Breaking Benjamin are back with a successful new album, Dark Before Dawn and are back out on the road. The tour will be headed to Detroit on Friday, September 25th where the band will be playing a headlining show at The Fillmore along with openers 10 Years and Starset. The tour will also be making a stop in Battle Creek the night before at Kellogg Arena.
In the fall, Breaking Benjamin will be jumping on a tour with Shinedown that will also include Sevendust and Nothing More on different dates.
The Dark Before Dawn album sold more than 140,000 copies in its first week sending it shooting to number one on the charts.
The album is the band’s first since a hiatus in 2010 due to frontman Ben Burnley’s illness that finds him battling daily with chronic pain. The album also finds an all new lineup that Burnley has put together featuring his own musician friends.
Last week, Burnley checked in from the road where he seemed pretty upbeat and overwhelmed by all the support and positivity that he has been seeing from fans and critics.
Examiner: You played a couple of Michigan shows recently and you have the Detroit show coming up and then I think Battle Creek is the night before?
BB: Yeah, I’ll know like the day before. [laughs] You try and try but you just can’t keep track of every single place!
Examiner: How has the tour been going?
BB: It’s going great. I mean we’re just floored by all of the support that we’re getting from the fans and from the media and just how well the album is doing. We’re just really, really blessed and absolutely grateful to everybody that has been so awesome to us.
We’re just more thrilled than ever to be able to be out on the road and playing for everyone. We’re having the most fun that any of us has had in any of our careers and that’s saying a lot because the guitar player that I have now [Jason Rauch] was in a band called Red and they were actually pretty big and are pretty big and have toured and done some huge things so for Jason to say that this is one of the biggest things that he has done with his music career means a lot. Same thing with Keith [Wallen, guitarist] because he was in a band called Adelitas Way and they’ve done some pretty amazing things too.
The new drummer and bass player [Shaun Foist and Aaron Bruch] have done some pretty amazing things too so for everyone to call this the highlight of their careers is pretty cool. That’s because of not only the friendship that we have in the band now but also because of the fans being absolutely so incredible and amazing to us.
Examiner: So you are really clicking as a unit?
BB: Yeah the band before was more so a career type of a decision where I was very limited in the people that I had to play with so I didn’t necessarily pick my friends but picked people that were capable of doing the work. That just leads to friction down the road. You find out that you don’t really have a lot of things in common musically and you find that you don’t share the same vision and find out that you are not on the same page where writing is concerned.
When you have a friendship, it’s usually based off of having things in common really and that equates to musical tastes so it’s not about having the things that you like be similar but having the things you hate be the same and thinking the same things suck. That’s more important than liking the same things because when you think the same things suck then you don’t do things that suck.
Examiner: Having the long break in between tours, did you find that you really missed being out on the road?
BB: Yeah I mean I definitely missed the fans. That is why we are out here on the road. We are out here for them and to make new fans. We give the fans the best we can possibly give them by giving them a sincere performance. When you see us up on stage we want to be there. We are friends and we’re making music as a whole instead of each person kind of performing their part flawlessly. We perform as a band and as a unit.
I think that that is coming through when they see us and it makes it more of a group hangout then you’re going to sit there and I’m going to do this! It’s really stale and I don’t like that. I don’t like being that way and have our show be all pre-drawn where you just basically sit there. We like to have everybody involved and we like to make it more like a party where we are the band that is playing. It’s relaxed but at the same time we take what we do seriously and are extremely passionate about what we do. At the same time, we don’t take it so seriously that the fun is lost.
Examiner: Do you find that the fans send back that same level of passion?
BB: Yes and that’s something that is a gift. We realize that and we are just amazingly appreciative of that gift.
Examiner: How do you decide on a setlist?
BB: Well there is some changes to the band now where there was no one else that could sing before but now we have two singers and we have a lot of technology integrated into the band so we don’t play to any type of recorded track. We do everything live. We use a guitar synthesizer for all of the string parts and all of the choir parts so everything is being played. What it does is free us up to play any Breaking Benjamin song whereas before we were limited in the things we could do because some songs were designed to have multiple vocals and there are some songs that are designed to have three guitar players and string parts or whatever the case may be. Now we are able to do any song without any limitations.
We like to change our setlist a lot and add things in and take things out. We like to rotate things. We always play the same Breaking Benjamin radio singles but the songs in between we like to add new and different things to keep it fresh for us.
I’ve always loved playing in front of the fans and have always given 110% in my performance but now I’m actually really enjoying being up there with my band. Now I am enjoying both; playing for my fans and playing with my band. I actually want to play different things and play as long of a set as I can and I want to do things that are fun and interesting and change it up. Before it was more like this is what the setlist is and it was the same thing every night and I would play only as long as they wanted us to and now all of that has changed because I respect and literally love the people that I share the stage with. It’s an amazing experience. It’s just the way that being in a band should be.
Examiner: Is that sense of enjoyment what made you want to come back and keep doing it?
BB: Oh absolutely! I wouldn’t be here playing at all if people weren’t attached to this or people didn’t get what I was doing and didn’t like it. I’m one of those guys who has a very specific view on things so if you’re in a band and you don’t care about your fans or care about your music then don’t play on the radio stations. Just stay in your basement and play.
If you’re in a band and trying to get yourself out there and have people listen to your music then you should care about what they say and think and you should do anything that you can to accommodate yourself but consider your fans as well. I’ve always been extremely fan-driven as far as my entire career is concerned and I think very strongly that my lyrics and the way that I’ve sung things with feeling and the way that the song comes together with the writing is what has been able to find that fan attachment to the band. It’s relatable and not just a guitar riff here and there. Those kind of things are really just sprinkles on top of the cake.
Examiner: You’ve become a source of inspiration for other people who are dealing with chronic pain issues. What would you like to say to those people?
BB: Well first off, I feel for anyone that has to suffer and all I can say is that I understand 100%. Take it for what it is. It’s not a contest about who suffers more. Suffering is suffering and we all get through it in our own way.
As far as I’m concerned with my own suffering, I would rather have anything else than what I suffer with. It’s awful and it’s like death and sometimes I think I would rather have a terminal illness than have what I have. I mean I’d rather have whatever part of me that is not functioning restored and have something else even if it is terminal. But for those people out there who do suffer, I feel your pain and I know what it’s like to go through and we just do what we do and we keep on keeping on.
One thing that it has done for me is that it strengthens my will and my being as a human being. Obviously, anyone who has had things taken away from them appreciate life more and I’m no exception to that but mostly to anybody else out there that deals with pain and suffering, you’re not alone. That’s all the comfort that we really need. Not that I want people to suffer, but there are people out there suffering and it’s nice to know that you are at least not alone in that and that there is support and love and comfort. If you direct your anger in the right way and your life in the right way, you can strengthen your will beyond measure from every single moment that you have to suffer. That’s what I’ve done with myself.
Examiner: And you’ve found a way to keep doing what you love.
BB: Yeah I mean I’ve surrounded myself with the right people and put myself in a loving environment and not a corporate, uncaring environment. I have the best family, the best fans, the best band members and all of those things makes every little bit of suffering worthwhile.
Examiner: What has made this new album stand out for you?
BB: Well this album was my favorite album of all not only to listen to but also to do because I pretty much didn’t involve anybody who didn’t need to be involved and didn’t need to be around to take credit for things that they shouldn’t be credited for. I pretty much did things on this album that I’ve done for everyone of our albums but there was just nobody else there to take the credit for it so it was an awesome experience to work on my own terms in my own time and in my own space.
It’s also awesome too because there’s no undue and unjust things happening behind the scenes. I produced this one myself and I feel very strongly that in producing the other Breaking Benjamin albums I went un-credited. To me that’s wrong but that’s the truth of it. Musically this was the funnest to write and to work in the studio with the people in the band now. So it was just the most amazing experience that I’ve ever had doing an alum in my life.
Examiner: And seeing that the album has been so successful must feel really good. That’s your baby out there.
BB: Yeah well they are all my babies but it’s just nice that people can see now who was really behind all of it all along. If this album is like all of the other Breaking Benjamin albums then you know that it was the same person creating them all along. I mean if you have two cakes and they taste exactly the same then it’s likely the same guy made them both.
Examiner: Is there a song on the album you feel most personal about?
BB: Well I think they are all personal. I write every single lyric and on this one in particular, I’ve written 97% of the music with the other guys filling in a couple of the spots. So they are all extremely personal. Not only on this album but on every album as well.
Examiner: Have you found that one song is translating the best live?
BB: Well “Failure” has been doing really well and “Angels Fall” has been doing well. I mean it’s mostly the singles. We have a lot more songs on the new album that we are going to be putting into our set so those are the only two I’ve been able to really gauge and they are doing really well. People are really responding and singing along and we really appreciate the response.
Examiner: Looking out on the music landscape, is there anyone in particular right now that you’d like to jump on a tour with? Maybe someone newer to the scene?
BB: Well I’m actually on tour right now with bands that I really, really admire. As far as new bands one is called Young Guns and one is called Starset. Then we are going to be going out with 10 Years and we are really looking forward to that.
We will also heading out with Sevendust and I’ve really loved Sevendust for a long time so I’m looking forward to touring with them. Those have really caught my interest. I mean there is some music out there, and I’m not going to mention any names, but there’s music that I’ve noticed lately that has been able to be really cheesy and a lot of bands who are just corny and I’m just not into it. There’s a handful of things that I am into and Starset, Young Guns and 10 Years are among them.
Examiner: Alongside Sevendust you will be out with Shinedown and Nothing More this fall. What is the plan after that?
BB: I’m not sure what will be going on after that. It’s a little ways out but we will be touring for as long as we can tour. We’re going to just tour our butts off and I would love to try to get overseas for the first time ever after we are done with our cycle of the States. So even after we would normally be done with touring I’d like to continue and get on a boat and go overseas because I’ve been around in this band since 2002 so it’s been like thirteen years so it’s no secret now that I don’t fly. Anybody who doesn’t know that somehow missed interviewing me in the last twenty years! [laughing] Yeah so I still don’t fly but I’m really interested in taking a boat and going overseas.
We have a lot of fans who contact us over social media who are from abroad and there are actually a lot of fans who travel thousands and thousands of miles to the United States to see the band and they all tell me how strong of a fan base we have over there. I really, really love our fans so much and I really want to get over there. Even though it will cost me money to go and I won’t make any money to go, I just want to be able to do that and stay in touch with the fans. That’s what it’s all about for me. Before I left it up to my label and my management to try to put something together to go overseas and the ball was always dropped. They never really took the initiative to take the steps to get me on a boat so now I’m taking the initiative myself and making it happen to make sure I get over there.
Examiner: When you started out what was the goal and do you feel you’ve reached that?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. When it started in the beginning I wanted to put myself out there as a person through music and I think I’ve definitely achieved that. As far as success is concerned, there is always a higher level to get to. So I always have the drive and the motivation to be as successful as I’m meant to be. I’m a go with the flow kind of a guy but at the same time I like success just as much as everybody else as long as it’s the right kind of success, which is unforced and sincere.
Examiner: And what is the biggest goal now?
BB: Moving forward, I’m just extremely excited and proud to be playing with whom I’m playing with. I can’t wait to be writing and creating things with them from the ground up and allowing them to write their songs and just letting them shine as artists. There’s been a lot of confusion in interviews that I’ve done in the past. The band has had very minor contributions in the past whereas it would be like a riff or a bridge or a small verse part in only a few songs. So when I say that the band has never had another songwriter before, I mean that no one has ever played me a whole song with lyrics and all of the parts already done. Nobody’s ever done that but I have done that with most of the material so moving forward I’m really excited to let these guys write entire songs for the band and to see them perform their songs because their styles fit so well with Breaking Benjamin.
It doesn’t have to be molded into something that quote unquote “works”. It doesn’t have to be little parts that I have to change to fit into my existing song. We don’t write that way and we don’t work that way because we are supposed to be together. It’s again, that simple idea that we all think the same things suck. We are all on the same page so all of the ideas that I hear from these guys are great ideas. In the past I’ve had to look like an a**hole because I’ve constantly had to shoot down ideas that I just wasn’t feeling and weren’t right for the band.
It’s like if someone paints your house a color you hate and you go up and say man, you shouldn’t have painted it that color and you come across as a a**hole because you don’t like the color of your own house. That’s just kind of how I draw the comparison. If you painted the house the right color to begin with, we wouldn’t be having this argument about it so you basically have to surround yourself with people who are going to paint your house the right color. I’m just really excited now. When these guys send me ideas in my email and I open them and listen to them, they just take me to a place that sounds like Breaking Benjamin. It takes me to an amazing place.