April 26, 2018 Interview – Benjamin Burnley of Breaking Benjamin Talks Ember
Northeast Pennsylvania’s Breaking Benjamin have had a lengthy career – coming up on two decades, in fact – in an industry suffering from some serious ADHD. With albums ranging from their stellar, 2002 debut, Saturate, to 2006 fan-favorite, Phobia, to 2015’s superb Dark Before Dawn, the band has consistently released amazing Hard Rock material for their legion of dedicated fans. A Multi-Platinum act with endless touring experience beneath their feet, Breaking Benjamin are a musical institution unto themselves.
On April 13, 2018, Breaking Benjamin introduced their incendiary latest, Ember. The band’s sixth studio album and second with their current lineup, Ember is a collection that is absolutely worth discussing. Luckily, we recently sat down with Vocalist, Guitarist, and Founding Member Benjamin Burnley to discuss all things Ember, songwriting, special guest vocalist Derek Hough (yes, that Derek Hough!), spring festivals, and the band’s upcoming, summer, co-headliner with Five Finger Death Punch. Oh yeah, and Star Wars!
CrypticRock.com – You have had a lengthy career with Breaking Benjamin, approaching twenty years now. What is one of your earliest memories of the band where you thought, ‘okay, we have something special here?’
Benjamin Burnley – I think around the year 2000 or 2001, we recorded a 5-song EP – we only made 2,000 of ‘em – and they sold-out before we were even done recording it, because we took pre-orders for it. I think at that moment we knew we were on to something.
CrypticRock.com – Oh wow, that is awesome! Now it is nearly two decades later and your newest release is Ember, which has been out for a couple weeks now. How are your fans reacting to the new music?
Benjamin Burnley – Everything so far has been going really great: everybody’s really supportive and everybody’s been really awesome. We play a couple of songs live and they’ve gone over really well, so we’re really stoked about it.
CrypticRock.com – It is a great album, so there is no surprise there. Now, what does the album title “Ember” mean to you?
Benjamin Burnley – We chose that title because it can be like the beginning of something or the end of something. We like to keep things vague.
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) It works well, though, and the album’s cover is very cool. This time around, everyone in the band helped write the new songs, which is a change from how you have worked in the past. What did that bring to the album and how did that change the process for you, personally?
Benjamin Burnley – Well, I’ve written two albums completely myself, and, wait, no, I’m sorry, three albums by myself, and then the rest of them I wrote probably 97% of. So, it was nice to have other people write because I’m kind of over it, but I wrote a lot on this one, as well. Just not the whole thing.
CrypticRock.com – So, you are not a control freak who has to have a hand in everything? (Laughs)
Benjamin Burnley – No, I’ve never been a control freak. I just was the only one that ever really wrote songs for the band; nobody else did it. So, if I didn’t do it, then there wouldn’t be any songs. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) That makes perfect sense. So, where did you find yourself turning for lyrical inspiration this time around?
Benjamin Burnley – As far as the lyrics are concerned, I really don’t know what the inspiration is: they just come to me. All the music that I write, I really don’t know what the inspiration is. If I knew that, I would do that all the time. If I knew where it came from, if I knew how to make it happen, I would make it happen all the time. It just happens! I wish I knew where it came from.
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) Understandable: it is a writer thing! Do you have any favorite lyrics and/or songs on the album?
Benjamin Burnley – No, because you put so much work into every single one of ‘em that it’s really hard to pick a favorite of everything you’ve worked the same on, put the same amount into everything.
CrypticRock.com – That is completely understandable. Do you have a song that you especially look forward to injecting into the live set?
Benjamin Burnley – No, no, they’re all fun.
CrypticRock.com – Okay, that is very fair. So, on the album you have a guest vocalist and it is not someone anyone would expect – Derek Hough of Dancing with the Stars. How did he become involved with Breaking Benjamin and “The Dark of You?”
Benjamin Burnley – He had done a cover of another song that we have called “Ashes of Eden,” and he had posted it on social media just as a passion project of his; he didn’t do it for any other reason than that he wanted to. I guess he’s been a fan of the band for a long time? So, he had posted that and I saw it because he tagged me – you know he tagged everybody in it – and I was really impressed.
He has a very great voice, he’s really great to work with. He’s a really, super-nice guy. He and I just kind of chit-chatted here and there, and I told him he did a great job on that, on “Ashes.” Then, when I was doing the new album, I had that song and I basically said that, I thought to myself that it’d be something really cool to do together. So, I reached out to him, sent the song to him, and he was like, ‘Oh, hell yeah! Let’s do this!’
CrypticRock.com – That’s awesome! The song is really great, and he did a tremendous job with his part. Any chance that he will come out and perform with the band at a live show?
Benjamin Burnley – He said he would and I’ll hold him to it! (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – Fans will love that! Now, speaking of live shows, you are out on the road right now, doing select headliners, and then you are set to play at many of the major spring festivals coming up. Do you do anything consciously different when you are playing a festival vs. one of your own gigs?
Benjamin Burnley – No, I mean, they’re all the same: we just do the same thing no matter how many people or where we’re playing at. The only thing about a festival is that it’s kind of stow and go, you know? You gotta set up real fast and tear down real fast. So, that parts a bit different but as far as our actual performances, it’s all the same to us. We just put on the show we put on whether there’s one person or ten-thousand people, or whatever.
CrypticRock.com – So, you don’t alter your setlist at all?
Benjamin Burnley – Well, it depends on how long they give us.
CrypticRock.com – Okay. This summer you’re co-headlining a tour with Five Finger Death Punch, along with Nothing More and Bad Wolves for support. What should fans expect from this package?
Benjamin Burnley – Well, I haven’t seen Five Finger Death Punch’s show, so I don’t know what they can expect from that. (Laughs) As far as we’re concerned, you know, we just go up and be ourselves; we’re not really into being rock stars or anything like that. We’re just regular guys that have a really awesome job, so that’s what we do – we just have fun on-stage. We just be sincere, be ourselves.
CrypticRock.com – The band did a senstational job on The Stage World Tour with Avenged Sevenfold just a few months ago.
Benjamin Burnley – Thanks! Yeah, it was good, it was fun. It was one of the best tours I ever did!
CrypticRock.com – It was a truly great tour! Now, on that tour, you did not have any of the new material in your set. Have you worked it in now?
Benjamin Burnley – Yeah, just a couple.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent. It was surprising to see “Polyamorous” not performed. Has that song been cut from your setlist or does it just come and go?
Benjamin Burnley – Yeah, I mean, we don’t have it in our set now either. It’s kind of one of our older, older, older songs, and so we’d rather play something new, you know? We’ll throw it in every now and then; it’s not permanently gone. We just like to change it up a little bit. If the songs kind of get old to us, we’ll kind of change it up some.
CrypticRock.com – Naturally,, after so many years of playing any one song you need a break. Now, also on the Avenged Sevenfold tour, you did a random medley that involved some cover songs, as well as some Star Wars. Will you toss something random out like that this time around?
Benjamin Burnley – (Laughs) Probably the same thing!
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) Hey, if it works, it works! Clearly, you are a Star Wars fan?
Benjamin Burnley – Yeah, big time. I love Star Wars!
CrypticRock.com – There is something wrong with you if you don’t love Star Wars!
Benjamin Burnley – I agree!
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) Okay, so you last spoke to CrypticRock in 2015 and at that time you said that you are a fan of old-school Horror and some of the Horror TV series out there. Have you seen anything recently that you really enjoyed?
Benjamin Burnley – I like The Mist. That’s a TV series, not the movie. Although I like the movie too, but I’m talking about the TV series. Of course, Stranger Things – I don’t know if that counts as Horror. Then there’s a movie that I want to see called A Quiet Place.