Whatever your opinion of them is, Asking Alexandria are a loud presence in the contemporary music scene. Young, confident and purposeful, the band drops new album, ‘From Death to Destiny’ this month. Killyourstereo.com sits down with guitarist Ben Bruce to discuss the record, scary bus crashes and that Charlie Sheen tour support publicity stunt.
Hey Ben, how are you?
Yeah mate, not too bad. How are you doing?
I’m going really well thanks.
I imagine you must be feeling like a kid before Christmas right now with the excitement and anticipation of the album coming out?
You literally have no idea. I’ve been waiting for about two years with work on this album and now it’s just around the corner. I’m almost a little bit pissed off it’s not out yet. I keep checking my phone to see what day it is (laughs).
I can imagine that in between period can feel a bit tedious. What is the feeling like though?
It’s just complete excitement. I was nervous for the first two records but for this album, it’s just the greatest thing we’ve ever written in our career so far. I’m just at a point where I really just want to get it out and get people’s feedback, and hear what people think of the album. Hopefully they are in love with it just as much as I am and the rest of the guys.
I was watching the video for ‘The Death of Me’ recently. It’s a different sound from previous Asking Alexandria material, with a bit of an 80’s sound. How much was this a statement of intent to show listeners you’re diversifying and have more influences – you know, a different side of the page for the band?
That was the whole idea from the get go. When we recorded ‘Stand Up and Scream’ we were kids – we were 17 to 19 years old. We all loved 80’s music then. [However] I don’t think we were brave enough or competent enough to show our passion for 80’s rock back then at the time. With ‘Reckless and Relentless’ it was the same thing, there was a little bit more of it and you could see our 80’s rock ‘n’ roll love coming through, but again I don’t think we had the balls to go out and fully do it. But, this time around we sat down and intentionally said, “Ok, we want to show our love of 80’s music in this record.” But, we don’t want it to sound like a regurgitated 80’s album because we’ve been there, we’ve done that. It wouldn’t be fun, it wouldn’t be fresh and it wouldn’t work, so we had the challenge to try and incorporate modern day rock and metal into our love and passion for the 80’s. I think we did a really did a good job of it.
One thing I’m always interested to ask bands about these days is the role social media plays in helping promote an album. For you guys particularly, you are good people to ask because you have about three-and-a-half million Facebook fans. How important is social media for Asking Alexandria?
I think it’s a vital part of promoting a band. There are so many different bands out there. It’s not like back in the day where you were put in a magazine and everyone would subscribe to that magazine. You knew lots of people were going to read about you in a magazine. These days, magazines still sell but they’ve taken a huge hit, just as record sales have. The biggest platform anyone has these days to release any information regarding whatever it may be, for instance our new album, is the Internet. The harder you work at that and try and connect with your fans, the more they feel a connection with their favourite band and therefore the more interested they become. It grows, as you said, we have 3.5 million followers on our Facebook page, which is a shit tonne of people (laughs). You can’t even imagine 3.5 million people. Although it’s just a number on a screen, essentially you are writing a letter to each one of these people to tell them about our album coming out or we’ll be playing this city on this day, so I think it’s absolutely vital these days to make the most of your social networking.
Last year, you had a scary situation with a bus crash; I believe you hurt your ankle Ben. What specifically happened there?
We had two bus crashes in the space of two or three months. The first one was the one where I injured my ankle because I got flung into the end of my bunk because I was lying in my bunk at the time. Basically some women just came off the on ramp to join the motor way and didn’t look, and didn’t see a massive bus coming down the road at 60 or 70 miles an hour (laughs). She just pulled into the side off – completely totalled her car and almost totalled the bus. We’ve actually only just got this bus back about two weeks ago. It has taken this long to repair it because of the damage done to it.
The second one [crash], we were driving to Las Vegas to play a festival and we had a head-on collision with a drunk driver.
Wow, that’s crazy.
…yeah, that was pretty scary in itself as well.
I can imagine.
Another interesting one from back in 2011 that would be remiss of me not to ask: That speculation about you guys supporting Charlie Sheen. Was that a serious thing or Chinese whispers?
That’s funny. That was just literally a random joke we made up at some point – we said it somewhere as a joke. Everyone was saying we were the world’s hardest partying band and it was in an interview and we said, “yeah, but we’re nothing compared to Charlie Sheen.” And they said, “how great would it be to go on tour with him?” We replied [in jest], “oh, we are! He just asked us to go on tour with him.” (laughs) We were completely kidding and that somehow got out everywhere for about a year. Even to this day people are asking about it, so I guess somehow, for whatever reason, that joke actually helped because it was almost like a publicity stunt.
Absolutely, it certainly got the name out there. Like you made mention of there about the partying, what is touring life like for a band like Asking Alexandria. I remember a club in Nashville said you were “too controversial” to play their venue once.
Yeah, we got banned from that venue. I think we are actually banned from Nashville now (laughs). We’ve been banned from Birmingham, Alabama [too]. We just went back to Birmingham, Alabama about a month ago for the first time in about two years because we were banned from there because we had the crowd demolish a venue. We had them jump and hold onto the ceiling and not let go until it fell down. We’ve been banned from a fair few places, but I don’t know? I think that’s part of rock ‘n’ roll. You go out and have a good time, and think about the consequences afterwards when it’s too late to do anything about it (laughs).
You guys aren’t rookies anymore. You’ve got a few albums under your belt now. What has been the biggest lesson you’ve gained from being in a band?
I think it’s very, very difficult to throw not just five guys, but we’ve got 13 people touring with us. It has taken us a long time to figure out, and countless fights and near break-ups to realise it’s very important when you’re a touring musician to respect people’s boundaries and give people space. Because when you’re touring around the world together and you’re right under each other’s feet 24 hours a day, however many days a year, it gets very stressful and you end up at each other’s throats. The biggest thing I’ve learnt just as a person touring with other touring people is you have to give people their space otherwise it just sort of crumbles and there won’t be a band anymore.
I saw an interesting thing on your Twitter page recently. Fans asked you to handwrite the words ‘Run Free’ so they could get a tattoo of it. How does that make you feel personally that you have fans out there that are that passionate and would ask something like that?
I think it’s awesome. I’ve seen so many Asking Alexandria tattoos to the point that I don’t think I’ve even seen, with the exception of maybe one band, a band with more fans that are tattooed with their lyrics or logo or whatever it is. Maybe other than Avenged Sevenfold. I notice them a lot. It’s great because a tattoo is a commitment. It’s a lifelong commitment that’s never going to go away. It does feel really, really good that we connect with people in such a way that they feel that strongly about us and for us. Some of the tattoos I’ve seen are a bit funny and a bit silly (laughs). I signed some girl’s ass before as you do (laughs). I remember seeing her at another show and she said, “look what I’ve got tattooed?!” She had got my autograph tattooed to her butt cheek (laughs). I don’t know how meaningful that one was, but it was still kind of funny and cool to see. I’ve seen everything up to people with our logo tattooed to their throat. It’s a really extreme place for a tattoo anyway, but it’s a very bold statement when you put a band on your throat. It means a lot. It really does mean a lot.
What was the quintessential record growing up that made you want to be in a band?
Jesus, there are so many. If I had to pick one it would be Metallica’s ‘Black’ album. I heard the opening riffs for ‘Through the Never’ and it blew me away. I was speechless. It made me think, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to make music and I want to tour the world.” It was because of that one guitar riff. It was so big and so heavy it blew my mind a little bit. That was when I decided this was for me.