Music Times had the chance to chat with rockers Breaking Benjamin about its new lineup and new album Dark Before Dawn (available June 23) at the Rock On The Range festival this weekend. We tried not to Saturate (see what we did there?) the conversation with questions aimed specifically at frontman Benjamin Burnley but things swing that way anyhow. He and his bandmates discussed current single "Failure," leeches, covering Weezer and Ed Wood movies.
Music Times: When you were looking to rebuild Breaking Benjamin, what was the though process? Did you have a shift in dynamics from your previous work?
Benjamin Burnley: No, not at all. I'm not interested in changing the stable sound of the band or my writing process, or anything like that at all. I hate when bands change their sound that's become beloved to me, so I don't want to do that with my own band. As far as these guys are concerned, we were all friends prior. We always wanted to work together prior and when the opportunity arose it was really a no-brainer to get every single guy that's here with me now to do this all together collectively.
From you guys' perspective, was there any nerves stepping into an already very successful band?
Shaun Foist (drummer): Oh absolutely. The bar's already set so high...he's got so many albums that have already gone platinum and gold and he's played really well in the past so we had to do well.
BB: Don't mess up!
SF: Yeah, "don't mess up."
Looking at the last few albums, you've worked a lot with [producer] David Bendeth but on this one you [Burnley] stepped up and produced it yourself. What was the idea there?
BB: Well, again, I think that I put in just as much work on this one as I had on previous ones. Now I've just kinda taken the initiative to claim credit where credit's due. David definitely had his moments and helped with the band's success in the past with We Are Not Alone and on Phobia but for the most part I come in with the song being 80, 90 percent of what it's going to be in the end so...I kinda produced the other stuff too is what I'm trying to say. This time my name is on it.
Now that your name is on the band and the producer slot, any concern people might perceive you as a Billy Corgan-control freak?
BB: No, I've actually seen a really positive response to me producing it and I think that it has anything to do with being a control freak because I wrote the songs.
SF: Just to add to that, the sound is the exact same, if not better, so it kind of speaks for itself.
BB: If I were to get a producer to produce it, it would sound exactly the same as if I were to produce it...I don't consider myself to be a control freak for a song that I wrote. If anyone else wrote a song, I would want to do it the way they want to do it. I would want them to be a control freak about their songs too. I would do whatever they wanted me to do.
Last time you played Rock on The Range was...?
BB: Hmm. That's a good one. I don't even know because when we're out doing the radio festivals, we do a lot so I don't remember the year but I remember the crowd and I remember the stage. I just don't know the exact year (Editor's Note: It was longer than we remembered...going all the way back to the first Rock on The Range during 2007).
Some of you gentlemen have played Rock on The Range before with previous acts, correct? Any change in crowd reaction from one act to the other?
Keith Wallen (guitar): There's a lot more crowd today. Other than that...playing later in the day...a lot more people in that stadium (Wallen previously played Rock on The Range with Adelitas Way).
Jason Rauch (guitar): I think it's been seven or eight years since I've played (with Red) so, even the side stages have a totally different dynamic. It's just so much bigger, such a bigger brand. It's kept the reputation of being the biggest one out there. It's cool to be a part of it. There's a real high standard of bands here. I think they do a good job of booking everybody. Sometimes you play these festivals and there's tons of bands on and it's great, but sometimes everybody looks at their watch, waiting 'til the end of the day. That's not necessarily the case here at all.
Last week you guys released "Defeated" as a single. Or...is that considered a single?
BB: No, that's what's called a "grat," an instant grat. So when somebody buys the album or preorders the album, they get that song as well.
Got it. Have you guys had a chance to air that one out live yet?
BB: Well it just came out as a grat. We don't play it live yet...we just play (current single) "Failure" live right now because that's what people know and we like to play songs that people know. We don't like to play them for the first time live. The familiarity kind of adds to the energy of it.
Today I noticed that you started off with "So Cold," obviously a pretty huge, familiar song.
BB: Yeah that was the band's first sort of...it was like the launchpad. We had a song before that called "Polyamorous," kind of got our foot into the door and "So Cold" kind of shoved the rest of our body through the door.
It was really relieving for me to see you flash the horns during "So Cold" because I remember being terrified of the music video. I needed you to reassure me that it was just a song.
BB: (laughs) That's cool man. The video was scary...it was scary to shoot too because there was leeches.
BB: Yeah. There was leeches in that swamp.
Where was the swamp?
I don't even remember. But that ain't a set-we were out in the swamp.
Alright then. Marcus Mumford said earlier this year that one of his biggest regrets was putting his name in the band name. Any thoughts on that concept?
BB: I never really elected or insisted upon it. It's just something that happened. It comes from an incident that happened with a broken microphone...that anybody can Wikipedia. But I think in hindsight I'm proud of everything that the band's done and I'm proud of the band name. But if I had to choose, I probably wouldn't want my name in it. But I'm still amazingly proud of everything I've accomplished and the band name.
Do you have a backup in mind if you could go back?
Not many people know this but the band started as Plan 9. There was band called Breaking Benjamin that was nothing like this Breaking Benjamin. We weren't heavy, we played Weezer songs, we played Beatles songs...we played softer music. That band broke up, disbanded, but we had this roll of stickers and I got a new group of guys together and it was called Plan 9. And people kept calling it "Planet 9," and we're like "no, Plan 9 like Plan 9 From Outer Space," and eventually I was like "you know, I got this whole roll of Breaking Benjamin stickers from this other band that I was in. Let's just call it Breaking Benjamin." So that's how it came to be. I already had a roll of stickers.
Sensible enough. Now, the rest of you guys, I realize I've been a jerk this whole time-typical media, focusing on the frontman. Does anybody else want to say anything? Government, their favorite baseball team?
BB: We're all grateful to be here. These guys will tell you.
Aaron Bruch (bass): Just thankful for all the support that the band has gotten. Just the outpouring of fan support and all of the support that "Failure" has gotten. It's been great. This is Aaron, by the way. I'm the guy who hasn't said anything yet.