David Draiman is never one to be at a loss for words, and when we pinned the Disturbed frontman down for this month’s interview, it was no exception. Currently on the road previewing the Sept. 20 release of their long-anticipated third album, Ten Thousand Fists, Disturbed-Draiman, guitarist Dan Donegan and drummer Mike Wengren, and “hired gun” bassist John Moyer [ex-Union Underground]—are preparing to drop a sonic depth charge, a rapturous pinnacle of metallic roots, melodic sensibilities, and exhilarating fury. “We’ve just been feeling more aggressive,” said Draiman of the album. “We’ve been angrier, and wanting to get a little bit more brutal, and that’s what this album is reflecting.” What the frontman revealed in our interview, is equally brutal in honesty, from his take on the current war in Iraq, to Moyer’s role as the band’s bassist, to his surprisingly candid take on women and relationships. Remember The Sickness? It’s back—Ten Thousand Fists strong, and growing stronger with every passing day…
MAXIMUM INK: While Believe had more of an classic metal feel to it, Ten Thousand Fists is definitely a return to the stylistic approach of The Sickness.
DAVID DRAIMAN: This record seems to fuse our favorite elements of both—Some of the more aggressive, staccato nature of some of the songs on The Sickness, the darker vibe of The Sickness, with some of the more complex, and still intensely melodic elements that came out in Believe. It seems to take those, and kind of inject them with steroids, if you will. Overall, I think this is the most aggressive of the three, and definitely the most difficult, in terms of range and complexity, and pushing ourselves as musicians. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious effort, it’s just we’re our experiences led us. I’m very proud of the record.
INK: You’re being very ambitious with the touring with this release. Most bands, the trend is to do an initial tour in clubs they’re technically too big to play, and whet people’s appetites. You’re going bigger from the outset.
DD: We are keeping it kind of small, and that’s really the whole intention of this record, and our mindset—Doing about half a year’s worth of intimate venues, going back to where we came from, and if we have to do two or three nights to accommodate everybody, so be it. This initial run isn’t going to be like that, but the Jagermeister run, which will happen the beginning of November, will be multiple nights in smaller venues. That will be our first attempt to go back to intimacy—Not because we have to, but because we want to. This is a choice. We wanted to keep it intimate, make it tight, and go back to where we came from, giving people something really unique and really special. It’s about being able to feel their heat and their breath, and actually feel the resonance of your words being sung through their mouths. There’s so much about the small clubs that we miss, and there’s a great intimacy that you end up retaining, that stays with you.
INK: The focus becomes more personal, and less spectacle. There’s more of a connection…
DD: And that’s the whole intention of the entire beginning of this record cycle. When we released “Guarded” to metal radio, college radio, and specialties, it was to whet people’s appetites and give back to our core. Believe took a stab at expansion, with the type of record that it was, and it happened at a time and environment that maybe wasn’t 100% receptive to it. Not that we’re looking to minimize what we’re doing, we’re looking to expand even more and hopefully make it an worldwide phenomenon, as opposed to something that’s been limited in the scope of its success to the United States, primarily. We really want to be as big as possible, just like every other band out there! [Laughing] We put our best foot forward, and in order to regain that intensity, spirit, angst and attitude, it’s good to go into smaller rooms.
INK: I want to call you metal, because I know you’ve got bands like Iron Maiden’s and Queensryche in your past. But you’re really more of a rock band. You’ve got more in common with a Queens Of The Stone Age or Foo Fighters than you do with, as you called them, the “Cookie Monster” bands.
DD: I would certainly put us in the category of a Godsmack, or even a System Of A Down, at a certain level—They’re very different with the tongue-in-cheek quirkiness of the music, but they’re brilliant at it. That’s an environment we’re comfortable in. We’ve still got a lot in comon with Korn. I love Queens Of The Stone Age and Foo Fighters, they’re great bands, but a little lighter than we are—We’re the heavier end of the hard rock bands, we’re on the fringe. We really have a lot more in common with the bands of old, than we do with today’s bands. We don’t fit anywhere on the OZZfest second stage. There’s tremendous musicianship going on in those bands, I love the dueling guitar solos, I love the complexity, I love the intensity and the ferocity… I was, and still am, a fan of New York City hardcore, like Sick Of It All. That kind of style of monotone, aggressive kind of staccato vocals is what influenced my vocal style, but I don’t think we’re ever going to change the way we write songs to walk away from aspects of melody. Melody is always going to be a huge part of what Disturbed are all about. We’re always going to have choruses that stick, and each song is always going to have its own identity. These are the things that are most important to us, and we will never take a look at the environment and say, “This is what’s going on, we should try and do A, B, C or D.”
INK: How much impact did the member change have on the writing?
INK: Was the songwriting handled within the band, as a trio?
DD: John is a hired gun, and he’s got a long road to travel. Brother, when you go through a messy divorce, the last thing you want to do is put a ring on somebody’s finger, and we’re taking our sweet-ass time with it. We’re always willing to hear what he has to say, don’t get me wrong, but as far as actual songwriting goes, he has no part of it. And as far as interviews go, he’s going to stay out of that limelight, too. Right now he’s a hired gun, he’s got a lot to prove, and it might take time. It might take a whole record cycle—We’re hoping that he has the ability to become the guy, but we’re going to have to date for a while before we get married.
INK: I heard several rumors about other potential bassists. How’d you decide on John?
DD: We went through that whole bit of hell that was the whole audition process. We had a huge public audition in L.A., and a really huge public audition in Chicago, and he actually flew out to the Chicago one without making any arrangements with management, on his own dime, stood in line with everybody else, and played. That showed a lot of balls, and he nailed it, and he has a very good vibe. It was a very hard selection process, and at the end of the day, we had a good grouping of guys, and it’s not like it was a gimme. For a whole bunch of different reasons, he ended up “winning.” Right now, though, we’re focusing on the three main members.
INK: “Ten Thousand Fists” is a colossal, epic anthem. It’s empowering, which seems to be a Disturbed trademark. Do you look for a song like that to open the album?
DD: We always look for something that is a good statement of the entirety of the record. Classically, our title tracks have been track four. It just seemed more appropriate that we start this record off with a smack in the face, and that song is one of the three most aggressive on the record. It seemed fitting, it’s a battle cry.
INK: There was a theme stringing Believe together. Is that the case with Ten Thousand Fists?
DD: If anything is stringing the album together, I think it’s the concept of “Ten Thousand Fists,” that whole symbol of unified strength. There seems to be two separate trains of thought running through this record. One is relationship-oriented, and how our relationships—mine in particular—have been affected by the path in life that we’ve chosen. The other train of thought seems to be more global and politically driven. This probably is the most blatantly political of the three records, because I feel that you should always write what you’re passionate about, and if you’re close to a situation and your eyes are open, you can’t help but have a responsibility to speak your heart and mind—If people chose to agree or disagree with you, they’re always more than welcome. For a long time, I’ve been an advocate of peace. I’ve been against the war, and I’ve been against sending our brothers and sisters out to the desert to die for a people who don’t want their protection, and when the reason for it keeps changing. I’ve had many friends in the military who, over the course of this conflict, have lost their lives and continued to contribute to my negative reactions to this war. First it was retaliate for 9/11. Then it was to find weapons of mass destruction. Then it was to remove the dictator. Then it’s to go ahead and establish democracy in the region. Then, once democracy is established, it’s to maintain peace in the region. The story keeps changing, and none of it is viable. In my mind, I’ll never see any justification in this conflict. I think we should mind our own fucking business, and anyone who opposed us initially, we should simply cut off aid to, take the money, and throw it into our own schools and poverty in this country. Many songs on this record deal directly with the conflict—Songs like “Forbidden,” “Overburdened,” “Sacred Life,” “Avarice,” “Land Of Confusion.” All these songs speak about the war and world events, and I feel the responsibility to speak about what I’m passionate about, and I’m passionate about there being peace.
INK: Do you think lyrics get lost on a lot of your audience?
DD: They are certainly welcome to dive into it, or they’re certainly welcome to enjoy the musical aspect of what’s going on. But when I’m trying to convey a song and trying to sing it passionately, the words need to mean something to me, more importantly. If they can mean something to someone else, too, and they can find depth and meaning in them, so much better. But first and foremost, it’s so that I can pull the song off with conviction. There has to be a close, personal connection… The irony of it is, I’m one of the staunchest supporters of the military that you’ll ever find. Just because I oppose the war, does not mean I’m anti-military. It’s not their fault, they’re just following orders. Many of my friends and fans that are soldiers have said that they listen to our music as they head into battle, and it gives them a feeling of strength, courage and fearlessness. That’s exactly what this music is meant to do, and I couldn’t be more proud. I just wish they didn’t have to utilize it in a situation where they’re seemingly not wanted.
INK: You mentioned “Land Of Confusion.” It’s a perfect song for right now, as “Shout” was—You have a knack for picking good covers.
DD: To be honest with you, I was against doing a cover again, period, and I’ve been quoted as saying that we would never do one again—But, of course I’m eating my words! [Laughing] Danny came up with the idea, and the thought was that we might be able to get a stronger hold overseas, because they do very well out there, and radio is very different animal in the rest of world. Also, to take something very left of center compared to what we normally do, and make it our own. I am not a Phil Collins or Genesis fan, but I couldn’t deny the adaptability of the song—The keyboard line lends itself very easily to a heavy guitar riff, the vocal range that he sings in is very easy for me to nail, the hooks are there, the lyrical content is very, very appropriate to the theme of this record… All of this taken into consideration, and the more I kept working with it, the more ideas I had about how to approach it vocally, and then Danny put his stamp on it with a guitar solo, and we really kind of put our stamp on it and metamorphousized it to a point where we were proud of it, and thought, “Holy shit, this really turned into something—It has to be there.”
INK: A lot of the songs seem like they could be about either relationships or what’s going on the world now—A song like “Deify,” for example.
DD: It’s more about attributing God-like powers to a human being. That’s why, in the beginning, you hear that sample from Bush’s 9/11 speech. It’s the perfect example of someone who was attributed God-like power, and deified. Whether it’s Bush, the Pope, Ted Turner, or anybody else like that, it just warns of the danger of that sort of behavior, treating a human being like a God. The majority of the relationship songs—“Guarded,” “Stricken,” “Just Stop”—all come from the darker side of viewing relationships [laughing], but unfortunately, my vision is skewed by my life experiences. “Guarded,” in particular, is about how choosing this way of life, this path that we are on… Some more than other—Danny has a beautiful wife and child, Mike seems to be on his way, and me? Besides not being ready, I don’t think it would be fair to the person I would be with. You force yourself to be guarded. The lyric of the song is, “Guarding yourself from the love of another left you with nothing tonight / Why does it sound like the devil is laughing, leaving me haunted tonight.” That’s me speaking to myself. I made this decision to lead this sort of life, and therefore I’m unfortunately deprived of certain things, like love in a true sense. “Stricken” is a song about a relationship that is so all-encompassing and damaging, you feel like you’re stricken with a disease. “Just Stop” is about a situation where your other half is always trying to come up with reasons to argue with you, and you’re constantly apologizing, and constantly asking for forgiveness, over and over again [laughing], and the frustration that comes with it…
INK: You are about as big a “rock star” as there is in the modern rock world. Do you think people have a twisted perception of what a rock star is today? I’ve never seen you “alone,” but I know what you mean about the emptiness and the void in a relationship. Do you think people have mistaken ideas about what your life may be like?
DD: I think there are a lot of preconceived notions, and notions that are not necessarily accurate, certainly. Especially in the rock genre. First of all, there’s the notion that we’re all idiots, and have no brain power. Then there’s the notion that life is a big party, they don’t understand that there is actual work involved, actual sacrifice, and that there are periods of suffering, and it can be lonely. God knows I’ve never been one to run from girls—I love women, I always will love women, and I’m an addict [laughing], but there are worse things to be addicted to! I think it’s a matter of looking at some of the simpler things that people take for granted—Like privacy, extended intimacy, continuity, being able to be in one place for a decent period of time, being able to have the comfort of not having to ever wake up alone, and not having to learn about a new person again... Obviously, people can say, “Yes, but you get to be around all these beautiful women.” Yes, that can be wonderful, and I dive right into it, but on another level, like I said, there’s the loss of privacy, and the fact that even if I decide to be monogamous with someone, the entire world is perpetuating the notion that I’m not. That is very difficult for anyone to deal with. The very fact that you’re a public person is very difficult for the type of women that you could commit to, to even be able to live with. So it’s a blessing and a curse. That’s why when you choose this life, it’s like you made a deal with the devil—There’s a very good side to it, and a very bad side, and you need to be willing to take both. I’m not complaining, by any means—I relish my existence! I’m not somebody that has anything to hide, I don’t bullshit people, I don’t tell stories, I don’t give false impressions to any of the women I see… It is what it is—“I’m gonna be here for a little while, I’m going to treat you like a gentleman, I’m going to fuck the cowboy shit out of you, and I’m going to be gone for a while. If you want to start it all up again when I get back, as long the experiences between us were good, we’ll do that again. But it’s not just going to be you, don’t ask about others, and let’s not make that an issue. Once that becomes an issue, it’s time to say goodbye to each other.” I’m not saying that the possibility isn’t there that someone could penetrate the walls around my heart, but the walls are there for a reason. Because the times when I have been on the road, and that person I have committed to hasn’t been able to be with me, you’re so much more lonelier than normal, and that affects my ability to do what I do. I can’t think clearly, I can’t concentrate on my performance, and I can’t project the way I need to.
INK: Girls are going to love reading that…
DD: It is what it is! One thing I can say is that I’m always honest. Don’t get me wrong—I am still romantic enough to hope that there is a girl out there that kicks my ass and blows me away, and there have been a couple here and there, and there have been a couple that I’ve tried to maintain a relationship with, but my life is more difficult on my partners than it is on me, and there’s very little I can do about that. I am who I am, this is the path I have chosen, and I am an addict of this life. I’m an addict of the stage, and I’m an addict to the fix I get five nights on the road. I wouldn’t trade that for anything, and nothing’s going to get in the way of that. For more info go to www.disturbed1.com