Talking shop with heavy metal frontman

By by Justin Jacobs

Though heavy metal is often one of the most ignored genres in music, there’s no… Though heavy metal is often one of the most ignored genres in music, there’s no denying that the few bands that poke through to the mainstream get there for a reason.

In Disturbed’s case, that reason is consistency.

The band has consistently released album after album of hard-hitting, heavily percussive and melodic heavy metal that’ll get you going at the gym or on your way to class, not to mention as a great alarm clock in the morning.

Though the band’s music isn’t the most complex or inventive, Disturbed’s fans don’t seem to care — the band is one among only seven bands to have three consecutive albums top the charts. And considering that those other bands include Metallica, U2 and Pearl Jam, it’s clear that Disturbed is here to stay.

I sat down with Disturbed’s frontman David Draiman at the Rockstar Mayhem Festival on Aug. 2 to talk about the state of the music scene, the band’s new album and how religion can play a roll, even in heavy metal.

The Pitt News: Your new record, Indestructible, is your third-straight No. 1. How’s that feel?

David Draiman: It feels very surreal. It’s tremendously gratifying to realize the company we’re in. It’s a testimony to the dedication of our fan base, how they’ve stood by us all these years. How they come out in full force whenever there’s a record out. They’ve grown to trust us. Since 10,000 Fists [Disturbed’s third record, 2006] came out, there’s been an overall 30 percent reduction in record sales in the industry. And to go and have a 25 percent increase in the first week sales from the last record is bucking that trend. It definitely is calming in a way. It puts me at ease ‘- I think I’ll be around for a while.

TPN: If you could, give me a review of the new album.

DD: It’s a nonstop infusion of power. The record is meant to inspire the very notion of its title — to make you feel indestructible. For years people have told us, whether they’re from the military or they’re athletes or anyone, they use our music for strength, for empowerment, to strip them of their fear. This record, from track one to 12, is meant to do just that.

TPN: You’ve got a huge following of Orthodox Jewish fans that know about your own Jewish background. How does that feel?

DD: Incredibly strange, considering that I was the rebellious black sheep, the one that was ostracized, outcast. From being an outcast to being some rebel saint in the community is hypocrisy at it’s finest. I continue to marvel the lengths of how, for some reason, success seems to justify everything. There’s no way, shape or form that I was heralded as anything in those days other than a troublemaker. And now, all of the young Jewish Disturbed fans from these Orthodox parochial schools, many of which I frequented, see some hope that I got through it. Maybe they take pride in the fact that one of their own is writing something that speaks to their heart.

TPN: How has the band grown and changed since the first record?

DD: The more you tour together, you must become better or you die. Stagnation is death. With more expertise, with more practice, our records have grown sonically. I can only hope there’s no limit to that, but that’d be foolish to say. This record is the most physically challenging of anything we’ve written. You can have maturation and growth without necessarily casting aside where you’ve come from. We’re sensitive to the sound we’ve created and how people have come to expect a certain type of record from Disturbed. And we have no issues giving them that.

TPN: And how has the metal scene grown and changed since Disturbed came out?

DD: The metal scene ebbs and flows like the tide. People will always have a taste for aggressive music, but the definition of metal has changed in the past 20 years. If we were talking in the times of early Judas Priest, no one would bat an eyelash at calling Disturbed metal. But these days, judged by the overall vibe of the bands populating the side stages, we might not fit in that category. It seems the majority of fans have embraced the metalcore style. But if you ask any one of those bands if they consider Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Metallica metal, they’d say of course. But they don’t sound anything like metalcore.

TPN: Why do you feel the mainstream media largely ignores most metal bands?

DD: They don’t embrace it unless they’re forced to. The reason is the negative stereotype of metal, due largely in part, with no disrespect, to the ’80s. That decade created a gigantic stereotype — the debauchery, the Sodom and Gomorrah elements of the music — has hurt the music. But really people misunderstand heavy metal. It’s therapy. This is how people get aggression out, not what inspires aggression. What inspires aggression is life — the challenges we’re faced with.

When you go to a concert and you’re in a pit with thousands of kids — bodies on bodies, the heat, the sweat, the energy, you exert all your strength. You leave feeling drained, but you leave feeling free.

You know, the media’s always looking for the newest, most artsy thing. But to be honest, those bands don’t sell any records. So let the media continue to embrace them. I’d rather be the band selling a million records every time and be shunned by the media than the band selling 50,000 copies and living in their parents’ basement.

No one needs to reinvent to wheel, we’re just trying to make it roll nice and fast.