Asking Alexandria's Ben Bruce on Evergreen Terrace, Maturing as a Band, and Appealing to a Wider Fanbase
Asking Alexandria is a British metalcore band that incorporates elements of dance into its breakdowns. Lead guitarist Ben Bruce grew up in Dubai and moved to England to form Asking Alexandria in 2008. The band has been building an international fanbase since they moved to the United States two years ago.
Their debut album, Stand up and Scream, peaked at #170 on the Billboard charts. They plan on releasing a dubstep remix of this album on March 22, the same day they are scheduled to perform at the Marquee Theatre with Emmure, Chiodos, Evergreen Terrace, and many more.
We recently caught up with Ben Bruce to discuss Evergreen Terrace, maturing as a band, and appealing to a wider fanbase.
Up on the Sun: You formed Asking Alexandria when you moved from Dubai to England. What were you doing in Dubai?
Ben Bruce: I moved to Dubai because England was completely shit when I was a kid. My dad had two kids and a wife to look after, and the economy was really bad. He got offered a job in Dubai for a lot more money and the opportunity to give me and my sister a better life, so he moved out there when I was six years old.
UOTS: Was it a bit of a culture shock coming back to England?
BB: A little bit, but Dubai is very western anyway. Most of the population is made up of Americans and British people. I went to an all-British school, most of my friends were English, so it wasn't really that different. The only difference was the weather.
UOTS: What inspired you to first start making music?
BB: I'm not really sure. Music's always been a huge part of my family. My dad's really into music. He plays a lot of instruments. I have famous relatives as well that were in brass bands and were conductors and stuff. It's always been a part of who I am. I grew up listening to music and it was only a matter of time really before I started playing it myself.
UOTS: What are some of your family's musical connections?
BB: My uncle was a man called Harry Mortimer, and he was a brass band conductor, and he was awarded an O.B.E. and a C.V. from the Queen of England for his work. That's an award you get for when you've done something exceptional in your field. He was very well known, you've probably never heard of him, I doubt.
UOTS: I suppose music runs in your blood.
BB: I want to be honored by the Queen, I deserve it!
UOTS: Maybe in time, hang in there. How did you decide to combine metalcore and dance elements into your music?
BB: I don't really know, we drink a lot of alcohol. At the time, we used to go out to a lot of clubs, and we really enjoy listening to trance music and dance music and stuff like that. We wanted to try and make some dance stuff, and why the hell shouldn't we incorporate that into our music? We did and it seems to have worked, but maybe because we're drunk idiots.
UOTS: That's as good of a reason as any.
BB: Certainly. That's the best reason for most things, anyway.
UOTS: I saw on a Myspace blog post that you still enjoy the meaning behind the name Asking Alexandria after all this time. What is the story behind the name?
BB: It's a long story. Basically, Alexandria is the female equivalent of Alexander. Alexander the Great obviously conquered the world. That's kind of what I had the intentions of doing. Not only that, when I named the band, I wanted people to catch onto it and be able to relate to it. I thought people have names, obviously, and everyone can relate to other people, everyone has family that they love. So I named the band as if it was a person, and then just words if that makes sense.
UOTS: You're gonna be that Alexandria that conquers the world and gets honored by the Queen, right?
BB: Exactly! I don't understand why people have such a hard time understanding that.
UOTS: Your band definitely has an international presence. How are audiences different in Dubai, America, and The UK?
BB: They're not really too different, I suppose. I get asked this question a lot because people assume they're really different. It's pretty much the same wherever you go. Fans are fans and they're crazy regardless. The only thing that's different in some countries is language barriers. As far as The UK and Dubai are concerned, it's all pretty similar. We've toured America a lot more than anywhere else, so maybe our songs are a bit more familiar to people in the U.S.. Other than that, it's really similar to be honest.
UOTS: How is the tour going so far?
BB: It's been amazing. I'm a little nervous, but I'm not a pessimist or anything like that. I never want to have my expectations too high then have them crushed. I always try to expect the worst for everything, which may not be good, I don't know. I've been really fortunate because a lot of shows sold out and it looks like it's going to continue to do so. All the kids have been amazing. The bands on the band are all really good too, we all get along very well with each other. All the bands are doing a good job. No one's getting any shit from the crowd or anything. I couldn't ask it to go any better, really.
UOTS: How did you get together with Evergreen Terrace?
BB: Evergreen Terrace? They're awesome as hell. I love those guys. They took us out on one of our first tours ever. I think it was the second tour we ever, ever went on. We were the opener on their three-band package. I just fell in love with those dudes, they're so fucking nice and they're really great musicians. They're good live, just all around good people. We toured with them again when we headlined Thrash and Burn last summer.
And then I said, "You've been such good friends, we're gonna send you an offer." They didn't believe me, they were like, "We've been touring for 11 years and not once has any band ever returned the favor if they had taken them out and the bands get bigger than them." No band's offered to return the favor to them, so I was like...we will. I meant it and I'm really, really happy. We're the first band in 11 years.
UOTS: I'm amazed no one has returned the favor, but that's really big of you guys to do that.
BB: They're a great band, they're really good people. When I suggested bringing them on tour, our manager argued we should get someone who would bring more people to the show, but that's not really important to me. We're headlining, so it's our responsibility to sell tickets anyway. I'd much rather tour with people that we get along with and musicians I respect rather than a bunch of bands I don't care about so they can sell more tickets.
UOTS: It would make for a better time on tour too.
BB: We would totally be miserable if we were stuck with a bunch of dickheads we didn't get along with. You have to be in a comfortable surrounding on tour, so it just makes sense.
UOTS: What made you decide to take a dubstep approach to Life Gone Wild and Stepped up and Scratched?
BB: When we recorded Stand up and Scream, we had the idea of doing a whole remix of the full album back in 2009, just because we went to a lot of clubs and stuff. We never got around to doing it, then all of a sudden, loads of bands were doing it like Bring me the Horizon did one, Suicide Silence did something like that. We held off to make sure what we released was really good. Stepped up and Scratched will be out soon. We've taken our time with it and tried to wait for the trends to die out, because we weren't doing it for a trend. We were literally doing it because we really enjoy the music.
UOTS: I can see that since you're into the club scene.
BB: It's kinda weird, we didn't know if it would work or not, but loads of people started doing it. It kinda makes sense when you think about it, when you go back to the 80's although it wasn't necessarily dance music, bands have always had keys and synthesizers in their music. As music's got more extreme, so has the usage of keyboards.
UOTS: How does it feel to have Stand up and Scream show up on the Billboard charts? Were you anticipating its success?
BB: No, not at all. We thought America would be the sole location. We were gonna go back to England and hopefully get around to doing something, but we didn't even have time to do that. We put up three demos on Myspace and pretty much immediately got signed, which is kinda crazy. That happened so fast, we were thrown into the studio really quickly and they asked us to do an album, and we were like...oh shit. We did the best we could for the time we had. We feel like it turned out really well, Stand up and Scream has been a huge success and I'm really proud of it, but we didn't expect any of the success that we got. I had hopes for it, but you don't really expect it.
UOTS: How is Reckless and Relentless different from your previous material?
BB: It's just a million times better. We spent a lot longer on the album, it's more mature, the songs flow better. If you listen to Stand up and Scream, it jumps around a lot between heavier metalcore-ish sorta stuff right into a trance breakdown and the heavy music again, which is kinda weird. On this album it flows a lot better than on the last one. And plus the songs are more mature, like we were a lot younger, I feel a lot older now. We've been on tour for all of this time, I feel like I'm 50. The last album had a lot of stupid lyrics on it, we just yelled "fuck" and "you stupid fucking whore" and stuff that.
We don't have much of that on this album. It's a much deeper album that means a lot more to us as people individually. It has a real message behind it rather than the last one. It was kinda difficult, it was based around break ups and bitchy girlfriends we had had in the past. It's more life experiences that we've experienced as a band and things we've worked to over come on tour.
UOTS: You've covered Akon and Skid Row. How do you select these bands and do you plan on doing more covers in the future?
BB: We don't plan on doing any more covers really, who knows what we'll feel like in the future. Akon was just a joke. We recorded that when we were in the studio recording Stand up and Scream. We just did it for fun, it wasn't for Punk Goes Pop or anything like that. We thought it was a funny song, we wanted to see what it sounded like heavy, so we did it as a joke kinda thing. Somehow the guys from Punk Goes Pop heard it and asked if we wanted to be on a compilation, so we figured, well, why not, we've already recorded it.
The reason for the Skid Row cover is we're all huge fans of 80's hair metal and 80's punk rock. We feel like kids nowadays are forgetting about that, forget a lot of their roots. Bands like us wouldn't be what we are if it weren't for bands like Skid Row, Cinderella, Def Leppard, and even Metallica. It's a tribute or homage to the bands that helped us get to where we are today.
For our older fanbase, it's something they were familiar with when they were kids and something they can connect with. For our new, younger fanbase, it was something new for them to listen to, a check this out you might like it kind of thing. If you look at band games, like what bands are on Guitar Hero and stuff like that, they're doing Aerosmith ones, Metallica ones, Guns n' Roses, so I think audiences are starting to listen to older bands again which is the whole idea of us doing Skid Row covers.
UOTS: What have been some of your biggest challenges?
BB: We're all English and we moved to America to do all this, that was a huge challenge in itself because we all left our school, we all dropped out of college, we all left our families behind, our friends behind, our homes. We left our comfort zone when we moved half way across the world. We didn't know anyone here, we didn't have anyone here. We ended up buying an RV and living in Walmart car parks for months. That in itself was a really big challenge, trying to know what the hell we were doing here in the first place, and that definitely gave us strength as a band unit and this is why we're so close now.
Another challenge we've found is because we did that, a lot of press back home thinks that we abandoned the UK for America, and we don't deserve the success we got in England. It's really upsetting for us because we didn't abandon the UK, we saw an opportunity and we took it, rather than doing the same thing every other band has done trying to do something a little different, which makes for a good story. That's probably the two biggest challenges we've faced as a band so far.
UOTS: How long have you guys been living out here?
BB: we don't even really live here anymore because we're on tour so much. We don't live anywhere, we're always in Australia or Europe or Asia or somewhere. We came to America about two years ago.
UOTS: So, you technically live anywhere and everywhere.
BB: Exactly, anywhere there's bunk and a bus is pretty much my home.
UOTS: What are some of your future plans and goals?
BB: We've noticed with this band somehow a lot of older people have started listening to us. People come up to us at shows and they're in their mid-forties and they're like, "Oh we heard about you through our kids and we've never heard anything like it before, it's refreshing, it reminds us of the music that was out when we were young."
Our biggest goal is just to try to introduce this music to a much wider audience. A lot of people, if they try to reach a wide audience, kids get pissed off because they're selling out and they get less heavy or they change their style. We're not trying to do that because we've figured out that a lot of people haven't even heard this style of music, it's still very underground, and the people that we've introduced to it really, really like it. We're just trying to introduce it to as many people as we possibly can and have a career that lasts as long as it possibly can. We don't want to be one of those bands that's around for two years and just disappears, we want to be touring for the rest of our lives if we can. That's our ultimate goal.