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Breaking Benjamin

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In late 2000, guitarist Aaron Fink and bassist Mark James Klepaski made a surprising and unexpected decision: they left Lifer, an alternative metal band that was not only signed to a major label (Universal,) but was gaining major acceptance. Fink and Klepaski departed in order to join forces with singer Ben Burnley and drummer Jeremy Hummel, forming Breaking Benjamin. Why would Fink and Klepaski leave a band that had a contract with Universal to form a new alternative rock band that was unsigned? According to the ex-members of Lifer, they had so much faith in Burnley's songwriting talents that they were willing to take a gamble and uproot themselves. So in late 2000, Breaking Benjamin was made official. All four members of the band hail from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where Fink and Burnley actually attended high school together. When Breaking Benjamin first started playing around their hometown, they were far from an expected carbon copy of Lifer. Instead, they favored a radio-friendly post-grunge approach that was aggressive and forceful, yet melodic. The band's various influences include, among others, Pearl Jam, Bush, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana. Korn and Tool have also been cited as influences, but unlike Korn, Breaking Benjamin does not have strong hip-hop leanings and isn't quite alternative metal. However, the Pennsylvanians do incorporate the sort of choppy, downtuned guitars that are quite prevalent in alterna-metal, and even though Breaking Benjamin has a lot in common with post-grunge bands like Creed, Default, Cinema8 and Third Eye Blind, they tend to be a bit heavier. In 2001, Breaking Benjamin's Wilkes-Barre gigs caught the attention of a local radio DJ named Freddie Fabbri at alterna-rock station WBSX-FM. Fabbri put their song "Polyamorous" in rotation, and also financed the recording of their self-titled debut EP--which, in 2001, ended up selling about 2000 copies in and around Wilkes-Barre. It was also in 2001 that Breaking Benjamin signed with Hollywood Records, which united the band with Ulrich Wild (who has worked with Powerman 5000, Stabbing Westward, White Zombie, Static-X, Pantera, Slipknot and quite a few others) who served as both producer and engineer on Breaking Benjamin's first full-length album, Saturate, released in August 2002. The Pennsylvania-based quartet arrived in the summer of 2002 with this critically acclaimed debut, and wasted little time establishing themselves as a vital new voice in modern rock.Progressing forward, Breaking Benjamin found themselves not only preparing to pen their sophomore album with a tight deadline hanging overhead, but also sitting down to write with one of their biggest musical influences-- multi-platinum record holding, two-time Grammy winner, Billy Corgan."Talk about pressure," laughs Breaking Benjamin vocalist/guitarist Ben Burnley. "After touring for the last half of 2002 and most of 2003, we came home and it was like, 'Okay, now you have to write the next record.' There's a saying about having your whole life to write your first album, but only a few months to make your second and it's absolutely true. The songs on our first album were already written and ready to go when we got signed, so the concept of songwriting deadlines was completely new to me."Though Burnley admits that the creative crunch caused a few sleepless nights, he says it was nothing compared to the anxiety he experienced prior to a songwriting session with former Smashing Pumpkins singer-songwriter Billy Corgan. "I was a wreck," he recalls. "At that point, the band was in a good groove and most of the album was written, but I certainly wasn't going to pass up the chance to work with Billy Corgan. I went through a period in high school when all I listened to was the Smashing Pumpkins, specifically Siamese Dream. It was an album that had a big influence on me, and I kept thinking about that on the way to the studio," he laughs. "I got to admit-it was a bit intimidating. I remember hoping that I wouldn't embarrass myself."As it turned out, Burnley and Corgan worked great together, resulting in a handful of shiny new melodic gems. "It was the experience of a lifetime," says Burnley of the collaboration. "Billy stressed 'thinking outside the box' and helped me take a different approach to songwriting. Wanting to come in with something that would impress him forced me to work harder on the material.""It would have been very easy to duplicate the sound and style of our first album, but none of us were interested in making the same record twice," says Hummel. "As an artist, you want to try new things and see where it takes you." With the fiery new album We Are Not Alone, the quartet breaks from the norm, leaving any stylistic limitations in the dust. Recorded in New York City with producer David Bendeth (Vertical Horizon), the album offers endless highlights, including the ambitious "Forget It," one of three Ben/Billy collaborations. "It's very cool-both structurally and melodically," says Burnley. "It's subtle, but listen closely and you'll hear the song move up a half-step every verse and chorus. As a vocalist, that's really challenging because it forces me to sing in a different key every time. It's definitely unusual, and had it not been for Billy, I probably never would've tried something like that."In hopes to add a bigger fanbase to their repertoire, Breaking Benjamin are breaking out with their second album, We Are Not Alone. "There's still a big world out there to conquer," says Burnley. "We're anxious to get out there and get started."


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