1 Rockers stupified by success on Thu 28 Apr 2011, 10:32
What have hard-rocking Chicago band Disturbed got in common with U2 and Van Halen?
Three records in a row that hit No 1 on the United States music charts.
What have they got in common with Dave Matthews Band and Metallica?
Four in a row.
That's right. Despite lacking the sheer name recognition of those other groups, Disturbed - who play Wellington on Wednesday - are one of only three bands ever to achieve that feat.
How have they done it?
"You know, I don't know," says John Moyer, the band's bass player since 2003, when he took over from founding member Steve "Fuzz" Kmak. "We don't overthink it."
But then he has a go at working it out anyway. It's something to do with the band self-producing their last few records, he says, and something to do with their careful recording style.
"We do most of the writing before we even go into the studio. So we already know what we're going to do when we go in. And we knock it out pretty quick."
More than that, though, it's an instinct about what the band's ever-growing legion of fans are looking for.
"Our fans want to hear those pummelling rhythms, they want to hear David's ferocious attack, his introspective lyrics. We play music that makes people feel powerful."
Disturbed is a four-piece heavy metal band that formed in the mid-1990s, when lead singer David Draiman showed up to an audition held by the three other members.
In the past decade, their success has exploded. They've sold 11 million records. Along with grabbing Grammy nominations and a bucketful of No 1 singles, they've founded their own travelling music festival - "Music as a Weapon" - which has included such heavyweights as Korn.
Now they're bringing a smaller version of the tour to Wellington, with support from fellow heavy metal outfits Trivium and As I Lay Dying.
"It's part of the fun for us, and part of the value for the audience - you know, strength in numbers," Moyer says. "It's not enough for us to come through with just a local opener. We really try to make it something that people will love."
He's pretty keen on New Zealand too, getting audibly more excited when he twigs that he's being interviewed by a Kiwi. His last trip to Aotearoa was a mix of great scenery, thrill-seeking and bar-hopping.
"You know what, I gotta tell you man, we love New Zealand. Nothing against the Aussies, the Aussies are cool, but New Zealand's our favourite."
So now they're so routinely successful, does the band feel pressure to keep up their winning streak?
Yes, he says, but pressure is good.
"Pressure can challenge you. If it wasn't for deadlines, nothing would get done."
And anyway, most of that pressure is self-imposed, he says. The band has exacting standards for itself.
"We don't really answer much to the label or to management or even to our fans. At the end of the day, when we're writing the music, we're answering to each other. It's the four guys in the band that we're most trying to impress."
The band's fan base has stayed consistent over the years, he says. It's mostly male, though there are "plenty of girls" into their music too.
While they were lumped in with "nu-metal" bands like Incubus and Papa Roach in the early 2000s, that was never really their scene.
"We just felt like we were a hard- rock, heavy-metal band that just writes the songs we like to write. We never felt like we were following a trend. And because of that, I don't think we have a trendy fanbase that you can pigeon-hole."
Choosing what songs to play live is getting more challenging with every record, he says. There are too many hit singles to choose from. But it's a good problem.
"We do have to cut some songs, but we're always going to play the songs that our fans have grown up with us knowing, like Down With The Sickness, like Stupify."
They'll also be playing plenty of material from their new album, Asylum, which Moyer calls their darkest yet.
"David was in a dark place when he wrote it. He deals with issues of depression, loneliness, loss of loved ones."
Perhaps unexpectedly, Draiman has also penned an environmental song, Another Way To Die, which highlights global warming and "our whole lackadaisical attitude towards the environment", Moyer says.
"Six months after he wrote the song, we had one of the biggest oil spills in the history of the world happen in the Gulf of Mexico. And you know, part of the lyrics he says in there is it's going to happen again . . . and sure enough, it happens again."
As for the band's chance to build its crossover appeal, Moyer's ambivalent. On the one hand, a lack of mainstream recognition keeps fans feeling like Disturbed is truly theirs.
"And they don't feel like, all of a sudden, we're everybody's band. And there's something to be said for that. But do we want to continue to grow and evolve and maybe get to the level of Metallica? You bet we do. Of course.