Ben Bruce is thrilled to no longer be feeling reckless and relentless. The 32-year-old Asking Alexandria guitarist and his four bandmates have had a whirlwind career in music since their 2009 debut, Stand Up and Scream, unexpectedly launched them into the metalcore stratosphere while in their starry-eyed late teens.
In the decade-plus since, the U.K. expats experienced enough turmoil to kill most bands. Numerous members battled substance abuse issues, their charismatic frontman Danny Worsnop quit in 2015 before rejoining one year later, and they all struggled with personal and creative identity crises that stemmed from mounting industry pressures to keep the party going and conform to whatever sound was hip at the time.
Now, after 10 years of rollercoaster highs and lows that felt like a lifetime, Asking Alexandria are finally back to the bliss of square one: making music with each other for the sake of making music, sans all the stressful bullshit.
Their new album, See What's on the Inside, is out October 1st via their new label home Better Noise, and Bruce couldn't be more proud of it. Sonically, it's right where he and his bandmates want to be at this point in their career, but he's most excited about the fact that all five of them wrote and recorded it together in one room — which, for many reasons, was the first time they made a record that way since Stand Up and Scream.
"I think this album was almost like a door that was opened for us," Bruce says while speaking with Revolver from his new home in Charleston, South Carolina. "It allowed us to realize as a band, this is how we enjoy creating music, this is the music we enjoy creating together."
All five members are spread throughout the U.S., but they were able to decamp to rural Tennessee and work on the 10-song record together with no outside distractions and zero outside influence. Although it's arriving just one year after their 2020 LP, Like a House on Fire, it's a noticeable step forward musically, something the band are no strangers to given the number of pivots they've made since moving beyond metalcore on 2013's From Death to Destiny and diving even further into sleek radio rock with trendy electronic embellishments on subsequent releases.
All of the dubstep drops and obvious ploys for airplay are gone on See What's on the Inside, and what remains is a band who sound genuinely comfortable in their own skin, even if the lack of metal parts (of which there are hardly any) may turn off OG fans who are still holding onto hope for a return to their scene-core years.
As Bruce told us during our conversation (more on that later), Asking Alexandria aren't going back to that era of the band, and there's an argument to be made that they're better for it. Worsnop's voice has never sounded healthier, stronger or as tuneful as it does on these decidedly un-metal yet still hard-hitting songs, Bruce's guitar-work is more tactful than ever, and the act of recording together in one space captured a raw chemistry that even their earliest material never exhibited.
We went deep with Bruce about overcoming the drug-fueled sadness of his younger years, leaving metalcore behind, and finally feeling satisfied with the music he and his best friends are making.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU GUYS IN THE STUDIO TOGETHER AFTER NOT WRITING A RECORD THAT WAY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS?
We got signed at such a young age. We were kids, we didn't know what was going on. And it very quickly became a whirlwind. We were just all over the place and everyone was pushing us in directions. We were told, "If you slow down and take time off for yourself, there'll be another band that takes your spot." It was a very chaotic time for us, and in that chaos, in that whirlwind that was 10 years, it became increasingly hard to get any sort of time for [ourselves].
We didn't really have any time to create music. We were told, "Okay, tour, tour, tour, tour, hand in a record, keep touring. Don't stop." So it just became a point where I'd be like, "Okay, I'm going to write it and then I'll present it to the guys and then they'll fly in and do their bits," and it gets pieced together like that. Just having this time off over the last year-and-a-half, two years has really allowed me to sit back and reflect and look at all that, and just go, "Fuck me." You lose the magic if you do that.
Even though I might be the primary songwriter, what makes Asking Alexandria magic isn't just me. It isn't just me and Danny, it's all five of us contributing and being there. So it was super important for me to step back and say, "Look, let's all go and do this again together like we did when we started. Let's go and just do this for us, and let's look at why did we start this band in the first place? What made us want to do this?"
WHAT DID YOU LEARN OR REKINDLE ABOUT YOURSELVES AND YOUR BANDMATES THROUGH THIS RECORDING EXPERIENCE?
Obviously, over the last 12 years, we've all grown and changed a lot. And we've learned not to get pushed in directions that we don't want to get pushed in. For instance, growing up, I never was a drinker. Certainly never smoked or did drugs or anything. But somewhere along the line, you get pushed and told what rock and roll is. And I lost myself, as did the rest of us, in drugs and alcohol and stuff.
We've stopped all that now, which is amazing. But I think the coolest thing that I took away from recording together again is, after all this time, after everything we've been through, when you put the five of us in that room together, with no expectations, nothing around, no direction, the five of us are still best friends, and all we cared about in that moment was making music together. We lost it somewhere on the journey. But to be able to still have that and rekindle that flame and that passion after all these years, it was magic.
YOU WERE SAYING THAT IN THE PAST, YOU GUYS GOT PUSHED INTO LIFESTYLE DIRECTIONS YOU DIDN'T WANT TO BE IN. DID YOU GET PUSHED INTO MUSICAL DIRECTIONS AS WELL?
100%, but I don't think it was by any one individual saying, "You need to sound this way." I think it's just part of what happens when you start a band. I'm assuming most people start a band because you love the idea of writing music and playing music together. The comradery there, the rock and roll, all of that, that's what you want. But when it becomes your career and that's all that's happening to pay your bills and to keep you afloat, suddenly the game changes and you become made very aware of when you're not succeeding and what you need to do to succeed.
And with that, you just fall into the trap where this is what's doing well right now, and if I want to stay relevant and succeed, and pay the bills, and still have people enjoy my band, you got to play the game, which I don't think it's true, but it's just kind of how you're made to feel. And this time off, we've discovered that that's not what we want to be like, and we'd rather write something, put something out that we absolutely adore to no end and will still adore in 20 years time, and not be able to look at it back and go, "Oh, we definitely made that in that period, because it sounds like this."
THE SOUND OF THE BAND HAS CHANGED SO MUCH OVER THE YEARS. DO YOU THINK THE METALCORE ELEMENTS OF ASKING ALEXANDRIA ARE BEHIND YOU GUYS NOW?
Yeah. There's no disrespect in that statement saying, "Yeah, I think that is behind us." It was a time in our lives that we're not in anymore. For us, when we write records, we write them very much in that time. . .what we were into at that period of time is what we sounded like. And I think back then, we were writing music that catered to that. That's how we felt at the time. That's what we enjoyed at the time. And it's just not where we're at anymore.
YOU SAID YOU GUYS WANTED TO GO BACK TO YOUR ROOTS FOR THIS ALBUM, SO IS THAT NOT METALCORE?
When we made Stand Up and Scream, we were 16 years old. We loved Killswitch Engage, we loved Parkway Drive, we loved the Devil Wears Prada in that period of our lives. So of course, it shaped the sound of Asking Alexandria. But when I say we went back to our roots with this album, I know a lot of people probably misconstrue that as, "Oh, they're going back to the beginning of Asking." And that's not what we said. We said, "We're going back to our roots as musicians. Who are the people that made us fall in love with music?" Before Asking Alexandria existed, who was it that made me want to pick up a guitar? Who was it that made James want to kick the shit the out of his drum kit?
BEHIND THE MUSIC, HOW HAVE YOU GUYS CHANGED AS PEOPLE OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS OF BEING A BAND?
Oh, much more cohesive, much happier. Like I said, I think when we started, we blew up at such a rate that people in the industry just were like, "Okay, this is the next thing." And somehow, we got named the saviors of rock and roll for a minute there. And we had bands like Skid Row and Twisted Sister and all these bands talking about us, asking us to share the stage with them and shit. And we were just given drugs for free and alcohol and all this crazy shit. And we were like, "What the hell is going on?"
Growing up, I was never a drinker, I never did drugs or smoked or any of that stuff. So we got very lost and went very astray. And it was a sad time. Working with each other wasn't enjoyable. It was just a dark time. And I look back at those times now, I think, I was just always drunk, just always sad, very lost. I just see five lost people. Whereas now we're all healthier, happier. We've got kids and wives and where we don't do drugs and we're not partying and raging all the time. I drink coffee or if I'm going to drink alcohol, it's not very often. It's red wine.
It's very different and that's kind of just where we're all that in our lives. We're a lot more secure and happy and grounded and focused on music. And we don't really let the outside influences now dictate, "Well, you need to do this to stay relevant." Because at the end of the day too, we're not the flavor of the week anymore. They've got new young bands that they're going to go and push in that direction, and we get to just do this for the love of doing it now.
WAS THAT WHIRLWIND ERA OF DEBAUCHERY THE 'RECKLESS AND RELENTLESS' ERA OF THE BAND IN THE EARLY 2010S?
Oh yeah. And you can see it too. Stand Up and Scream blew up and then [2011's] Reckless and Relentless comes over. And I look back at pictures, and we all look like we're drugged up. We look like we're straight off the sunset strip in the 80s. And it's sad. And our families didn't recognize who we were, and my mom so sad for so long about it. But you just, you get lost in it. Especially when you're that young. I had wanted to be signed since I was 10.
So once I finally was awarded with being signed, you do what you're told. You do what you need to do to hold onto it. And if you're being told, "Well, if you do this and you do this and you do this, people will forget you. Or you won't come up. Someone else coming up will go past you." You get scared, I've worked so hard for this, so I'm going to fucking do it. And you feel that pressure and it's difficult to navigate out of that, I think.
THROUGH ALL OF THESE UPS AND DOWNS, ARE YOU ALMOST SURPRISED THAT ASKING ALEXANDRIA IS STILL STANDING RIGHT NOW?
Oh, absolutely. There's been times throughout my career where I'm just like, "I don't want to do this anymore." It's not enjoyable anymore. It's a struggle. I'm being told what to do, what to wear. Being told, "Oh, you need to look like this," and being shown pictures of me when I'm 19 years old. It's like, "Hey, I'm going to be 33 this year. If I look like that, there's a problem." I was still unhealthy at that point.
But that's the thing, there's been so many times where I'd be like, "I want to throw the towel in." And I'm sure it's been the same for all the other guys in the band. But at the end of the day, we do have a real love and a real passion for each other and this band and this music. And I think we've just realized that the fame that comes with it isn't something that we're chasing or particularly interested in anymore. We just want to continue writing good songs together and songs that we love and enjoy and playing in front of our fans. And once that realization came to fruition, it was like, "Oh, we can enjoy this again."