From the Archive: David Draiman and Don Donegan of Disturbed Discuss their 2002 Album, 'Believe'
From 2002: Disturbed's David Draiman and Don Donegan discuss their latest album, Believe.
And yet most people tend to just lump all the current bands together as nu-metal.
DAN DONEGAN: When people call something nu-metal, do they really just mean rap metal? It's a ridiculous term.
DRAIMAN: We are a metal band, period. To me, the "nu" part infers some sort of a rap influence. Don't get me wrong -- we love our hip-hop, but in its own context. Rap has no place in our music. Is what we do rhythmic? Sure. Is it syncopated? Certainly. But our music has nothing to do with hip-hop.
But aren't those syncopated rhythms a big part of the nu-metal sound? And the down-tuned guitars as well?
DRAIMAN: Actually, the guitars in this band aren't really even tuned down.
DONEGAN: Our tuning is very simple: a half step down, and then the E string is dropped another step, to C#. It's nothing crazy. That's why there's clarity and definition to our chords and riffs. At the same time, I'm not dissing those bands that do tune very low. It's just that, nowadays, there are hundreds of bands doing that. I mean, Korn do it and they're great at it, and they've had a big enough impact that so many bands follow them. But that's their thing. We do our thing. I'm more into straight-up metal and rock music, and that's what's on this album.
Usually, when bands describe a new record -- particularly their second one -- they try to explain how it's broader than their previous work. They say things like, "It's lighter and also heavier," and, "It's more aggressive but also more melodic." In your case, though, Believe really does cover a lot more ground than The Sickness.
DONEGAN: Definitely. When we write a song, we're always trying to top what we did the last time, and this is the best stuff we've ever done. Coming into this project we were hoping to widen things out a bit, try new things and add different elements throughout the songs in order to build drama. We also wanted to give Dave a lot more room to get melodic with his vocals instead of just showing off his aggressive side. We wanted to take the music through different moods.
The closing track, "Darkness," has acoustic guitar, piano and cello. It's the biggest departure from your previous work.
DONEGAN: We wanted to show that there's not just one formula that works for us, so we thought we should go with the heaviest thing we've ever written and also the lightest. And since David was obviously singing a lot more on these new songs, we figured we could dabble more in those "light" areas. So I had a little acoustic piece, just a couple parts that I threw together and recorded a rough structure of, and I gave it to him. He was working on a few different melodies for it, but nothing really came together until I went over to his house one day with an acoustic guitar and started playing the song. And then it just clicked. David came up with the vocal melody right on the spot.
Is that you playing the piano part as well?
DONEGAN: Yeah. It's just real basic one-note stuff. It was something I had written on guitar and moved over to piano. Same with the cello lines in that song -- I wrote the part on guitar, and then we had a cellist come in and play it.
It's obvious that every song was constructed to have a really strong chorus. Was it a priority to get a solid hook in there every time?
DRAIMAN: Oh yeah. And it's always a challenge to find that strong hook, especially since Danny doesn't always make it easy for me to do. [laughs] But we had a conversation pretty early on where I said to him, "Give me some room to run." When he's not playing such heavily syncopated guitar riffs it's a lot easier to write those big, open, soaring choruses that you're hearing. It makes it that much more dramatic, and we feel that it actually ends up complementing the busier stuff that he plays on the verses.
DONEGAN: The songs have a nice blend of heavy riffs -- some that are very choppy and some that are more open. That way the melody and riffs don't get in the way of one another. And the choruses sound bigger when they're not as syncopated. I just open up the chords more and let the vocals take over with the melody. You feel the song climax. When you're listening to it, you automatically know, bam!, this is the chorus.
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