1 Disturbed gets even darker on Thu 16 Apr 2009, 21:56
'We definitely wanted to write some heavier, darker music, and obviously, it worked out for us.'
BY DAVE RICHARDS
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Published: April 16. 2009 12:01AM
Disturbed: "We just pulled from each other."
Some bands soften as time goes on. Success blunts their edge. They get cushy.
The Chicago hard-rock band last year unleashed "Indestructible," its most brutal, pulverizing CD since its 2000 debut, "The Sickness."
Instead of alienating fans or rock stations, the album shot to No. 1. Lead single "Inside the Fire" spent an amazing 14 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's mainstream rock chart.
Disturbed drummer Mike Wengren says the success validates the band's decision to follow its own muse.
"We had a sit-down, wanted to see where our heads were, and ironically, Dan [Donegan] and I were in the same place musically where David [Draiman] wanted to head. It was an exciting time for us. We definitely wanted to write some heavier, darker music, and obviously, it worked out for us."
Lead singer Draiman told Billboard he was in a bad state of mind entering the writing process for "Indestructible." A garage fire wiped out his motorcycle and truck, he had been in a motorcycle crash, and a series of relationships turned sour.
"I said, 'Guys, my head is in a really screwed-up place. Give me the nastiest darkest, most brutal s-- you can throw at me and I'll write to it,'" Draiman told Billboard.
Wengren said confronting their own demons sets Disturbed apart.
"There's a nerve we've been able to tap into, I think, from day one. We always concentrated on playing what we love to play and writing from our hearts and staying true to that. We never write anything that's contrived or phony."
Besides, he noted, it's not as if the world is Eden these days.
"With the economy and wars, there's just so much turmoil going on in the world, there's definitely plenty of influences to pull from."
It was Wengren and Donegan, with since-departed bassist Fuzz, who formed Disturbed in Chicago in 1997. Wengren had grown up a metal fan. The first record he bought was by Iron Maiden; his first concert was Aersomith. He banged on pots and pans as a kid, then sneaked into his uncle's bedroom one day to play on his drum set.
"One time he caught me sitting behind there, getting ready to play. I thought he'd beat the hell out of me. Instead, he was very encouraging and showed me a couple things. From that point on, I knew it was something I wanted to do."
Wengren worked in the auto-part industry for 12 years while playing in assorted bands before Disturbed found Draiman through an audition and everything clicked.
Really clicked. They were shocked, for instance, when Draiman started coming up with lyrics and melody lines to their originals. The song "Wanted" from their first CD emerged from that audition.
"The main hook of that song, the main melody stayed the same from what he started singing that day," Wengren said.
"Down with the Sickness" from their debut became a monster hit at hard-rock stations and, surprisingly, with U.S. troops. That led Disturbed to play in Kuwait.
"There's nothing like being onstage, and 10,000 troops carrying M16s are moshing in front of you," Wengren said. "That was pretty surreal."
Disturbed's unlikely cover of Genesis' "Land of Confusion" also connected on radio; they still play it live. Last year, they scored their first Grammy nomination, for best hard-rock performance for "Inside the Fire."
Disturbed took three years to follow up 2005's "Ten Thousand Fists," so don't expect a new studio set for a while.
"It's really difficult for us to do complete songs when we're on the road. We need to be focused, not distracted," Wengren said.
They might self-produce the next CD. It worked the first time they tried on "Indestructible."
"We didn't have that unbiased opinion to bounce ideas off of. We just pulled from each other," Wengren said. "But we've been friends for so long, we're like family. When it comes down to giving someone an opinion on a part of a song, who can you trust more than your own brothers?"