“We’ve never played Reading and Leeds before, so to be headlining a stage is incredible,” says Asking Alexandria guitarist Ben Bruce, calling ahead from the quintet’s current US jaunt.
“The fact we have a new vocalist, a new album and there’s enough respect and belief in us to headline a stage feels pretty spectacular. We’re very grateful for the opportunity, so we’re definitely going to bring our A-game…”
Changing singers is never easy for a group of musicians. For every success story - AC/DC perhaps being the most powerful example - you have hundreds that simply gave up, opting to focus attentions elsewhere on pastures new.
Sometimes, I wake up and wonder how I’ve been this fortunate. It’s just the fans; it’s all in their hands
British metalcore bruisers Asking Alexandria - who announced the addition of Denis Stoff some five months after original frontman Danny Worsnop’s exit in January 2015 - decided failure was simply not an option, and left question of their legitimacy in the hands of those who matter most… the fans.
“It’s unbelievable,” continues Ben. “Sometimes, I wake up and wonder how I’ve been this fortunate. It’s just the fans; it’s all in their hands. They could have turned round and said, ‘Nah, this is shite, we’re out!’ or open their arms and support us wholeheartedly… which they did! We owe it all to them.”
Of their old singer, who recently made headlines questioning the integrity of his ex-bandmates, Ben remains disarmingly honest about how it felt to see someone he once trusted stoop to such measures.
You’re a lad from Hull singing country music in an American accent. Where’s the integrity there, you flippin’ idiot?
“He said something about leaving this band because we’d lost our artistic integrity,” says the guitarist. “I was sat there thinking, ‘No, you’re the one that wanted to change our sound into that of a country band! You’re a lad from Hull singing country music in an American accent. Where’s the integrity there, you flippin’ idiot?’ Unbelievable.”
Today, the Asking Alexandria guitarist picks the 10 albums that shaped his life…
Asking Alexandria play the following UK dates this year:
Thu, 9 June - Troxy, London
Mon, 15 Aug - Engine Rooms, Southampton
Tue, 16 Aug - KOKO, London
Fri, 26 Aug - Reading Festival
Sat, 27 Aug - Leeds Festival
1. Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction (1987)
“This is just a given! I’m a huge blues fan, but I’m first and foremost a rock and metal fan. Slash combined those genres perfectly - he’s always been the most bluesy rock ’n’ roll guitarist. Being not of that age, the first song I heard was Sweet Child O’ Mine; obviously it was huge and got played everywhere. And sure, the guitar solos are legendary…
“But looking back now, Sweet Child… is probably my least favourite song on the record! And that’s how good the record is, if my least favourite track is their biggest one. Appetite For Destruction is absolutely flawless, from start to finish.”
2. Slipknot - Slipknot (1999)
“This was the most insanely heavy thing I’d ever heard, especially being as young as I was when it came out. From the first play, I was obsessed with them and have been an avid Slipknot fan ever since. They affected me in such a huge way.
“I remember getting in trouble at school and drawing their logo on my forearm. I graffiti’d my mum’s car with all their weirdest lyrics. I was doing DT at school and made a Slipknot CD rack for no reason. They just really resonated with me early on, so I’ve been in love with them ever since.”
3. Blink-182 - Enema Of The State (1999)
“I got into pop-punk as a kid purely because of this album! And I still love them - they’re still one of my favourite bands. Despite Tom not being in the band anymore, I’m really loving that new single [Bored To Death] they put out.
“To be honest, I only bought this album because I saw it had a pair of tits on the front cover, which is what made me want to buy it, ha ha! And I fell in love with it instantly and spent hours in the bedroom learning how to play all their songs.
“When you’re young, you are really impressionable, so Tom DeLonge is the reason I ended up getting my lip pierced, straightening my hair or whatever. He had such an impact on me. I was a bit of a skater kid when I was younger. I never listened to Green Day that much, it was mainly Blink-182 for me!”
4. Aerosmith - Big Ones (1994)
“I know it’s a bit of a cop-out to choose a greatest hits album, but there is a reason for that: when I was a kid, my grandparents bought us tickets to go to Disney World in Florida. The night before, my grandma fell down the stairs and broke her leg, which left her unable to come. So it was a huge dampener, and I kinda moped around for that holiday. At MGM Studios, they had this Rock ’N’ Rollercoaster, which was like a stretch limo. Before the ride, Aerosmith take you to their show with backstage passes…
“And while you were on the ride, you had Aerosmith blasting in your ears. I didn’t know who they were, but when I heard the guitar riff to Walk This Way, I was like, ‘What the hell is this?’ You finish the ride and end up in the gift store. They had loads of Aerosmith CDs there, and I chose Big Ones. It was my introduction to one of my favourite bands, so I really owe it to that rollercoaster!”
5. Bullet For My Valentine - The Poison (2005)
“It’s not like a classic album in the same way as Aerosmith or Metallica, but back then, people were still calling this kind of music ‘screamo’. It was the first time I heard anything like it, and it really gripped me…
“Look back at pictures of me as a kid, and I had this one BFMV shirt I wore everywhere - I can’t have washed it much. It was my introduction to metalcore riffs and chuggy breakdowns, so it really influenced me as a young guitarist and helped shaped what Asking Alexandria is today!”
6. Gary Moore - Still Got The Blues (1990)
“My dad was hugely into blues, while my stepdad was always playing more rock and metal stuff. So I got to listen to a lot of Eric Clapton, BB King, Robert Cray… who were all phenomenal guitarists. But when my dad played me the title track from Still Got The Blues, I couldn’t believe it. I had never heard a guitar sing like that before.
“I did not know how this guy made his guitar sound so fucking huge and yet so beautiful at the same time. It was so in your face, almost like all those Metallica riffs I loved. This was around the time I was in Year 9. By the time I got to my GCSEs, I actually performed that title track for one of my final exams!
“It’s still one of my favourite songs of all time. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone come close, but the nearest would be Joe Bonamassa. He’s almost like the American Gary Moore!”
7. Avenged Sevenfold - City Of Evil (2005)
“I don’t really know what it was about this album. I grew up in Dubai, and a lot of music wasn’t available out there. So whenever we came back to visit family, I’d go into record stores and buy as many CDs as I could at the time, even if I didn’t know who the band was. I got Awaken The Fallen solely based off the album artwork. So when City Of Evil came out, I had to call my grandma up and ask her to queue up in HMV to buy the record…
“She had it for months before I was able to listen to it. I don’t know if it was anticipation or what, but I put in my CD player and listened to it about eight times without leaving the room! And still, when I listen to that record now, it takes me back to that bedroom!
“It’s strange to think we’re pretty good friends with the A7X guys now. City Of Evil made me want to sit down and really try to push myself as a guitarist. Synyster Gates is a brilliant guitarist.”
8. Michael Jackson - HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995)
“I don’t even know if you even need to explain this one! I was at my grandparents' house, and they had a record player. I was flipping through all their old records like Elton John, Madness and that kinda stuff… then I got to HIStory and was really intrigued by the cover art. He put a statue of himself as the cover, which felt pretty insane!
“I was pretty young, I didn’t know how to use a record player, so I put the needle down wrong, and the first track I heard was Little Susie. And it felt so eerie, it stuck with me forever. That song actually influenced the intro for The Lost Souls off our new album… which must sound crazy! But that’s how much Michael Jackson’s music has stuck with me.”
9. Metallica - Metallica (1991)
“Again, I’m not of the age to have been around for the classic stuff. So, I got into Metallica late in the game through this record, and then I discovered the early discography. The Black Album is by no means my favourite Metallica album - I would say that’s probably Kill ‘Em All or Ride The Lightning. But this is the album that got me into Metallica, which makes it one of the most influential albums of my life.
“As a kid, I would get enough pocket money to buy just one record - I’d be walking up and down the aisle trying to find the best thing I could. One of my teachers used to let a student pick an album that they were listening to and talk about it in class, so one kid put on Fuel, and I thought it was such a cool song. All I remembered was that the song was by Metallica and there I was trying to pick one out of all these albums. By chance, I picked up the self-titled, and that was it.
“I’d never heard a guitar riff as aggressive as Through The Never before - I’d be jumping up and down on my bed listening to it over and over again. It was pure insanity!”
10. Asking Alexandria - Stand Up And Scream (2009)
“So, here’s the thing - I was told to pick albums that had changed my life, and this one changed my life more than anything else in the world! The only reason I am talking to MusicRadar right now is because of that record, you know? I have to be honest here!
“I’m not saying it’s the best album or a classic or anywhere near as good as my other choices, but it really did change my life significantly!”