In this upfront episode of AP Phoner, Asking Alexandria guitarist Ben Bruce reveals a complete change of rock ’n’ roll heart. Don’t worry: His band aren’t going to become a folk ensemble with dulcimers and tin whistles. Only his motivations are completely different.
He tells AltPress’ Paige Owens how being a father has changed his outlook toward his life, the direction of Asking Alexandria and the evolution of hard-rock bands moving forward. After years of demanding violence and blood in the pit, Bruce sees the bigger picture. You can still rock hard, but you can do it without a trip to the ER.
Bruce talks about how Asking Alexandria’s impending album, Like A House On Fire, focuses on maintaining a positive message. There’s also a special guest who stops in near the end of the interview. Check out the excerpt below or watch Bruce’s unvarnished honesty in action in the clip above.
Is it strange that you went from having your self-titled album where it was the return of Danny [Worsnop, vocalist] to now, where you have this amazing new album coming out, and it feels like everything is out of whack, and you just can’t do the normal steps of getting an album out there and going on a tour?
BEN BRUCE: Yeah, it was really weird to us [for] a little bit. Every time Asking Alexandria releases a record, there are internet trolls that just get so pissed that it doesn’t sound like the previous one, which is part and parcel. I think it’s just normal for Asking Alexandria at this point because we do progress with every record. People always come around like, “Oh, never mind, I judged it too fast.” And I think we’ve never stressed about it because every time we’ve released an album, we’ve had a tour. So we’ve put an album out, and we’ve gone straight on tour, and we see the reaction. We see people go, “Wow, this is great,” and we hear them sing along to it.
This time, that’s gone. So we had a bit of a meltdown. Like, what are we gonna do? We can’t promote this record. I was really nervous about it for quite a minute. Now we’re just at the point where we’re super-excited again now that we’ve [come] to grips with what’s happening, and we’ve accepted it. We’re excited again. It’s a shame that we can’t go on tour with it, but the response has been insane. I think this is the first time my career and “Antisocialist” went straight to Top 10 radio, which is absolutely insane. We’ve never had that before. We’ve never gone into a record cycle with a hit. [This is] the first time we’ve ever had that. So that’s super-exciting. And then on top of that, “Down To Hell,” we just released for fun, [and] that’s climbing the radio charts, too. I just wish we could take them on the road because we wrote this entire album with a live show in mind for the first time. It’s a bit of a bummer, but we’ll get there eventually, I guess.
You know, it’s really interesting, and you bring up a perfect point. You were obviously a mainstage band for Warped Tour. And now you’re touring with really iconic musicians, such as Papa Roach. So what was the original mindset? Obviously, Danny came back, and you released the self-titled [album]. But what was the mindset going into this album and really breaking out of the scene?
We were looking back at everything we’ve done. We’re super-proud of our journey and everything. But we kept seeing the same thing, though. There was such negativity within what people call “the scene,” I guess. Not just trolls and people’s opinions about how something should sound, but live shows, too. And we’re guilty of it, as well.
You know, if you go and look at any live band from that scene for years and years, you’ll hear, “I want to see blood! I want to see violence! I want to see mayhem!” And like I said, we’re guilty of that, too. [I] just feel like I don’t want to do that. That sucks. That is not what rock ’n’ roll is about. That is not what we want to push on people. It’s not what we want to promote.
And we started touring [with] all these bands, like Avenged Sevenfold and Shinedown and Papa Roach. And their shows are so much fun. We’ll be on the stage playing in front of 15,000 people in an arena, and every single person is laughing, jumping up and down and they’re singing along. And these people don’t leave with broken bones and broken noses. They leave with memories, and they leave with a smile on their face. And they go, “I cannot wait to do that again.” And you see parents with their kids on their shoulders. And it’s like, “Wow, this is what a rock ’n’ roll show is. This is tens of thousands of people connecting with one thing in common—and that’s rock music. And that’s what we want.
And this whole album is very, very optimistic, very hopeful. It’s got a big message of self-love and appreciation in it. I don’t care if we get the biggest wall of death. I don’t care if we get the biggest circle pit. I just want to see people have the best time of their lives, and I want people leaving saying, “We had an amazing time. I can’t wait to do that again”. Instead of at our old shows. There used to be multiple ambulances called and lined up outside of the venue when we played it. That sucks. I don’t want to send someone’s kid home with a broken limb; that’s not what rock ’n’ roll is. It’s not so cool. It’s not fun.
[With] the whole thing about rock ’n’ roll, I think we both can say it’s such a misconception and such a thing that our grandparents would say at this point. Like, “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.” It’s not really what it is, and that’s not what it’s about. And people do forget that there’s this wholesomeness to rock ’n’ roll. It doesn’t need to be violent.
It shouldn’t be violent. Rock ’n’ roll helped me through my entire childhood when my parents got divorced, and I was confused as to who I was. Whether it was, you know, Ozzy Osbourne and Led Zeppelin and Metallica or if it was new bands. When I was a kid, bands like System Of A Down or Slipknot or Avenged Sevenfold helped me. My grandparents were so cool. I remember showing my grandma “Forest” by System Of A Down, and she would just be like, “I get it.” And it was such a cool thing to me.
Somewhere along the line, people started misconstruing rock music with violence and aggression. It’s easy to see why when you look at shows in clubs where people are leaving with bloody noses and bands like us are onstage going, “I want to see violence!” And it’s just sad because rock ’n’ roll is a family. It’s never really been about rebelling the way people think, like aggression and anger. But more about rebelling against being told what and who you have to be. It’s more about finding yourself and being comfortable within yourself. And the idea of rebellion is, you know, “Fuck what they want me to be. I’m gonna be me.” And that’s what it should be. That’s what you still see at these massive festivals and stuff.
So that’s just where we’re at in our lives. And that’s what we want to be part of. We want to be part of someone’s best memories, but we don’t want to be part of that hospital bill.
Exactly. Because, you know, how fun is it to be like, “I went to Asking Alexandria’s show. I went to the hospital, had a $10,000 bill from that. And now I’m not gonna be going to any shows anytime soon because I’ve got that lingering over me.”
It sucks. There’s nothing cool about it. And that’s the one thing, especially like Shinedown and Papa Roach. We spent a lot of the last two years touring with them. Both bands got up on that stage, and they were so positive. And it just oozed off the stage into the crowd. Like, you see people having that. I remember I would go out after we played and watch Shinedown every night from the soundboard. I would just look around at points during that set. You’re surrounded by people smiling, laughing, kids, adults, grandparents. I was like, “This is a family event.” And I just remember thinking, “This is it. This is rock ’n’ roll. This is the coolest fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”