It’s the Quarter Pounder with Cheese of cliches.
Is there a more awesomely inviting, yet ultimately bad for you stereotype than that of the debauched rock star, that rarefied creature who’s all id without that pesky super-ego c-blocking all the fun?
Anyone who’s ever seen an episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music” can shake his head at how predictably this story ends — rehab or death, primarily, with enough tears shed along the way to drown temperance in a pool of saline.
But those head shakers have probably never had the chance to live a life with no bounds, where the party never has to end, where there are no alarm clocks mouthing off at you in the morning and every impulse is catered to like an oil baron in a strip club.
Who could refuse that?
Probably not you.
And definitely not Ben Bruce.
Unlike us, Bruce has actually sipped from the cup of stardom — and by “sipped,” we mean gulped that stuff down like his lungs were on fire and only fame could extinguish the flames.
As founder and lead guitarist for brash Brit metalcore favorites Asking Alexandria, Bruce was headlining festivals and notching top 10 albums at age 20, before he was even old enough to legally buy beer.
About that beer … plenty was consumed.
Among other things.
Asking Alexandria made a name for itself with leather-throated odes to insanity and hard-living hijinks seemingly cribbed from the pages of Motley Crue’s bad-boy bible “The Dirt.”
“We drank the drinks / We did the drugs,” frontman Danny Worsop boasts on “Closure” off of Asking Alexandria’s aptly titled second record, “Reckless and Relentless.”
And it wasn’t all talk.
“I don’t think we let fame get to our heads, but we definitely let the lifestyle get to our heads,” Bruce says. “We did start drinking too much and we dove headfirst into drugs, just the classic ’80s rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. It really took its toll on us, not only as musicians and as a band, but as friends as well. We got to the point where some mornings we’d wake up and just couldn’t stand the sight of each other anymore.
“It drove this band to the brink of insanity. I’m pretty sure I woke up a few days and I was in hell,” he says. “We went out there to build as big a name as we possibly could. Sometimes we didn’t always go about it in the right way.”
This realization was hard-earned, hitting the band like a fist to the jaw after a notoriously drunken gig in Seattle in March 2011, where the quintet took the stage so loaded that some of them could barely play. Fan-filmed footage of the show quickly made the rounds on YouTube, publicly shaming the group.
“We went on absolutely smashed,” Bruce recalls. “With Danny, in particular, being in front of the microphone, it was very obvious. He couldn’t perform. I ended up taking over frontman duties, even though I was drunk, too. After that show, it got to the point where I realized that I’d been going onstage the last few months absolutely obliterated. That was one of the things that made us realize, ‘This is immature and it’s going to kill our band.’
“There were other things,” he adds. “Close calls with overdoses and stuff. Our parents were worried; the record label was worried.”
But that Seattle show, as embarrassing as it was, ended up being productive for this bunch.
In its wake, they’ve recommitted themselves to the band and have spent the past two years working on their heavily anticipated third record, when not on the road. The album is now in the mixing stages, with a title and release date to be determined.
With the band’s sophomore record a breakout success, expectations have been elevated this time around.
“It’s kind of scary,” Bruce says. “We released ‘Stand Up and Scream’ (the band’s first record) and we didn’t have any expectations whatsoever. We were a bunch of kids, no one had heard of us, and I think we did 2,400 records the first week. So when we were doing ‘Reckless,’ there really wasn’t much pressure. Then when it did 32,000 the first week, it was like, ‘Where the hell did that come from?’ So now, we kind of feel like we need to jump from 30,000 to another massive number that no one is expecting.”
The band is setting its new album off for a strong start, headlining an extensive tour that kicked off this week and returning as one of the top-billed acts at Extreme Thing, Vegas’ annual all-ages, all-day sports and music fest that will also feature New Found Glory, 3OH!3, Mindless Self Indulgence and many others this Saturday.
For Bruce, it’s all a chance to preserve a dream that nearly turned into a nightmare.
“Even before I can remember, my mom said that was when I was really, really tiny, like 3 years old, I used to stand in front of the television watching ‘Grease’ with a tennis racket, pretending to play guitar,” he recalls of his lifelong ambition to become a musician, which became tenuous in recent years. “I don’t think that there’s particularly anything special about me. I just never gave up.”
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at
email@example.com or 702-383-0476.
Extreme Thing, with Asking Alexandria, New Found Glory, 3OH!3 and others
11 a.m. Saturday
Desert Breeze Park, 8275 Spring Mountain Road