Breaking Benjamin Battle Mystery Illness on Painful Road to Number One
Do the endorphins produced by playing shows make you feel better?
No, the agony never goes away. People ask me how I deal with it and it’s because I have no choice. Now I get angry. If I’m dizzy onstage it’ll push me even harder. I don’t let it peck at me little by little, I charge right through it. And if I go down, I go down doing what I love for the people that want to see me perform.
It must require immense persistence to write, record and perform when you’re in such distress.
One of the things my body has done to adapt is it strengthened my will. For years I lay in bed suffering between doctor’s visits. I’d rather suffer doing something I love and that makes people happy. I can actually see the joy in people’s eyes. That was the motivation to come back full-force. I won’t cancel a show now no matter what. When you go on hiatus, your whole world gets taken away from you, and I’ll never let that happen again. Simply put, life is for living, not for waiting around for doctors.
When did you write Darkness Before Dawn?
I never stop writing. I wrote some riffs and lyrics during the hiatus. I record all of my ideas and write my lyrics on an iPhone. I always have it on me so if I’m lying in a hospital bed getting a spinal tap, which actually happened, I’ll write lyrics at the same time. After I stormed out of the doctor’s in 2013 I started to go through all this material and piece it together into full songs. But 2014 is when the whole album became really cohesive.
Your lyrics are cryptic but there seem to be slivers of light in the darkness. Do you consider yourself an optimist?
Now more than ever because I am pushing through all this bullshit and the music is getting a great response. It makes me really optimistic that things can be pleasant through darkness. You can still have a great time while you’re suffering as long as you’re strong enough to endure your pain.
There aren’t as many successful hard rock bands as there used to be. Are you trying to hold the torch?
I wouldn’t say that. I just think the state of rock is reflected in the bands representing the music. If there are great bands around, rock will be around. It’s not like you can put out any old rock band and expect it to survive. And when the material starts catering towards only a limited amount of people, that’s when you start to see the decline of a genre. A lot of rock bands today aren’t interested in being melodic or catchy. Pop music is starting to get heavier, so a lot of heavy bands are getting so heavy that they’re too heavy for the masses. We want to straddle the lines and stay melodic and lyrically adept. I try to write songs I would be comfortable with my mother listening to. I don’t like growling vocals. It seems that stuff rose to the surface when bands like us Three Days Grace and some other bands took some time off. I’m just glad to be back now to give fans another option.