Interview with James Cassells of Asking Alexandria, 5/11/14, Southampton

Asking Alexandria are one of the biggest bands to come out of the UK rock scene over the last few years and, whilst they’ve had their well documented issues, they’ve made it out the other side and lived to tell the tale.  Now based in America, they’ve been touring around the world for what seems like forever, but they finally hit Southampton at the start of this month.  I was very privileged to grab twenty minutes of drummer James Cassell’s pre-gig time.  It’s a good one (and I’m particularly proud of it!), so kick back, grab a cold one and have a read.  Enjoy!

asking alex pic

So, James. You’ve nearly finished one tour and then you’re off to America for another?

Yeah, we’ve done about 5 weeks of this tour, we’ve got a couple of weeks left. We’ve got five days off and then we start a month-long tour of mainly North America and Canada.  We’ve never done a full Canadian tour, so it’s hitting a lot of cities that we haven’t hit before – we’re looking forward to it.

Awesome. You have The Family Ruin supporting?

Yeah, great band and cool dudes as well!

Let’s talk about ‘From Death To Destiny’, Asking Alexandria’s most recent album. It’s been very well received but how do you feel about it?  Do you think you’ve matured as a band with this record?

Definitely, I’ve always said it’s a much more mature album, especially considering the previous albums. The first one was very … not immature, but you can tell it was by teenagers.  The next album was very angry and with this one, we’re finding out our place in life, almost, so it’s a much more mature outlook on music and ourselves.  When we started the band, we were all teenagers; now we’re in our twenties, we have wives and houses, we are adults now – back then we were just kids on tour and were a mess, pretty much.

From_Death_to_Destiny pic

How does your writing and recording process work, do you all get together from the start?

Usually Ben will come to me with a guitar riff, or a chorus idea and we’ll work it, develop it and make a song and then we’ll approach Danny and the other guys. A lot of the songs on the previous albums have been mainly written by me and Ben.  This one was going about it a little bit differently and we wanted everyone to be a little more on board with the writing process, so it was a little bit more organic and not quite so disjointed.  It’s weird – a lot of bands sit in a practice room and just work it out and get songs, we don’t really do that.  We write ideas for songs and the first time we actually play it properly, is when it’s going to be recorded.  Even when we’re recording, we’ve never actually played it together.  With the next album we’re going to do that, we’re going to go about it in more of an original way.

Ah, I was going to ask about plans for the next album. Any timescales?

We’ll take the first half of next year off and in that time we’ll have a little bit of a break because we’ve been touring so much, we’ve hit pretty much every continent in the world this year, but we are also going to be in the studio recording album number four and we’re hoping to set a release date for summer.

Presumably that will coincide with a festival appearance?

Yes, we might be doing some festivals … if anyone looks back at our past touring schedules, you’ll notice that we do Europe in the summer and this summer, we did America. Last year we played Download, this year we did the Mayhem Festival in America.

You’ve launched the ‘AA Family’ website, like a fan forum type of thing. Tell me a bit more about that.

A lot of artists and bands, they have fan websites, but they charge their fans. We aren’t charging anyone anything. It’s a new concept.   We have 5 million followers on Facebook; if we post something on Facebook, it goes to a tiny percent of people and we were like, what’s the point?  So we said we were going to do our own thing, so we can actually reach our fans, when we want to reach them.

It’s also a place where they can access to new merch designs, pre-orders, chances to win tickets and we’re all on it. It’s still in its infancy at the moment, but we’re going to really step it up and we’re going to be doing loads of stuff that fans just want to see.  Hopefully it will become something really great.  I really hope it catches on because it’s a much better way for us to reach our fans and for them to interact with us and each other.

You’ve got many fans across Europe and the USA. Do you find there are any specific differences in the way that they react to you in the different countries?

A lot of people ask us that and honestly, the only thing that’s different is, for me, the accents or the language. The fans are usually very similar and its only when you go to somewhere like Japan, where in between songs they’re dead silent because the respectful thing for them to do, it’s their culture, everywhere else is very much the same, I find.  People love to sing along, some people like to rock out, some people like to just enjoy the music.  Maybe some places are louder or more extreme, but everywhere is the same.

Are they different when they meet the band?

We did a signing in the Philippines which was completely insane because they never see us – we’ve played there once, it was just crazy. People were trying to grab us … yet we’ll do the same thing in the UK or in America and it’s a lot different, people are a lot more respectful.

Well, we British are very good at queueing! Tell me what you’re listening to at the moment as you’re travelling round?  Any new bands to recommend?

I’ve been listening to The Family Ruin’s album (Dearly Departed) a lot, as I said they’re good friends of ours so I’ve been checking that out. I listen to a lot of electronic shit, especially if I’m in my bunk and just trying to chill out and sleep … it’s not verse, chorus, hooks and catchiness, it’s constant, background noise.  We listen to so much old school rock and classics, especially if we’re just drinking on the bus.

TFR USA tour pic

Who is the worst behaved person on tour?

What do you mean by “worst behaved”?

Like, who throws their toys out of the pram the most?

Ben can be a bit of a nightmare when he’s spat his dummy out, but it doesn’t happen often.   We’re all pretty bad, but to be honest, we’re not half as bad as we used to be.  When we were touring on the ‘Reckless and Relentless’ album, we were a complete train wreck, I’m surprised one of us didn’t die.  Now we’re a lot calmer, not as insane.  We’re all equally a bit older and a bit lamer, like I’m drinking Cup-A-Soup right now …

Not very rock and roll, James! Who is the best behaved and most chilled out?

Probably me.

Well, you would say that! In terms of Asking Alexandria as a band, where do you hope to be in five years’ time?

A lot of artists will have a market or a country where they are massive and everywhere else is lukewarm. We have a pretty solid fan base everywhere we go in the world and every time we go, we’re slowly creeping up.  We had a massive burst in North America to begin with and since then every notch, every album has gone a little bit further.

In five years, I just want to still be doing a vigorous touring schedule, but on a bigger scale. Bigger shows, more people, more albums sold.  For instance this tour we’re doing, this place is like, 1,700 or something, London will be about 5,000.  I’m hoping we can move to doing arenas and outdoor ampitheatres and whatnot. On this tour, we’ve so many dates very close together, so I’m really surprised we’re doing as many tickets as we are, it’s a great tour and the majority of it has been sold out.  In total I think we’re playing to about 28,000 people which is the biggest tour we’ve ever done and we’re reaching more people.  The last headline tour we did was only Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and London and all of those were sold out.

What’s been the biggest highlight so far?

Download Festival and selling out Brixton early last year – that was amazing. That’s a venue that all of us wanted to play and then we found out we had sold out on pre-sale, that was really cool.  We actually recorded a DVD there that’s finally coming out, in time for Christmas, I think.

You’ve been together as a band for some time, what’s the secret to your longevity? What tips would you give to up and coming bands?

We’ve never had a line-up change, which is pretty strange for a band of our age that’s been around for this long. Some might say that what we did was reckless or stupid, but we just put all of our chips on black.  We moved to America with nothing and just managed to scramble our way to something.  You’ve got to be, like, if you want to do this, it’s what you do and you have to devote a few years of your life to nothing else.  You have to be very prepared that you’re going to wade through shit for a long time before you get anything.  You’re not going to make any money and everyone will tell you that you should have stayed in school, should have got a job … just persistence and hard work.

Wow. Thanks for your time, James.  Great answers, great tats and it was also a great show!  Check out the Asking Alexandria sites below, don’t forget they’re about to head out on ‘The Moving On Tour’ with The Family Ruin, Blessthefall, Chelsea Grin and Upon A Burning Body across North America and Canada.

Vik and James Cassells

www.askingalexandria.com

www.facebook.com/askingalexandria

You can place pre-orders for the two-disc ‘Live From Brixton and Beyond’ here – http://http://www.sumerianmerch.com/ and catch the trailer herehttp://http://youtu.be/BdJDdPNMpAk

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