1 DISTURBED: Tales from the Asylum on Thu 26 Aug 2010, 12:49
Believe it or not, mighty Chicago four piece Disturbed have been belting out their melodic but bombastic heavy rock/metal sound since 1996. Since the release of their debut album The Sickness ten years ago, they have sold over 11 million albums worldwide, their previous three records debuting at number one on the Billboard Charts. In this day and age of illegal downloading, and of heavy music still being very much an underground phenomenon since it’s last renaissance well over 20 years ago, this is nothing short of incredible.
Being selected as one of the first people in the country to hear their brand new, as yet unreleased album Asylum is an honour. However, having terrible phone reception when given the fleeting opportunity to interview in-demand guitar player Dan Donegan was irritating to say the very least, for both interviewer and interviewee: “They can figure out how to put a monkey’s heart in a human being,” Dan quips, in one of the rare lucid moments, “and have that person live. But they can’t figure out a way to not drop a phone call!”
After multiple attempts, we managed to get enough of his insights into the album, its songs and various other Disturbed news and views, to complete this story.
Disturbed - Asylum“When it comes to writing,” he begins, regarding the new record, from on tour in Minneapolis, “we don’t really discuss where we want to go, direction wise, we just have to let it happen naturally. I mean, we all know what we like, and once we get together and start playing some riffs, we just start going in this direction. We try to branch out on elements that we liked from the previous albums, and try to evolve and just push each other in directions so that we keep expanding. So it keeps challenging us. We want each song to have it’s own identity, so we definitely take our time with trying to achieve that.
“It’s really impossible for us to pick a favourite track,” he goes on, “they are all so personal to us. But there’s certain songs that we really look forward to playing live. Of course, the more aggressive tracks…the ‘in your face’ ones get a little bit more of a response from an audience. But we also like some of the other ones that might be a bit more vibey or more melodic too. Something that adds some dynamics throughout the show.”
Upon a single listen, first impressions of the album were extremely impressive. The band seems to be able to capture such a sharp, punchy but warm tone on all of their records, and the self produced Asylum is no exception. Indeed, they appear to have extracted an even fatter sound from themselves this time round. Plus the songs themselves are ultra catchy, percussive and intense all at once, in true Disturbed fashion. Dan and the rest of the band are completely happy with the results.
“For sure,” he says, “I’m sure we wouldn’t put out an album unless we felt that we were evolving, and outdoing ourselves. But it came together really good, and we’re very happy and proud of the outcome.” They’re a band that have managed to attain a ridiculously high level of consistency in their records, both in terms of sound and song quality, and regularity of release and value for the fans, having released an album virtually every two years since the debut in 2000. “Yeah, there’s always going to be those things that are signature Disturbed,” he agrees, “we just play the way we play, it’s very identifiable. But we always do try to push ourselves to try new things. As we get older and further in our career, we want to show a more mature side.”
Maintaining such consistency, and motivation to keep going as a unit, for so long would also no doubt be, at least in part, due to the fact that Disturbed have only had a single lineup change in well over a decade together. Which is of course highly unusual in the crazy, cut throat world of heavy music. The members share the same values and the same drive and dedication. Dan agrees, and puts the lineup’s longevity down to the maturity, and family-like values that the individual members bring to the table. “I think we just have a great deal of respect for each other,” Dan explains, “everybody in the band has a great sense of humour. And we’re just the best of friends. Some of the biggest parts of our lives have been shared together. It’s a family here. And when someone’s having an off day, we give them the space that we can. We joke around with each other and we can all take it.
“When we come off the road from touring,” he takes it further, “we’re pretty burnt out by that time. We look forward to sleeping in our own beds, and not living out of a suitcase. But it’s like we’re an addict. We’re away from it and we start missing it! It becomes a drug. It’s what we do this for, we love to perform, we love to be onstage and play the music that we created. It blows me away that music that we were writing years ago as a garage band for ourselves has evolved into this worldwide thing for us.”
The good news for Aussie Disturbed fans is that the band very much intends to bring their explosive live show back to these shores again in 2011. “For sure,” Dan confirms, “I mean we don’t have it locked in just yet, but it’s being worked on as we speak, and we’re hoping some time in April/May. We’re looking to see which bands we can possibly pair up with, and put together a good package. We’re excited about coming back in 2011. We’re gonna bring some bigger production and hopefully bring some good bands and put on a great show for you.”