August 19, 2015 Interview – Benjamin Burnley of Breaking Benjamin
Fortitude can often define one’s character when nothing seems to be going right. Possessing that inner strength, singer/songwriter, and leader of Hard Rock band Breaking Benjamin, Benjamin Burnley, has overcome a great deal in the past ten years of life. Bidding farewell to alcohol, overcoming internal issues with former bandmates, and growing as a human being, Burnley relaunched Breaking Benjamin in 2014 after a lengthy hiatus. Making a big splash with their 2002 debut album Saturate, followed by 2004’s We Are Not Alone, it would be 2006’s Phobia which would launch the band to the highest of ranks in the Hard Rock world. Having a slew of singles that broke the top 10 in charts, putting on a live performance that bleeds emotion, and possessing a sincerity listeners can relate to, the return of Breaking Benjamin has been a welcomed one. Recently we caught up with Burnley for a personal look into the resurrection of the band, working on their newest album Dark Before Dawn, taking nothing for granted, and more.
CrypticRock.com – You began Breaking Benjamin some seventeen years ago. From that time, you released the debut album Saturate in 2002 until the present day, the band became one of the most successful Hard Rock bands in the modern scene. Personal struggles aside, What has your musical journey been like?
Benjamin Burnley – I have just been really grateful and thankful for fans that have connected to the music and allow me to continue making it. I have always been a songwriter since I first picked up the guitar, it is in my blood. I am really thankful that I get to do it, that it makes people happy, and it helps people to relate to things they might be struggling with. It has purpose for me because it helps others, and that to me is what it is all about.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, you have been very open and honest about your personal struggles through the years. You have triumphed those issues being sober since 2007. Do you think that perhaps all you have been through and faced helps you have a better appreciation for this gift to be able to create music and be successful at it?
Benjamin Burnley – Yes, definitely, and I have expressed that in many interviews. All of the struggles and the things that I have been through personally and professional have definitely made an impact on me in the sense that I take absolutely nothing for granted. I am more grateful than I have ever been to be able to be doing what I am doing with who I should be doing it with. I am really thankful that I can continue with this because it is my life’s blood.
CrypticRock.com – Of course, that is completely understandable. Breaking Benjamin did in fact go on hiatus for a few years following the release of 2009’s Dear Agony. Without having to rehash all the ugly issues that unfolded, did you know in your heart that Breaking Benjamin would eventually be back?
Benjamin Burnley – Yes, I did. I knew in my hear that Breaking Benjamin would be back. I knew that if I ever were to write or do anything else, that it would sound exactly like Breaking Benjamin. I had no doubt that justice would prevail, and it did, and I am grateful for that.
CrypticRock.com – Fans are very excited to see the band back, obviously, and the band is back and with a strong new lineup. You have been performing with these guys for the past two years now. How comfortable are you with this new configured team?
Benjamin Burnley – These are all guys that are friends of mine.We were not put together by rehearsal sessions, audition teams, or anything like that. We were brought together by friendship. It just so happened that they are extremely talented musicians aside from being my friends, so it just made sense to bring on who is in the band now, not only because of their talent, but because of their personalities. We have a really great chemistry because we were friends first and not because of the band. We were friends in life first.
CrypticRock.com – Well that certainly helps dramatically when you have a good relationship with people. Obviously being able to perform live had to help with chemistry prior to going into the studio. Now you return with Dark Before Dawn in 2015. What was the writing and recording process like this time around?
Benjamin Burnley – I produced it myself and wrote about 95% of it. I reached out to Jasen Rauch and the whole band to fill in some gaps. I had the material there, but I was not 100% excited about the little pieces that I had. Rather than work on that and try to do everything myself, I decided to try and focus on writing the rest of the lyrics for the songs and ask the band to kind of fill in the musical gaps I had just because I knew that I could utilize them for that. Jasen got back to me first with a couple of things. He wrote a guitar riff in the song called “Defeated,” and I wrote the rest. He wrote the intro and outro for the songs “Dark” and “Dawn.” He wrote the riff to a song called “Never Again,” and we both wrote the bridge to that song. Everything else I had already written before the guys came on board. The writing process as far as that is concerned is not really different to any other record we have done.
As far as making it and producing it, I really did not do anything above and beyond anything that I have done on prior albums. I took it upon myself to do it myself in my studio. The whole process from start to finish was really following the guidelines that I had dealt with previously. I just had everybody that was necessary be there and it was the best experience I have ever had making an album. I feel it is our best work to date and fans are really digging it and connecting with it. It is just going to show that the Breaking Benjamin sound is what it has always been.
CrypticRock.com – The record is very strong from start to finish. Much like Breaking Benjamin’s previous work, the tracks are filled with emotion; some dark feelings, some hopeful, it is a good balance. With that said, was it a therapeutic release for you to finally get this material out there after everything that has transpired in the past few years?
Benjamin Burnley – Yes, definitely. I am just glad I am able to continue, express my art, and do it in a way that kind of shows people what the band is, and what the production behind it always was, because this does not sound different to anything that I have done before as far as a music quality standpoint is concerned. Hopefully it will show people that this is what makes the band what it is.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it does show that. One of the aspects about this record is that it seems, on a lot of the tracks, you are using a little more of the aggressive vocal style that you may have used in previous records a little more this time around. Did you want to bring back more of an aggressive vocal in certain areas?
Benjamin Burnley – I think that, basically, the songs itself needed that. If the song calls for that, then I basically let the song tell me what it needs. It just so happened that the songs I had written were all calling for that, I won’t try and make it what it is not naturally supposed to be, so, to me, it was just the songs needed that.
CrypticRock.com – That is understandable, you want to go with the natural feel of the songs. No record you have ever done seems forced at all, it seems very natural.
Benjamin Burnley – Exactly, if the songs calls for it, if it is telling me, I’ll start the song, but then they kind of take on a life of their own. Sometimes it will be obvious that songs’ vocals need a certain part, so I will do what I can to facilitate what it needs.
CrypticRock.com – That is totally understandable. One of the strongest points of Breaking Benjamin is perhaps your live show. Since the band has returned and you are playing live shows now for over a year, I could tell first hand from being at a show it is an amazing experience. Everyone is really ecstatic to see the band live and they are ecstatic to see your happiness on stage. What is it like for you when you get up there and see this overwhelming positive energy coming from the crowd?
Benjamin Burnley – It is indescribable. It is so amazing, there are no words to describe how amazing it is. We are just humbled and grateful that we are able to be up there and doing that. It is a give-and-take, and very reciprocal and symbiotic relationship between crowds and the band. Now it feels more sincere and organic than ever.We are all just in such a great place in our minds and our playing. Being there to play for people, trying to do what we can to make people happy, and bring them great music, it is just a blessing we are all able to do that.
CrypticRock.com – One aspect of a band’s live show is you can tell when an artist is really into it and when they may not be into it . Yourself and Breaking Benjamin really project this feeling that you are very excited to be doing what you are doing, and you put all your heart into it. Fans really do connect with that.
Benjamin Burnley – Yes, that is what I mean when I say the sincerity of it. It is sincere, true, and something that I definitely think projects to the fans. Because we are all in such a great place now, we really want to be where we are at, it is showing. We have the fans to thank, for us to even be able to come back and play for them, because without them, we would be absolutely nothing.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, it is true, and it is wonderful you have that outlook. You are recently a new father. First and foremost, congratulations. With the resurrection of the band, a new album, and touring, life seems to be going wonderful for you. With that said, how has becoming a father changed your perception on life?
Benjamin Burnley – It is the same sort of answers that everybody else gives. There is something beyond yourself that you care about more than anything in the universe. I am no different than anybody else. My son is the most important thing to me in the entire universe and I’ll shred the universe apart myself for him (laughs). It is a sense of love that you do not have with anything else. I love my wife, I love my band members, I love my crew, but in no way near how I love my son. It puts you in a different place, and I do not really know how else to explain it other than parents out there that are like, “I know exactly how they feel, because I feel the exact same way about my kids.”
CrypticRock.com – Very true. Being that you have your family and you are touring in support of the new record, being on the road can sometimes be strenuous on the body. Furthermore, being away from home can be difficult. How do you manage being on the road and away from the family?
Benjamin Burnley – With the exception of this acoustic tour, for everything else my wife and son come and travel with me. I am always there and we are always together.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear. It definitely makes things a lot easier for yourself when you do not have to miss your family so much.
Ben Burnley – Yes, I am not good without my wife and son, they are a part of me. If I can bring them, I am going to.
CrypticRock.com – Completely understood. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers all aspects of music as well as Horror films. If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Benjamin Burnley – Yes, I am an old school Horror fan. I was a fan of all Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and I love them all. I love The Thing (1982), and new ones too. The last movie I saw – well it is not a movie, but I am really into the series The Strain, which is a show on FX about Vampires.
CrypticRock.com – There has been a lot of great things said about that series.
Benjamin Burnley –Yes it is pretty cool. One of my favorite movies of all times is The Lost Boys (1987), just the first one though, not the other ones. As far as newer ones, I cannot really remember good ones, I only remember the ones I have seen like 1,000 times. All the A Nightmare On Elm Street movies, there was an old movie from like the ’80s called Critters (1986), Ghoulies (1984), and Ghoulies II (1988). The original Poltergeist (1982) was a great movie too. The second one is not bad either. I am into more of the older sort of Horror movies just because they had a certain character about them. The new ones are pretty cool too. I did not mind the new The Thing (2011). I thought it had some pretty good special effects in it. There are a few others too that have slipped my mind right now, but I am definitely into Horror.
CrypticRock.com – That is great. You mentioned some great films right there. You are right, there is something about the atmosphere in a lot of the older Horror films that cannot be replaced.
Benjamin Burnley – Yes, for us harkening back to the Horror movies in the ’80s and late ’70s, it was sort of the same thing that as our parents harkening back to the Horror movies of the ’50s and ’60s that we picked up; like campy, kitsch, and cheesy, so it is kind of our generation’s version of that. Films have a certain catena about them, and when it is a Horror film, it is more because you cannot really see every high definition detail when someone gets their arm cut off, it kind of looks like it was done on a home camera, and it makes it even more eerie.