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Disturbed's David Draiman talks Mayhem tour, troops, new album

Singer says first annual Rockstar Mayhem Festival is going well
August 20, 2008 2:49:38 PM PDT
(08/15/08)--Disturbed roared into Mid-Michigan last Saturday as a co-headliner on the first annual Rockstar Mayhem Fesitval with Slipknot and 12 other bands, and Disturbed vocalist David Draiman sat down for a quick pre-show interview in which he talked about the tour, debuting new material, the state of the nation's economy and a special visit with the troops overseas.Here's what he had to say:

ABC12: So how is the tour going?

David Draiman: Really, really well.

ABC12: Yeah?

DD: We're having a great time, crowds are amazing. Great camaraderie. Everybody's getting along.

ABC12: Have you had a chance to see most of the other bands?

DD: Everybody now.

ABC12: Anybody out there you admire?

DD: I'm definitely impressed to see how Five Finger Death Punch has developed. We took 'em out on our warm-up run and they've already just grown in leaps and bounds over the course of this tour. The Machine Head guys are just killin' it -- killin' it -- as they always have, and just showing everybody how it's done.

I really dig the Airbourne guys -- very cool, old-school, straight up rock 'n' roll. They leave it all up there onstage. Who else has been impressing me ... (Pauses and smiles) The DragonForce guys are always entertaining.

ABC12: How about Black Tide?

DD: They're good, they're good. I think that they're going to grow into something great. I think that they have to ... I think that by the time their next record comes around, that they'll have come a long, long way. But you can definitely already see the potential.

ABC12: Their age, and you can tell with time and a little more life experience ...

DD: Yeah, yeah. You can tell that they're green, but you can definitely see the potential of what they can become.

ABC12: You and Disturbed have come up -- I mean, I saw you on the Ozzfest tours back when you were on the second stage.

DD: Mm-hm.

ABC12: And what's that been like now, to help out the next generation on tours like this?

DD: Very surreal. It really isn't that long ago that we were on that stage, so it's like ... It's gratifying, because we get to be put into a position where we can help, and oftentimes we didn't feel like we were being helped, so we like taking out some of the baby bands out with us -- individually even. But when people, like, refer to us as "elder statesmen" of the genre, it's like, "Huh?" (Laughter) It's like, "We started in this **** not too long ago. How can we already be elder statesmen? How could we be influencing the next generation?" It's just very surreal and very humbling in a way, y'know? It's like, "Oh, gee, us?" (More laughter.)

ABC12: You sound like you remember those days very well.

DD: Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, I find my way to the side stage quite often, just because I'm envious, still, of the energy of just bodies on bodies -- no seats -- and the intensity of that and the rawness of it. (Grinning.) But I also like playing in the pavilion (laughter). I'll take 20,000 over 5,000 or 6,000 any day of the week.

ABC12: How has this tour compared to, say, Ozzfest, or even Music as a Weapon, your own?

DD: Well, Weapon is an entirely different entity. Weapon's our own thing, so it can be as easy as we want it to be. And we always want it to be very communal, very easygoing -- everyone's welcome at our after-shows, everyone's welcome to hang out, everyone's welcome up on our stage. Ozzfest had kind of grown into this very "separated" thing for a while.

It didn't start out that way, but it grew ... maybe there were too many egos running around, and I'm not even talking about the bands. And I'm not talking about Sharon (Osbourne), either. It always seemed to me that the people who thought they were rock stars were, like, the people running the tour -- not the people who were actually playing. It was like, "Remember, you're working for us. You get paid because we fill seats."

So if I ask you to let people come up and watch us, and if I (tell you that) we don't care, and if I let you know we want everyone to be there, then just let it happen and stop being a **** about it. It was just this big separation that doesn't exist in Weapon, and doesn't exist on this tour, either. There's barbeques that go on just about every night. Everybody hangs out, everybody's welcome. The stages aren't closed down. It's much more of a communal, summer camp sort of vibe.

ABC12: ("Indestructible") is your third straight No. 1 album. You've gone a little bit darker on this one. Has that influenced at all what you're selecting for the set list?

DD: Well, unfortunately, we have a 60-minute set, so when you have to pull from four records worth of material and try and make it an even split between the four records, that means each record gets about 15 minutes -- 12 minutes or so -- so, two or three songs from each record, it's difficult to choose. It's difficult to choose.

We've been introducing quite a bit of the new material, and it's been received very, very positively. Very powerfully. Some of it overwhelmingly positively. Songs like "Inside the Fire" and the title track "Indestructible," it's just huge. But there's also a huge awareness that we've been playing "Divide" quite a bit, and we've been playing "Criminal" from time to time as well from the new record. The response and the awareness of it is very impressive and overwhelming. I mean, these kids are already singing these new pieces of material as loud as I can with the PA behind me, so it's very gratifying.

ABC12: How has it been working with Slipknot?

DD: Fine. The guys are great guys. I have all the respect in the world for them. They put on a hell of a show. They're very professional. They do what needs to be done. It's rough for all of us. This has been a rigorous touring schedule, and to know that they go through it every single night the same way that we do and feel the same aches and pains that we do, it's kind of, y'know, we're brothers in arms in that sense. We really respect one another. I definitely know that we value each other in terms of we both recognize what each of us brings to this bill. It's been fun. It's been a very good, harmonious vibe.

ABC12: With the economy the way it is, do you feel like these package tours are beneficial for both the fans and the bands?

DD: I think they're necessary. No matter what anybody wants to tell you, this is a recession. This is bordering on a depression. And if the housing market plunges any further than it already has -- it certainly will -- and depending on how certain conflicts end up turning out ... this conflict between Russia and Georgia heats up with that pipeline that's running through there, that's going to cause serious, serious issues in terms of our already severe level of foreign oil dependency.

We're going to have big problems. And I don't see them getting better any time soon. I think some very hard choices need to be made right now that should have been made 20 years ago. But unfortunately the powers that be were sitting on their high horse getting fat and just loving life and getting rich off of everybody else's future misery. It's unfortunate that it takes people being smacked in the face to wake up.

ABC12: Is it harder to get to success or maintain it?

DD: Both are difficult. Both are difficult. I'd say it's more difficult to attain that initial level because there's so many that try. But maintaining it can at times be equally as difficult, or (to) even surpass it -- especially when you want to continue to grow, and when you want to continue to develop your fan base, your musical style and your range and power. The higher you climb, the more difficult it is to ascend.

ABC12: It's something you said on the ("Indestructible") DVD, talking about the cycle for "Ten Thousand Fists." "How are we going to either match or surpass" (everything we just did)?

DD: Absolutely. Every time it's incredibly daunting, and not only that, but it's, like, "OK, now we've finished four records. We've pulled out so much from inside ourselves, trying to come up with rhythms, melodies, note progressions that are unique enough to stand on their own and don't sound ... word choices that don't sound similar -- or too similar -- to things we've already done, so that it doesn't end up becoming repetitive, is very, very challenging.

There are only so many words in the English language (laughter), y'know? So it's like, "OK, well, I want to talk about this subject; how am I going to phrase it? Well, I used that phrasing 'X' number of times. How many times can I beat the hell out of it?" Our song writing is also a bit unorthodox. The lyrics are always the last thing to come. So that ends up being more and more of a challenge, trying to find pieces to an existing puzzle that is already mapped out melodically and rhythmically. Yeah. It does get increasingly more difficult from that perspective. But we've always been a band that thrives really well under pressure. We've been able to produce from pressure situations. And certainly this record was no different in terms of that. It was definitely a pressure situation. We definitely felt it being our own producers this time around ...

ABC12: Right.

DD: So it definitely made us really analyze everything very, very critically and be each other's producers, so to speak -- really rely on everyone else's ears to give it a fresh sort of perspective.

ABC12: And you worked pretty hard on it -- again on the DVD, you struggled with "Inside the Fire," the lyrics.

DD: That was a hard decision to make. Not only was I questioning how much of myself I really wanted to bare to people, but also the very subject matter itself. How are people going to respond to it? Suicide has been and is constantly a taboo issue -- not only for anyone in general in day-to-day life, but certainly for metal musicians. And so we were very cautious, and I approached the guys before I started heading down that direction with the song. It was one of the last songs we finished writing. And I said to them, "Are you sure you're OK with this? We've never pushed the envelope this far before lyrically. There could be repercussions. And they may not be great." And I said to them, "I think if we craft it the right way, and we present it in the right light, that it will come across the way we want it to." But there's always going to be idiots out there. And we have to be willing to accept the X factor. And Danny and Mike both said to me, "Do what you do. We're all about pushing the envelope, so push it."

ABC12: Do you have plans for Music as a Weapon this year?

DD: Yeah, we do, actually. We're looking at maybe March, mid March, to start a run. We're talking to a number of different bands, trying to put together another "monster-movie" bill and try and make it something that you just can't pass up. And we're also trying to find who's going to be the new, break-out band. We always try and capture at least one baby band that we feel is really going to be the next one to pop. So we're keeping our ears to the pavement and our eyes open.

ABC12: Can you talk about playing for the troops last March?

DD: It was an honor, a privilege, a career-defining experience. We flew over Baghdad in order to get into Kuwait, and that was surreal enough in and of itself. And to train with them, to eat with them, to sleep where they slept. We went on a Black Hawk helicopter ride. We were greeted by thousands of them -- handshakes, signatures, stories. Story after story after story about how they've used our music for strength and encouragement and to strip them of fear. Stories of helicopter gun ships equipped with loudspeakers blasting our music "Apocalypse Now"-style heading into battle. Entire Humvee battalions with every single Humvee blasting Disturbed going through this particular area to keep them focused, to keep their mind off the potential IED that could hit them on the roadside.

And then to have it culminate with this performance to 10,000 troops with fully automatic weapons in the mosh pit, and Bradley Fighting Vehicles stage left bouncing up and down from the momentum of the troops who are hopping up and down on it, getting them to foster their own special type of patriotism, getting them to chant "U-S-A" in the middle of the desert in Kuwait, was really a very surreal, a very humbling and very overwhelming moment. It's something we'll definitely be able to and will be telling tell our grandchildren about.

ABC12: Good luck to you.

DD: Thank you.

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