Asking Alexandria’s Ben Bruce on the Pursuit of Happiness

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Ben Bruce is refocussing in more ways than one. The founder and guitarist of UK rockers Asking Alexandria is looking at life through a new lens but also through the lens of his camera as he travels the world with his band.

“I think for me it was, you know, I put the drugs down and was left with clear vision. I was like, oh my goodness, look at all these places I’ve been travelling for all these years… and don’t remember. And it was just a way to capture, I guess, moments I’d missed out on throughout my life, you know?”

Ben says his passion for photography is his way of keeping his broader memories alive. “I don’t have much interest in taking pictures of people or musicians. Danny’s fantastic at capturing stuff like that but I just really like trying to capture places I’ve been to. And I still go through my phone now and go, oh, you know, I’ll go and check out pictures of Montreal or Portugal or where I’ve been. And I look back and as soon as I see the picture I took, it’s like the rest of what was around the picture gets filled in my brain. So I’m definitely going to be doing a lot more of that.”

Asking Alexandria recently played their first shows since the world shut down but, unlike some musicians, walking back on stage wasn’t quite as overwhelming as he expected.

“You know, it’s so weird. As soon as I stepped foot back on stage and played that first note, it was all of a sudden, like the last two years hadn’t happened. I felt like I’d played a show the day before. I felt like I hadn’t left, which is weird because a lot of my friends that went back up on stage for the first time in 18 plus months were like, oh, it’s the craziest feeling like it was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. So I went on there anticipating this huge moment where I’m like, ah, the heavens open up, but it didn’t happen. It just felt very normal, which I actually took to be quite a good sign. Cause I feel like it just made me realize that that is just part of my DNA. It’s part of who I am. And the fact that it felt so I felt so at home, it was a good feeling.”

Ben will hopefully have plenty of time to be “at home” soon following the release of the band’s new full-length studio album See What’s On The Inside. The album is the band’s first studio LP since the news of their new global deal with Better Noise Music earlier this year when they were signed by label president Dan Waite out of the company’s London office. Ben says See What’s On The Inside is evidence of the group’s falling back in love with making music together. It is the first collection of songs that the band, today composed of its original line-up, wrote and recorded together in the same room in over a decade. I suggest it feels like the album also shows them refining their sound to what they originally wanted it to be.

“That’s exactly the case. I sat here and I’ve had all this time off and finally I’ve got to stop being Ben Bruce and I’ve got to just be dad and a husband for like two years. And it’s brought me so much joy and so much comfort, so much happiness. It got me thinking like, man, I’ve not felt this way about Asking Alexandria since I started the band and that just got me thinking, like, why am I doing this? Why did I start this band? And the more I thought about it, the more these memories came up of how excited we were as kids to just be in a tiny little room together. And I remember when we wrote The Final Episode, we played it over and over and over again at rehearsals, like 30 times before going out for a cigarette break and coming back in and playing it another thirty times. And I was like, damn, we’ve lost that, which I think is super normal to happen when it becomes your career so to speak and people start adding themselves and putting their hands in and you just become part of this machine. And it made me sad to think about that. So, you know, I called the guys and I was like, we need to recapture that love and that passion and that magic. And it only happens when the five of us are together. It really does. And so this is the first record we did together in a studio in 10 years. And it sounds magic and it is exactly that, it’s what we always wanted this band to be. And it’s just five best friends making rock music as loud as we possibly can. We weren’t writing it for anyone else.

The result of this reflection and renewed creative energy is possibly the band’s most cohesive and self-assured record to date. The project’s first single, the poignantly powerful, guitar-driven “Alone Again” was written by the entire band and is a fitting first offering of the sonic journey on which the world is about to join them. But beyond its moving lyrics and soaring melodies, it is a rallying cry and a statement of a group of artists who are here to stay and ready more than ever to be heard.

One of the highlights on the album is called If I Could Erase It and the lyrics talk about starting over again. I ask Ben if he sees this record as a chance for the band to start afresh.

“Yeah, completely. And it’s funny because I think everyone has things in their life where they’re like, ah, damn, that part of my life was shit or that part of my life. That was shit. And if I could get rid of them, I would. But obviously, you don’t get that. You just have to move on and learn and grow. And that’s part of everyone’s journey in life.

I read something, I can’t remember where it was, but it was a quote from somewhere and it really struck me hard and it was like a message. It was a letter to a daughter or something. And basically, it ended with, I hope if one day you’re not happy, you find the strength and the courage to restart to start over. And I think that’s what it came down to. You know, it’s so scary when you’re in a position like this, to be told by people in the industry, you have to do this, or people will forget who you are. And it’s like, well, that’s fucking brutal. And so you kind of just keep going in the hopes that that doesn’t happen. And for us, it was finding the strength to not give a fuck about that. It was finding the strength to just, we want to do this the way we want to do it and sound the way we want to sound for ourselves. And I think everyone can take something from that in life. And I think a lot of people have during this pandemic, a lot of people have gone, you know, I don’t like my current work situation, I’m out and they’ve taken this time to learn a new skill or craft or relocate. And I think it takes courage. It takes a lot of courage. And I feel like the lyrics on this album, there’s a lot of that kind of sentiment in it. Like how do I want this to look moving forward? And you know, I’ve mentioned it a few times, but I think it’s one of the most powerful lyrics Danny’s ever written. When Find Myself starts, the music comes in with such beautiful guitar and then it stops and you just hear Danny ask the question, how do I kill myself? And you’re like, whoa, that’s deep. But then he continues the sentence and says, or at least the parts that have been created to please. And that’s that same thing. It’s like, I feel like I’ve been moulded into this person and it’s not necessarily who I am. How do I leave that behind and continue on as me, when everyone has pushed me to be this version for this long.”

In the band’s 10+ years as a worldwide touring and recording force, they have achieved unprecedented success earmarked by two gold-certified singles (namely, “Final Episode (Let’s Change The Channel)” and “Not The American Average”) and three consecutive top 10 debuts on the Billboard Top 200—Reckless & Relentless [2011], From Death to Destiny [2013], and The Black [2016]. In addition to headlining packed gigs on five continents, they’ve graced stages alongside Guns N’ Roses, Green Day, Avenged Sevenfold, Alice In Chains, and Slipknot, to name a few. 2017’s self-titled LP Asking Alexandria spawned two of the group’s biggest singles to date: “Alone In A Room” (60 million Spotify streams) and “Into the Fire” (50 million Spotify streams).  And most recently, they saw critical acclaim with their 2020 sixth full-length studio album Like A House On Fire.

Watch the full interview with Ben Bruce below:

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