We Are Harlot: Born To Rock

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It was New Year’s Eve 2010 when Danny Worsnop saw his future roll out in front of him. The transplanted Yorkshireman was at a party in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles, when he bumped in a guy who told him he was a musician too. That’s hardly a coincidence, of course. You can throw a rock anywhere in Hollywood and hit at least half a dozen musicians.

But this guy was different. A guitarist named Jeff George, he was a few years older than Danny, but unusually, they shared the same taste in music: Aerosmith, Kiss, Def Leppard. The titans of rock’n’roll’s stadium-conquering heyday. The kind of bands they just didn’t make any more.

The two men swiftly and enthusiastically bonded and, at some point, one or the other suggested putting together a band. In fairness, the sheer poundage of cocaine they were hoovering up probably helped the process along, but still, by the time the drugs had run out and the party had come to an end, they were adamant that they were going to not just become bandmates, but put old-school 80s rock back on the agenda./o:p

There was just one snag. Danny was the singer in Asking Alexandria, not just one of the most successful British metal bands of the last 10 years, but one of the UK’s most successful metal bands period. He had a full-time job; one that was lucrative to him and everyone around him. There was no way he was going to give that up, or even be allowed to if he wanted to, especially to go and act like he was a member of Mötley Crüe circa 1988. So, for the next four years, the band he and Jeff George put together remained a side-project, albeit one that both of them hoped would get a proper shot at the title one day.

Then, at the end of January this year, all that changed. Asking Alexandria released a statement saying that, after seven years and three albums, Danny Worsnop had left the fold to “pursue other musical interests”. It didn’t take Stephen Hawking to realise those other interests were We Are Harlot./o:p

Today, a couple of months after that surprise decision, there are advance warnings that the singer doesn’t want to dwell on his departure from the band with whom he made his name and his fortune. If it’s not quite the 800lb gorilla in the corner of the well- appointed record company meeting room that Danny and Jeff are currently holed up in, then at the very least, it’s a particularly energetic marmoset ready to fling shit at the first person who brings it up.

So, Danny, is leaving one of the buzziest bands around to head off in a completely different direction the bravest move ever, or the dumbest? There’s a tense pause, and then a laugh.

“Yes!” he fires back. “It’s both. I was having a really good career, making a bunch of money, getting my music out to the world. But I stopped being happy. I had a conversation with someone – I’m not naming names, ’cos they’re still on that side – but they were like, ‘You can keep doing this for the rest of your life, making a bunch of money, but if you’re not happy, it’s not worth anything.’”

Was it a hard decision to make after that?

“No,” comes the emphatic reply. “It was tough to execute, because it took so much time, but it wasn’t a hard decision to make. I was asleep at the time and I just woke up and… [clicks fingers]. The decision was nothing to do with We Are Harlot. It was just a coincidence that I had a second job already.”

Every chair is a rocking chair when Danny’s around

As far as second jobs go, We Are Harlot is a world away from Danny’s (former) main gig. Their eponymous debut album ditches Asking Alexandria’s on-trend, electronica-dabbling metalcore for something that gloriously and shamelessly invokes the spirit of the late 80s. Listen carefully and you can hear the ghosts of Harley-Davidsons revving down the Sunset Strip, cutting through the fog of Aquanet hairspray and drawing the clatter of strippers’ heels on the Hollywood pavement. This is the MTV era retooled for the 21st century.

The thing is, Danny Worsnop isn’t a born-again rock’n’roller. He’s been a rock’n’roller all along. He’s never made a secret of it. It’s just that not everyone chose to look that closely.

“When I was walking onstage with Asking Alexandria in a bunch of fur and a cowboy hat, some people were like, ‘What’s going on? Is this supposed to be sarcastic?’” he laughs. “No, this is just me. Sorry guys. ‘You’re in a heavy metal band. Dress like this!’ No, I’m gonna dress how the fuck I want and go: ‘YEEEAAAHHHH!’”

Today, the 24-year-old is definitely dressed exactly how the fuck he wants. A trendy-shabby patched coat is paired with a pair of artfully distressed jeans. His decidedly unartfully distressed thatch of strawberry blond hair shoots at whatever angle it damn well pleases, and he sports a beard so impressive that it would have your average lumberjack looking on in envy.

Perched on a chair next to him is Jeff George, a man who has played with everyone from ex-Skid Row man Sebastian Bach to Rod Stewart. Jeff has been around the block a few more times than Danny, but he’s no less of a rock’n’roll zealot than his bandmate, not least when it comes to We Are Harlot./o:p

“There’s a lot of sadness in rock right now,” says Jeff. “You hear that stuff: ‘Oh, poor me…’ Fuck, dude, you play rock’n’roll for a living! You should be bouncing off the fucking walls, man. It’s fun.”

“Dude, let’s raise hell!” adds Danny in agreement. “Pick up a fucking guitar. Let’s rock.” At one point during the interview, we ask Danny to draw a pie chart of We Are Harlot’s lyrical themes. The result is a split between sex, making love and drink/drugs. It’s kind of predictable (especially the segment devoted to sex), but it’s also kind of fun. It’s exactly what you’d expect from, for example, Mötley Crüe. “It’s fucking rock’n’roll,” offers Danny.

But what does rock’n’roll actually mean to We Are Harlot? Is it a music? Is it an attitude? Is it a lifestyle?

“It’s all of the above,” fires back Danny. “It’s everything.”

“It’s either in you or it’s not,” adds Jeff. “You can’t fabricate that sort of thing. You can see a band every day trying to be something they’re not.”

“Hell, you can see them on main stages at festivals,” finishes Danny.

Fair enough. But if We Are Harlot know what rock’n’roll is, exactly how rock’n’roll are We Are Harlot? A quick pop quiz rears its head, so we go with it. So lads, obvious question first: have you ever thrown a television out of a hotel room window?

“Yes,” Danny replies instantly, like it is indeed the dumbest question in the world. “In hotel rooms. At our house. It’s fun. It’s usually something you don’t remember doing the next day, though.” “When Danny really wants to watch television, and the television won’t turn on, well, then it’s gotta go,” explains Jeff with a laugh. “And it does come with the repercussion of having to buy a new one the next day.”

OK. Next question. Have either of you shagged more than two women at one time?

Both simultaneously: “Oh yes.”

How many, Danny? “Five.”

Five?! Can you remember their names the next morning?

“No. I don’t even remember their names that night.”

“The weird thing is, there’s a lot of stress in that situation,” explains Jeff. “There’s always one girl you like most in the group, but you can’t give them too much time or you get in trouble with the others. One-on-one is so much more fun, I promise you.”

Last pop quiz question, then. Have you ever injected heroin and woken up in a dumpster?

“No,” replies Danny, before adding: “I’ve never woken up in a dumpster at all. I’ve had sex in some, though.”/o:p

Here’s the thing about Danny in particular, and We Are Harlot in general. For all the rock’n’roll bravado, for all the stories about smoking crack in a bathtub after he ran out of cocaine (“This guy pulled baggies out of his cheeks, and we were, like, ‘YEEEAAHHH!’”) or topping off a booze, Vicodin and heroin binge by offering out the entire audience at a now- infamous Asking gig in Seattle (“I basically had an intervention onstage”), he seems like a smart cookie.

His defiantly against-the-grain approach is a badge of honour to him. There’s a clear sense that he believes in what he’s doing with We Are Harlot. Maybe even more than he believed in what he did with Asking. The $64,000 question is: will other people believe it too? It’s all very well playing to a gallery of eager young scene kids, but getting them to buy into a band that sounds like the music their dads listened to 25 years ago is another matter.

“Yeah, it does have its challenges,” he says, momentarily serious. “But because it’s so different, it might make it easier because we have no competition. There’s nothing to compare it to in terms of success.”

You know that people might view this as a weird vanity project? That you’re playing old man’s music? What if it doesn’t work? What if this falls flat and your old band become even more successful without you?

“It’s…” He momentarily stumbles. “It’s not even something I’m taking into consideration. It’s not an option.” There’s a pause, while he thinks. “Hypothetically, if that was to happen… that’s a bridge I’ll cross when I get to it.” /o:p

What mistakes have you made before that you’re not going to make this time?

“We burnt up too much time,” he answers. “We took too long to try and make We Are Harlot happen. All these battles and stuff… people did not want this band to happen. They did not want us to exist.”

Which people?

“Labels. People with business interests. If someone has their fingers in something and they think you’re going to take away from that thing in any way, they’re going to try and stop it from happening.” He pauses and grins. “Now I’m only fighting myself.”

Is that a hard fight?

“It is.” He grins again. “I’m really good at self-sabotage.”

If nothing else, you have to admire Danny for putting his balls on the line with We Are Harlot; for quitting a cushy job to do something that, on the surface, seems utterly and irredeemably barking. And if it does crash and burn, it will be a result of self-sabotage, drug intake or some other unforeseen occurrence. It certainly won’t be down to any lack of commitment to rock’n’roll.

“This is what I grew up on,” he says emphatically. “This is in my blood. People always associate me with heavy music, which, yes, I did for a long time. But I had to learn that. I was born to do this.”

WE ARE HARLOT IS OUT NOW VIA ROADRUNNER. THE BAND PLAY DOWNLOAD IN JUNE/o:p

The line between rock majesty and rawk parody grows ever slimmer, so which of these lyrics are from We Are Harlot’s ace debut, and which come from our favourite glam rock wallies, Steel Panther? Answers are below – BUT NO CHEATING./o:p

  1. “I wanna love you ’till the end of time/I wanna love you in a 69.” 2. “They got sushi and rice/Lowenbrau is on ice/In the living room they’re playing naked twister and dice.” 3. “She’s not an angel but she takes me away to some place close to heaven.” 4. “I’ve felt these shivers before/Let’s do it ’til we can’t see no more/Give me that love I adore.” 5. “She’s on the prowl, jaws ready to snap/Like a game of cat and a mouse, you’re caught in a trap.” 6. “Hell’s on fire/Burning your body right to the core.”

> We Are Harlot are making rock’n’roll fun > again. Hopefully they’ll find a groove the way Asking Alexandria do – they have > great potential and Danny Worsnop is a really good frontman. I think once he > gets out of his own way, he’ll figure things out and it’ll be something to see.

Answers to Glam Or Sham

  1. STEEL PANTHER 2. STEEL PANTHER 3. WE ARE HARLOT 4. WE ARE HARLOT 5. STEEL PANTHER 6. STEEL PANTHER