“There can’t be success without Failure!” This is a phrase that Benjamin Burnley, founder and lead singer of the Philadelphia-based rock band Breaking Benjamin says, often referring to the song Failure, one of their biggest hits from the 2015 album Dark Before Dawn.
Since returning from a hiatus in 2015, Breaking Benjamin has been going stronger than ever with their new album Ember released earlier this year and currently on a co-headlining tour with Five Finger Death Punch, Ft. Bad Wolves and Nothing More. In 2017 they did their first ever acoustic tour followed by another tour with Avenged Sevenfold and Bullet For My Valentine. Breaking Benjamin has also joined forces with Music Gives to St. Jude and they have been making a huge impact with children across the United States.
Burnley (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Jason Rauch (lead guitar), Keith Wallen (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Aaron Bruch (bass, backing vocals) and Shaun Foist (drums) clearly have an infinite level of creative chemistry that is emerging out of the embers of the dark. It is no secret that Breaking Benjamin has had their share of ups and downs with the constant line-up changes and most influentially, Ben’s health struggles. At the end of the day, Breaking Benjamin has finally become what Burnley had envisioned from the start: A band. We sat down with Burnley to converse about the whirlwind of amazing things they have been up to since our interview with him in 2015 and as before, he was real and up front about his life both personally and musically.
“Ember is different than our other albums because it was a heavier side of Breaking Benjamin and the other guys in the band did a lot of writing on it. I am very happy with how it came out and the reception we have gotten on it. What is different about the new album is that it is the first one where I didn’t have to write the whole thing. When we did Dark Before Dawn I had already written the album and then the guys came on board and we never looked back.” While Ember is a heavier album in comparison to their previous records, probably the most underrated yet standout song on the album is an eerie ballad titled The Dark Of You which features Dancing With The Stars regular Derek Hough on background vocals. We asked Burnley what it was like to work with Hough and how this came to be. “Derek had done a cover of Ashes Of Eden and we saw the video so we knew we had to contact him. We were about ready to record The Dark Of You when the lightbulb went off in my head and I decided he would be an amazing fit to sing this with me. It turned out even better than I had anticipated and I couldn’t be happier. It was such a great collaboration and I would do it again in a heartbeat” Burnley divulges.
Breaking Benjamin has really reached a seemingly deeper level of creativity and the potential to have an impact further beyond what they have already done. After doing their first acoustic tour last fall, Breaking Benjamin is now delivering their heaviest set to date as they tour with Five Finger Death Punch. They outwardly and effortlessly execute any endeavor while remaining true to Burnley’s vision in juxtaposition with incorporating new things into their music. Burnley doesn’t think of himself as a frontman, but rather as an equal partner in the group wihch is one thing we rarely hear of in the music industry where egos run the show. He prefers to remain humble and to let others shine alongside him. We asked Burnley about the thought process and their experience doing their acoustic show which also featured bassist Aaron Bruch and rhythm guitarist Keith Wallen singing main vocals on some of the songs and what inspired them to do it this way. “When I was searching for new members back in 2015 prior to recording Dark Before Dawn I was adamant about picking guys that could be additional singers in the band. Not like a bass player who can sing or a guitar player who can sing. I wanted a singer that played bass and a singer that played guitar. There is a huge difference believe it or not. These guys were frontmen in their own bands and I felt it was important to have that. “When it comes to recording harmonies the backup parts can be harder than the main vocals” Burnley admits. “So when we decided to do an acoustic show this became even more important because you can’t wing it at an acoustic show. I was confident because I knew I finally had put together a group of guys who knew what they were doing and are just as talented as I am and at times even more. I couldn’t let them hide their talent any more than I could hide mine. There was no reason why they shouldn’t be able to come out and show the world. Talent like theirs is meant to be shared. Breaking Benjamin was never intended to become the Benjamin Burnley show. Just because my name is in the title doesn’t mean I have to be front and center all of the time. That is why I have them sing at every show. Not just in the acoustic sets but the electric shows as well.”
The only real difference where the acoustic and the electric aspect are concerned is that you can’t fake your way through an acoustic show and you can’t rely on effects according to Burnley. Having attended both the acoustic show in Anaheim last October and their Irvine show in July, it is abundantly clear that Breaking Benjamin’s fans love them no matter what they do and the band shows just how versatile they can be while maintaining the connection with the crowd in any setting. In the grand scheme of things, Breaking Benjamin is one of the best, if not the best live band around. Burnley allows himself to be completely vulnerable and open on stage with fans. Burnley started to go more in depth about the shows and share more about the inspiration behind the acoustic tour last year. “We really enjoy doing small shows sometimes because they are just fun and low pressure. It’s just us being raw and vulnerable but it also helps us to become tighter as a band. Since there aren’t any effects, we have nothing to hide behind. If we mess up, we can’t cover it up like you can at an electric show. It just feels more like we are playing in someone’s living room and hanging out with everyone” Burnley admits.
One thing everyone can agree on is that Burnley has always been an open book to his fans. His lyrics, in interviews, and on stage he is genuinely authentic in how he communicates. Apart from his astounding talent, Burnley is a humble person and perhaps that is why fans connect with Breaking Benjamin on such a grand level. In an ego driven industry, it can become a challenge to stay humble and remember who you were before the success of all the albums and the tours. Burnley traces it to being a personality trait. “I am the same person I would be if I worked at Pizza Hut. I think a lot of bands let success go to their heads and it changes them, but I never could see myself that way or be that way. I just stay the same and it doesn’t make a difference whether we are in a band or not, we are just lucky to have the job we have and to play music for a living.” It is also a bonus when you can tour with other bands who have that same veritable quality and Burnley wastes no time expressing gratitude for bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet For My Valentine and Five Finger Death Punch to name a few. “When we played with Avenged, they just made us feel so welcome. They are seriously some of the most real people we have ever toured with.”
We asked Burnley to name the craziest thing that ever happened to them on tour. “Well, I don’t think I should mention the craziest moment we have ever had but there is one time I can say was the funniest moment” Burnley laughs. “I think it was during Rock On The Range and we were legitimately locked in a trailer. There was no way out! It was one of those trailers for support and of course they are out in all kinds of weather so things start to happen. Well, the handle broke and the doorknob must have broke too because we kept turning it and it just kept spinning around but nothing happened. We actually ended up having to climb out of a really small window on the side of the trailer. By then there was a bit of a crowd surrounding and recording us instead of helping us” Burnley concludes. “It was so funny. I will never forget it.”
Burnley has never shied away from talking about his health problems that caused him to take a hiatus. When we spoke to him in 2015 he was still searching for answers he wasn’t getting, and sadly his circumstances haven’t changed. What has changed is his way of thinking about it and dealing with the symptoms. “My mindset has gotten better and my willpower has gotten stronger. You can’t live your life in bed wondering what’s wrong with you. That isn’t what life is all about. Life is for living and in all truthfulness you could be totally healthy and walk out your front door and get hit by a car” Burnley opens up. “I spent many years in bed trying to figure out what the problem was and afraid to do things because I didn’t know how my body would react. I just decided one day that I couldn’t live like that anymore. That I need to live life and keep going. I don’t have a choice other than to keep going. Life goes on if I have the symptoms or not so might as well do what I want.” Music has been a saving grace for Burnley and it is pretty safe to say that most people would concur they have the same relationship with music. With everything from Cyndi Lauper to The Beatles and Nirvana on his iTunes, Burnley finds solstice and inspiration in all genres of music and incorporates all of those elements into his own music. Admittedly, Burnley doesn’t listen to his own music, he considers himself to be too critical of his work as many artists are.
Those who have been to one of Breaking Benjamin’s shows should be familiar with their Imperial March Medley and Burnley’s Kylo Ren Lightsaber themed drums (sorry Star Trek fans)! We asked Burnley, a well voiced Star Wars fan to express his love for the franchise with us. “I actually like talking about Star Wars more than I like talking about my own band” he jokes. “No, but I didn’t really care for the prequels. I love the new films and the things they have been coming out with though. I think they are done really well and I have enjoyed what Disney brings to the table on those movies. Kylo Ren is probably one of my favorites and the most iconic from the new films. I am just a big fan of Star Wars as a whole” Burnley shares with enthusiasm. With the franchise’s composer John Williams retiring, maybe Burnley will get an opportunity to expand his talents into film scoring. Why not? Didn’t Oingo Boingo’s frontman Danny Elfman write and compose all the music for Tim Burton’s films? Anything is possible.
Breaking Benjamin is one of those bands who people will remember and still be listening to 30 years from now. It could be their endless catalog of hits or their powerful live show. One thing is for sure, Burnley has formed a supergroup and hopefully this will be the permanent line-up for Breaking Benjamin. Burnley ends the interview with reaffirming his gratitude for the fans and for the support of everyone. “It allows us to keep going and we are really thankful for that.”
Breaking Benjamin have teamed up with Music Gives to St. Jude Kids. While proceeds of their album sales during their shows will go to the cause, you can also donate and read more about it here: https://breakingbenjamin.com/news/breaking-benjamin-and-music-gives-to-st-jude-kids/ . They will continue touring with Five Finger Death Punch throughout the U.S. with more dates coming up in the fall and throughout the end of 2018 along with music festivals and more visits to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital locations.
Breaking Benjamin is a band that truly makes a difference with their musical and personal inspirations.