If you’re a fan of modern rock music, you might have heard of Breaking Benjamin.
Recently, we interviewed Keith Wallen, guitarist/backing vocalist for Breaking Benjamin and solo artist. He is also known as the former guitarist for Adelitas Way and lead singer of former band Copper.
Read our interview below!
SOM: Please introduce yourself for the blog.
KW: I’m Keith Wallen. I play guitar and sing in Breaking Benjamin. I have some solo stuff too, but uh, yeah. Just trying to make music while young and able to do it.
SOM: What got you started in music?
KW: Well, it was a couple people actually. My dad was a singer I guess in the 60’s. He used to sing in the Crooner type of style stuff. Frank Sinatra, that kind of thing. He would always listen to records while I was growing up, and I used to always sit around and listen. I just loved it. And then, when I was in junior high school, one of my best friends, he started playing guitar. I’d go over to his house, and he’s playing guitar and I’d be like, “Man, I need to learn how to play guitar too, so we can jam.” So eventually he taught me some stuff, and I eventually got a guitar and took it from there. I’ve never looked back, and here I am, still playing guitar and still trying to write songs and still doing it.
SOM: I love your solo album by the way.
KW: Oh, thank you! Thank you very much, I appreciate that. It’s a little different. I’ve always done rock and hard rock my whole life and I was like, “Man, I’m just going to change it up a little”. Plus, I produced it myself, so I really didn’t know how to do a lot. “Alright, I can record piano and I can record my voice,” so I just kinda kept it simple.
SOM: I don’t know just what draws me to it, but yeah, you’re right- it’s so simple. And I listen to a lot of rock as well, as I do lots of music journalism, and you just have to take a break from rock sometimes. *Chuckles* And metal, yeah, definitely metal. Metal just needs a calm down sometimes.
KW: Haha! I mean don’t get me wrong, I love it. I love rock. But, you know, it’s like “Hey, I’ve had a ham sandwich for a long time, I might try some turkey. That’s all.”
SOM: Very good analogy.
What would your definition of “making it” in the music industry be?
KW: That’s a good question. I think everyone has different definitions, you know. When you start out, it’s, “Boy, whenever I’m headlining Madison Square Gardens and I’m playing the Grammys and all that stuff, that’s when you’ve arrived.” Honestly, to me, making it is being happy with your life- having the quality of life that you want. Being able to make music and being able to support yourself and support your family and be happy and have enough money to buy a taco here and there.
SOM: *Laughs* It’s so true!
KW: You know? I’m pretty easy to please, so… but yeah, my idea of making it would be being able to play music professionally and being able to survive. And not having to work at some other place that you would just hate. Not to diss anyone’s career or anything like that, there’s tons of things that people are good at, but I’m good at one thing and that’s playing music. So I’ll stick to that.
SOM: What would your dream tour line-up be, and where would you want it to go?
KW: Oh man.
SOM: *Chuckles* It’s not even the hardest question.
KW: Dream tour lineup…. I mean, obviously it would be awesome to tour with Metallica. Because, it’s Metallica. But I’ve played with big bands before and you get out in front of their crowd and they’re just like, “Alright, bring on the headliner.” So you think it would be good, but then you get out there and it’s just like “Oh man.”
SOM: “It sucks! They don’t like us!”
KW: Yeah! I mean, they probably do like you but they’re like, “Alright, we’ve paid to see so-and-so or whoever.” But perfect tour, obviously… uh… God, I’ll stick with Metallica. And uhh, I don’t know. I’ll go with Metallica.
SOM: Just a tour with Metallica.
KW: Breaking Benjamin with Metallica. That would be an awesome tour. And I’d guess they’d put someone else on the bill. Probably somebody that we’ve toured with, like Starset or 10 Years.
SOM: That would be a cool tour.
KW: You know, something to experience with friends and stuff. So we love those guys and it’d be fun.
SOM: When you’re not touring or working on music, what do you enjoy doing?
KW: Uhh, gosh. Well, I just got an XBox.
KW: Yeah, I just got an X-Box. Honestly, this whole time I’ve been working on new solo stuff so here in the beatlab, I guess, or the studio- I hate it when people call it the beatlab cause it’s such a cliché thing, so I’m always making music. But you said what am I doing when I’m not making music, I got the X-Box to kinda decompress- to blow off some steam. I’m terrible. I got this Battlefield. All these kids are so good, and I just walk out and get sniped in 5 seconds.
SOM: Yep, I have done that before. I tried my friend’s X-Box the other day and I’m like, “Nope, I’m not good,”
KW: Yeah, it’s tough. But even my wife was like, “Man, you need to play some video games or something just to get out of here.” SO I was like “Alright”, and I’d just sit there and it’d be even more stressful. Because I’m being shot every 5 seconds. So anyway…video games. We have a funny joke with the band where we did this interview one time for Youtube, and it was with Eddie Trunk who’s just a super awesome dude. This might be my chance to redeem myself actually. Because, he asked everybody, “What do you guys like to do?” And everybody’s like, oh, I spend time with my family and I love to write music. Everyone in the band gave all these great answers. And then it came to be like “Keith, what about you? What do you like to do?” And for some reason, I think I must have been hungry at that moment, but that was my chance to shine and I was like “I like to eat.”
SOM: That’s what I would do! I love to eat!
KW: Yeah! Well, here’s the funny part. I was like, “Yeah, I like to eat.” And he’s like, “Oh really? You’re like the skinniest guy, that’s so funny, blah blah blah.” And he kinda got sidetracked and anyway, he goes on and says “Shaun, what about you?” And I was like, “Well, I like to do other stuff too!” You know, the moment had come and passed. My moment was I like to eat. I was just like, God, what an idiot. Here I am on this live Youtube broadcast big thing, and I’m like the food guy. You know, I do other things too, but I do like to eat. Yeah, it’s kinda like an inside joke with us in the band now. Just like, “Oh, there’s Keith. He likes to eat.” Yeah, so anyway.
SOM: That must have been kind of humiliating. I would see myself doing that.
KW: You know, it was, but it wasn’t. Yeah, I could’ve had something better to say, but I mean in all honesty, I really do like to eat.
SOM: You’re being honest. That’s the good part.
KW: I mean, it was a genuine answer for sure. But uh, I love other things too. I love hanging out with my family and taking trips with my wife. I love writing music, playing golf and just getting out in nature with my friends. All the usual stuff that people like to do, I like to do that stuff too.
SOM: Well, the next question kind of fits in with that. Are there any movies coming out this year that you’re excited for? (Since we also do movie reviews for my website.)
KW: Yes! Oh, yes, I love watching movies. I could’ve said that. I love movies. I’m excited for the new Wolverine, Logan. I’m excited for John Wick 2. I loved the first one. Obviously, the next Star Wars is coming out in December. I’m excited for that one. Umm, I think there’s another Thor movie.
KW: I’m all into all the Marvel comic book stuff. Whether it’s Marvel or DC, I’m into it. I love it. So, all those.
SOM: I get a little too into it. I’m homeschooled, so I can kinda do what I want for assignments. So if I have a speech to do or sometimes I do classes with other kids, I’ll just use Marvel. Like I have to do a persuasive speech, so I chose to do why Marvel is better than DC.
KW: Oh man! *Laughs*
SOM: I go a little too into it! That’s my problem.
KW: Yeah… I don’t know. It’s a tough one, they both have elements that I love and elements that I don’t like. You know, why discriminate? The country is so divided on everything else, I’m like, “I like them both, whatever.”
SOM: I don’t not like DC, but I like Marvel a bit more, so that’s the one I went with.
KW: Yeah, definitely more movies to choose from that’s for sure. With the whole universe and all that.
SOM: Less remakes. Cause there’s how many remakes of Batman now?
KW: Yeah, and those Christian Bale ones are so good.
SOM: Yes! Those are my favorites!
KW: Especially The Dark Knight. That’s one’s good.
SOM: I do miss Heath Ledger. I didn’t even go see Suicide Squad. I’m like, “It won’t be the same. It’s not Heath Ledger.”
KW: Oh my God, I watched it and I was like, this sucks.
SOM: Oh really?
KW: I wasn’t into it. I was like, this is bad. I wanted to like it, and I was disappointed. The soundtrack’s cool though!
SOM: Yes! But it’s like, you can’t go up against Heath Ledger, you know? It’s just ruined now, you cannot try to play that role.
KW: It’s the best, it’s just the best. Not even the character, but just the acting performances was one of the best I’ve ever seen.
SOM: What items are a necessity for you on tour?
KW: Uhhhh, gosh… Well, I always bring my little travel studio stuff. Sometimes, on days off, I’ll go to the hotel room and write some stuff, record some stuff. That’s a must. You’re probably taking about deodorant and that kind of stuff?
SOM: No, anything really! I did an interview with Blake Allison from Devour The Day last week…
KW: Oh yeah, what’d he say?
SOM: He said instruments.
KW: I mean, that’s true.
SOM: Yeah, makes sense!
KW: That’s true. You know, I guess vitamins. Stuff to keep me from getting sick. Jasen, our other guitar player got me on Melatonin thing, where if you have trouble sleeping you take this Melatonin- it’s like natural- and you just take the pill. They’re actually gummies. You just chew a gummy and you get sleepy and fall asleep. I sleep great. It’s pretty awesome. It’s better than the alternative, which is you know, sleeping pills. I don’t ever want to take those things.
SOM: I kinda just put this one in because recently I’ve been drinking way too much coffee- How much coffee or energy drinks do you drink per day on tour?
KW: That’s a good one! I’m just now starting to get into coffee.
SOM: Oh really?
KW: I know, here I am, about to be 37 and like “Ah, coffee!” But it’s great. And I love, I love those energy drinks, man. God, Monster is so good. You take a drink of it, like we’ll get an ice cold one and take a sip and just feel it. I honestly don’t drink too many of them. I’ll take a sip every once in a while.
But if I drank a whole can of that thing, gosh, I feel like my heart would explode.
SOM: Yeah, that stuff is definitely interesting.
KW: Yeah, don’t think that. I don’t want Monster to make a lawsuit against me. Like, Alright, it’s this kid. He’s talking crap about us. But yeah, not too much. Honestly, since I’ve been home, we got a Keurig. My wife and I got this Keurig and it’s been like life changing. I’ll drink a cup of coffee everyday. And honestly, I’ll drink that cup of coffee and I’ll just be vibrating. I’ll just be like, my God, I feel this thing. I think it’s because I haven’t drank a whole lot of coffee in my life so it just, I don’t know. But we have this thing with Deathwish- Deathwish just sent us a bunch of stuff. And it’s the most powerful coffee you can get and I’m not used to it. So I take a couple sips here and there… but it tastes so good though. Once it hits your lips, gosh! It’s so good. But yeah, not on tour, not too much. I think one of the main things is I wanna be able to fall asleep and normally I’m so amped from playing the show and hanging out with fans and stuff. I mean it’s so fun, I’m always super amped up about it. And trying to wind down, trying to calm down. Even by 3 am, you’re still kinda like, “Man, I really just need to take a deep breath, kinda settle down.” The Melatonin helps with that for sure. SO, yeah- not too much caffeine, maybe a little bit, but not too much.
SOM: That’s probably for the better. I drink way too much coffee, I think, probably yesterday, I think I had four cups of coffee. Like big cups of coffee, within two hours.
SOM: I’m like, I shouldn’t be doing this, but it’s so good!
KW: Yeah, it is really good. I love the taste of it, but man, that caffeine, it’s strong stuff. Whenever I’m coming down, I’m just like, I feel bad, you know.
SOM: I think the worst part about coffee for me is I drink coffee and I’ll be like on a caffeine high for maybe ten minutes, and then it’s just *Snaps* just down. It’s bad, it gets bad!
KW: Wow, it only lasts ten minutes for you, huh?
SOM: I know! Like I had a small cup a couple weeks ago, I was just raring to go, just getting ready for a trip. And then, I wanted to fall asleep.
KW: Oh man, that’s rough.
SOM: Yeah, actually, it was on Wreaths Across America, which is the largest veterans parade in the world. We started up in Maine and we went down to Arlington National Cemetery. Basically, it’s just a trip where you get up early every morning and you drive late every night. You make lots of stops. So I had to drink lots of coffee, a lot of caffeine on the trip. It did not result well for everyone else stuck in the van with me drinking coffee. I’d get really excited and wound up, and then just fall asleep.
This is the “signature” question. I ask it at every interview.
KW: Uh oh.
SOM: If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only listen to one album, what album would it be and why?
KW: Gosh. That’s so hard. That’s so hard. That question isn’t even fair. It’s wrong.
SOM: I know. It’s fun; I love watching people answer!
KW: Here’s why. You could pick this great album that you love, but if it was the only thing you had to listen to, odds are you’d probably get tired of it and grow to hate it. Which would be horrible. So… man, I’m going to go with no album. None.
SOM: That’s a new answer!
KW: I’m going to go with no album just because I feel that I can remember enough songs in my head, I can just sing them in my head. If I had one album, I feel like I would be brainwashed and bombarded with the same album that I would just hate it. I would grow to hate it. That might be the wrong answer.
SOM: But it could be the right answer.
KW: God forbid, if I’m ever on a desert island somewhere, and this was the wrong answer and I’m like, “Man, I sure wish I had some music right now.”
SOM: That would be me! I can’t make decisions so, like ,no I’m not going to have one. No, I do want one.
KW: It’s probably not the right answer but I’ll go with it. Whatever, I’ll be different.
SOM: When you’re starting to write new music, is there a specific place you go to really get into writing?
KW: Not really. I think really just in my mind, I think of visuals. I think of places, places that maybe exist, maybe don’t. You know? I have a song that I just finished, it’s called “Crows”. You ever seen Mad Max, the new one?
SOM: I haven’t seen that one yet.
KW: It’s really good. It’s real action packed, it’s really cool. But anyway, there’s this scene where they’re driving, and they’re driving through the desert. Then it’s nighttime, and they drive through this real kinda blueish, dark, wet wasteland. There’s like one dead tree. And there’s all these crows. I would just constantly think of that kind of place whenever I was writing. This kind of post-apocalyptic place where humans had messed up the world so bad that all that’s left are these crows circling around in the air.
SOM: That’s really cool, I like that.
KW: So that’s what I thought of. But uh, I’ll do that sometimes. I’ll think of scenarios. It’s like a movie or something.
SOM: Are there any sports team rivalries between band members in BB?
KW: No, not at all. Yeah, for the most part, we’re not that into sports. I think me and Aaron- the bass player- we probably watch sports the most. The other guys aren’t really into sports. But me and Aaron, we pretty much like the majority of the same stuff. I’m from Tennessee so I’m a huge Tennessee fan. Tennessee football. And I think just by association, Aaron and a couple of the other guys, they’re Tennessee fans now too just cause I converted them. But uh, yeah, no real rivalries. We don’t really get into it that much.
SOM: My family is pretty bad when it comes to sports. It’s just my parents and I and my brother, we’re all Steelers fans. But I live in the middle of Maine, where everyone is Patriots fans! So they hate us!
KW: Oh yeah!
SOM: Both sides of my family hate us because we’re like, “Yay, go Steelers”, and everyone else is like, “No, Patriots are better”. So it’s probably good for the band that there’s no rivalries!
SOM: What advice would you give someone trying to get into the music industry?
KW: Oh boy… Well, it depends on what aspect. If they’re a music maker or if they want to just do more of the business side of it. Both of which are incredibly difficult. I guess if you were a musician, I would say to really work hard and try to write the best music you can. Get the best recording of it that you can. Find like-minded people that all kinda share the same goals and the same mindset. They aren’t just there to party. Man, it’s tough. That’s a tough question. There’s no real right way to do it. Sometimes, take Bieber for example. He made a Youtube video of himself singing and got discovered. There’s no wrong way. There’s people who played regionally and had their band and got a following and had so much success that way, they didn’t even need to get a label or the whole cliché sign-the-record-deal. They didn’t even need that because they had their fans. That’s a way. I think probably my biggest piece of advice is being a musician and wanting to try to be successful and to make a living and be in music, the best advice is to work hard and never quit. That would be it. You have to decide from day one that this is it, this is what I want to do. Because if it’s not, if it’s kinda half in and half out, you won’t do it. There’s a lot of doors that will shut in your face, and it’s discouraging. And if you’re not all the way into it and in it, you’ll be like “Ahh, this isn’t for me” and you won’t do it. But you’ve got to practice though. You’ve got to be somewhat good at what you’re doing. That all plays into the working hard. Listen to other people sometimes. Listen to people’s advice. Sometimes there’s good advice, sometimes there’s bad advice too. So, you have to make the judgement call there, but I would say be persistent. Persistence is key. That would be it, to sum it all up.
SOM: That’s all I have. Where can the readers find out more about your music?
SOM: Well, thank you so much for doing this interview! It was really wonderful. I really look up to you as one of my musical influences.
KW: Aww, I appreciate that.
Be sure to check out Keith’s last EP, Allies!
For concert dates, go to one of the websites above!
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