This is an excerpt from the September 2013 issue of Guitar World magazine. For the rest of this story, plus a Tosin Abasi poster and features on Tosin Abasi, Misha Mansoor, Ben Weinman, Metallica's Kirk Hammett (at Orion), Jason Newsted, a seven- and eight-string buyer's guide and more, check out the September 2013 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.
After nearly breaking up, Asking Alexandria return bolder and more guitar driven than ever. Ben Bruce and Cameron Liddell talk about the making of their latest album, From Death to Destiny.
In the crudest possible way, one that veers dangerously close to Spinal Tap territory, the cover art for Asking Alexandria’s new album, From Death to Destiny, illustrates the band members’ changed priorities since they started working on the disc.
In the image, a naked woman kneels inside a vending machine, legs parted, lips pouting and hands pressed against the glass. Standing to the left of the machine, singer Danny Worsnop lets a handful of coins drop to the ground as he heads for an open door that leads to a brightly lit arena packed with fans [Check out the photo gallery below to see the album cover].
“It’s symbolic of everything we went through as a band over the past couple years,” explains guitarist and songwriter Ben Bruce. “We fell prey to every rock and roll cliché—alcohol, drugs, girls. We nearly broke up. All this negative shit had the power to potentially destroy the band. But we addressed all that and decided to focus primarily on our music and not let our vices control us anymore. The whole album’s about not giving into temptation and moving on to bigger and better things.”
From Death to Destiny is both a natural progression and a major musical development for Asking Alexandria. The guitar parts are more multifaceted than those on its predecessor, 2011’s Reckless & Relentless, and there is far more separation between the abrasive riffs and the fluid melodies.
Breaking with their “no solos” formula, there are plenty of strong, bluesy leads, and Bruce plays them with confidence and agility. The production is more expansive, featuring actual strings instead of MIDI samples, a live choir and caustic industrial embellishments from producer Logan Mader (ex–Machine Head) instead of dubstep electro-programming. In addition, there are far fewer midsong percussive breakdowns, an element that once helped define the band.
“I concentrated intently on the songwriting and, in particular, on the structure of the rhythms,” Bruce explains, who shares guitar duties in the band with Cameron Liddell. “I hardly relied on heavy open rhythm parts at all because that gets boring and I wanted to explore other ways to transition from one part of a song to another.”
Considering Asking Alexandria’s reputation for imbibing, it’s surprising that Bruce wrote nearly all of From Death to Destiny while the band was on tour from November 2011 until the end of 2012. Although one of the group’s buses was, indeed, a party vehicle, the other was converted into a mobile studio, complete with a drum kit, a vocal booth, practice amps, the band’s custom Ibanez guitars, a mixing board and a computer with Pro Tools.
“James [Cassells, drums] and I stayed on the studio bus, so we didn’t have any distractions,” Bruce explains. “We would crack open a bottle of wine or some beers and sit in the back on our own and jam out for hours and hours. Then we brought what we did to the other guys to see what they thought, and we progressed from there. We did that every day.”
In early 2012, Asking Alexandria traveled to producer Joey Sturgis’ studio in Connersville, Indiana, to start recording. That’s when the problems began. Although Bruce and Cassells were committed to recording the album on schedule, Worsnop was in no position to create anything meaningful. Caught in a whirlpool of alcohol and cocaine abuse, the singer was belligerent, sloppy and unreliable and often failed to show up at the studio to record his vocals. By the time Asking Alexandria finished From Death to Destiny, they had been in and out of four vocal studios, including NRG in Los Angeles, where they waited for days for Worsnop, who never showed, then flew home in a huff.
“The album was finished, musically, before we went on the Mayhem tour in the summer of 2012,” Bruce reveals. “That’s how long it took for us to get Danny to finish the vocals. We could have potentially released this album months and months ago, but Danny had to go through some shit to get things off his chest. To be honest, he was a huge problem, completely off the rails. It was a real struggle and a real nightmare, which led to a lot of stress, struggles and fights.”
GUITAR WORLD: It’s next to impossible for most bands to write on the road, yet Asking Alexandria, one of the self-proclaimed hardest partying bands, composed a full album on, of all places, a tour bus. Have you mellowed out or become more professional over the years?
BEN BRUCE Speaking for myself and James, we’ve become much more professional. When we sat down to write Reckless & Relentless, we were so wankered, so hammered, it was unbelievable. Halfway through the process, we actually realized, Oh shit, we should probably stop drinking and concentrate on our record.
So we stopped drinking for a few days and we couldn’t get anything done. Nothing came out, no creativity. So we got wankered again, and that’s how we wrote the songs. Whereas with this album, we just chilled. There was no partying involved. The songs came straight from the heart. And we had the privacy to do that.
CAMERON LIDDELL Ben likes to be alone when he works. He’s the creative brain of the band. So we let him do his thing. [Producer] David Bendeth was out with us on the road for a few days last year, and he and Ben worked off each other really well. They came up with great ideas together and were really productive. But I just let him do his thing, and he shows me the parts later.
Photo: Travis Shinn
For the rest of this story, plus a Tosin Abasi poster and features on Metallica's Kirk Hammett, a seven- and eight-string buyer's guide and more, check out the all-new September 2013 issue of Guitar World at the Guitar World Online Store.