One night, while the members of English rock quintet Asking Alexandria were in the studio writing songs for their new studio album, See What’s on the Inside (out Oct. 1), guitarist Ben Bruce went out to dinner while singer Danny Worsnop stayed behind to work on lyrics. It would prove one of the most fateful decisions of the album-making process.
“I came back from dinner, and Danny’s got the biggest grin on his face. I was like, ‘What the hell’s wrong with you?’” Bruce tells Forbes. “The switch had just gone, and every single night from that point on, I was like, ‘I’m gonna go out to dinner and see what Danny does.’ I’d scarf down dinner, as if that was the magic ingredient.”
“And that’s how Ben takes credit for all of the vocals,” Worsnop quips.
Be it strategy or superstition, Bruce’s dinner runs paid off. See What’s on the Inside, Asking Alexandria’s seventh studio album and first on Better Noise Music, is a thundering collection of hard rock anthems, full of gritty guitar riffs and arena-sized choruses. The new LP consummates the band’s evolution from larynx-shredding metalcore to heavy, melodic rock, which began with its 2009 debut Stand Up and Scream and continued through 2020’s Like a House on Fire.
For See What’s on the Inside, the members of Asking Alexandria reconnected with their earliest musical loves, hard rock and metal titans like Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and Pantera. Those influences are on display on explosive lead single “Alone Again,” which opens the album with pulverizing drums, soaring vocals and a wah-drenched solo from Bruce — a rarity for the guitarist.
“When we sort of were coming up as a young band, it’s almost like guitar solos weren’t cool anymore,” Bruce says. “The longer we went on without doing guitar solos, the less confident I became in playing them because it’d been so long. When I was a kid, all I played was guitar solos. I would get cassette tapes, and I’d put tape over the little holes so I could record over them, and I’d have songs playing, and I would just play lead guitar over them all.”
Bruce credits his newfound confidence to a comfortable studio environment while making See What’s on the Inside. It marks the first time all five members of Asking Alexandria wrote an album in the studio together since their 2011 sophomore effort, Reckless & Relentless, which peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 and turned Asking Alexandria into one of the hottest new bands on the block. It was a lot to swallow for a group of guys who were barely in their twenties. Burnout, addiction and lineup changes followed, threatening to destroy the band.
“We’ve obviously been in the spotlight for most of our coming-of-age years, at the point where we’re supposed to figure our lives out and become adults,” Worsnop says. “And the entire time, we have 1,000 people weighing in on who they think we’re supposed to be and who’s gonna be the best version of us for their pockets.”
Worsnop says the pressure to constantly work spurred the relationship breakdowns that led to his departure in early 2015. (He returned in late 2016; in his absence, Asking Alexandria released 2016’s The Black with Denis Stoff on vocals.) “If we were allowed the opportunity to really have lives as well as being in this band, I think that entire situation — and all of the resentment and anger that formed during that time — it could have all been avoided,” he says. “It [was] 100% this, every waking minute of your f***ing day, no days off, just go all the time.”
Bruce hammers home Worsnop’s point with a story about the time he was living in Arizona and woke up to the news that he had to go to a signing that day. “I said, ‘Oh, okay, cool, well, where is it?’ And they’re like, ‘Germany,’” he recalls. “I literally got forced into it, so I got put on a plane, flew to Germany. I did a half-hour signing. I kid you not, there were maybe 30 people there. And then they flew me all the way back. And I just remember being like, ‘What the hell? I’m just a cattle at this point, being shipped around from place to place.’ It was miserable.”
The band members have also had to learn how to pace themselves, both onstage and off, when fans still expect them to live up to their early reputation as hard-partying bad boys. “They don’t want us to be that self-destructive, damaging-to-our-health level of partying,” Worsnop says. “The special occasion is when we’re in their town because we never get to see them. Except there’s another group of people in the next city too — and in the next city, and in the next city, and they all want it to only be that night, but we’re there every f***ing night.”
Asking Alexandria detail the perils of sex, drugs and money on See What’s on the Inside’s penultimate track, “Fame,” which should satisfy old-school fans with its frayed, whiskey-soaked vocals and furious, breakdown-laden outro. It’s an appropriately aggressive song for a topic that has caused the band members a lot of grief over the past decade.
“My entire life, growing up as a kid, I knew that I wanted to be a musician,” Bruce says. “I don’t think I ever really wanted fame. And I think most people, with any kind of fame — whether it’s Brad Pitt fame or Asking Alexandria fame — I think if you could ask anyone if they wanted fame and you told [them] what it is and [showed them] a glimpse of what it entails, I think most people would turn it down. It’s not a fun place to be.”
See What’s on the Inside marks the third Asking Alexandria since Worsnop’s return, and the band members have learned some valuable lessons in self-preservation since then. In order to realize their full potential as a band, they’ve got to prioritize other aspects of their lives as well. They cite legends like Ozzy Osbourne and the Rolling Stones when discussing their goals for career longevity — but they’ve also got to give themselves the option to put music on the backburner if their wellbeing calls for it.
Those rules may seem paradoxical, but if the past year and a half serves as any indication, they work. “We took the last 20 months off, and it really gave me an opportunity… to get to meet myself for the first time,” Worsnop says. “Everyone’s had the opportunity to grow and really kind of learn themselves a bit, so that was in large what the album’s about. It’s been learning the lesson of shedding weight.”
“I just got to sit here and be dad instead of Ben Bruce, and I got to be a husband instead of rock star,” Bruce says of the recent downtime. “It allowed me to really dig deep, even on my musical journey, and remember how I felt when I was a kid, and all those things I wanted, and all those feelings I had when I picked up a guitar. I got to really reconnect with my guitar and reconnect with music and the band because of this time off. And it’s been awesome. It’s been an incredible journey.”