Talk It Out - Breaking Benjamin - Phone Interview - November 22, 2004
I just found out about Breaking Benjamin, my new favorite band, a few weeks ago! I received a hot tip, first from my friend Bob Miranda, and then from my friend Kevin. All at once, I knew Ben and I needed to connect. Kevin invited me to see Breaking Benjamin and Korn, and it rocked! I’ve always been a Korn fan, ever since I saw how absolutely incredible they engage fans. In fact, I cite Korn as a band who knows how to generate a following….they are an inspiration to up-and-coming musicians, simply for the fact that long before I ever heard their music, I was impressed by how many children of the Korn I saw out there in America. You may not know what I mean exactly, but you’ve seen their logo, right? That’s what I’m talking about!
Anyway, thanks to Cori at Hollywood Records, I had the chance to catch up with Benjamin Burnley of Breaking Benjamin, while he’s on the road performing his rock poetry. Freddy, their rad tour manager, hooked up a phone call, and voila, thanks to Verizon, I’m on tour with Breaking Benjamin. Here’s what Ben has to say….thank you Ben!
Freddy: Okay, Jodi. Here’s Benjamin.Jodi: Thank you so much, Freddy.
Ben: Hello?Jodi: Hi, Ben, how are you?
Ben: Good. How are you?Jodi: Good, thanks. My name is Jodi Leib. I host an online music magazine called Talk It Out.
Ben: Okay.Jodi: And, I loved your LA show at the Universal Amphitheater. You guys were great!
Ben: Thank you.Jodi: How’s your tour going?
Ben: It’s going pretty good.Jodi: Yeah?
Ben: Yeah, everybody’s real cool. You know, big arenas and stuff, which is weird for me, but, it’s fun.Jodi: It must be so incredible and extraordinary to perform to so many people like that. Are you having a good time with it?
Ben:: Yeah, not only that, but I get to watch Korn for free every night, so, and Chevelle.Jodi: How cool is touring with Korn? They are such an amazing influence in rock and roll. Have you learned anything from being around them so much?
Ben: I’ve learned a lot from their music in the past. I’ve been a fan ever since they first came out. I was seventeen or eighteen when I got their record.Jodi: Totally! So, you’ve got a new album coming out. It’s coming out on November 23rd. The EP for So Cold, and it has the song Blow Me Away.
Ben: Yeah. I’m going to walk by the sound stage, so it might get loud for a bit. Can you hear that?Jodi: Yeah, now I hear that. Who’s that, is that Korn? So, you have a song on the new album called Blow Me Away, and it’s for the new video game Halo 2.
Ben: Yeah.Jodi: Can you tell us about that project?
Ben: A good friend of my label contacted me about it, and I talked to a guy named Nile Rogers and he pretty much oversaw the whole project. He asked me if I wanted to do a song for Halo 2, and I said “yeah”. So, he just put it in motion.Jodi: Right on. So, I hear you’re a huge video game fan.
Ben: I actually beat that game already, and it just came out.Jodi: Did you really?
Ben: Yeah. I beat it in like two days.Jodi: Right on. Very cool. So, what do you like most about video games? What do they do for you? What kind of excitement do you get out of them?
Ben: Um, well, you know, you’re immersed in a world that’s not real. You can be whoever you want. You wanna fly a jet, and save the world that way? Or run through running and gunning, you can do it that way. I like the immersion of it. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always enjoyed video games.Jodi: Right on. It’s kind of an escape. It challenges us to be a little bit competitive. Is there a difference between the video games from when we were a kid, verses the ones that are out now, do you think?
Ben: Oh, God, yeah. Are you talking Pac Man and Halo? They’re two different worlds.Jodi: At what point did the world change? Was there a defining moment in video game history that propelled it into what it is today?
Ben: I would have to say when the first Play Station came out. I think that kind of launched everything.Jodi: Yeah. Play Station was huge.
Ben: Now I’m like strictly, I mean, I have a Play Station 2, and I play it, but I try playing mostly XBox Games if I can.Jodi: Naturally, of course, because that’s what Halo 2 is! That’s who’s releasing Halo 2, right?
Ben: Yeah.Jodi: I was thinking about this today. Back in the days when television was so aggressive, people said that television is the default of humanity, and now they say that video games perpetuate
violence in many ways. Do you think that’s true or is that just a social myth?
Ben: You know, I really don’t know, because kids are obviously very easily influenced. I, myself, personally, have been playing violent video games since I was a kid, and I never wanted to blow anybody, you know, no pun intended, but I never wanted to blow anybody away. I don’t think it made a difference for me whatsoever. The only thing that would make me be violent, is if somebody were violent towards me.Jodi: Hmm, that’s interesting.
Ben: I don’t know, not that I’m an old man, but I don’t understand kids anymore, because I’m not one anymore. So, I don’t know if it is video games or not to younger kids that are impressionable. In my opinion, if you don’t know right from wrong, you’ve got a problem with yourself. And I don’t think that has anything to do with video games. I don’t think that has anything to do with anything. You just should know. It should be something that is instilled in you, you know?Jodi: Absolutely. So, who’s responsibility is it teach kids this? Is it their parents, teachers? Rock stars?
Ben: Oh, no. To be honest with you, I don’t know if I can really answer that, because I can’t recall a time when my mother or anyone who raised me would say, “This is right, and this is wrong.” I could kind of tell. I think that if you’re a level and balanced human being, then you know what you’re doing is right or wrong. I don’t remember anyone teaching me that. I just always knew it.Jodi: Like it’s a gene, or chromosome that we have or something, hopefully.
Ben: It’s like a maternal instinct. It’s an instinct. If you don’t have it, then maybe you’re a little off balance.Jodi: So, what was it like to work with Billy Corgan (of Smashing Pumpkins)? That is so super cool that you were able to collaborate with him. What did you learn from him?
Ben: Billy really encouraged me to think outside of the box, and not to be so cookie-cutter about my writing my music. And, just exploring different things. We wrote a tune called Forget It, that a lot of people really seem to dig. It’s unconventional. It’s like nothing else I’ve written, so…Jodi: Um hmm.
Ben: So, he’s very influential. He’s a living legend in my eyes. He’s been very influential upon me, even learning how to play the guitar, so it was an honor and a privilege to work with him.Jodi: Totally! It’s amazing when two creative geniuses can get together and make some amazing magic happen. That’s just what I love about music so much.
Ben: Well, there was only one genius there, and I certainly wasn’t the one.Jodi: You’re a genius in training. You’re the apprentice. (he laughs, cute too!) Jodi: I’m just kidding. You’re awesome! You’re an incredible songwriter. What’s your secret to success?
Ben: I don’t know. I don’t know. Just do it, I guess.Jodi: How has having huge radio success changed your life…has it?
Ben: Yeah, it made it so that we are on a different level professionally. Instead of being the first band that plays, we’re the third. It’s just stuff like that. You get more respect and it’s just a really cool deal. Our record went gold off of one single (So Cold) which is pretty cool. That’s my first [gold record], so I’m really happy about that. We’re just looking to the future and riding the wave till it comes ashore.Jodi: That rocks, yeah! So, what are your upcoming touring plans?
Ben: After this part, we’re going to do a small headlining tour. Then we’re going to spend a month off, maybe a little more cause the whole record industry shuts down about that time.Jodi: About what time?
Ben: Like December and January. Nobody’s around, so we’re going to take the holidays off. We’re going to release another single. It’s going to stew on the pot while we’re at home, and if it does well, we’ll go back out and support it.Jodi: Right on. Now, is it true one of your bandmates is afraid to fly, and that’s why you don’t come out to the west coast much?
Ben: Yeah, that’s me.Jodi: You’re the one that’s afraid to fly?
Ben: Yes.Jodi: How come?
Ben: It’s just something that I don’t really trust that much. I feel it to be, even though popular belief says otherwise, I feel it to be dangerous, and it makes me very uncomfortable. It’s not really worth it to me to have my comfort level altered like that. It’s like a phobia to me. If your worst fear were having spiders all over you, it would be like me saying, “Well, why not? Why don’t I just put a bunch of spiders on you, it doesn’t bother me?” You know what I mean.Jodi: (I’m giggling now) Totally!
Ben: It’s a phobia. It’s just something that I feel I don’t have to do, but I’m sure it would make things a hell of a lot easier for me and certainly the band as well. It’s just not worth the trauma that it causes me.Jodi: I hear you. I hear you. So do you ever plan on going overseas or going to see your fans in other parts of the world?
Ben: Oh, absolutely, I’ll go as far as the boat can take me.Jodi: Right on. Do you have any other fears? How do you usually overcome some other fears that you have?
Ben: It’s all summed up in flying. It’s the fear of heights and the fear of speed.Jodi: I hear you. I hear you.
Ben: I don’t even like riding in cars, or anything like that. I just do that because I absolutely have to.Jodi: Did you ever wonder where it came from?
Ben: It’s dangerous. I’m not one of those guys that believes when it’s your time, it’s your time. If someone dies in a plane crash, they wouldn’t have died if they didn’t get on a plane. So, obviously, you make it their time.Jodi: I bet you don’t like roller coasters either?
Ben: No, but you know what’s really weird, it wasn’t always like that. When I was a kid I used to love all that stuff. I still have a motorcycle. It hasn’t been driven in like, six or seven years. I used to love roller coasters, and when I was a very young kid, I used to love to fly, because I didn’t know any better. All that turbulence, it was fun, you know?Jodi: Yeah. Motorcycles are kind of crazy?
Ben: Yeah. I stopped riding motorcycles, I think, when I was 20, about six years ago.Jodi: You know, I used to be totally petrified of high diving boards. In swimming pools, the really high dives?
Ben: Um hmm.Jodi: I can’t go near them. I get dizzy just walking close.
Ben: We actually had one at our pool. The first time I went off it, it was pretty bad. After a while I got pretty used to it. And then they took it down, because a bunch of people kept getting hurt.Jodi: Oh no.
Ben: So, it just goes to show you, you know?Jodi: You know, I used to be afraid of flying too, and I totally came to a place, and I don’t know when, but I developed this faith. I started trusting myself more and then all of a sudden my fear of flying went away. It was really miraculous. I don’t even know how it happened, but I used to totally fear flying. Now, I’m okay with it, and I kind of enjoy it, like being on a bumpy bus. I have a little bit of a comfort in it, now, which is weird because I never thought I could.
Ben: Well, maybe someday, I’ll reach that comfort level too, but right now, I think that’s something that’s totally self-done. You have to do that for yourself. Nobody can make you or anything like that. So if I ever get to that point, then I’ll fly. But, I’m not there now, and I don’t foresee myself ever being there.Jodi: Absolutely. Is there anything else you want to share with us? And, thank you, by the way, for sharing that with me, because, you know, I’m glad to get to know you in that way.
Ben: Yeah, that’s cool. Ask, I’ll tell.Jodi: Anything else you want to tell your fans out there?
Ben: Keep on listening. Thanks for your support. Obviously, every band says it because it’s true, but if it weren’t for fans then there would be no bands and bands wouldn’t be able to do what they love to do.Jodi: Totally. Well, it was awesome Talking It Out with you, Ben.
Ben: Cool, thanks for having me.Jodi: Yeah, I’m glad to be a fan.
Ben: (laughs) Alright, well, we’re glad to have you. Next time we’re out in your area, give us a call and we’ll hook you up.Jodi: Oh, that sounds good. Will do!
Special thanks to Cori Sommers and Hollywood Records, and Freddy, Freddy, Freddy!