October 2, 2014 Interview – James Cassells of Asking Alexandria
Modern Rock/Metal has been redefined in recent years with some opposing young bands storming onto the scene. One of the most dominating forces to rise to power among this new wave has been the UK’s Asking Alexandria. Come together by friends looking to have a good time and play music, the ride has been a rocketing climb to the top since their debut album Stand Up and Scream in 2009 all the way through to the statement making 2013 effort From Death to Destiny. Steadily appearing on headlining tours across the globe, while they add to their ever growing following, Asking Alexandria has gained a mass of experience in a short stretch of time. While stardom can often be attained rapidly and go to someone’s head, the key for this band is to steer clear of the pit falls, continue to progress, and assert themselves among Rock’s elite. Recently we sat down with the back bone of Asking Alexandria drummer, James Cassells, for a honest look at the success of the band, their unified goals, making a statement, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Asking Alexandria really has risen to superstardom since your formation in 2008. You have released three highly successful studio albums, headlined an enormous amount of tours, and broke into the mainstream. Looking back on the last six years, how would you best describe the ride thus far?
James Cassells – I cannot complain. It has been fun, but also stressful at times. On a whole it has been very enjoyable; a whole whirlwind of emotions really. I have had a chance to do it with my mates, see new places, meet new people, and I have really enjoyed it.
CrypticRock.com – Yes and like anything, the rise has been gradual with bigger shows, higher charting albums, and more fanfare. The band’s sound has definitely grown over the years.
James Cassells – Well what you have to remember is when we released Stand Up and Scream in 2009 we were teenagers. Ben and I were the oldest guys in the band and we were nineteen. When we released From Death to Density we were twenty-five; we have matured a bit. Obviously our music will mature like we do as guys. It has gotten a little more melodic, thought-out and not as crazy. A lot of our older songs did not really have a lot of structure, it was just a sort of an emotional ride through the song. Now it is more structured songs. It is just growing and evolving.
CrypticRock.com – That progression is perhaps most felt on the band’s latest studio album From Death to Destiny released in 2013. Sort of shedding the Metalcore label, the album is extremely powerful and diverse. Now almost a full year since the release of that record, in hindsight, how does the band feel about the album and do you feel it was a statement record becoming yourselves from being pigeonholed into one genre?
James Cassells – I think we did sort of turn our backs a little bit on more Metalcore elements and choose a more Rock and Metal vibe. That is just the music we want to create. It is not that we do not like Metalcore or do not like being associated with those bands or anything. I feel like Asking Alexandria wants to be more of a Rock/Metal band, that is sort of where we want to go. As we go on with our lives, that is where we see the band going. Since day one, we have always written what we want to write. We have not been told by a record label that we need to write this so we can win over these fans; we just write music that we want to write. I feel like From Death to Destiny is the step in the direction where we are going. We have already started writing our new album. It is sounding really heavy but very Rock/Metal. It is still Asking Alexandria, but a more riff based, not so much breakdowns. It is a lot more melody driven Heavy Metal.
CrypticRock.com – As you said, as you grow as musicians you want to expand what you do and push the envelope. With that said, spending the immense amount of time on the road away from home, do you feel as if you have reached a new level of understanding of how to handle everything and stay healthy mentally and physically?
James Cassells – Yes, we have been on a bit on a health kick. All the guys are on diets; we are all training. Obviously we still like to have a drink, we like to party, but we do our training; health comes first. We used to be very much into get wasted as soon as you wake up, do the show, get more drunk. We have been a little bit more professional about the whole thing now.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, nineteen to twenty-five is a massive difference in a person’s life. You may not realize it at the time, but if you want to take the music career as seriously, you have to do the right thing by yourself, your fans and the band.
James Cassells – Yes, of course. We have seen that and we are aiming toward that. We want to be a serious band, not to our fans but to anyone who watches us. They may say they do not like our music but they are a good band. You have to have the right mindset to become that.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, the one thing that has always stood out about Asking Alexandria is that through all the ups and downs you essentially have sustained the same line-up since the beginning. That is not seen very often with modern bands which have a variety of interchanging members. What do you think has been the key to the band’s chemistry through it all?
James Cassells – Do not get me wrong, there are times I want to kill some of the guys, and I am sure they want to kill me as well, but we always just deal with each other. I think it is because we have gone from teenage life to being the adults we are today. We have been through the shit together and dealt with it, now we are reaping the benefits together. We just make it work. I think a lot of bands become very much that they think they are most important; egos get seriously in the way. Where is with this band everyone knows their place in the band. We can deal with each other. We have been in physical fist fights with each other multiple times, but the next day we wake up with bloody noses and black eyes and say we are mates, it is cool. I think a lot of bands say they are brothers, but you are not really brothers unless you are able to fight and do everything with them.
CrypticRock.com – That is great that you have that ability to do that and stay friends. That is very admirable and shows a deep connection between the band. You recently just were on Mayhem Festival for the second time since 2012. How did your Mayhem Festival experience differ this time around opposed to last time?
James Cassells – It has been a much bigger response. Still, we do this festival to win over fans. There are still a lot of people when we start playing who say, “Who the fuck are these guys?”, “Why the fuck are they playing right before Korn?” Then you start to see, as the set goes on, their minds change and people are bopping their heads and getting it. That was a great experience. The crowds have been a lot bigger this time.
CrypticRock.com – As you said, winning over people, is that challenge something the band relishes in trying to win over people?
James Cassells – Yes, but do not get me wrong, I love it when we play our headlining shows and 1,000’s of people are just there for us, it is insane. It does give you that sort of boost when you think no one gives a fuck about us, but we are going to make them give a fuck about us. We only have thirty-five minutes to do it, so let’s go do it. We do relish in that, we get into that, we like that. It is progress, we are given a tiny bit of time and in that time you are winning over fans. Hopefully the crowd will go and check us out, get our album, or come to another show. It is rewarding for sure.
CrypticRock.com – You want to keep challenging yourself or you are just standing still. Tell me a bit about your musical influences.
James Cassells – That is difficult to pinpoint, I know I am speaking for myself, but all the guys in the band, we do not really, per se, listen to a certain style of music; if it is a good song, it is a good song. That is what I always say. When people say, “If it is not metal it sucks,” I say, “No it does not matter what it is, music is just organized sound. If it sounds good, it is catchy, makes you want to movie, makes you feel happy, sad, if it does something to you, then it is good.” If you look at my iPod you can see everything from Katie Perry, to Suicide Silence, to Slipknot; it is all over the place. Musically, in terms of what I am writing in Asking Alexandria, it is a lot of the Metal bands I have been listening to are like Slipknot and Korn. When I was a kid, that is what I was growing up and listening to and enjoying, but it is very difficult to pinpoint (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that makes perfect sense. Boxing yourself into one musical style is absurd.
James Cassells – Yes, it is totally wrong. Do not get me wrong, I love listening to Metal, I love Metal more probably than other people do. However, you cannot beat putting a bit of Queen and having a good sing along with your mates. I love all sorts of music.
CrypticRock.com – Of course, why limit yourself. My last question for you is pertaining to Horror films. Crypticrock.com covers Rock/Metal and Horror films. I would like to know what are some of your favorite Horror films?
James Cassells – I love Horror movies. My all-time favorite has to be the original Alien (1979). I think when I was younger, when I watched them, they scared the shit out of me and then fear became an obsession. I would say probably one of the most recent Horror films that I think is badass was The Conjuring (2013). I like the Insidious films; I think they are really smart. I saw Oculus (2014), it was ok, really fucked up with a really brutal ending. I kind of like that about Horror films when the ending is not always happy; a bit like some of the Hellraiser films. I think it kind of makes the Horror film a little bit more horrible.
CrypticRock.com – Speaking of Hellraiser, Clive Barker actually announced recently that he will in fact be revisiting the original Hellraiser plot in a new film and Doug Bradley will be on board as Pinhead.
James Cassells – What! I did not hear about that. It will be a whole different ballgame now with how visual effects are now. It is going to be cool.
CrypticRock.com – It should be very exciting. What is your opinion on modern special effects and sometimes the lack of a story in a Horror film?
James Cassells – Yes, that is why I liked films like The Conjuring, it is just scary. It is not just really graphic images. I think all the shock films are really popular because they just make everyone cringe. I just think they are good in a different way. I do like a good Horror film that is just scary.