1 EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: David Draiman of Disturbed on Wed 18 Aug 2010, 06:34
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His hugely successful band, Disturbed, is due to release Asylum, their fifth album, on August 31 via Reprise. If Asylum performs at all like the band's last three releases, it'll enter the charts at Number 1. Good stuff, right?
Yes, but this being Disturbed, and this planet being the way it is, and human beings acting the way they do, you can't imagine that the album will be a happy affair. It'll be insightful, but it'll be angry. And it will rock. A soft spoken and endlessly polite David Draiman rang up Blender to talk Asylum, as well as the Rock Star Energy UPROAR Festival, in which Disturbed headlines a lineup that also includes Avenged Sevenfold, Stone Sour, Halestorm, and Hell Yeah, and which kicks off today.
Why the title Asylum?
I have to explain the premise of the title track in order to explain the title for the record. The song itself deals with the memory of a lost loved one driving you to the brink of madness, and yet the memory is also a haven for you, a safe place that you sometimes retreat to. It embraces the dual meaning of the word.
So, too, the record embraces the chaos and the madness of the world right now, yet the world is a home for us, a place where we have to make ourselves feel safe.
The album's first single, "Another Way To Die," is sadly very relevant today.
Very sadly, yes, but we didn't plan it that way. The song was written five months prior to the whole BP disaster. Before that we'd had long-running abuse of the planet to look at, but the oil spill made the song far more poignant than any of us would have liked.
Hopefully the situation is flagrant enough, and the backhanded deals, and the corruption levels in government are flagrant enough for people to notice. Even the dispersants authorized by the Coast Guard and used by BP were merely to get rid of the appearance of surface oil. It's still there, under the surface, and it's going to affect marine life. They're cleaning off what's visible, but what isn't visible is what's going to haunt the Gulf area for decades to come.
I would say it surprises me, but it doesn't. The level of corruption in governmental organizations and the corporations that they're supposed to be policing is nothing new, and unfortunately this whole situation just exposes President Obama for the politician that he truly is. It's very sad.
You've said that this album is 'more mature' than your previous work—what do you mean by that?
I just think that there's a heightened level of complexity in the songwriting, and the hooks are stronger and more defined than they've been in the past, and the level of musicianship really has been raised quite a bit. Danny [Donegan, guitarist] is really letting loose on all levels, as far as the electronic end of production that he brings to the table, as well as with his guitar work. Mike [Wengren, drummer] is doing this with his drum work that I didn't think was humanly possible for a drummer to pull off [laughs], and John [Moyer, bassist] continues to bring stability, making the rhythm section more solid.
We're able now to go in different directions, to areas we would have never dared to go before. And from a vocal perspective, this whole record pushed to different ends of my ability from a physical standpoint, but it also takes a much more storytelling approach, lyrically. In the past, I had relied on writing things very cryptically, and leaving things very open to interpretation. But with this record, given the perfect storm of shit that I had to deal with prior to writing it, it really lent itself to being very from the heart, and very direct—as opposed to trying to shroud them. A very different lyrical approach.
It seems like many of the great lyricists become more direct in their writing as they progress.
It was difficult to do. But it was very healing, very cathartic. As all of our records have been but with this one, it definitely was freeing in a way. I certainly don't regret it.
Usually when harder rocking artists talk about maturing, they mean 'slowing down'—it's good to hear that's not the case with Disturbed.
Well, we'd never attempted to write a seven and a half minute long song before, you know what I mean? [laughs] The intro track "Remnants"—which is merely an intro to the track "Asylum," they're meant to be played side by side—is very different from anything we've done before.
The intro to "Another Way To Die" was also different from anything we'd attempted before. We'd never tried to do a laid back introduction to a song, and I appreciated it, because it's almost like you're giving someone a caress before you smack them in the face. [laughs] It's a little bit surprising, but it makes the smack more enjoyable when it comes.
Are these introductions perhaps a gateway drug to more full-fledged instrumentals?
You never know—it's hard to say. I don't know if we are definitely going to go in that direction, but anything's possible. I do think it opens up the plate a bit.
You recorded this album in seven weeks. What was the vibe in the studio like?
The vibe was efficient. [laughs] The vibe was we came in there to do what we knew how to do, and we were very prepared to do it, and what we had trained very vigorously for prior to it. It was time for business.
Unfortunately some bands approach the studio like it's party time, and that's their choice. But for us, we all had homes and families to get back to, and so when we got into the studio, it was time to make time count, to be as productive as we could be.
We do all of our pre-production outside of the studio, so the songs are assembled and arranged 95-98 percent prior to ever walking into the door. So when we go in there, we all know what we're doing, we know our parts, and we get it done. Truth be told there were days in the studio that I was feeling so good that I was knocking out three sets of vocals in a day—and the other guys were just kicking ass.
If there was more time needed to be spent in the studio, well, it would have been spent—but this is the fastest that we've ever recorded in the studio.
How do the lyrics and music come together?
Well the lyrics are always difficult for us to come up with because the writing process is a bit unorthodox. It starts with a riff idea that Danny has, and which he brings to Mike. They put it into a two or three part song progression, and then they send the file to me in Austin and then I start improvising with it in my studio at home, coming up with vocal ideas. It's gibberish, something to convey the rhythm or the melody of what's going to be in there, but no actual words.
I send that back to them and we continue to develop the song. The lyrics end up being the very last thing added to the song. And truth be told, we usually enter the studio with song blocks of five or so to work on, but this time I only had lyrics for about six or seven done. That was the one thing I needed to finish in the studio—and it usually ends up being that way.
So the pressure was on. To come home after spending a day in the studio and work on lyrics in four hour blocks, then take an hour break to eat, then another four hours, then dinner, then another four hours... it was taxing on my relationship! [laughs] But that's part and parcel with doing all of this, and I think that we all sometimes function best under pressure.
Did you come into the writing process with an idea of what the album's overarching theme would be?
Well, the themes became more defined as the songs were written. By the time I had seven songs lyrically written before I entered the studio, I had a good idea of where things were going thematically. In fact, "Asylum" was the very first song that was written. I said to Danny early on, 'What do you think of calling the album Asylum?' And he said, 'It's early, just the first song,' but there was something about it I loved. With the dual interpretation of the word, I thought there was something we could mold there. And Danny was willing to keep an open mind.
You've made a record—now it's time to go out and play it. You're heading out on tour this month on the Rockstar Energy UPROAR Tour with Avenged Sevenfold, Stone Sour, Halestorm, and Hellyeah, among others. Are you fans of the other bands on the bill.
I'm a huge fan, and they're all friends. The only band I haven't had a chance to see is Halestorm, and I'm a huge fan of theirs. I think [Lzzy Hale] has an incredible voice—I haven't heard a voice like that since Ann Wilson's, from Heart.
As for Avenged, Stone Sour, Hellyeah, we're all friends, and I'm looking forward to after-show cookouts, hangouts, and just being buddies—having rock n' roll summer camp, so to speak!
Before we let you go, what are some current albums that you're into?
I haven't had a chance to hear all of the new Avenged Sevenfold yet, but everything I have heard from it is very promising. I'm very much in love with the Alice In Chains record Black Gives Way To Blue, I think it's an awesome record, and a great comeback for them. And I've only heard snippets of the Korn record and the Stone Sour record; I have yet to live with them, but I'm excited. And I'm happy that things are going well for the Godsmack camp.
When I see our colleagues doing well, it makes me feel better for our situation; it makes me feel more secure. We all root for another—if there's competitiveness, it exists onstage. It's never from a sales or chart perspective; we all want everyone to win.
And when you see another band go onstage and tear it up, it makes you want to play harder. It's like, 'Oh yeah?' [laughs] And if you were complacent that day, you need only watch the other bands on the bill. You realize you can't be complacent: you need to step up.
Asylum is out August 31 via Reprise. Video for "Another Way To Die" below, and UPROAR tour dates below that.
2010 Uproar Festival Tour Dates:
Tue 8/17 Minneapolis, MN Target Center
Wed 8/18 Kansas City, KS Capitol Federal Park at Sandstone
Fri 8/20 Omaha, NE WestFair Amphitheater
Sat 8/21 Chicago, IL First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
Sun 8/22 Buffalo, NY Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
Tue 8/24 Columbus, OH LC Outdoor Amphitheatre
Wed 8/25 Toronto, ON Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
Fri 8/27 Scranton, PA Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain
Sat 8/28 Saratoga Springs, NY Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Sun 8/29 Holmdel, NJ PNC Arts Center
Tue 8/31 Washington, DC Jiffy Lube Live
Wed 9/1 Charlotte, NC Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Fri 9/3 Birmingham, AL Verizon Wireless Music Center
Sat 9/4 Atlanta, GA Aarons Amphitheatre at Lakewood
Sun 9/5 Tampa, FL 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre
Wed 9/8 Tulsa, OK BOK Center
Fri 9/10 Dallas, TX Superpages.com Center
Sat 9/11 Corpus Christi, TX Concrete Street Amphitheater
Sun 9/12 Houston, TX Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Tue 9/14 Denver, CO Comfort Dental Amphitheatre
Wed 9/15 Salt Lake City, UT USANA Amphitheatre
Fri 9/17 Irvine, CA Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Sat 9/18 San Diego, CA Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre
Sun 9/19 Tempe, AZ Tempe Beach Park Amphitheatre
Tue 9/21 Bakersfield, CA Rabobank Arena
Wed 9/22 Sacramento, CA Sleep Train Amphitheatre
Fri 9/24 Spokane, WA Greyhound Park
Sat 9/25 Seattle, WA White River Amphitheatre
Sun 9/26 Vancouver, BC Pacific Coliseum
Tue 9/28 Edmonton, AB Rexall Place
Wed 9/29 Calgary, AB Saddledome
Thur 9/30 Saskatoon, SK Credit Union Centre
Sat 10/2 Winnipeg, MB MTS Centre
Sun 10/3 Fargo, ND Fargodome
Mon 10/4 Madison, WI Alliant Energy Center Memorial Coliseum