Asking Alexandria’s Danny Worsnop: “Mediocrity Is Not Satisfactory To Me. That’s Why I Work So Hard To Strive For Perfection”
Danny Worsnop is in the midst of picking up some snacks before going to the cinema. His wife Victoria, a member of the United States Navy he describes as “my wonderful lady”, hasn’t been having the best time of late, so the singer is treating her to a date night in their home of Phoenix, Arizona.
Yes, you read all of that correctly: Danny Worsnop is now happily married and in the throes of domestic bliss. And while that may seem shocking, given his past status as one of rock’s most seasoned (and enthusiastic) hellraisers, it shouldn’t really be that surprising given that the 29-year-old never does what’s expected of him. In fact, Danny seems to relish confounding expectations at every turn, whether that’s walking out on his band Asking Alexandria in 2015 at the height of their fame, rejoining them the following year when people least expected it, or making a country album in the form of 2017’s The Long Road Home.
Even armed with this knowledge about his unpredictable nature, Danny’s latest solo move somehow still managed to come out of leftfield. Shades Of Blue, his second solo album, is unquestionably the singer’s most creative detour yet, finding him getting in touch with his soulful side, backed by bluesy guitars, disco beats and a generous smattering of horns. Reckless & Relentless it isn’t, although Danny still has the ability to be both in conversation. Despite the considerable changes he’s gone through over the years, Danny remains a fascinating interview subject. He’s the British-born loner now bullishly living the American dream; the lover who’d have been a fighter if his life had taken another path; the rock singer who’s never really liked heavy music; the rebel learning to play the game on his own terms after having his heart broken and his fingers burned. And while he can say things that many find unpalatable – defending private gun ownership and refusing to condemn Donald Trump, for example – Danny’s carefree charisma is such that it’s hard to come away from an exchange not liking him.
What were you doing, pre-music?
“I started making music when I was four, doing these really poor versions of Michael Jackson songs. So, pre-music, I was learning how to walk.”
What was your hometown of Gilberdyke like as a place to grow up?
“It was okay. I wasn’t the most popular kid – partly because I was a bit of a lone wolf, and partly because I didn’t know how to fit in with the people I was around. Everyone knew everyone, so it was difficult to get away and have your own space. There were three or four of us who played music, so we tended to stick together. But outside of that I was a bit of a loner, and I was figuring out ways to be self-sufficient.”
You were interested in joining the military. Do you think that’s what you’d be doing now if you weren’t a musician?
“Definitely – without question. That was the plan, essentially, until I left for the States.”
What was it about the military that appealed to you?
“I wanted to shoot bad people in the face.”
Is that why you specifically wanted to be a sniper?
“I think there’s an art to it, which has translated into what I do now. It’s also about discipline and patience and problem solving. It’s about adapting, finding the opportunity, creating the opportunity and executing on that opportunity. Those are also certainly things I’ve carried into my music, my business, and my life in general.”
You’re passionate about shooting as a way to unwind. What do you think of the idea of banning private gun ownership?
“I think it’s a stupid idea. I think it’s a terrifying idea for the government to be able to essentially have that complete control and power of citizens. I think it’s inhumane to refuse people the right to defend themselves and the lives of their families.”
You understand the argument on the other side though, presumably?
“I understand their argument from their perspective with their education, but they’re looking at the surface of a problem without looking at the causes or evaluating the outcomes that come from it. Lawful gun owners aren’t the problem. People who unlawfully own guns are. If you ban guns, those people will still be unlawful gun owners. They’re not going to say, ‘It’s illegal? I guess I won’t go and shoot someone today.’ There’s a parallel with drugs. Cocaine is illegal, but you and I both know people who are on cocaine. People who are going to do it will do it regardless. Evil people will always find ways to do evil things, whether they’re throwing acid in people’s faces or stabbing someone. But if you give the good people the chance to defend themselves, you’re at least swinging the odds in their favour.”
You’re British-born but have lived in the States for years. Do you feel defensive of the U.S. when people criticise it?
“Yes, and I think a lot of it has come from fearmongering and a lack of education. Considering that we have an economic crash on the horizon – which has recurred throughout the years – the current president has held that off, which is one of the positive aspects of his presidency. People will bash me for being an ‘evil dictator supporter’, but I’m by no means a Trump advocate, although I don’t condemn him – there are positive and negative aspects. I’m not a fan of governments period; it’s a group of people who control people and take their money. But yes, I’m very defensive of America, because people have this picture of it as some sort of hellscape, where if you go outside you’re surrounded by racism, hate and sexism. It’s just not there; that’s a bunch of stuff spread by mainstream media to get ad money. We live in the best and safest time there’s ever been to be alive.”
Recently, you admitted to K! that you wanted to be less controversial. How’s that going?
“Very well. I’ve managed to hold my tongue a lot and balance myself out and be more compassionate. I have gone out of my way to speak to people who hate guns and see where they’re coming from, to figure out the best way to find a middle ground, because it’s in compromise that we find solutions. Some people want their way or nothing, but that’s not going to work because it’ll only alienate people and cause more problems.”
What does Danny Worsnop consider to be controversial?
“Not much, really. Actually, no, that’s a lie; people are not vaccinating their children – what the fuck is up with that?! We cured these medieval-ass diseases that are now coming back, and people won’t vaccinate their fucking children. It’s insane.”
The period around your departure from Asking Alexandria was pretty insane, too. You’ve since said that it could have been avoided if you’d had some time off, but you’re still incredibly busy now. What do you do to avoid a similar burnout?
“We’d all been through a lot and weren’t ever given time to heal. It was really weighing on me. I’d been through the stillbirth of a daughter [with a former girlfriend] and I was forced to be on the road throughout it. I found out in the studio and was put on tour without any mourning time or healing time. It was because people in management and booking and the label literally told us that if we took time off, our career was over. We were young and naive so we believed it. We pushed and we pushed, and I got to the point that I was broken. When we were writing [third album] From Death To Destiny, in my mind, that was my last album ever. I associated those troubles and negative feelings with music.”
How do you feel about those people that pushed you so hard back then? Do you forgive them?
“I forgive them, but I hold them at arm’s length, as a lot of them are still around because we have no control over that. I don’t pay any attention to anything they say anymore, and a lot of them know to keep their distance because they know we’re not going to listen. When we came to doing the last Asking album [2017’s self-titled fifth album], we got smart, so turned around and said, ‘No, we’re doing this our way – get onboard or fuck off!’ They told us it was going to fail as a result, but it ended up being the most successful release of our career. We got to turn around and say, ‘You’re not going to tell us what to do anymore.’”
A lot of people at that time thought you’d become disillusioned with heavy music. What’s your relationship like with it these days?
“I never listen to it and I never listened to it then, either. I just open my mouth and sounds come out. If people don’t like that sound, that’s cool, they’re entitled to their opinion. It’s not that we left something behind – it’s that we grew.”
And what’s your relationship with alcohol like these days?
“It’s healthy. It’s not something I do every day or do in excess. I enjoy it and I don’t drink like I used to, which was drinking for the sake of drinking. Sometimes I do it for altered mind states, which I think is perfectly human. The Inuits, who have no intoxicants of any kind, starve themselves for days so they start to hallucinate. Humans have always sought altered mind states, whether it’s through caffeine or alcohol or nicotine. Sometimes I go after that because I want to see things differently.”
You’ve got a song on your most recent solo album called Best Bad Habit. What’s yours these days?
“Overworking. It’s the healthiest addiction I’ve got. I think Victoria would be happy if I did less, but I’m so driven and have such high aspirations that I have to see them through, otherwise I’ll go crazy.”
You’re quite enterprising and entrepreneurial outside of music. When did this side of you emerge?
“I always had the ideas and the desire, but I didn’t know how to implement it all. I always felt there was something that stopped me from reaching those things, whether it was creating things or businesses. But I always thought, ‘Oh I don’t have the capital,’ but you don’t need the capital. Find an investor who has the capital. When I got clean, I was broke because I’d put all my money up my nose. So I thought, ‘What now? How do I make money without money?’ I wasn’t in Asking so I couldn’t go on tour, so that’s when I started working on helping people sell a product and taking a piece of it. That expanded and expanded, so now companies approach me. And then I use that capital to create something else and open another door. Now I’m getting into real estate.”
You’re married now. Has building a future with someone changed your relationship with music and its purpose?
“Yes and no. I run a lot by [Victoria] and ask her opinion as a non-musical ear from someone who’s a fan of the band. She’s very honest with me and will tell me if something’s bad. It’s a good way of getting a fan’s perspective without having to release music.”
Speaking of releasing music, what’s the status of your other band, We Are Harlot?
“We had written a [second] record, but it wasn’t recorded. I’ve got a studio in my house now and have been talking to Jeff [George, guitarist]. Bruno [Agra, drummer] is doing his own thing and we haven’t spoken in a long time. If he wants to that’s fine – I respect him. I’ve got a show coming that Jeff’s coming to and we might play a couple of Harlot songs as a fun reunion thing. We’ll see where it goes from there – the plan and the intent is there. It might be later this year, but if not it’s impossible to say. I’m game, though.”
And what about your autobiography, Am I Insane? You released an excerpt in 2012, but things seem to have gone quiet on that front…
“That’s on hold. Doing it now wouldn’t do my story justice because there’s no ending yet. I want there to be a message at the end that isn’t, ‘And then I was depressed.’ I want there to be something there that inspires people.”
You seem to have learned some lessons and you seem happier now. Are you?
“Yes and no. I’m much happier and in a much better place, but I’m definitely not satisfied. Mediocrity is not satisfactory to me. I’m not satisfied by anything; everything can be bigger and everything can be better, which is why I work so hard to strive for perfection. But I also never want to be satisfied, because the second I’m satisfied I’m stagnant.”
What does bigger and better mean to you? Is that measurable in dollars or credibility?
“Absolutely everything. The emotional satisfaction that comes afterwards; the mental and physical satisfaction, feeling better having done it and the joy that comes with it; the financial stability it can bring. I’m heavily orientated in the acquisition of money because I want to have freedom. I want the freedom for me and my family to be able to do whatever we want.”
Would you be able to stop and smell the roses if you were ever able to get to that point?
“Yes, but I’m never going to stop.”
If you only had time for Asking Alexandria or your solo work, which would you choose?
“It’s impossible for that to happen. Neither consumes time, really, because they’re things I already do. I don’t know if I have an answer, though. I love both for different reasons and they fulfil different parts of my life.”
Is there anything you regret?
“I want to say no, but I do sometimes wonder what I’d have achieved if I hadn’t fucked my body up with intoxicants. Would I be a billionaire now?”
Asking Alexandria’s new album Like A House On Fire is released May 15 via Sumerian.
Asking Alexandria continue to push their own boundaries on sixth album, Like A House On Fire
Run The Jewels’ new album will be made available free of charge for release day this Friday.