Asking Alexandria were known as the dangerous band on the scene, not so much as courting or flirting with that mistress known as disaster as much as they were banging it without a condom and sharing needles with it. They were drugging and drinking before going onstage, and fans noticed. This writer once thought about the irony of abbreviating their name as "AA" in a feature.
Overall, it was a recipe for disaster, with all eyes on the drug habits of frontman Danny Worsnop, who, by the way, resembles actor Michael Pitt.
Fast forward a few years, and while the band has cleaned up its act, the conception of the members as party animals lingers. Arena recently grabbed some time with guitarist Ben Bruce to get the real scoop on how things really are in Asking Alexandria in 2013, the integral pieces of their new album From Death to Destiny, and how they got Howard Jones, formerly of Killswitch Engage and coming out of semi-retirement (not really), on their record.
Arena: I notice that your area code is a New Jersey area code. I'm from Jersey. How long have you been in the Garden State, which is a long way from the U.K. and Dubai, your former stomping grounds?
Ben Bruce: Six years! Everyone says 'Ew, Jersey, why do you live there? It's awful.' But it's not.
Arena: I know it. I'm a native. New Jersey is not solely what you see on Jersey Shore. Let's get started, shall we? Is the band still all about the danger, the drugs and the party, which defined Asking Alexandria's formative years on the scene? Do people still perceive you that way?
Ben Bruce: I mean, I think it's still there. I don't know if we will ever escape it, but it is nowhere near as extreme as it was three years ago. We went through a rough time and it was public, so it will follow us around for the rest of our career, sadly. But it's not like it was. We still see people online saying we're sober now or others saying we're worse than we ever have been. It just means people are still talking about us.
Arena: That's a smart way of looking at it. Really, are Asking Alexandria over the hump of the past?
Ben Bruce: This is the closest we've been, as a group of friends, and musically, too. It's due to the fact that we've finally written an album that we genuinely love. There is not one song that we don't love. We're happy with our new songs and playing them live has made us happy in general.
Arena: You have to love what you do or it shows. From Death to Destiny has its commercial moments and big -- actually, make that HUGE -- melodies. Is it turning heads, besides the ardent fanbase? Are you seeing new fans at the gigs?
Ben Bruce: It is. We've noticed that our fanbase has expanded and grown. Before, we played to 12 to 16-year-old kids, and that was awesome and that is our core fanbase. This release, since it is more mature and there are bigger melodies, people from 12 all the way into their 50s are checking it out. Lifelong Slayer fans are coming to our shows now. We can get bigger and better, provided we don't fuck it up. There is always that possibility.
Arena: At least you are self-aware! Do you have any non-music hobbies, skills or talents?
Ben Bruce: I don't remember if I know how to read (laughs). Music was my hobby and it became my career. If I have time to kill, I write music or go to the movies. That's all I do.
Arena: That's the best answer ever! "I don't remember if I know how to read..."
Ben Bruce: I think I am okay. Cereal boxes spark an interest and I do read those while I eat my breakfast. Honey Nut Cheerios are my favorite, and the percentages on the box are interesting.
Arena: You gotta know your recommended daily allowances. Now, about your past. You lived in Dubai. How long were you there?
Ben Bruce: I moved there when I was six and moved back home to England when I was 17, so I was there for a long time.
Arena: Since it's a major metropolis and cultural landscape, did it shape your music at all or no?
Ben Bruce: I don't know. I don't think so. You are influenced by what your friends listen to. Or your parents. I moved back and my mates listened to the same bands and had the same favorites. Either you are into rock 'n' roll or you are into shit music.
Arena: Pick one song on the album and get intimate with us. Tell us an insider's story.
Ben Bruce: 'Moving On' is a power ballad, and it's softer. We went into the studio with the album written and that song did not exist. I think I ended up listening to a Skid Row cover that we did and thought 'I'd love to do a ballad,' and I didn't think we could get away with it. Ash [owner of Sumerian Records, the band's label] said, 'Do it.' But I said, 'It's not Asking.' But he said 'Asking is everything you want it to be.' We'd never written one, so we thought, 'How do you do it?' If you write it and it's crap, it is the worst song in the world. We realized you can take any four chords, build it from the ground up in a few hours, and it ended up being one of my favorites, and we never intended to put it on the album.
Arena: You also worked with former Killswitch Engage singer Howard Jones, which was the first we'd heard from him in a while, on the song "Until the End." How did that come to pass?
Ben Bruce: That was a weird thing. We wrote this album two years ago, and we were talking about guest vocalists and thinking of Corey Taylor from Stone Sour. Then, we didn't want any guest vocalists, just us. The album was finished and George [publicist] from Sumerian hit us up, told us Howard was interested. We were like, 'We don't have any space for a guest vocalist, since we had decided we didn't want to have one,' but we talked to Ash about it and how no one had heard from Howard since leaving Killswitch. It was spur of the moment and it was cool.
Arena: How did you make the space?
Ben Bruce: We were recording vocals, so there were empty spots that needed to be vocally filled. Since the album was already written, we had to find an open vocal spot.
Arena: Did you work with him in the studio or remotely?
Ben Bruce: We did it remotely.
Arena: Finish this sentence: Asking Alexandria are the band that...
Ben Bruce: ... are the first to band to make good music since the Beatles. Seriously, we're not millionaires. We love what we do. People who stealing albums are ruining music for anyone and then we'll never buy a CD or vinyl again.