Interview with James Cassells of Asking Alexandria
Interview by Nina Schirmer
The last time I saw Asking Alexandria live was at Warped Tour in 2015, and when I saw that they were touring the U.S. again, this time on the “British Invasion Tour,” I had to purchase my ticket. The energy, the talent, and the jokes they bring to every show really make seeing them live such an incredible and fun experience. I was lucky enough to meet and have some great conversations with the band at Warped Tour, so I was really excited when I found out that I would be able to catch up with the band again on their current tour. Asking Alexandria are, without a doubt, one of the kindest bands I’ve met - they genuinely do care about their fans, and create a real sense of family throughout the Asking Alexandria community.
The band recently hit a rough patch when their former frontman, Danny Worsnop left the band, leaving them in need of a new lead singer. With the support of their fans, Asking Alexandria is now stronger than ever with new member, Denis Stoff on vocals, along with one of their best albums to date, The Black, set to be released on March 25th. Before hitting the stage for their epic show at The Fillmore in Philadelphia, I was able to talk with Asking Alexandria’s drummer, James Cassells about the new album, touring, and evolution of the band.
The Prelude Press: So, you’re currently on the British Invasion Tour with Bullet for my Valentine and While She Sleeps, how has the tour been so far?
James Cassells: It’s been great! Can’t complain at all. Shows have been awesome and shows have been selling out. People are stoked. Everything’s good! Yeah it’s been really awesome!
You also recently announced another tour with Bullet!
Yeah, so basically in May, there's a bunch of festivals for a month and we’re all playing those festivals, so in between we just filled the dates with a few more shows. It’ll be cool!
Do you think you will be playing more new songs since the album will be released by then?
Yeah by that point we will be playing more new tracks for sure.
You’re currently playing new songs like “I Won’t Give In” and “The Black.” How has the reaction been with playing the new material live?
We’ve been playing “I Won’t Give In” for about a year now and it obviously goes down really well. For “The Black,” this is the first tour we’ve been playing it and it’s awesome. The response has been fantastic, and you can see it as the tour goes on, and while “The Black” has been out longer, people are more into it. There’s more people singing along, more people getting into the vibe of the songs, it’s going really well. It just broke 6 million views as well! Super stoked about that!
For the new album, The Black, set to be released March 25th, what would you really like for listeners to take away from the album? Any specific messages?
Well, although the album has very personal parts to it, and has very meaningful things to us running through the songs, they can be taken and interpreted in many ways. That’s something that we didn’t really go out to do, but we kind of just ended up doing, so these songs can touch people in different ways. If someone’s down because of something or going through a hard part in their life, I feel like these songs can help them out, and I think it’s going to be an emotional album for a lot of people.
What were some of your goals while you were in the beginning stages of recording the album?
We just wanted to make our best album possible. We wanted a statement album. We wanted to prove to the world that, even though we lost a frontman, we can come back better and stronger than ever. We went about doing that, and I really think we achieved it. I’m so proud of this album and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it in it’s entirety. I really think we did a good job with it.
What songs from the new album are you more excited to release and start playing live?
The next one we are going to release, I’m really excited about, is called, “Let It Sleep.” It’s a super heavy track and I’m really looking forward to playing that one live. All of the songs I think are going to go down just as well live as they would when listening to them on the album. There’s a lot of more anthem-like songs such as “I Won’t Give In,” but then there’s the heavier tracks like “The Black” where people can mosh to it and jump to it.
What inspired a lot of the lyrics for the new album?
There’s a lot of personal elements to it. There’s a few tracks about Danny and our breakup with him. We went through a pretty dark point in our career before we wrote this album so there’s a lot of stuff about that. There’s also stuff about Denis and his relationships back home in the Ukraine. There’s a lot of stuff into it. It’s an accumulation of a lot of emotional shit that went on with all of us, and it’s all combined. There’s a lot of raw aggression, but there’s a lot of positivity, and this is us - we’re back and we’re better than ever.
Are there any lyrics on the album that really hit home for you and mean a lot to you personally or overall as a band?
Yeah, I mean there’s a lot. I feel like “The Black” in particular has a lot of lyrics that really mean a lot to me. There’s a track on the album called, “Send Me Home” which is more of a ballad and is a very personal song. And like I said before, people can take it however they want. Obviously we’ve been away from our homes, and we’ve been living in America for seven or eight years now, and Denis is away from his home. There’s lots of personal things in there and as I keep saying, people are going to take it as they want and I really feel like it’s going to mean a lot to a lot of people.
"There’s a lot of raw aggression, but there’s a lot of positivity, and this is us - we’re back and we’re better than ever."
Would you say that the song “The Black” carries the change in Asking Alexandria’s sound for the new album?
We definitely have evolved as a band. When Denis came into the group, he gave his input for our songs, and even though me and Ben [Bruce, guitar] still write a lot of tunes, he sort of is just giving us a kick up the ass. Really, we just want to write songs to a higher level than we have been before. We want the heavy bits to be heavier and the choruses to be catchier, and we want the melodic parts and those elements to be soft and epic! So we really pushed ourselves for this album in writing better songs.
With the new album there has been talk that you’re back to a heavier sound with the unreleased tracks but you also have a more melodic and artsy sound with your new songs, “I Won’t Give In” and “The Black.” Where did the inspiration for a more experimental sound originate from, especially with the chorus in “The Black”?
Yeah, I feel like basically for this album, we really just wanted to make it fresh - something that’s different, that people are going to listen to and be like, “Wow that’s obviously Asking, but I’ve never heard anything like this before!” This isn’t the fucking same old shit, this is some fucking new amazing music and we’ve really pushed ourselves to the limits you know, really trying to experiment with different things. Like back when we were nineteen and we wrote Stand Up and Scream, we experimented with trance and electronic and now we’re just doing it with different stuff and now it’s a new evolution of the band.
When you were in need of a new vocalist, where did the band come across Denis and when did you all have that big realization he was going to be the next frontman?
We had already met Denis when we played Moscow a few months prior to Danny leaving and he was in his band Down and Dirty. We knew he was a good vocalist. Obviously, everyone had seen his YouTube channel where he was covering us when he was younger and we knew he had the potential to do it. It just seemed to fit. It just seemed to work so well. He looks the part, sounds the part, you know he can do everything that we already have and he can do everything that we want so it just made sense! It clicked and it was instantaneous. You’re the man for the job! Do you want it? Yeah! He said yes immediately! When he was younger I think it was always a dream of Denis’ to be in Asking Alexandria or a band like that, and that’s why he looks up to a lot of bands, so you know obviously when given that opportunity he snatches your hand off.
"I feel like our music is a lot more mature, a lot more thought out and well written..."
From where you were as a band several years ago to where you are now, how do you feel you have grown and evolved? Obviously through your sound but anything else?
Yeah! I mean I feel like we’ve all matured a lot. Like, when we started this band we were teenagers, and now we’re coming up to 30 years old so of course we’ve matured a lot. We were always the party band, and by all means we still are! But I don’t think we’re as crazy and as stupid as we used to be from when we were younger, you know? We’ve got wives and long term girlfriends and houses, and we’re just adults now. That also shows in the way we act on stage and off the stage, how we write music, and I feel like our music is a lot more mature, a lot more thought out and well written, and just the way you compose yourself more than anything, I suppose.
Are there any crazy stories you can share from this tour?
We had a lot of fun in Vegas! We had a show in Vegas, it was massive and it was awesome, and then we had an off day, so things got a little bit mental there. But yeah we just drank a lot and partied pretty hard in Vegas, but that’s typical! Kerrang actually came out and took some pictures so it was pretty awesome. We were just wandering down the old strip and some guy was like, “Hey you guys wanna come up on my rooftop bar? Free bottles!” And we’re like, “fuck yeah!” So that was pretty awesome, getting handed some free jack and vodka.
If you could change anything to better the music scene what would it be?
There’s a lot of things people would say like, “Oh yeah Internet is killing the music scene, because everyone just pirates music and what not…” But then if you look at it on the other side, and well, your band wouldn’t even be heard of without it. There’s the people that don’t buy your CD, but they’ve come out to your shows so there’s a lot that people would necessarily say…
I think what I would change is, let people be more open minded than anything. That’s not just in this scene, that’s for music in general. If people would just give more music a chance. That’s what I’ve learned from being a musician for all my life, pretty much. As I have grown older, I appreciate all music now. I’m not just like, “I listen to metalcore! I don’t listen to that fucking shit.” No, fuck that! A good song is a good song. It doesn’t matter what it is. And if people were more open minded, this scene I think would be a lot bigger, because there is great music in this scene! Some people may even say, “Oh that’s devil’s music!” I think it is becoming more open minded, but I just would like to change it a bit quicker.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk today! Is there anything else you would like to add?
I wish people would sign up, and a lot of people have been, but if you’re a fan of Asking Alexandria, go sign up for our newsletter on our site. You just type in your email, some information and there’s lots of free content. You’ll get like special prizes, and you’ll be the first to find out about our stuff. We’re really trying to step it up on our social media and finding new ways to connect with our fans. This is one idea we’ve had, and we’re going to expand on it a lot, so just get involved with us online and you’ll get some cool shit!
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