Interview: Asking Alexandria's Ben Bruce Discusses the Band's Dual-Guitar Approach
This month, Asking Alexandra began headlining the fourth annual Monster Energy Outbreak Festival.
The dates bring to a close the band’s 2012 tour, finalizing well over a year and a half on the road behind their most recent album and sophomore full-length disc, Reckless & Relentless.
Asking Alexandra is Danny Worsnop, vocals; Ben Bruce, guitar/vocals; Cameron Liddell, guitar; Sam Bettley, bass; and James Cassells, drums.
Prior to a soundcheck from somewhere on the road, founding member Ben Bruce phoned in to talk about being half of the group’s guitar team.
GUITAR WORLD: Have you always played in two-guitar bands and always as lead guitarist?
Yes, I have, actually. I was always lead and I used to play a lot more solos with my other bands. That’s not the sound that Asking Alexandria is known to produce, and I like what we’re playing now. When I made this band, we juggled the idea of having three guitarists. I picked Danny as a guitarist, not a singer, and then I met Cam and I liked him so much I just wanted him in the band, so fuck it, let’s have three guitarists, but then we ended up making Danny the singer.
What was it about Cameron that made you want to hire him?
Just the fact that we can harmonize licks and stuff. It broadens what you can do and what you can play. Not so much in the studio, because you can layer things, but live it adds a much fuller sound. A lot of bands have one guitar onstage and it sounds like there’s something missing and so much more could be added to the song. Especially playing metal, you need to harmonize your riffs. It’s just the way of the world.
Cameron listened to much heavier music than I did, as did James, so I didn’t really know much about chugging rhythms or breakdowns or whatever you want to call them. It was a sound I was interested in when I started this band, but I honestly had no idea about them. I’d not been introduced to them before, and Cameron had a good knowledge of them. He’s good at rhythm guitar, he introduced that style to me and it worked with what I was writing.
What makes him a good rhythm guitarist?
The fact that he doesn’t care and doesn’t want to be lead guitarist. He has no desire to play lead. He concentrates on rhythm and he doesn’t have that egotistical manner of, “Why do you play lead? I want to play lead,” which leads a lot of guitarists to digress. He’s completely happy doing what he’s doing and I think that’s what makes him such an excellent rhythm guitarist. He enjoys it.
How are your styles similar and different and how do you make those elements work to your advantage in this band?
He introduced me to a whole new world of metal that I wasn’t accustomed to. I learned a lot from Cameron just by listening to bands that he listened to. I think he learned a lot from me as well. When we started the band we listened to completely different music and different sounds.
We exchanged CDs and views and thoughts and mashed the two together amongst other influences. That’s what makes us work so well together — the fact that we sat down, just the two of us, and showed each other our styles. That has made it really easy to work with each other now.
How do you continue challenging each other?
When I’m writing, I don’t normally write with the lads. I write on my own what comes into my head and then bring it to the guys. I always have the frame of mind that the last album was the best that we could have done at the time, and so the next one has to be way better because we must have gotten better as musicians. I know we’re way tighter as a group because we play together all the time.
Technically, we don’t challenge each other in terms of how fast can you play or how many sweeps can you fit into a song. It’s more a case of we challenge each other in how to make our songs better and make the next album better than the last one.
Is guitar your only instrument?
Guitar is my main instrument. I used to play a lot more piano when I was younger, a little bit of drums, bass, I sing. I wanted to learn the saxophone, but my sister took that up. And I learned the recorder when I was in school — because you had to. I can still play “Three Blind Mice” and “Hot Cross Buns.” It’s the same three notes — it’s awesome. Piano was my first instrument. I took piano for about three years before I picked up guitar, or maybe longer than that, because my grandmother is a pianist, so I played around on it and then I started taking lessons in school. I started learning guitar when I was 13. I still play piano when I can.
Do you primarily play electric guitar?
I’m working on a solo album right now that has a lot of acoustic guitar on it. That’s honest, that’s true! We have one acoustic song that was written as a rock song, but as a band we do a lot of radio appearances and play acoustically, and I like playing that way. It’s refreshing. It’s a nice sound to hear after shit-tons of distortion on an electric guitar.
This album, I just started writing it and should be releasing it sometime next year. It’s more rock and laid back than Asking Alexandria, just open chords and vocals. It’s nice. I’m not expecting it to get huge and sell millions; I’m just doing it as a different outlet to express myself in a different way. If I don’t do it, I get worried that some of that might come out in an Asking Alexandria album and that wouldn’t be good! I’m just doing it for fun, really.
— Alison Richter
Alison Richter interviews artists, producers, engineers and other music industry professionals for print and online publications. Read more of her interviews right here.
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