Interview: Asking Alexandria
Mon, 24 Feb 2014 15:50:41
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Asking Alexandria have come a long way. They've clawed their own path to the top of modern hard rock, and their third full-length album, From Death To Destiny, stands out as smoldering and shimmering proof that they're going to be there forever. The reason for their ascent is an old school "Fuck you attitude", mind-blowing songwriting, impressive instrumental chops, and the fact chicks dig them. All of that sounds like the makings of a timeless rock band to us!
Be prepared to see them destroy venues on the Break Down The Walls tour with August Burns Red, We Came as Romans, Crown the Empire, and Born of Osiris this spring.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, guitarist Ben Bruce opens up about From Death to Destiny and so much more.
The risks you take on From Death To Destiny really pay off...
We weren't nervous when we were writing it because we knew it was what we wanted to do. However, I know our label and management were a bit nervous. They were like, "We see what you guys are trying to do, but we don't know if your fans are going to like it". It's risky with songs like "Moving On". We promised it was going to be more radio-friendly, but not fucking bitch music—it's still going to be heavy. I think a lot of people were skeptical, but I'm really happy with how it came out.
From Death To Destiny is what you were always moving towards. Asking Alexandria was meant to be an arena band.
I feel conceited saying it, but I do agree. It's always been our goal to one-up every album we've released previously. We do want to move into arenas. Last year, we did a few arena tours. It went really well. We're still hoping to climb onwards and upwards. We'll continue to push in that direction with future releases as well. For From Death To Destiny, I think we did exactly what we set out to do and we accomplished it. Like you said, it's taken some time for some people to get used to it, but it really seems to have stuck with most people. It's doing really well at radio. Our old fan base loves it. We've gained a lot more new fans. We're doing some huge tours this year to coincide with the release of the album and keep pushing it further. We'll see what happens.
What song from the album speaks to you the most?
I've gotten so attached to all of them because they all tell a very specific story over time in this band. At the moment, I'll probably go with "Moving On". We've been on the road for so long now that it really holds true to its words. It's tough being out on the road, and we do miss home. At the same time, we love it. It's two completely different ideologies. We love being out on the road, but we hate it at the same time. It's a love-hate relationship. That song speaks for itself.
"The Road" captures that riskiness, but it's still Asking Alexandria. It's got attitude.
Exactly! That's another one. I think it just shows a lot of maturity. We've taken what we've experienced ourselves in the band, and we've really gone to town on songwriting and lyrically to paint the most vivid picture we can of our lifestyle and what we've been through as a group of people since 2009 when we first released our debut album. It's still very ballsy. It's still very heavy. It's still got a lot of attitude. It's so much bigger than anything we've ever done before. If you listen to the chorus of "The Road", it's a massive arena anthem song with a serious amount of balls and kick to it.
How did it come together?
It actually started off with the drum beat in the beginning. I had that drum beat in my head. I programmed it into my computer, and I just kept jamming it. I was like, "This is such a cool drum beat. I want to write something to it". That's actually how it started. We went from there. If you listen to the demos of the song, it changed dramatically from where it started to how it ended up on the record. Parts were taken out. Originally, it was a lot heavier. It didn't start with the clean verse it ended up with. It took a turn in the right direction, and it's become one of my favorites for sure.
"Don't Pray For Me" makes for the perfect opener when you play.
We specifically wrote that for live. We wrote this album as a live record. We didn't want to be one of those bands kids go see live and say, "Oh, they didn't pull it off. It's not as good live as it is on the record". We sat down and wrote a live record. We wanted it to be even bigger live if possible. In our minds, "Don't Pray For Me" is the perfect way to open an album and therefore a show.
You harness a chaos and control it. That makes the impact even more real. You don't hold anything back.
Exactly, I think that's why people have clicked with us so much. We've always been honest and very upfront and forward. We don't sing or write about things we don't understand directly. What people choose to take away from these songs is their opinion and take on it. We go all out. We're very open and honest. "Don't Pray For Me" is written specifically about one of the lowest points in our career—to the extent of putting live audio in the track of the infamous Seattle show that almost broke up our band. Kids really do see the honesty and the love and passion we have for fans that we put into our music. I hope that's why we're doing so well at the moment whether it's in the States, UK, Europe, Australia, or South Africa. Everyone can relate to what we're saying in some way.
Was it important to embrace the electronic elements more this time around?
It was important to me because being the primary songwriter since Stand Up and Scream days we started off as this band that had a lot of electronics. It was a very different influence back then. We had a lot of rave and trance in our songs. We were still young, and I was still learning how to be a songwriter I guess. I still am. Back then, it was very much, "We're going to play heavy music and halfway through the song it stops, and we'll have an electronic section and go back into the heavy section again". It just didn't work for me. It did what it needed to do, but it didn't flow right in my head. With Reckless & Relentless, I tried to concentrate a little bit more on it, and From Death To Destiny, I figured out a way to make it constant throughout the songs and not just two genres thrown into one thing. It's a whole big mixture. We've made them work really together to where you can't really tell if you're listening to an industrial album, a trance section, a metal section, or a rock song section. It's all its own thing.
It gives the girls something to move to...
Exactly! Women are an important part of rock 'n' roll [Laughs]. We used to be called "Bitches", but it was like, "Think about it guys?" [Laughs] We're the bitches of metal!
Do you feel like North America is really home for Asking Alexandria?
I think we just fell in love with it. To begin with, we were in England. We sat down as a group and asked, "Are we going to do this? Are we actually going to go for this? Or, are we going to be one of those fucking bands that plays local shows for the next ten years, pretends we gave it our all, really tries, and gets bummed out it didn't work?" We all were on the same page. We wanted to put our all into it. The States is a huge market. It's one of the biggest in the world. We were like, "We can tour the UK for two weeks and be done or we can go to the States and play in front of way more people for a much longer time and hopefully come out with a bang and have a much bigger impact!" We came to the States when we were very young with that plan of taking over even though we didn't know how we were going to do it. We never left. I married the girl I met in the first few months of being here. We all fall in love with the States, and it's our home away from home now.
What have you been listening to lately?
I've been listening to a lot of music at the moment from rap and country to pop, metal, and rock. It's hard for me to say what I've been listening to because it's really varied. I've been listening to a lot of old Slipknot again. I never stopped loving them, but I fell in love with them again recently. They were my favorite band growing up, and I stumbled on their debut album not too long ago again. I was like, "Shit, I forgot how good this was!" There's been a lot of Slipknot in my music diet at the moment. They're one of the strongest metal bands around, and they have been since day one. They're a huge influence to us not just musically either, but their attitude. They came out and they were like, "Fuck you. All heads point in our direction. Everybody's looking at us". We wanted to have the same impact. I heard they just started writing for the next record, and I'm really excited to hear what they come up with! Apparently, it's heavy as fuck.
People forget they fucking came out in the nineties! That's insane to me because that's when grunge came and ruined everything. It got rid of rock 'n' roll. The fact Guns N' Roses put out the Use Your Illusion records in the nineties is fucking badass because it went to show how strong they were as a group. While everyone else was getting fucked over by Kurt Cobain, these guys came out with middle fingers blazing and still wrote some kickass jams.
What's your favorite Asking Alexandria song?
See Ben Bruce's "Big 3 Records" here!
See our Top Asking Alexandria Songs here!