Kerby’s Exclusive Interview With Disturbed Front man Dave Draiman
Yeah, I know you think Draiman looks like Gollum and all that, but Lord of the Rings allusions aside, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that Disturbed is currently enjoying success on a level that few would have ever dared to predict months ago. It has been well documented that Draiman’s group, along with the likes of Korn, Linkin Park, Papa Roach and…yes, and even Limp Bizkit to an extent, were all at one time at least tangentially part of scene that was marketed in an attempt to define a sound that came to be known as nu-metal. Now, of course, Fred Durst never sounded anything like Jonathon Davis, but it didn’t really matter because every group mentioned was categorized as such in a direct attempt by those in the industry to reap the financial benefits of being associated with a genre that was a solid, commercially viable commodity in the mid to late nineties.
The major problem for these bands though came when the label “nu-metal” inevitably began to wear out its welcome and Hot Topic started making room on their shelves for Shadows Fall and Lamb of God t-shirts instead. Just as numerous hair metal bands of the 80’s tried in vain to adopt the trappings of grunge, some of the nu-metal bands have also seen the writing on the wall and decided to make certain changes to their sound in an attempt to shed their former image. In truth, Papa Roach’s latest record, Getting Away With Murder is a prime example of this trend as it, surprisingly enough, has proven to be more than decent foray into traditional hard rock. I know many of you don’t want to hear that and would probably never believe it anyway, but that’s ok because it is an absolute fact that some people will never get over the stigma associated with that band or any of the others that I’ve previously mentioned. Hey, that’s all right, alternative rockers weren’t exactly buying it when Don Dokken and Dave Mustaine grew goatees in the early nineties either. Disturbed’s new offering, on the other hand, entitled Ten Thousand Fists has managed to sell over a million copies while also garnering a fair amount of commentary about the group’s purported alteration of their traditional sound. Whether or not one likes their music, this is still an impressive feat when one considers that bands such as Static X and Limp Bizkit have struggled to sell anything at all.
Like most vocalists in other bands, Draiman is the center of attention here and easily the most recognizable personality in the group. The follicaly-challenged singer, who is occasionally given to musical communication through the utilization of various monkey-type noises, consistently makes interesting statements to the press and, in fact, during any given conversation, he’s likely to make at least a statement or two that will be found controversial. Although it has been widely reported this week that Disturbed has already been confirmed for this year’s Ozzfest, Draiman vehemently maintains that this information never actually came from him and that they are simply “talking” about the possibility at this point. Still, don’t be surprised if Disturbed is not only included in this summer’s lineup but possibly even headlining the tour this year as well. This is made possible, at least in part, by the fact that some rock fans who don’t particularly care for Disturbed on disc still recognize that the band puts on a stellar live show which can be appreciated even by those who generally prefer more traditional metal or hard rock. What the future holds for Disturbed is hard to predict although Draiman and company consistently state that they are in this for the long haul—but then again, I’m sure if you asked Danger, Danger what their future plans were in 1989, they would have said the same thing.
One thing is certain, whatever’s truly in store for Disturbed in the coming years will be widely reported and commented about on the Internet, so….you won’t have to go far to find out.
KNAC.COM: Do you think that metal is less forgiving than other genres when it comes to their reaction to a band that achieves any real degree of commercial success?
DRAIMAN: I don’t know that it is achieving success specifically that makes hardcore kind of fans disenchanted with a band. It is a part of it, but I know what you’re referring to…I don’t think it’s exclusive to metal though. It’s something that is kind of like having a real sexy girlfriend, and in the beginning, you have her all to yourself, but the minute everyone else has had access to her, you just don’t feel the same way about her anymore. At that point, she sort of becomes a cheap, worthless slut. I was certainly like that about a band or two in my day as well. It’s funny because metal today is such a gray, wide-open area, and with today’s definitions of metal, I don’t know how we fit into it exactly. I don’t know that you could even classify us as metal by today’s standards or the definitions that are out there. Metal nowadays is kind of typified by the metalcore bands or bands that are either black metal or death metal consisting of vocals that don’t have any melody and are very aggressive or, as I like to call them, Cookie Monster-like. God bless them though. There are many of those bands that I am a huge fan of like Shadows Fall or Lamb of God. They are bands that have incredible intensity and musicianship, but we’re nothing like them. When people compare us to them, it’s like apples and oranges in terms of what today’s terms and standards are because we’re really not metal—we’re more hard rock than anything else. At the end of the day, the categorization or the stereotyping that people do is something I could care less about.
KNAC.COM: But it’s a necessary evil from a business standpoint, right? I mean, they have to lump some bands in with others just so they can have a place to put the cd, don’t they?
DRAIMAN: Yeah, people are always wanting to put you in some type of context so that they know what to do with you. It is meaningless to me.
KNAC.COM: Recently, Disturbed took the stage with George Lynch. Were you ever a really big fan of Dokken?
DRAIMAN: Me personally, I wasn’t a huge Dokken fan. Now Danny and Mike were huge, massive Dokken fans. I’m a fan of George Lynch and his guitar playing, but I wasn’t really into Dokken.
KNAC.COM: You mean, you never cranked “Just Got Lucky”?
DRAIMAN: Oh, hell no. I was all about Maiden, Priest, Metallica and Anthrax—those were my bands. I didn’t really get into any hair metal…it just wasn’t my thing.
KNAC.COM: You never even crank up some of it during a nostalgia kick or anything?
DRAIMAN: Uh, not Dokken. (laughs) Whitesnake a little bit, you know, Def Leppard. Maybe I didn’t have enough exposure to it, but you can’t, by any stretch of the imagination deny George’s ability and what he can do with that instrument. He’s just unreal, and it was an honor and a privilege to play with him.
KNAC.COM: Word on the Internet is that Disturbed has been confirmed for Ozzfest—is this true?
DRAIMAN: We can neither confirm nor deny such information.
KNAC.COM: So any reports stating that you have…?
DRAIMAN: They’re garbage. I haven’t said anything to anybody. I’m not saying it isn’t happening, but I haven’t gotten any official confirmation myself. Some radio station in Seattle decided to speculate or something. Every radio station interview that I’ve done at the station though has been with the whole band, and they’ve heard me every single time, and I’ve never said anything like that. We’re in talks with them, but nothing has been solidified.
KNAC.COM: Being someone who is consistently talked about in cyberspace, what do you take from such conversations? What do you do with the vast negativity that exists there?
DRAIMAN: I do check them out….
KNAC.COM: What do you take from that? What can you take?
DRAIMAN: It depends on where you’re talking about—if I go to Blabbermouth.net, I’m probably gonna see a lot of nasty shit. Basically, you’re dealing with a whole lot of nasty little fucks who will only listen to metalcore and death metal. Anything that has any kind of melody infused with the exception of Nevermore, which is a great band and actually has some melodic singing going on, they slam. You’re talking about a maximum of 250,000 people all over the world like that. God Bless them. They can keep it. I don’t give a fuck. Things like that message board are just a means of information for a lot of people. For the people who post and respond, it’s like an excuse for them go ahead and lash out at somebody who is doing more with their lives than they ever will. So be it. I don’t lose any sleep over it. It is what it is. The higher you climb up the ladder the easier it is for people to shoot at you. Let ‘em.
KNAC.COM: How long did it take you after “The Sickness” first broke for you to realize that the success was going to come with a really ugly downside?
DRAIMAN: Almost instantaneously. It didn’t take long. You realize it the first time people start saying something about you that is just completely false. It happens the first time some girl tells the girl that you’re seeing that she fucked you when she didn’t and that it happened in another part of the country when you weren’t even there that day. You can call the person out on it, but they will still do that, and there are immediate ramifications when they do. You trade a lot of yourself to be able to have that hour and a half onstage five nights a week.
KNAC.COM: You’re saying that having any semblance of a “normal” life—whatever that is—is pretty much impossible given the situation?
DRAIMAN: You know, some of us are better at it than others—the rest of the guys in the band seem to do a better job of it than I do. Danny’s very happily married with a beautiful baby girl, and Mike’s engaged. John is also married with a stepdaughter and has a great marriage. I’m not quite in that headspace myself, and being the singer, it’s more difficult for me. There is more smack to deal with.
KNAC.COM: More notoriety has to lead to more random weirdness.
DRAIMAN: Yeah, more fame is not necessarily a good thing. Nine times out of ten, when someone is slamming the band, they aren’t slamming the band—they’re slamming me. That’s a cross I have to bear whether I like it or not.
KNAC.COM: And you’ve stated more than once that you are looking at music, specifically Disturbed, as a long time proposition. How do you reconcile this reality to yourself?
DRAIMAN: Well…you just need to find the right person and hope that they understand. You also need to have an open enough relationship with them that there are no secrets and no lies between you. That’s pretty much the way I live my life anyway. I don’t believe in telling stories to people and making people believe something that isn’t true.
KNAC.COM: I’m sure that finding a woman who is completely understanding of the demands of a career in music is pretty rare.
DRAIMAN: It is difficult. That is especially true when the person is talked about so much. The rumor mill is maybe the most dangerous factor of the whole thing.
KNAC.COM: Doesn’t that aspect get multiplied each and every year with more people becoming reliant on the Internet for their news? It just gets easier and easier to print rumor as fact, doesn’t it?
DRAIMAN: It’s rough. Any time I go out, it’s on the Internet the next day.
KNAC.COM: Would you say that ninety-eight percent of the time when you’re out doing something that your interactions with strangers or fans are positive?
DRAIMAN: I would say about eighty percent are.
KNAC.COM: What do the other twenty percent usually entail? Declarations that you aren’t “metal” enough? Or “tough” enough in some way?
DRAIMAN: No, it’s more like people are intimidated for whatever reason. I still don’t understand it myself. Some people are jealous. Sometimes a guy will bring his girlfriend to a show, and the girl will look at us a certain way, and the guy will get pissed off about it and want to start shit. Sometimes, we might be in bar, and I might be in a corner, and we’ll just be doing our thing. Then, before I know it, conversations will start and it’s like, “you guys sold out” or we did this or we did that. I’ll never forget this time we were at The Rainbow and this idiot made a huge spectacle about how I fucked his sister. I’m like, “Ok, it’s possible. What would you like me to do about it? I’ve never met you before—I wasn’t trying to disrespect you or her if in fact it did happen. What do you want from me?” It just came to a head. What do you do? Well, you try walk away from it. It isn’t just a case of protecting pride, but it is also a matter of avoiding a lawsuit. All of these people are looking for something.
KNAC.COM: So would you characterize being able to make a graceful exit from a situation that isn’t exactly ideal as a prime job attribute?
KNAC.COM: The latest record, Ten Thousand Fists, has already gone platinum. Were you in any way surprised by this?
DRAIMAN: Absolutely. This record even went platinum faster than the last.
KNAC.COM: Other people weren’t necessarily predicting that either.
DRAIMAN: I wasn’t predicting it myself, and the band members themselves should be the ones with the utmost confidence. I just didn’t project that in today’s environment that this would happen…and we still have three singles to go. In spite of whatever expectations I may have had, I have done nothing but maintain high hopes for this record though.
KNAC.COM: At the same time, there does seem to be this idea that Disturbed do their best work live. Is the whole process of recording something you do primarily in order to tour?
DRAIMAN: That’s really what it comes down to. It is a means to an end–the recording is just a means of having material upon which to tour. The live show is what it is all about. It is the both the beginning and the end. Danny likes to noodle around a little bit in the studio, but I can’t stand it. It’s sterile. It isn’t real.
KNAC.COM: There’s no immediate gratification either.
DRAIMAN: Yeah, you’re singing to a pane of glass—not people. The gratification you get in the studio pretty much happens when you finally get to sit back and listen to the finished product. It’s not the same, it’s all about that rush and the energy exchange, and we’re all addicts of it. It’s kind of like being a heroin addict, once you’ve tasted it, that’s it.
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