When English metalcore act Asking Alexandria announced the departure of frontman Danny Wornsop, fans seemed equally divided over the artists’ fate and how they could possibly carry on without him. Worsnop’s stage persona and vocal style was a trademark to their live shows, and being a founding member, he became an integral part of the internationally platinum-selling band. As he turned his focus towards his new position in hard rock supergroup We Are Harlot and began to distance himself from the metal scene in general, the remaining members—songwriter/guitarist Ben Bruce, drummer James Cassells, bassist Sam Bettley, and rhythm guitarist Cameron Liddell—were left to pick up the pieces.
What’s a band to do? Come back stronger than ever before. They called upon Denis Stoff, ex-vocalist of the defunct Ukrainian group Make Me Famous, to fulfill the vacancy in their lineup. Stoff’s presence quickly proved to be a blessing when they began to work on their much-anticipated fourth album, The Black, as they turned their tumultuous year into art.
Having just embarked on the British Invasion Tour with While She Sleeps and Bullet For My Valentine while simultaneously prepping for the release of the new record next month, it’s clear that they hit the ground running in 2016. Just before heading out on the road, Bruce took time to discuss how critical the addition of Stoff was, the writing process behind this album, and exactly why The Black will set Asking Alexandria apart from their peers.
What are you most excited about for the British Invasion Tour?
Honestly, I’ve been touring for such a long time that it can get quite tiring, but it’s always nice when you get to go out with friends because it makes it that much more fun and easier rather than if you go out on tour with a bunch of strangers that you’ve never met. It takes a couple of weeks to know each other and then before you know it the tour is over. Bullet For My Valentine, While She Sleeps, and ourselves have all been friends for years, so it’s just going to be a lot of fun right from day one.
How do you personally prepare for a tour?
Basically what I do is sit on my ass all day long eating junk food and watching shit. I put on the most weight as I possibly can.
Seems legit. Good way to prep.
It’s a great way. The best way.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about touring?
I think the best thing about touring, besides actually playing the show, is just the fact that I get to wake up somewhere new every day. I get quite antsy and I pace around a lot, and I get bored very quickly. So it’s nice to wake up in a new city because you can’t get bored when there’s new surroundings every day.
But my least favorite thing about touring is being away from home, which is quite contradictory. You do end up missing home. You miss your family and your friends, your girlfriend—it gets hard doing that, but if you can have everyone around you that you love all the time then I would probably stay on tour forever.
So I wanted to switch gears a little bit and focus on the new album. The Black is set to be released next month. Can you tell me a little bit about who you worked with?
We worked with Joey Sturgis as the producer and the audio engineer on The Black, and he’s been the producer and audio engineer for every single record we’ve ever done. The only other time that anyone else has worked on one was the last record where we had someone else mix it. But we went back to Joey for this one, as we usually do, and we also had our good friend Sam Graves who sat down and wrote a lot of the songs with me and engineered all of the guitars and the bass and stuff like that.
How did Sam Graves get involved in the writing process?
We’ve known him forever. He has never actually worked on a record with us before but he’s from York, where the band is originally from, so we’ve known him since we were teenagers. Sam Graves and Joe Graves started a studio, and they just moved out to Arizona and are recording bands out here. So we figured that they were really good friends of ours and we know that they do excellent work, so we were like, “Let’s team up!”
That’s perfect! So in your opinion, what was the most challenging aspect of creating The Black?
That’s tough, because I had such a good time recording it. I think it was probably lyrically letting go and making sure I didn’t just rant and rave the whole record about our former vocalist [Danny Worsnop] leaving, because I wrote a lot of the lyrics about that just because I was pissed off. I was upset, and it took the guys a while to be like, “Come on dude, let’s talk about some of the other things you’ve been through or we’ve been through as a band, not just Danny.” So progressing from that state of mind was probably the most difficult thing.
This was the first record without Danny Worsnop on vocals, but the first with Denis Stoff. Did the writing or creative process change when he joined the band? Was there any sort of difference when you sat down to write?
No, actually. It was a lot more fun. I’ve been the primary songwriter since the band started and for the last few records with Danny I would be writing songs and he would be hating everything, saying things like, “I hate heavy music, this is shit. I don’t want to do this.” It was really quite a chore to try to write records that would please Danny, the rest of the band, and our fan base.
This time around, Denis was a fan of our band since he was a kid, so he came aboard and he was excited to write a record. That made it a lot easier for me, since I didn’t have that stress of being told that it’s too heavy or this is too hard. I had a young guy who was really excited about everything I was writing and we as a band were creating. Not only that, but he being a fan also helped because every time I would write something he didn’t love he wouldn’t be like, “Oh, this is shit.” He would literally say, “I’ve heard you do better.” So he pushed me to better myself as a songwriter and as a musician while I was writing this record, which was awesome.
That is really awesome. So you mentioned that in the last records you were trying to find the balance between pleasing Danny, the band, and pleasing fans. I know that Danny is no longer a factor but does it get difficult to try to accomplish what you want to do as a musician while trying to connect with fans?
You know, like I said, in the past maybe it was. When we started this band we just wrote music that we loved, and we thought, “Well, we’re fans of the music, we’re fans of the genre, so if we like it there’s a chance other people will like it too, and if not it doesn’t matter.” We are back in that mindset again because we’re writing songs now that we actually love and that we want to listen to. So again, we’re thinking if we love it other people will, when before Danny was pushing us to change. Even in the past when I was writing I would begin second guessing myself about a song, which obviously means other people would have the same mindset.
What is the biggest difference between The Black and From Death To Destiny, musically?
I think it’s the energy, you know? You can tell when you put this record on—I hear it, and the band hears it, and everybody else seems to catch it too—while with From Death To Destiny you couldn’t. The other songs served their purpose, but there’s no real energy or emotion pouring through the speakers. But as soon as you turn on The Black it starts from the very first sentence. There is a lot of passion, there is a lot of aggression; if it’s sad it is going to make you feel sad. This record really makes you feel, which I think is important in music and I think that it is important that we’ve accomplished that in this new record.
What do you feel will set this record apart from what other bands are doing right now?
It’s just more honest. I listen to a lot of metal, and a lot of people sing about the same thing and although the songs are good it’s kind of like where does one end and the other begins. But with us when we recorded this record we had all been through a hell of a time the last few years—Danny leaving, I’m going through a divorce right now, our best friend the guitar tech died—there has just been so much that we’ve been through and so much that we’ve wanted to get off our chest, so it’s a very real and emotional album, which I think a lot of records are lacking these days.
Are there any plans right now after this stint on the road?
Yeah, after the Bullet tour we do a headlining tour in Australia and Thailand, then we are booking summer tours right now. I think the plan is just to stay on the road for the foreseeable future while playing this record and getting into as many countries and cities around the world as we can.
Asking Alexandria will be coming to PlayStation Theater with Bullet For My Valentine and While She Sleeps on Feb. 23 and The Fillmore in Philadelphia on March 2. For more information, visit askingalexandria.com.