This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Ben Burnley has carried around a boulder of a burden large enough to make Atlas and Sisyphus cringe.
The singer, songwriter and founding member of the alt-rock band Breaking Benjamin came down with a mysterious medical condition in 2007 which he said leaves him dizzy and in pain "every second of every day," but doctors have yet to make any headway in curing his ills.
His decision to put the band on hiatus while he tried to deal with his health woes led to even more issues. In his absence, his bandmates acceded to the label's desire to issue a greatest hits album, and cooked up an accompanying second disc of remixed rarities an action Burnley said "was done completely without my consent or authorization. … They made decisions without me regarding compositions that I wrote. And so that led to their dismissal," he said. Also lawsuits. Lots of lawsuits.
The primary source of his frustration, though, ultimately comes down to the band's spot in the music industry's pecking order: "We work our asses off, as do a lot of bands, but I feel, personally, that Breaking Benjamin hasn't gotten the exposure" it deserves, he said.
While Burnley's health issues haven't changed, though, his bandmates have, and so too, perhaps, have his musical fortunes.
When Breaking Benjamin plays a co-headlining show with Shinedown on Friday night at the Maverik Center, they do so as owners of a new No. 1 album, "Dark Before Dawn" an accomplishment not lost on the band's namesake.
"It's been pretty gratifying, absolutely. More than anything, I'm just grateful for that," Burnley told The Salt Lake Tribune in a phone interview. "I'm overwhelmed by the incredible fan response, and I'm just thankful to be able to continue what I started, and continue to share music with people and make music and play music. Without it, I wouldn't be here, so I'm glad I'm able to continue and be here to do it."
For a time, he wasn't sure he would be. Breaking Benjamin last put out an album in 2009, and Burnley shelved the band a year later, hoping to find a solution for his condition, the symptoms of which he equates to, "If you were to take spray paint and huff the fumes of it, how you'd feel that awful sick, gross, dizzy sort of feeling it feels almost just like that, constantly. And then on top of that, I have horrendous joint and muscle pain."
All that unpleasantness, of course, led to the additional unpleasantness with his now-ex-bandmates, as well. But then, Burnley ultimately found a way to give the glass-half-empty situation a glass-half-full outcome. With all the other members gone, Burnley's decision to resurrect the band proved an opportunity to do it the way he wanted this time.
He expanded to five members, adding another full-time guitarist to better replicate the three-guitar parts that were on the albums via multi-tracking, but previously impossible to replicate in concert. He also made sure to add musicians who could sing, proudly noted that having two guys who were once lead singers in their own band would augment the backing vocal parts he also found lacking in live performances.
The end result, Burnley said, was a better version of Breaking Benjamin.
"The past lineup was more of a business relationship than anything. And that's fine and good, but I just don't think that a band should be that. And I don't think that should be the main motivating factor of playing in a band. That's part of it, yes, that's true, but it should be the absolute dead last part of it, not the very first part of it," he said. "So everything was pretty much backwards before and now everything's set just right. The band consists now of pretty much all of my friends that I've met through the years that are excellent musicians. These are guys that I just hang out with anyway. And they are amazing musicians."
Now, if only Burnley could get others to see what he sees.
He lamented a perceived lack of support from the mainstream music media in an even-keeled rant as full of angst as any of his song lyrics. But, he ultimately concluded, "Dark Before Dawn" debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 is his vindication, as it shows that fans, at least, share his perception of a band deserving of greater accolade.
"I think we're on par with a lot of other bands that are great bands. And I think that our album debuting at No. 1 is not a testament to how great I think the band is, or what I think the band deserves, I think it's a testament to the fans and how great they think the band is, and what they want from the band," he said. "I read things on Facebook all the time about people that know about the band are really into what the band does and that are surprised: Why don't we have a Grammy? Why aren't we at the Billboard Music Awards? Why aren't we in 'Rolling Stone?' And I'm saying, 'Amen. Yeah exactly why? Why is Jack White on the cover of Rolling Stone for the 20th time?' And I don't even know a single Jack White song and neither do any of my fans. And there's a lot of us, there's just a lot of us.
"And the answer for that is going all the way back to the days of Nirvana it's a corporate machine and they try to get you to like what they like. … And with the album reaching No. 1 on Billboard, the fans are saying, 'We're gonna like what we want to like, and you're not gonna tell us what we want to like.' And so it was gratifying, not only as a fan of rock, to have it be my band that was the one to sort of let the world know that people have a voice, and we're not gonna have Lady Gaga shoved down our throat, because we want rock every now and then. There's nothing wrong with Lady Gaga, there's nothing wrong with that, but we've had that, we've seen that, and that's great and all, but we want rock too. For Gene Simmons to sit there and say 'rock is dead,' he couldn't be more wrong, and I'm glad that he is. "
With Shinedown and Nothing More
When • Friday, Oct. 30, doors at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m.
Where • Maverik Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Drive (2200 West), West Valley City
Tickets • $36.75-$42; Smith's Tix