Interview: Asking Alexandria
They don't play by the rules, and their nasty reputation takes them everywhere. Meet Asking Alexandria, including guitarists Ben Bruce, left, and Cameron Liddell.
“Breathless” and “A Lesson Never Learned,” for example, are propelled by roaring, staccato, alternate-picked guitars reminiscent of Suicide Silence and Meshuggah, harmonized guitar licks that recall Killswitch Engage, harrowing Marilyn Manson–like synth squalls and vocals that are equal parts Black Dahlia Murder and My Chemical Romance. And “Morte et Dabo” features a haunting choir, horror-film sound effects, sinister Job for a Cowboy–style death metal riffs, Skinny Puppy-esque keys and a pop chorus that could be Blink-182.
“It kind of gets me down that people are so narrow-minded that they can’t open their mind a little bit to try and experience and enjoy new genres,” Bruce says a week before Worsnop’s meltdown.
“My favorite guitarists are Eric Clapton and Gary Moore, and I fucking love Bruno Mars. People are like, ‘That faggot, he’s a gay pop singer,’ but he’s a really talented musician. His voice is incredible. Why would I not appreciate and enjoy what he’s doing?”
Some 20 minutes into the conversation, Bruce is on a roll, despite the fact that Asking Alexandria have just come in on an overnight flight from Australia and had to wait for five hours before they could check into their hotel. Bruce claims they haven’t had a full night’s sleep in 50 hours. Nonetheless, he’s witty, impish and so chatty that rhythm guitarist Cameron Liddell practically catches a catnap during the interview.
The way Bruce sees it, there will be plenty of time to rest later, after Asking Alexandria have become superstars. The guitarist developed his unquenchable drive and tireless work ethic at an early age. Bruce was born in Wandsworth, London, but when he was six the U.K. economy took a downturn, and his dad, who worked in advertising, moved the family to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
At 11, his father bought him a cheap guitar, and Bruce immediately took to the instrument. A few years later, he got together with some local friends and formed the band Amongst Us, followed by End of Reason.
In 2006, he put together the original lineup of Asking Alexandria, and a year later the group put out the album The Irony of Your Perfection, which featured twin guitar lines redolent of Iron Maiden, screamo vocals and nary a breakdown in sight. “We were just a shitty local band having fun,” Bruce says. “I kept the band name because I liked it, but I’m the only original member.”
Realizing he would never achieve international recognition in Dubai, Bruce moved on his own to Nottingham, England, in 2008, and after searching the internet for musicians found guitarist Danny Worsnop. The two hit it off. Bruce moved into Worsnop’s flat in York, and they started working on material Bruce had written in Dubai.
The duo recruited Worsnop’s friend James Cassells to track drums for a rough demo, then convinced Cassells to leave his band, Nailbed, and join them in the revamped Asking Alexandria. The drummer agreed but suggested they bring in Nailbed guitarist Cameron Liddell, whose downtuned guitars and rapid, percussive rhythm style has had a substantial impact on Asking Alexandria’s sound.
“We come from really different places as players,” Liddell says during one of Bruce’s rare moments of silence. “I learned from listening to things like Slipknot and As I Lay Dying. I was really into heavy rhythmic breakdown patterns and playing as hard as I could.”
”Unlike their peers, whose albums are often muddy or tinny, Asking Alexandria make recordings that are as tight and clean as Nickelback singles. This is one reason why their music has such appeal. Credit for that goes to producer Joey Sturgis (The Devil Wears Prada, Attack Attack!).
The band hooked up with him after sending a rough demo to Craig Ericson, Sturgis’ studio manager and the founder of Rise Records. Sturgis agreed to produce a more professional demo, and Asking Alexandria packed up their gear and flew to Foundation Recording Studio in Connersville, Indiana.
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