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David Draiman of Disturbed
David Draiman of Disturbed at Roseland Ballroom
NYC, Fall 2000, Photo © 2000 NY Rock

   

Interview with David Draiman of Disturbed by Gabriella

A platinum album, devout fans and headlining slots on major festival tours are the past, present and future for the hard-rock band Disturbed. And it doesn’t look like David Draiman (vocals), Dan Donegan (guitar), Mike Wengren (drums), and Fuzz (bass) have any complaints. Confident, self-assured and stoic as a monk, soft-spoken David Draiman speaks from the heart about his love of the harder-than-hell music that he and his bandmates continue to create.

NYROCK:

You were the last one to join Disturbed. How did that happen?

DAVID:

The other three knew each other already and partially had been playing together in some other bands from the Chicago scene when they founded Disturbed. They already had a singer, but somehow it didn't seem to work out with him so they had an ad in the paper. Well, I saw it and I thought I'd take my chances and that was it then. We clicked.

NYROCK:

That sounds pretty simple. You just applied and they hired you for the job?

DAVID:

It sounds pretty simple, but I was sweating buckets. I never sang for a band that was so hard, with that level of hardness in their music. So, of course, I was quite nervous. I wasn't sure that I could measure up, that I could deliver what they were looking for, if my voice would be what they were looking for.

Everybody who's ever been in the situation knows what I'm talking about. You are nervous if you're applying for a job as a singer or a musician and especially if it's a style you haven't done before. If you have no previous experience in it, you just drive yourself into utter madness worrying about making a complete mess, making a fool out of yourself, you know.

NYROCK:

But it looks like you came, saw and conquered....

DAVID:

As soon as we started jamming together we clicked. It was really unbelievable. It was great. You know, if something like that happens, you just feel it. It's like energy, pure energy. It was the same when it came to songwriting, there was – and still is – a certain vibe there. We work so well together. I think we got something really rare going on.

NYROCK:

You did a cover of the 1980's Tears For Fears classic "Shout." That seemed surprising to me....

DAVID:

I think it is a masterpiece. We did want a song that is completely opposite to our sound, you know, coming from a completely different direction, but yet at the same time has the same meaning, has lyrics like something written by Disturbed. "Shout" is perfect for it. It's about voicing your displeasure and yelling it out, shouting it out, not sitting back and taking it. But if you remember when "Shout" was written – it's an '80s pop song from England – things were softer then. I think it really blends in well with our other songs and we play it almost every night and our audiences love it.

NYROCK:

Do you know how Tears For Fears like it?

DAVID:

Of course, Curt Smith told us that he thinks now finally the song has the aggression he envisioned when he wrote the lyrics. Wow, that was such a great compliment. We were floored. We could hardly believe it.

NYROCK:

You guys were part of the Ozzfest last year and are part of it again this year. What was it like last year?

DAVID:

Oh, it was certainly great. Absolutely! I don't think any of us will ever forget it. Being a part of the whole thing and hanging out with the bands that we've respected for so long, watching Ozzy every night. It was almost unreal, you know. It was crazy. We even went to a party at Tommy Lee's house and that's where I finally got to meet Ozzy.

NYROCK:

But weren't you on the same tour? Didn't you meet him there?

DAVID:

I mean not just seeing him perform, but like really meeting and talking to him. I was floored. We played all the time on the same festival, but that was completely different. After a whole summer of being on tour with him to finally sit down and talk to him a little bit.

NYROCK:

I imagine that it didn't take long for you to gather your own fan base. I think the Ozzfest and the release of your album in the U.S. went hand in hand?

DAVID:

   Disturbed
Yeah, every week there seemed to be more and more people there to catch us and they started singing along, like they knew the whole album. Wow, that was such a mind-blowing feeling. It was just kind of strange. All of a sudden we were playing for such a big crowd and I was always worried if I'd be able to reach out to them. I think we were all worried, but the experience we got there was really great and helped us a lot when we were touring with Kittie later that year or when we became the opening act for MTV's Return of the Rock tour. Without having the Ozzfest under our belts, I think it might just have freaked us out.

NYROCK:

What do you do to stay on top?

DAVID:

We don't have a particular plan. We just do what we do. This is the only way we know how to do it. We make the music that moves us. We use it as therapy. The songs are cathartic. They're ways of dealing with life experiences and the world around you. It's meant to be as a release for us as it is for other people.

NYROCK:

Would you say that's the message to your music?

DAVID:

It's multifaceted, the message to our music. It's not just that. It's about individuality, development of self, finding things in life that you can be passionate about.

NYROCK:

The video to "Stupify," I imagine a critic may say there is a bit of self-pity in it.

DAVID:

A bit, yes. It represents my inner child. My inner child has been warped in a sense by life experience, marred by life experience. It looks to the world and sees a world that's dark and frightening and mysterious, and full of ghosts and specters that still haunt him from the past. That's what you see in the video.

NYROCK:

And the obligatory question for musicians in the new millennium: How do you feel about Napster?


David Draiman of Disturbed
Photo © 2000 NY Rock
   
DAVID: Very positive about the internet, Napster. I think it's a tremendous tool for reaching many more people than we ever could without it. When you release music you want it to be heard by people. Artists really want to have their music heard. They want to have their creation heard by people. Nothing is going to do that better than Napster. I can't tell you how many kids have come up to me and said, "I downloaded a couple of tunes off Napster and I went out and bought the album." Or they say, "I went to come see you play." I don't really make money off of record sales anyway.

NYROCK:

From Ozzfest to Return of the Rock to headlining your own tours here and abroad, how is life on the road?

DAVID:

I wouldn't want it any other way.

NYROCK:

So you like it then?

DAVID:

Very much so. It's addictive. The stage is addictive. I can't get enough of it. We need to have our fix about five, six times a week.

NYROCK:

Speaking of the stage, many bands do not succeed in transferring the album to the stage....

DAVID:

Well, first of all, that we can play live, that is where we come from. We're able to grab the crowd, reach out to them. We try to reach out and touch them, you know.

I also think we are a really positive band. We're not a bunch of guys that sit around and feel sorry for the world and everything. We say what we mean and we're not afraid to say it loud. I think our fans like that and they feel the same way. I think in general our fans are not people who want to sit around and feel miserable. They're people who want to go and change something when they're miserable and not bury themselves in self-pity. Kick-ass guys and girls, you know!

NYROCK:

Anything else you want to say to the fans?

DAVID:

Just that this is genuine. And real. None of this is contrived.

NYROCK:

Do you feel that a lot of music out there is contrived?

DAVID:

A lot of it is. A lot of it is.

NYROCK:

In your genre?

DAVID:

Not necessarily in our genre. Some in our genre. But the majority of music in our genre is great.

July 2001

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