When Breaking Benjamin singer Ben Burnley was growing up in tiny Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, he wasn’t really into music. “I’d just see Twisted Sister and all that Eighties shit,” he says. “I couldn’t even fathom why people got into bands.”
Then came Nirvana. “I’d never heard anything like ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,'” says Burnley, now twenty-four. “That band opened my mind completely.”
Burnley and his bandmates (including fellow high schoolers Aaron Fink on guitar and Markus James on bass) remain true believers in the power of early-Nineties alt-rock, going so far as to recruit Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan to write songs for their second album, We Are Not Alone (which debuted in July at Number Twenty on the pop chart). “I wanted the band to sound different, and the best way to do that was to get Billy,” Burnley says.
Burnley croons like a more sinister Gavin Rossdale on the standout “Firefly”; and “Forget It,” one of three tracks he wrote with Corgan, sounds like a great, long-lost Pumpkins ballad.
Now all the band has to worry about is what to do with Burnley’s mom, who’s been a vocal supporter since day one. “She comes to a lot of our shows,” says the singer. “But they’re getting really violent. You don’t want Mom in the pit.”