce sounds confident that, if the past is anything to go by, they can really achieve their goals on this record cycle.
“I’m proud of our journey and I think it’s cool that we’ve been honest and open from day one – we’ve always walked the fucking walk.”
“A lot of bands sing about drugs and partying….we lived and breathed all of that, and it was bullshit. It wasn’t a cool thing or a good thing, but what we sang about, that was truthful to where we were.”
The changes in sound are as drastic in the change of lifestyle for the group – something that they have more of a chance to contend with now, given the touring circuit has ground to a screeching halt across the globe.
“My main focus now is just being a good role model to my kids…because I’ve been able to reflect on what I put my parents through when I was doing drugs and going totally crazy,” says Ben, before concluding our interview with a confronting story.
“Last time I was in Brisbane, I called my Mum and I was so messed up on speed and coke….I called her and I was hanging off the side of a hotel, sitting on a ledge. I don’t remember much of it, apart from what my mum’s told me, and now that I’m a parent I just think ‘wow, how could I do that to my parents?’ I don’t want my kids to do what I did.”
To hear those words coming from Asking Alexandria ten years ago would have been unthinkable. However, if Ben’s reflections are anything to go by, Like a House on Fire is the sound of a band pulling themselves back from the brink of implosion.
It’s certainly unique and set to turn heads – but this is Asking Alexandria we’re talking about. They do it for fun.
Like A House On Fire hits shelves Friday, 15th May.