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Biography (New bio at bottom)

     Imagine an unsigned act so good, it persuades not one, but two musicians to quit their already signed band, join forces, and start the process anew. It happened in late 2000, when guitarist Aaron Fink and bassist Mark James Klepaski bolted Universal recording artists Lifer to team up with vocalist Ben Burnley and drummer Jeremy Hummel in Breaking Benjamin. "Everyone told me I was crazy," laughs Fink, "but I didn't see it that way. I've known these guys since high school, and heard hundreds of Ben's songs-all of which sounded like hits to me. I sat in with them one night and everything clicked. I thought, 'This is it.' How many musicians can say they were a fan of the band they joined?" Says group co-founder Hummel, "Ben and I opened for Lifer a few times, and always wanted the band to be the four of us because we're all friends, but it took some time. We talked about it for awhile, and I'll never forget the night Mark called while on tour in Arizona and told me it was official, that he was leaving to join us. When you think about it, it was a pretty big move. But we all knew this band was gonna happen." Adds Klepaski, "Every once in a while, I'd get up and do a song or two with them and it always felt good. It's like falling in love: you don't question it, you go with it because it feels right. When the opportunity presented itself, I went for it and never looked back. We're family." One listen to Saturate, Breaking Benjamin's explosive Hollywood Records debut, and Fink and Klepaski's move makes perfect sense. Uncompromising, cathartic and from the gut, the Ulrich Wild-produced (Deftones, Powerman 5000, Static X) album reveals a band with hard smarts, a keen sense of pop savvy, and influences that include Tool, Nirvana and Korn. Laughs Burnley, Benjamin's refreshingly candid main songwriter, "I find that music works best when you take a bunch of your favorite bands and rip a little something off each one to make something new. It works for us." Clearly, Burnley's learned his lessons well: tracks such as "Home" and "Water" are thick and heavy, with the songs accommodating the band's metallic crunch without relinquishing melodic ingenuity. Then there's the powerfully primal "Medicate," which fuses Hummel and Klepaski's iron-fisted backbeat to an undeniable addictive hook, and "Shallow Bay" which tempers the speaker-melting riffage of Fink with Burnley's soulful vocal grit. Lead single "Polyamorous" is arguably the best of the bunch, mixing amp-joy intensity and compelling atmospherics with tuneful urgency and poetic wordplay. "Listen to the radio today and you'll hear a lot of bands singing and complaining about how miserable life is," says Klepaski. "Maybe it's just me, but life can be shitty enough-music should make you feel good. Our songs give off a positive energy, and I think our fans appreciate that." Among Breaking Benjamin's fervent followers is "DJ Freddie" (Freddie Fabbri), an on-air personality at 93.7X WBSX, a modern rock station in the band's hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. In addition to putting "Polyamorous" in rotation, where it quickly became the station's number one most requested track, Freddie then decided to give the band funding for their 5 song self-titled EP-a disc which sold 2000 copies locally. "It was amazing," says Burnley. "All of a sudden we were getting airplay and playing to packed-house crowds. We became sort of a local phenomenon." As Benjamin tore up the east coast club scene, word of their frenetic live show and hook-laden sound spread through the A&R community. When the band announced a two-night showcase in early 2001, over a dozen labels showed up, and the band subsequently signed with Hollywood Records. For Burnley, who taught himself to play guitar at age 14 by listening to Nirvana's Nevermind ad nauseaum, the recognition was a long time coming. "I've been at this for a long time," says Burnley. "It wasn't all that long ago that I survived by playing cover songs in coffeehouses for scraps. I was like an acoustic jukebox, playing for people that ignored me while they ate and drank. It totally sucked. You eventually get to this point where you really want to be signed and make something happen, but you get so frustrated from all the bullshit, that you just don't give a fuck anymore. But of course, that's when you get signed." "Now I wake up every day and can't believe it's finally happening, and that we get to do this for a living. Talk about a dream come true."


     Which would you find more daunting-the thought of penning your sophomore album with a tight deadline hanging overhead, or sitting down to write with one of your biggest musical influences, a multi-platinum two-time Grammy winner? "Talk about pressure," laughs Breaking Benjamin vocalist/guitarist Ben Burnley, who faced both situations last fall. "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. "Hollywood set it up," he recalls. "And I was a wreck. At that point, the band was in a good groove and most of the album was written, but I certainly wasn't gonna 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 and 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 gotta admit-it was a bit intimidating. I remember hoping that I wouldn't embarrass myself." As it turned out, Burnley needn't have stressed. He and Corgan pushed and prodded each other to new peaks, 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." Burnley's determination to expand his range carried over to the album's recording sessions, where the band (guitarist Aaron Fink, bassist Markus James and former drummer Jeremy Hummel) matched him step for step. "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 explosive new album We Are Not Alone, the quartet breaks from the pack on an E-ticket thrill ride, 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." Since the June release of We Are Not Alone, the album is nearly platinum and yielded the #1 Rock single "So Cold." Their second single, "Sooner Or Later", is shaping up to be just as strong with the added element of MTV2 play. All sharp hooks and hefty beats, We Are Not Alone starts off with the Middle Eastern melody of the roaring lead single "So Cold" a riff-heavy track that showcases the fretwork of Fink, an expressive guitarist with a flair for both color and crunch. Employing a palette of quirky pedal effects, distorted textures and throttled power chords, he amplifies the emotion in each song, be it the confrontational rage in "Believe" or the sweeping emotional plea of "Break My Fall." "Aaron really stepped up on this record," says Burnely. "He's not so much a riff guy as someone who creates atmosphere. His talents really shine through here." The perfectly paced album is anchored by the propelling rhythms of drums and bass as well as being driven by Burnley, who brings each melody to life with a voice that's both graceful ("Rain") and Godzillian ("Away"). He soars over the mile-high chorus of "Follow," delivering the insistent hook with unbridled passion and grit. "Touring helped develop my singing ability and allowed me to try new things on this record," he says. "It gave me a sense of confidence that was really liberating." The band credit Bendeth for the album's adventurous spirit, saying that he encouraged them to reach higher by digging deeper. "David has a great ear and helped pull better performances out of us," says Fink. "He also added a lot of flavor to the record. Unlike the first album, which was all bass, drums and guitar, this record is filled with all sorts of tasty ear candy. It's definitely headphones-worthy." The Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania-based quartet arrived in the summer of 2002 with critically acclaimed debut Saturate and wasted little time establishing themselves as a vital new voice in modern rock. Fueled by smash hit "Polyamorous," the album became a favorite among critics and fans alike. The band toured heavily in support, sharing stages with the likes of 3 Doors Down, Saliva, Godsmack and hedPE. "The Godsmack shows were intense," recalls Burnley. "It was our first arena tour and every crowd seemed bigger than the night before. For a guy like me, who was a complete loser in high school, the whole thing was like an out-of-body experience. We walked on stage and tons of people started screaming, even though half of them had never heard of us. But we started playing and jumping up and down and everyone went crazy. People came up to us afterward and were saying things like, 'I'd never heard of you guys before, but you're awesome and I'm gonna go buy your CD tomorrow.' It's hard to describe how something like that makes you feel. We were just completely blown away." So it went, town after town, all year long. The band has added to that fan base with We Are Not Alone, an album that one-upped its predecessor in both sound and style. "There's still a big world out there to conquer," Burnley adds modestly. "We're geared up to be back on the road again."