David Draiman is one of the most charismatic front men in music today. His band Disturbed is one of the highest grossing rock bands in recent years, selling over 13 million records worldwide and had four of their five studio records debut at number one on Billboard’s 200. Then in 2011, Disturbed went on hiatus status, freeing up the band members to work on individual projects. David produced a CD for the band Trivium and began collaborating on his project Device with Geno Lenardo of Filter fame and in 2013 released the self-titled cd “Device.” The cd features everything you would expect from David as well as tons of unexpected goodies including guest artists from the past and present rock/metal genre. David recently sat down with T.E.N.on the first night of the tour to share the making of the Device cd, the hiatus of Disturbed, why being passionately outspoken on issues that greatly concern him and being “all business” when onstage has people referring to him in “not so nice”terms.
(Editor’s note; this interview actually took place in April. 2013 but due to technical issues with the interview being lost until recently recovered, it’s release was delayed until now.)
The Entertainment Nexus– The new cd is badass.
David Draiman– Thank you.
TEN– How did the process go from beginning collaborations to the final project being released?
DD– That’s a whole bunch of steps. The collaboration with Geno started by him and I working on one track. It was during the tail end of the Disturbed touring cycle. He was working on a number of tracks for the “Underworld” soundtrack and he had done one with Lacey from Flyleaf, one with Pete from Chevelle and he had a piece of music in mind for me. He said that to me, I listened to it, I loved it. Geno and I have been friends for years and I said to him: “I obsessed over it an entire night, wrote an amazing song out of it and we gotta track this thing.” I flew to Chicago and tracked it, mixed it, delivered it to Lakeshore. Lakeshore loved it, wanted to use it as the lead track on their soundtrack but there was a conflict of interest because we were working a song for the Disturbed “B Sides” compilation…”The Lost Children.” The song called: “Hell.” So, instead of having the two tracks fighting each other, we decided to hold onto it. Wait for another videogame or soundtrack or some other opportunity to marry it to. Song grew on us. I took it with me to the gym… I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I said to him; “You know what dude, it’s obvious we write well together. Why don’t we try writing some more? Why don’t you come on out and see what happens? Maybe we’ll sell the songs to some other artists or whatever,” still not with the intentions of starting a new group. In March of 2012, Geno came out for two-two week writing sessions. And those writing sessions gave birth to the material that became the Device record.
Now with Geno, it was never in the cards for him to be a touring guy for the situation. He’s very entrenched in the film scoring world and he’s got his own projects and soundtracks that he continues to do. He wanted to be able to stay home and stay close to his son. It was never really in the cards for him to be on the road so we needed to define the rest of the band. We’re always going need drummer and is going to be a band member anyway and Will was one of three guys on a very, very short list. You know the top drummers in the genre… in the business as far as I’m concerned. Will is Will. He is a character; he is a devastating player… a monster behind the kit. He is very, very worthy of being the backbone of this band. With Virus, Virus was actually Will’s recommendation. They had known each other for a while. I had known Virus for years too and we had just run into each other only a few years back in Chicago when I was out walking with my wife. I ran into him and his family so it was weird that Will mentioned him. I had everybody come out to my house in Austin and we just vibed on one another for a while. I didn’t need to test their ability; I knew they were both amazing musicians but I just wanted to make sure that we clicked well. Ya know… before you actually put a ring on a girl’s finger you should actually date her a few times. (Smiles) It felt great and we had some amazing practice sessions back at home and I’m ready to unleash this beast.
TEN– Some of the songs on the CD have a Methods Of Mayhem/Tommy Lee vibe to them.
DD– Interesting you said that. (Laughs)
TEN– Do you think that Will brought that to the table?
DD– He might’ve had he been there but unfortunately, and I say unfortunately because I would have loved to have worked with him…he was not part of the process till after everything was done. I definitely look forward to working with him and Virus on the next record.
TEN– Other than “Vilify” the CD has a different sound than your previous material with Disturbed. How do you think Disturbed fans will react to the CD?
DD– I think they already are reacting. I think they’re reacting very, very positively. It’s not Disturbed so it’s not gonna be for everybody. That’s kind of why we put “Vilify” out as the first single. Sometimes… this is kind of a crude way of describing it, the sometimes you have to start with the tip. (Laughs) Ya gotta take it easy.
TEN– I have a fan question so I might as well ask it now. Ryan wants to know “Why did you choose “Vilify” as your first single?
DD– That’s why… that’s why. It’s definitely the closest to it stylistically in terms of my cadence and the way that I vocalize. I didn’t want there to be culture shock for the fan base but as you know since you listen to the record, as you go deeper into it, there are songs that would never and million years be appropriate on a Disturbed record. Even “Vilify” the saturation of electronica that’s in it and even the tonality of the guitars is very, very radically different than Disturbed. David is always gonna sound like David. There’s not much I can do about that. That’s a wonderful blessing that my band has been branded by my voice. I am very, very thankful for that identifiable nature of it. It’s a good thing the way I look at it.
TEN– You have some rock royalty featured on the new CD. What was it like working with Glenn Hughes, Geezer Butler, Tom Morello and others?
DD– Unreal… unreal. I’m so blessed to have this amazingly talented group of friends who are just so inspirational and has such confidence in my abilities. That was overwhelming. The instant “yeses” when I asked. It really came together, very much of it last-minute and accidentally. The only one that that was planned was myself and Lzzy. That one we were talking about doing for years and years together. The other ones came together at the tail end of the mix in Los Angeles. All the songs were tracked, done with my voice, no guest appearances, nothing. We were two days away from being done. Tom and Serj and I are old friends. We get together quite often when I come to Los Angeles for dinner and catch up. They are great guys. We’re like-minded in certain ways and we enjoy each other’s company. We had often just toyed with the idea of doing something together at some point, whether it was for charity or for a soundtrack or something like that.
With Device, there were no rules so here’s our chance and it was actually two days, like I said before the end of the mix that Serj invited myself and my wife Lena over to his home for dinner. He and his wife Angie made an amazing Lebanese dinner for us. Tom came over as well. I brought Geno with me and it was actually that night that we finalized our arrangements. I had to do recalls to put their parts into the mix. The next day I was invited by Glenn, who was a friend of mine that I had reconnected at the “Dimebash” event earlier that year, to his autobiography book release. He did an acoustic performance and nailed it as he always does with his angelic voice and his inhuman ability. Since I was already entertaining the notion of guests I was like; “You know what? His voice would sound amazing on the track I wrote for my wife…”Through It All.” I talked to him about it and he was like: “You know what? I would love to do it. I was like: “Holy Shit!”
He invited us to dinner with him that night and we’re eating at the table with Glenn and his wife Gabby and Geezer Butler and a bunch of other incredible musicians. It comes up in conversation that Glenn had agreed to do the guest spot and so Geezer asked me about it. I had known Geezer since the early Ozzfest days when Sabbath was headlining. He had also been on the “Dimebash” event that year. We played “Mob Rules” together. It was pretty crazy. Vinnie Appice, Geezer Butler, Tom Morello and myself doing “Mob Rules.” It was pretty crazy. He asked me what the project was about. He’s like “This little darker industrial thing, Glenn did a track… I asked: “Do you think you might be interested?” I was just joking and he was like; “Yea, sure. I’d love to do it.” In the middle of the new Sabbath sessions, he found time to go ahead and track his baseline for me. So, within a couple days of reconnecting with friends in Los Angeles, I had five guests suddenly on the record. It was just an amazing thing. Matt from Avenged Sevenfold, I respect and admire him so much. I’ve watched him grow into the monster he’s become. He’s just devastating. The band has just grown into the dominant rock band of the genre. I’m so proud of those guys. It inspires me and I’m very privileged to call him my friend. I am very thankful for all of their amazing contributions and all the support.
TEN– You mentioned working with Lzzy Hale. How was it working with her on your cover of “Close My Eyes Forever”?
DD– Pretty amazing. We first talked about it when Halestorm first supported Disturbed back in the day. I had had the idea to cover it prior to that. I’m glad it didn’t end up happening with Disturbed because it wouldn’t have been able to take the shape that it did on this record with the strings and the keys in the level of electronic saturation. The ambient nature of it wouldn’t have been appropriate on a Disturbed record but certainly is beautiful for what we did. I got to track her. I flew out to New York and she made time for me in the middle of the tour to go ahead and track it. I made it as easy for her as I could. I sent her guide tracks with my vocal on it of exactly where I wanted her to go. We banged it out very quickly. Let me tell you, she’s a very protected asset… that one. She has people all around her. I’m in the studio tracking her and her manager shows up, the label shows up and everybody shows up. They really protect that one. And you know what? They should because she is a valuable commodity. She’s amazing and it was a privilege to work with her. It was a privilege to work with all the artists. I think she’s the best there is. She’s a class act… a cool chick.
TEN– Have you gotten any feedback from Lita Ford about the song?
DD– I played it for Lita. Lita came through Austin, Texas and I went to go see them. I played it for her on the bus and she loved it. I have not yet had the opportunity to play for Ozzy. I can only hope that both he and Sharon find it a fitting tribute to the greatness the man that I consider the greatest metal front man that ever lived. I have such respect and admiration for Ozzy and I have such a tremendous depth of gratitude for all that the Osbournes have done for myself and Disturbed over the course of our career. I hope that they see this as a fitting tribute to his greatness.
TEN– I read that you feel that haters brand you as “an evil, egomaniac with a chip on her shoulders.” Why is that?
DD– Apparently. (Laughs) Because I actually have an opinion and I’m not afraid to say it. I actually am confident without being arrogant. I actually have a vocabulary beyond what there’s does most of the time. (Laughs) I don’t know. I often think that sometimes people mistake the persona on stage to be the guy who is the same person when it comes offstage.
TEN– Kinda like an Alice Cooper…
DD– Right. Well when I go up there has to be all of my power, all of my anger, all of my fury and no fear. It’s a different thing. I’m pretty soft-spoken and mild-mannered in my normal life. That may be a part of it; part of it may be that I’m sure they do that to a lot of other successful metal front men the same way. I know Corey Taylor gets the same shit. Hell, Tom Araya from Slayer eats shit on a regular basis and he’s the front man of Slayer. I’d take it with a grain of salt but since it was so comedic to me…just the lack of accuracy it’s like: “Who do they think they’re talking about? Who is this person? Let me write about him.
TEN– You’re doing the Device project while Disturbed is on hiatus. Why take a hiatus when you’re at the top of the “Rock pile”?
DD– One would argue that’s exactly the right time to take one…. when you’re at the top. You shouldn’t do it when you’re at the bottom. Truth be told, it had everything to do with the monotony of it. You know, you do the whole “make a record…tour… make a record…tour… make a record…tour 12 years straight, fans know that they can see you every other summer, they know that they can get a record from you every other year. There’s predictability in that. That predictability in that assembly line kind of aspect of the “Machine” that Disturbed had become, I felt and I think we all felt was stifling. It was important for us to step away from it for a while. Give the fans a break… give the band break… let us clear our heads…let us do some of the things we never got the opportunity to do when the “Machine” was running. It was never my intent to start another band, but, it was always my intent to work with other artists, that’s why, produced the Trivium record. That’s why worked on a number of tracks Dave Mustaine. I would have never had the opportunity to do that if Disturbed were not on hiatus. They were incredibly fulfilling experiences and I’m very grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to do that. Now when we do get back together and there will be a time when we do get back together… you don’t dedicate 16 years of your life’s blood, sweat and tears to something to just walk away from it. When it happens, we’ll make the right record at the right time, when we feel reinvigorated and reinspired to go back to it. And, will take it to new heights.
TEN– I have some questions from your fans. Ryanalso submitted another question for you. “Why you haven’t had featured artists on some of your Disturbed albums?
DD-You know, we always felt that Disturbed was a thing that that was meant to be pure. And not that it would taint it in any way but that was the thing with myself, Tom and Serj. Rage (Against The Machine) never had a guest. System (Of A Down) never had a guest. Sometimes there is something about the purity of sound…of the four members of the band. There’s something to that. But with this particular situation… I like to keep it like this. I like to keep being able to keep doing collaborations with the success of the Device record. I think it’s an amazing thing.
TEN– A fan named Buddha wants to know “What’s it like knowing that every stripper in America as dance to your music at least once in their career?”
DD– (Busts out laughing) I should be taxing them. God knows how many dollars all of a sudden come out when you hear: “DUN DUN DUN…DUN DUN DUN…DUN DUN DUN…DUN DUN DUN” (intro to “Down With The Sickness”) all of a sudden. I don’t know how many college educations I have financed indirectly. It’s great. I love that people get excited and it inspires people and it should make you feel sexy. God bless em. Let em do it.
TEN– A fan named Kelly wants to know “Do you ever keep in touch with Fuzz?”
TEN-It’s time to switch gears on you. Tell me something disturbing about yourself that you never revealed before an interview especially coming from someone who is a vocalist for a band named Disturbed.
DD– I kinda have to plead the fifth on that. I don’t want to get myself in trouble. (Starts smiling) I’ve done some dark shit in my day and some of it probably shouldn’t see light…
TEN– Why did you decide to kick your tour off here in Mobile, Alabama?
DD– Have you seen this venue? This is a good place to start. It made sense logistically in terms of where we had to go and I know the venue. I know there’s amazing rock crowd here and there’s no better way to set off.
TEN– Do you prefer small venues over large arenas or festivals like “Rock On The Range”?
DD– You know it’s nice to go back to the intimacy but truth be told…”The bigger the better for me.” I’m looking forward to the festivals. I’m looking forward to getting in front of the masses with this thing and just beating them over the head with it and listening to the response from the crowd. Doing this whole thing all over again… to relive that experience all over again is a unique thing.
TEN– Is there anything else that you want to add or say?
DD– Just that I want to thank everybody so much for the support and this is been an amazing experience so far and I look forward to taking this beast all over the world.
I would like to thank David for taking the time to share and Jill Augusto at Warner Bros. Records for setting the interview up.