BEFORE BREAKING When frontman Benjamin Burnley of BENJAMIN learned that their fifth album, Dark Before Dawn, had sold over 140,000 copies and topped this week’s Billboard album charts, it’s conceivable he became lightheaded and experienced vision problems.
The symptoms weren’t a response to good news, but rather a symptom of a chronic illness that has prevented him from working in the music industry since June 2010, when he stopped a tour in support of the band’s previous album, 2009’s Dear Agony.
On his way to acoustic performance and signing in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Burnley declares, “I’m still really sick after having the same responses from almost 300 doctors: “We don’t know what’s wrong with you.”
“The last time I went to the doctor, I smashed my thick as a phone book medical documents to the floor and left. I’m over being used as a test subject. I continue to work despite the excruciating agony now.
It is astonishing enough that Burnley overcame his severe agony to pen, record, and create crunching and atmospheric melodic hard rock songs like “Failure,” which has held the top spot on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart for eight weeks straight.
However, Breaking Benjamin also possesses a tenacity that has kept them at the top of the charts for 13 years since their breakthrough single, “Polyamorous.”
It’s crazy, says Burnley, because we’re not only keeping our current supporters but also adding new ones on a regular basis. We currently have 242,000 followers on Twitter and 5.8 million likes on Facebook. Fans are the ones that initially broke us, and I believe this is why they still accept us.
When Did You Start Feeling Sick?
I can only assume that it was brought on by binge drinking back in 2007. I used to be an alcoholic, but I quit in 2007 after getting sick. I remained up drinking nonstop for three days.
I was weak, dizzy, and saw spots when I woke up, and those symptoms persisted. Wow, I sure did a number on myself, I thought. I’m going to relax for a few days without drinking, and I’ll recover.” But it didn’t go like that. It significantly worsened.
How Has Your Sickness Been Managed by Doctors?
Your symptoms are treated by the medical establishment, but your condition is not. The pharmaceutical industry makes a lot of money in this way. And guess what, if you’re someone whose symptoms worsen with every single type of medication you take? You’re in serious trouble.
Antidepressants I’ve tried have only made my symptoms thousand times worse. I currently experience a symptom that is beyond agonizing. I have the simultaneous sensation of being poisoned, electrified, and twirled around. I suffer from excruciating joint and muscular pain in addition to daily misery and torture.
Does that Make Singing and Playing the Guitar Difficult?
No, the pain in my muscles and joints is so excruciating that it makes me forget about my other symptoms, which makes it sickeningly relieving. Really, the only thing that helps me is severe pain. It’s a terrible, terrible sickness, and if I didn’t have the support of all my fans, my amazing wife, and my son, it most certainly wouldn’t be worthwhile to endure.