Disturbed: “There’s renewed fire, passion and drive in all of us”

Following Disturbed’s re-emergence from their self imposed hiatus and the release of their latest record Immortalised, JONTY SIMMONS spoke to lead singer David Draiman about the album, the hiatus and the chances of a tour for Soundwave in 2016.

As band that’s stood the test of time through the rise and fall of nu-metal, crabcore and the like, Disturbed are have become one of the mainstays of the metal genre. From their breakout debut album in 2000, The Sickness, to their 2010 studio album Asylum, the band gathered a fan base to rival that of the most passionate bands in any genre. But following reports of Draiman’s battle with depression and disillusionment with the music industry as a whole the band went on hiatus in 2011. Draiman claimed that there was no animosity between the members, but that they simply needed to “stop the assembly line type of machine the Disturbed leviathan had become.”

Since then each member has pursued other projects. Draiman released a debut album with a new band Device; guitarist Dan Donegan and drummer Mike Wengren founded Fight or Flight; and bassist John Moyer joined Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland to create Art of Anarchy. With each band finding success, Disturbed fans grew restless, even with Draiman’s constant reassurance that the band would return in due time. Now, nearly five years after the release of Asylum, the band has returned with the release of their sixth record Immortalised and an American tour. Ahead of their triumphant return in Chicago, FL spoke to lead singer David Draiman in his hotel room. Excitedly rushing through his sentences, and eager to discuss everything Disturbed, the singer spoke about his own personal growth during the hiatus and what it is about touring that made them come out of hibernation.

It’s a big deal that you’re back together, is it any different after a few years?

It is I have to say. It’s like tasting your favourite dish that you haven’t had for a very, very long time and having someone prepare it to the 10th power of expertise, then sinking your teeth into it all new again. There’s nothing that compares to the chemistry that we’re able to harness together honestly. Sometimes you need to step away from something in order to realize how much you really do appreciate it. We have a greater appreciation, respect and admiration for one another that we’ve ever had in our career. I believe it’s very clearly translated in the vibe of this record and it will definitely be very powerfully translated in the impact of our performances live. If our practice today is any indicator, then people are in for bloodshed. [laughs]

“We’re fiending for our fix of the live experience”

When you did decide to go on hiatus, were you not getting the same feeling like you did in practice today?

You know what, you go through the rigmarole of recording and album, then touring. It’s very cyclical and becomes monotonous, and you don’t take the time that you’d like to take just as a human being just to be able to spend time with your family and just do the normal things in life that touring life doesn’t allow you to do. You do need to step away from something from time to time to not only gather focus and strength but to realize how much you love it and how much you appreciate it. There’s renewed fire, passion and drive in all of us that I honestly can’t remember how the last time we were chomping at the bit this much to get out there. We’re fiending for our fix of the live experience in the most powerful way possible.

Since you’re so keen to tour, will we see you at Soundwave next year?

We don’t know yet. Part of the difficulty of keeping something like this secret like we did is that you can’t really start planning for it until it’s no longer a secret. So we were all able to start rolling on the plans only about a month and a half ago, so I don’t know yet. Who knows, I would love to, but we’ll have to see what the consults say.

Would we be more likely to see you at a festival or a headline tour?

I’ll tell you that you’re likely to see us… Not only likely, you can count on seeing us. One way or another. Whether we’re there on a festival or headlining, there’s no doubt that we’re going to get out there. It’s one of our most vibrant markets and one of our strongest fanbases. We love coming out there and we’re definitely looking forward to it.

Excellent. Obviously you’re excited about this new album, and it’s catchy as well. Do you think it’s because you guys work so well together?

I think that the stars definitely aligned. We were in the right headspace at the right time, with the right producer and the results I hope will speak for themselves. I can only hope that people are as happy with what we created as what we are.

There are darker elements to the album, especially with ‘Save The Last Goodbye’; was that something that you needed to get off your chest?

That’s actually a song directly derivative of an experience that Danny [Donegan, guitarist] went through. It’s one of the songs on the record that had the most contribution from him, thematically and lyrically. I only really massaged the lyrics; the root lyric came from him. I came up with the melody, but it was his brainchild as far as the concept goes because he had a friend of his that he lost to cancer. It was a very difficult thing for him to handle because he saw him deteriorate, and saw him waste away. He was a family man much like Dan is and it really, really impacted on him tremendously. The voicemail at the beginning of the song is actually his friend, and it’s the last voicemail he left Dan. To make things even more poignant, it’s the only recording of their father’s voice that his children have left. So it’s just eerily stirring and it gives me goosebumps even just thinking about it.

It’s just one of the moments on the record, and I have no doubt that all of us can relate to losing someone that we care about, whether it’s relatives we’ve lost, loved ones we’ve lost. Even in the music industry, in the world of rock, how many amazing artists have we unfortunately lost over the past four or five years? I definitely think that song is one of many on the record that a lot of people will be able to relate to.

The intro to the album sounds more lifelike and cleaner than a lot of your other songs, is it from the energy you have as a band?

It’s the place we’re at right now. It’s the sense of being invigorated no doubt. It’s us having written all of the material with myself, Mike and Dan in the same room together for the first time since [2002’s] Believe. That was unique. We didn’t rely on sending WAV files to each other across the country and throwing it into Pro Tools sessions. We actually got in the same room and did it old school. We improvised it, we jammed on the spot and if something inspired us, we continued in the same direction. We used each other as barometers so to speak. That’s really how it should be done and I can guarantee we’re never going to stray from that process ever again because there’s nothing else that compares to it. The chemistry when the three of us are in a room together creating is tangible, it’s intoxicating, and it’s incredibly intoxicating. We’re full of fire and full of energy and excited to no end to get out there and get that fix of the live experience with this new ammunition under our belts.

Well you’re talking about fire, and your live shows definitely aren’t lacking in pyrotechnics. Will we be seeing the same sort of production value, or even bigger shows than before?

It’s kind of hard for us to lose the fire. [laughs] Once you have fire, you can’t go back. It would have to be a very difficult scenario financially that would force us to not have it, and I don’t see that happening. I would love to make the shows as big and as bombastic as they possibly can be. There’s nothing better to help accentuate a hard rock or heavy metal show than pyro. [laughs] We love it, so who knows what we’ll bring.

For the live shows, you always have amazing crowd reactions. What song do you think is going to have them singing the loudest?

Impossible to tell. I always think that I have an idea. With every Disturbed record, everybody has their old favourites. So people are going to be most exuberant about the songs that they’re most familiar with. So the singles that get the greatest amount of exposure undoubtedly get the stronger crowd reactions. But ironically on many of the other records, it’s the album tracks that have been some of the most powerful crowd anthems. So it’s really tough to say. I think it’s a good problem we have that our songs affect different people differently but they seem to resonate with the crowd as a whole very powerfully pound for pound. So I couldn’t even pretend to guess.

How are you going to pick and choose out of the songs when almost every song from Immortalised will likely have a huge crowd reaction?

It’s really difficult. It’s as difficult as the process of which songs were actually going to make the record and not just be the b-sides or the extras. It’s like choosing your favourite children. It’s daunting. [laughs] We’re going to have to do the best we can to vary it as much as possible within the parameter of time we’re on stage. We’re just going to have to do the best we can.

So how did you decide on which songs to have as singles from Immortalised?

Well there’s only one official single, the others are what the label likes to call an “instant gratification” track. [laughs] So far the only official one is ‘The Vengeful One’, but ‘Immortalised’, ‘Fire It Up’ and ‘What Are You Waiting For’ were all instant gratification tracks to help people get a taste for what the body of work is like. This week we’re actually streaming the entirety of the record so people can hear the whole thing before they buy it. I think there’s definitely something to be said about that: sometimes you want to take the car for a test drive before you put your money down.

“There’s no greater addiction on the face of this planet than playing live to an energetic and captive audience”

Do you feel that on albums like Asylum, you were going through the motions as opposed to the energy you have on Immortalised?

I wouldn’t say we were ever really “going through the motions”. I do have to be honest with myself and say to myself that Asylum was written during a time when I was in a very deep depression. It was a very dark time for me so this record I’m actually in a much more positive place, dare I say. It’s largely due to my wife and child and having found some peace, serenity and balance through them. It’s been a really amazing feeling. It comes full circle by reuniting with the brothers you were meant to create music with in this world. It put all of us in a very, very positive light. I know that’s kind of strange to hear from the members of Disturbed [laughs] but it’s true. I wouldn’t say we sacrificed anything or that we didn’t have our head in the game. We always give it everything we’ve got but we’re human too. There’s no doubt that those years of hiatus and stepping away from everything to be human beings for a while, reinvigorated us and made us grow a greater appreciation for the thing we have together. It also made us feel those symptoms of withdrawal that all musicians know. Because there’s no greater addiction on the face of this planet than playing live to an energetic and captive audience. There just simply isn’t. We’re suffering from withdrawal at this point. [laughs]

Ten Thousand Fists turns 10 next year. Are you going to do an anniversary album tour?

There are no plans for that but it’s certainly not out of the question. To be honest, the Disturbed sets for this upcoming cycle are going to be longer sets than anyone’s ever heard from us. They’re going to be diverse. Every night people are going to get a different Disturbed experience throughout this cycle. We intend to vary the set as much as possible so it gives people a new experience every night. Playing the Fists record front to back – as much as we love it – in my opinion, would be short changing everyone from a catalogue that’s about 100 songs deep. So it’s certainly worth considering. We didn’t do it for the anniversary of The Sickness either which is probably the time you think we would’ve done it but who knows. I’m not ruling anything out but I would love to give people an experience this time that’s unique no matter how many times they’ve come and seen the band.

Immortalised is out now through Warner.