Interview: Breaking Benjamin
Wed, 03 Feb 2010 10:14:44
Breaking Benjamin Videos
There are few things more dear than agony.
Just ask Breaking Benjamin. Dear Agony serves as the moniker for the Pennsylvania hard rock quartet's latest offering, and it's quite a fitting title. Frontman Benjamin Burnley and co. explore all kinds of agony with a grunge sensitivity and a distorted haze of sonic escapism that makes for some unforgettable rock n' roll. Dear Agony stands out because it soars and sears at all the right times. Burnley knows when to belt out a hook and when to let the riff do the talking, and it's that combo attack that makes Breaking Benjamin so dangerously catchy.
While on the road with Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin's Ben Burnley sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for this exclusive interview about why agony is so dear, writing vaguely, and how awesome The Crow is.
The title Dear Agony makes the album feel like a collection of letters. Was that the connotation you wanted it to have?
In a sense, I try to keep my writing and the titles vague so people can draw their own conclusions. It could be that. It could be "Dear Agony," as in agony is dear to you. Or, it could be that you're addressing agony. You can look at it however you want to.
Sonically, the guitar playing has really evolved. Was it a conscious decision to focus on that?
Yeah, nowadays in the studio, we try to embrace all kinds of new technology. Those things are ever present. The more albums that I'm able to write, the more the technology grows, so that helps a lot. It's not like you go into the studio, play something once through and you're done. It's a meticulous process, and the technology that's available now makes that process a lot easier and faster.
It's like weaving together your own puzzle.
That's exactly what it's like, especially from a writing standpoint.
Are you constantly writing lyrics or do they typically come after the music's done?
Lyrics usually come very last. Vocal melody comes simultaneously with the song. Riffs and bridges can get thrown in there. To me, the easiest part is writing the riffs or any little embellishments. The hardest part of writing a song is getting that core vocal melody down with the rhythm of the guitar and making it work. If you have a good song there, no matter what else you do to it, it's only going to make it better. Getting that core down is really crucial.
The album definitely feels like one complete thought. Did you have one overarching vision for the entire record?
Yeah, the songs all share similarities in themes. I think sobriety definitely helped with keeping that focused and keeping me focused. This is the first album I've ever written and recorded sober. You can really hone in on the skills that you have and see thoughts through to the end.
Do you feel like you shine more through personally because of that?
Well, writing-wise I do. Like you said, it sounds more thought-out, because it is more thought-out. Sobriety has definitely helped me with that. That's something that I definitely would not have been able to do in my drunken years. I'm completely clean and sober, and I think it's really evident in the music.
The lyrics often get more poetic on this album too. Were they just basically pouring out of you?
They were pretty much just pouring out of me. I find inspiration in any kind of thing whether it's a movie or whatever, but it wasn't really reading or anything like that inspiring this album. It was just having a clear mind and being able to really be decisive about what I want to say.
Was there a particularly story behind "Into Nothing?"
It's a little reflective of what's going on in the country right now, and it's a little reflective of the camaraderie of our armed forces. You could apply it to that, or you could apply it to a relationship. Leaving things vague is actually harder than people think, and that's something that sobriety has helped with too. It's really easy to write about a subject because you have that subject to go off of. I really take great efforts so that it's vague enough to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I'm the sole lyric writer in the band so every album is a reflection of what I'm going through at the time or what I was thinking.
It's a bit reminiscent of Metallica's "Through the Never."
[Laughs] I guess it's similar in theme anyway.
Have you been on a real creative kick lately? Are you writing on the road with Three Days Grace?
No, being the singer, the frontman and the writer for the band, touring is really demanding for me. I have a lot of things that I need to do, so there's literally no time to write. I probably feel more comfortable setting time aside to write anyway.
What sparked touring with Three Days Grace again?
We all know each other as friends. It's cool to be able to go out and do something that's successful with your friends. We did it before, and we had a blast. We figured why the hell not do it again? I think that we have the same kind of work ethic as far as our albums are concerned. We all like to keep the quality high. Flyleaf is with us too, and their albums are fantastic. It's a great package. The success of it allows us to make our shows bigger and better. We're glad that there are people out there who still like rock 'n' roll and we still have an audience to play for in that genre. We're all thankful for that.
Are there any movies you always come back to?
Edward Scissorhands is one of my favorite movies. The Crow, The Goonies, Legend and Star Wars—these are some of my favorites of all time. The Crow is just a great movie in general, and it stood the test of time!
Check out Rick Florino's new novel Dolor available now for FREE here…