From the Archive: David Draiman and Don Donegan of Disturbed Discuss their 2002 Album, 'Believe'
"Eventually, the club owners couldn't deny the fact that we were pulling the people in," adds Draiman, "and we finally booked a few shows in the city right before we got signed." He smiles. "I think we're one of the few bands out of Chicago to get a record deal having only played two shows in the city's main clubs. It was unheard of."
On the strength of their live shows and a pair of demo tapes recorded with a local producer known as Johnny K (who subsequently produced The Sickness and Believe), Disturbed signed with Giant Records in the summer of 1999. Two of the songs from those demos, "Down with the Sickness" and "Stupify," went on to become hit singles when they were rerecorded for The Sickness. That album has since sold more than two million copies, and Disturbed have graduated from opening-act status -- where they supported everyone from Danzig to Marilyn Manson to Stone Temple Pilots -- to full-fledged headliners on tours like last year's Music as a Weapon tour, which the band plans to make an annual event in the vein of Korn's Family Values.
But perhaps the most telling signifier of Disturbed's success came during their aborted stint as second-stage headliners on last year's Ozzfest: a near riot broke out during their set when the tour opened, ironically, in Chicago, the very city that had once snubbed Disturbed and their metal brethren.
"It was pure chaos," says Donegan. "There were 20,000 people gathered around the second stage and, unfortunately, some of them started getting trampled. There were a lot of injuries."
The band was quickly reassigned to the main stage for the remainder of the tour. And although they prefer more intimate settings -- "smaller, unseated environments are always better than seated ones,” says Draiman -- Disturbed will most likely have to become more comfortable playing sheds and arenas with the release of Believe. It's a small price to pay for success. But then again, it can lead to confrontations like the one between Draiman and the offending Ozzfesters who were given the choice to "either stand up or get the fuck out."
Which begs the question: How did the situation end?
"Oh, believe me, they stood right up," says Draiman. "And they stayed that way for the rest of the set --smiling, too."
GUITAR WORLD: I take it you view audience participation as integral to the experience of seeing Disturbed live.
DAVID DRAIMAN: Absolutely. I think it's disrespectful for anyone to be sitting down when we're onstage emitting so much energy. So I have no shame when it comes to stuff like that -- I've threatened to piss on people, all kinds of ridiculous shit. I despise lackadaisical behavior when it comes to our music. I mean, this is heavy metal music. You must be involved. You're required to be involved. Disturbed is a full-contact sport -- there are no fucking bystanders. You have to be in it.
I've noticed that both you and Dan continually call Disturbed a heavy metal band.
DRAIMAN: We take pride in that description and, with the greatest sense of self-assuredness and the greatest sense of accomplishment, feel that this new record is truly a pure metal record. Dan said it best the other day -- "We're putting the 'old' back in nu-metal." I think that's very accurate. This is much more Iron Maiden than it is...
DRAIMAN: Right. And God bless both of them. But for our purposes, we prefer this direction.