Ten years ago, no one would have guessed that Asking Alexandria's principle songwriter, Ben Bruce, had a soft spot for the blues. The U.K. act were metalcore mavericks who refined the genre down to its chuggiest, most simplistic elements and gave it a modern sheen with Mötley Crüe-like energy. The influence of figures like Queen, The Beatles and even Metallica were no where to be found.
Now, that isn't the case. Asking Alexandria's brand new album, See What's on the Inside, is a hard-hitting yet decidedly un-metallic record of warm, classic-sounding rock songs that are built on strong melodies, tight performances and a much more introspective lyrical approach compared to their debauchery anthems of yore. As Bruce told us in a recent interview, he and his bandmates used the record to go back to their roots as songwriters and channel "the people that made us fall in love with music" in the first place.
Therefore, we wanted to have Bruce give a proper rundown of the artists who inspired him to pick up a guitar and start penning rock songs back when he was a teenager. Perhaps some of his answers will surprise longtime fans of the band as much as they surprised us. Here, are eight artists who made Ben Bruce.
He was introduced to me by my dad. My dad's a big blues fan, and [Clapton's] nickname was and is Slowhand. And I always found that so endearing, because when I was growing up, I listened to a lot of bands that were coming up like Dream Theater and Avenged Sevenfold who went crazy. And there's all these bands that were like, "Whoa. This shit's insane." To be able to go back and listen to Eric Clapton and know that he's lovingly referred to as Slowhand, for me, just speaks volumes about quality, not quantity. You can say a lot with less.
Gary Moore was also introduced to me by my dad. . .He just makes that guitar sing. He can play one note, listen to "Parisienne Walkways," there's a particular note that he holds, and the sustain that he gets out of that note and that guitar, it's like, "Holy crap." It blows your mind just as much as listening to Dream Theater or some crazy Metallica riffs or anything. This guy's hit one note and it's just like, "Whoa." That's insane that this guy can make a note from his guitar make you feel that way. So again, I guess it must be a very similar reason why I love him so much, as Eric Clapton. Less is more.
In an age where you could be listening to Joe Satriani or Steve Vai, you've got Kirk Hammett just sloppily going to town on his Wah Pedal. And I love what he brought to the table, especially with the self-titled album. Obviously, go back in '85 and he's got insanely memorable and catchy riffs all the way back as far as Kill 'Em All. But you listen to ...And Justice for All or Ride the Lightning and you could tell, he was like, "I'm going to be the ultimate guitarist," and he's shredding, he's playing all these crazy things, and he's experimenting with techniques.
And then somewhere along the line, when the self titled came to be, it's almost like he took a step back and went, "Hang on a minute." Again, I don't need to throw all these techniques in and play a million miles an hour. And I thought, to me, he really honed in on his guitar playing, and that was such an inspiration for me as a kid. I remember listening to his guitar solos. Obviously, everything prior to that, I super impressed by as well. But there was something about the "Black Album" that was just so much more simplistic, but so much more impactful for me growing up.
Obviously, respectively, they have fantastic songs in their own right as a songwriters and musicians, but together, I would argue that they're the greatest songwriters of all time. There's just something magic that happens when those guys collaborate and get in a room together, and some of the biggest songs in the entire world have been written by those two guys.
Rather than just being a guitar player, I've always thought of myself as a songwriter. So rather than sitting in my bedroom when I was a kid learning to sweep and shred and play as fast as I can and learn as many guitar techniques as I can, I spent a lot of time analyzing songs for what the song was, rather than what just the guitar was doing. And time and time again, you listen to a beat or a song that had John and Paul in a room together, and I'm just like, "How? How did these guys write these songs?" It's insane.
There's a lot of blues influence in Slash's playing, which obviously, as we've discussed, I love. I love the blues. But I feel like he's one of those guitarists — and I know there's probably guitarists that have come before them that have this trait — but for me and my childhood growing up, he was the first guitarist that I heard where instantly, I knew what guitarist was playing, and it wasn't because I knew the riff or the lick. It's like, "Oh, I know that Jimi Hendrix played that lick." Or, "I know Kurt Cobain played that." It was solely his tone.
His tone and style was so instantly recognizable, that even if he was playing a guest piece on someone else's song, you'd be like, "That's Slash," and know that's Slash. Most people recognize a voice. So I know who's singing because it's their voice. He managed to find a way to make his guitar be his voice and it'd be instantly recognizable to the ear. And I find that to be so incredible.
He's the ultimate, isn't he really? How did he come up with "Bohemian Rhapsody" or any one of these fantastic songs in his head, and then somehow find a group of people like-minded enough to actually get it out and into the world? I's insane to me. Not only is his level of actual, raw talent for singing incomparable. But as showman, his singing, and his songwriting abilities and the fact that he didn't stick to — he wasn't put into a mold, and he didn't stay there. He didn't find a lane and be like, "I'm good at this and I'm going to keep doing it."
They did everything. Queen did everything. And just to have a song like "Bohemian Rhapsody," which is, when you say it now, it sounds cliche, and it's like, "Oh yeah, everyone knows 'Bohemian Rhapsody.'" Yeah, but can you imagine before everyone knew "Bohemian Rhapsody?" That was in his fucking head and he made that. That's fucking insane.
In this list, there's been that steady love of blues in there, and Jimmy Page, for me, is another one of those. But he brought it to the next level for me, as far as a rock player. It was very raucous and very raw. Kind of less soulful than what most blues players would play, but still very much there in his playing.He's another one that he's almost instantly recognizable for the way he plays guitar. And I love the fact that he became sort of a Mount Rushmore figurehead of guitarists, and he wasn't necessarily technically that accurate or that flashy or that crazy.
You could hear his mistakes in his playing, but that's kind of what I like about him. You felt what he was playing. And every mistake almost added to what he was playing. His style and way of playing was just so fucking cool to me. He's written one of the world's most instantly recognizable guitar licks, so much so that you're not allowed to play it in music shops, and that's pretty fucking great.