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In late 2018, Kerrang! asked Ben Bruce what his aim for the year ahead was. “I’ve only got one goal,” the Asking Alexandria guitarist replied, “and it’s to write the best album we’ve ever written.”
Fast-forward to the present day, and Ben has absolutely no doubt that his aspirations have not only been reached but positively crushed on the band’s just-announced new record, Like A House On Fire, which is set to be released on May 15 via Sumerian.
“I think the guitar riffs are the biggest I’ve ever written; I think the lyrics are fucking fantastic; I think the songwriting is the strongest it’s ever been,” he reveals excitedly. “I love what we’ve done, and there’s something for everyone in it: there are heavy sections, there are sing-along sections, there are a lot of jumping, energetic sections, there are dance sections. When people listen to the journey and come along for the ride, they’re going to experience a vast number of emotions from start to finish.”
Produced by From First To Last’s Matt Good (who also did their 2017 self-titled LP), Like A House On Fire is the result of an entirely new creative process for Asking Alexandria: between touring the U.S. with Shinedown and Papa Roach in arenas throughout 2019, the band – completed by frontman Danny Worsnop, drummer James Cassells, guitarist Cameron Liddell and bassist Sam Bettley – unearthed a newfound energy in dividing their time between the road and the studio. Now, they’re set to unleash it for all to hear on Like A House On Fire – not to mention across a highly-anticipated UK tour this October…
The band went into the making of Like A House On Fire with a mentality of, ‘Fuck you, we’re doing this our way.’ Where did that come from?
“Honestly, Asking Alexandria have always done that. If you go back through our discography, every single record sounds different, because we’ve never seen the point in rehashing something for the sake of it, or copying something in the hope that we can recreate that same magic. We’ve always been true to ourselves and written about stuff that we’re going through at that particular moment. And I think that before Danny left the band [in 2015], we had done Stand Up And Scream , into Reckless & Relentless , into From Death To Destiny , and by that point there were so many hands in the pot trying to pull us in different directions and tell us what to do. We were so young and naive that we kind of allowed people to sway our opinion. But with this particular record, we just said, ‘You know what? No-one else gets a say. This is our album, and we don’t need anybody else to tell us what to do, or what direction we should be going in.’ Before we were afraid, and people would tell us to do things and we’d think that if we didn’t, it would affect our career. But we’ve proven that we can stand on our own two feet, and we’re loving what we’re doing again – I think this record is the most fun we’ve had together since Stand Up And Scream. We’re in a much healthier headspace: we’re happy, we’re excited, we’re sure of ourselves, and we’re confident. We’re taking the reins back!”
The self-titled album did a lot for Asking Alexandria, and you’ve said that you “reinvented yourselves” with it. Was the intention to build on that reinvention, or reinvent yourselves again?
“For this record in particular, we looked back at what we liked the most, as well as what our fans liked the most, from the self-titled record. There’s also a similar style to From Death To Destiny, but now we’re in a much better headspace. When we did From Death To Destiny we were so messed up on drugs, and so torn by people pulling us in different directions; it was probably the worst experience of our lives creating a record. From it came a wonderful record that we’re super-proud of, but it sort of came out of the hurt we were all going through. We love the sound of that record, so we were like, ‘Now that we’re in a better headspace, and we’re all stoked and happy again, why don’t we revisit that but with our heads screwed on properly, and incorporate some of that more guitar-driven rock’n’roll sound with the self-titled album?’ I think we’ve hit the nail on the head here. There’s a particular song, Down To Hell, that I listen to and I’m like, ‘Man, this is what I wish I could have written on From Death To Destiny, but I just wasn’t in the right mindset – none of us were.’ It’s better that it’s coming out now, because we’re going to remember this record, and there’s going to be nothing but happy memories associated with it.”
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Is this positivity audible within the record, or is it more just a behind-the-scenes thing for the band?
“That’s interesting… I think both. A lot of it was the making of it. We’re still human beings and there are still problems that we have that we need to address, but I think there’s something triumphant about this that stems from our happiness. For instance, there’s a song on this record called I Don’t Need You, and it feels like this record’s Moving On [fan-favourite single on From Death To Destiny]. It’s almost a ballad, but while most ballads are lovey-dovey, this one is more triumphant, and it’s about self-love and realising your own worth. While you might have had something great with someone, at the end of the day you know your worth, and you don’t need that person to be happy and strong. A song like that has stemmed from this realisation that we’re strong, happy and capable. There’s another song called Here’s To Starting Over, and there’s a beautiful bridge where Danny is talking about how he’d rather fail as himself than succeed while pretending to be someone else – and a lot of that, again, comes from where we are as a band right now. There are a lot of moments on the album where people are going to pick up on that, and I think it’s going to resonate with a lot of people, too. Our fans have grown older and have gone through a bit more of life with us, and hopefully they feel the same way: they have that same self-belief.”
What was the pressure like coming out of the self-titled album and into this one? Do you put much pressure on yourselves?
“No! There was literally zero pressure (laughs). And that’s important; I think if you put too much pressure on yourselves, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. If you’re going into the studio and saying, ‘This album has to be more successful than the last one and it has to meet this criteria,’ I personally think people will hear that in the music. We went in with no expectations other than, ‘Let’s have fun and write the best songs that we’ve ever written.’”
What was the process like of working on it between tours in America?
“I actually really enjoyed it! In the beginning of our career, we would have the label going, ‘Okay, you’ve got three weeks: pick a studio.’ But as we’ve gotten progressively bigger and older – and uglier (laughs) – we’ve spent more time creating the records. But we were able to take breaks during the making of this album and go into these massive rooms where there’s 15-20,000 people singing along to songs, and we were able to see how people reacted to different sections of songs. We got to take those experiences and throw them into the writing process, which was a really cool thing. It’d be like, ‘This sounds great, and 10,000 people are going to be singing this at the top of their lungs,’ or, ‘This guitar riff sounds super-energetic, and it’s going to be able to fill a massive room.’ Things can translate differently live, so it was helpful to go out on the road, come back, and then go back out again. It was really valuable to us.”
Was it all smooth sailing? Was there any writer’s block?
“No, it was all just coming out. Genuinely, I can’t think of a single time where we struggled. And it also meant that we could write 30 songs, so it was actually quite difficult to put everything that we wanted on there. It’s left us in a situation where the album has 15 songs on it, which is something we’ve never done before. We were told, ‘Okay, you need to narrow it down,’ but we just couldn’t pick. There would be songs where the label would say, ‘This isn’t a single so it shouldn’t make it on to the record,’ and we were like, ‘Okay, it may not be a “single”, but the message in the song is really important to us, and we think it will be important to our fans, too.’ So we’ve left songs on the album that aren’t strictly speaking ‘singles’, but that we feel will resonate with our fanbase.”
What was the first track written for the album?
“It’s called What’s Gonna Be. That song tells the story of the band from day one up until the place that we are in now. On the last record we did Where Did It Go?, and that was a tongue-in-cheek, cocky song that was like, ‘We’re fucking back; we’re still the kings, so fuck you!’ This song is about us too, but it tells more of a story of where we came from, and Danny even addresses the fact that we left England and moved into a parking lot in America and lived there together. The song is about doing things our way, and thanking the fans. It’s a cool story to tell because we hope that it encourages others to follow their dreams, too.”
You’ve spoken about how Asking Alexandria always hear the same thing when it comes to releasing a new album, and that’s people saying: ‘You guys need to prove yourselves again.’ Why do you think that is?
“I have no idea! Every time we release a record, people are always so taken aback by it. They’re like, ‘Whoa, what’s happened? You guys have changed.’ Like it’s some big shock, and we’ve never changed before. It’s just a strange thing, but we don’t feel the need to prove ourselves anymore. We know what we’re doing and we’re enjoying what we’re doing, and that’s that. When From Death To Destiny came out, people called us a country-pop band, and we were like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And now we have people that have grown up with that album that are like, ‘That was the last great metalcore album!’ And it’s like, ‘Well, that’s funny, because when it first came out you all called it country.’ I think change is scary for a lot of people, and if you’re not expecting it then it can be a shock. But that’s what I love about Asking Alexandria: we’re never gonna bore you.”
You last toured the UK in January 2018, but you’re back in October. Excited?
“I am! We haven’t done the UK in so long, and people have been asking us to come back, and we can’t wait. I think it’s going to be really good. There are some people that are like, ‘You’ve been gone a long time – we don’t know what’s gonna happen…’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I know what’s going to happen: we’re gonna come back and fucking smash it, and it’s gonna be amazing!’ We’re coming home.”
Like A House On Fire is due out on May 15 via Sumerian. Asking Alexandria tour the UK in October – get your tickets here.
The Kerrang! Chart
The ultimate new music countdown – every Friday!
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