Exclusive Interview: David Draiman of Disturbed & Device

While Disturbed is on hiatus David Draiman has been busy performing on the new Megadeth album “Super Collider,” producing the new Trivium record and starting a new band of his own Device. I love Device. I got the chance to catch up with David at the Milwaukee stop on the Gigantour with Megadeth. We talk about those three projects as well as the controversial “Rolling Stone” cover.

If you’d like to listen to the interview you can do so here:

Bob Zerull (BZ): So how’s the tour going so far, I hear the weather hasn’t really been cooperating? 

David Draiman (DD): You know what, I like it hot, except for what happened in Oklahoma city, any other day it hasn’t been that bad. That was a heart breaker.

BZ: Zakk was telling me that you guys didn’t get to play and neither did Megadeth?

DD: There were multiple lightning strikes happening during the time of our set. The power cables to the actual monitor console were buried in three or four inches of water. There was water pooling in the actual front area of the monitor console itself. Things just weren’t operational and if you turned them on everything is going to electrocute. We literally were not allowed to go out there. I still wanted to go out and play, I don’t care about thunder, rain and lightning or whatever I’ve played in it before, it makes no difference to me. It’s not my call when there is a promoter and there are insurance issues and liability issues and everything else. I will always do everything in my power to try and get in front of the fans that paid the money to see us play. It broke my heart to not be able to do it that day. Then they added insult to injury, the powers that be…thank you for that, when lighting struck the main transformer for the entire area there was no power whatsoever so Megadeth couldn’t play either. It was really a heart breaking night considering what was supposed to be an amazing event that we were putting on to benefit the citizen of Moore and Oklahoma City who have suffered so much from all the tornado damage. It was unfortunate.

BZ: Usually on a tour like this Disturbed would be headlining. Is it king of fun for you to drop down on the bill and start over and rebuild?

DD: There are pros and cons (laughs). It’s definitely humbling. I do like being the underdog again. I do like being the band that people are curious about, that they haven’t seen yet, that there’s a buzz about. There’s something refreshing about that. I love being able to go into a different direction stylistically that we’ve done with this project and being able to do these sorts of songs. A thing like “Close My Eyes Forever,” of “Haze,” or “Through it All” are any number of songs on the record would never be appropriate in the Disturbed environment. I’d be lying if I told you that there aren’t moments where I’m kind of like, ‘oh boy I’m earning my wings all over again here’ and that’s fine, we’re willing to, we believe enough in the music and the project to do so and we’re on fire every single night we’re out there. We’re a power trio from Hell.

BZ: when a band first starts out there are no boundaries. As you get more and more successful you get pigeon holed into a sound, were you getting frustrated with that in Disturbed?

DD: No no no, not really. Truth be told the reason for the hiatus was simply time. We were talking about twelve years of make a record, tour, make a record, tour. You become predictable. People know that they can see you every other summer. They know they can get an album from you every other year and that breeds complacency and it breeds lack of inspiration. There are definitely confines within the style of Disturbed that we needed to stay true to, but we’ve always pushed that envelope. We always continued to develop with each successive record. It’s not like we were holding ourselves back per se, that wasn’t really the reason for it. It was important for the fans, for the band, for all of us to just step away from this leviathan we created together and let it sleep for a little bit. Let us garner new appreciation for it; let us realize how precious it really is.

We get to do some other things, have some time to step off of the assembly line and the machine and that gave me the opportunity to work with the legendary Dave Mustaine on a couple of tracks on the “Super Collider” record. It gave me the time to produce the new Trivium record, which is next level stuff. It’s going to be a defining moment in their career, this record for them. It’s given me the opportunity to do this, and this wasn’t necessarily an intended project. This is something that just came together quite by accident. It was never really the intention of actually starting something else. The songs and the music and the art that you create sometimes take on a life of their own.

BZ: I love the album, is Device going to become a full time band?

DD: Absolutely, it already is. I expect the two entities to exist within unison of one another. I intend to and I do treat this band with the same level of reverence, intensity and respect that I do Disturbed. Both will continue to coexist as far as I’m concerned.

BZ: You have a lot of special guests on the album, more so than most rock records. Was that tough to get together and is it even harder to translate live?

DD: All these songs were recorded in their entirety and tracked in their entirety without any guest performances to start off with, with the exception of “Close My Eyes Forever” which I had always intended to have Lzzy (Hale) sing with me. I just sing them when I can. Sometimes I bring in additional guests that aren’t even on the record. It’s not easy hitting Lzzy’s parts on “Close My Eyes” when I do it on my own. She’s a hellion; she’s got a crazy range and ability. Even doing Glenn (Hughes) parts on “Through it All” I’m not even sure I can get up there to the stratosphere that he goes. I do the best I can (laughs). It’s daunting, but I enjoy getting other people involved. Part of the Device project in its whole concept was a spirit of brotherhood amongst the genre and putting our combined efforts together and being able to combine different styles and textures. I look forward to do the songs live with the actual guest appearances that exist on the record when I can. That’s obviously a very difficult thing to accomplish logistically considering everything every body else has going on. I intend to try and make it happen as much as I possible can.

BZ: With in the rock genre the fans are so passionate about the bands that they love that they turn on other bands. Do you think something like this is a good way to help the hard rock community start to appreciate one another?

DD: I hope so. I hope that more and more of this continues to happen. Obviously it’s happening. The Five Finger guys had Rob Halford guest on their record. Slash certainly had a bunch of guest appearances on his first record. I think that bridging the gap of different artists within the genre is an amazing thing to do. I think more of it should be done. I think that there is strength in unity and you are definitely stronger together.

BZ: Being the singer from Disturbed, you go on to a new project. You still have the same voice, a definitive cadence. I don’t think the Device songs sound like Disturbed songs, but you’re on them and…

DD: I sound like me.

BZ: Is that frustrating when you hear feedback like that?

DD: A little bit because truth be told I went in a bunch of directions on this record stylistically on this record that I’ve never gone on a Disturbed record. “Through it All” for example, the closing track on the record that I wrote for my wife, the only time I’ve sung that purely was “Darkness” on the “Believe” record, the closing track. It’s something that’s never really been done with “Disturbed” with the exception of that one moment. The saturation of electronic elements and key saturation, strings that is evident in the cover of “Close my Eye” would have never been appropriate on a Disturbed record and my classical vocal approach that I utilized for the majority of the song has never been utilized on a Disturbed record. The low end of my range and the little bit…I’m still utilizing the cadence but in a very different and hip hop inspired way almost. In a song like “Haze,” which is actually kind of influenced by the song “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails, it’s meant to be in that sort of vain, that could never have been on a Disturbed record.

I do take my voice to a bunch of different places stylistically but people hear “Vilify” which was intended to be put out as the first single to be a bridge for Disturbed fans so that they wouldn’t have culture shock from the rest of what happens on this record. The irony is that if you take somebody like Corey Taylor or somebody like Chino (Moren) or Maynard James Keenan and the rest of their projects, they still sound like them. It’s not like they sound radically different. I’m going to still sound like me. I don’t know what you expect me to turn into for this thing but it was my pleasure to go into different directions and it was very fulfilling. People are always going to jump at the opportunity to critique every little thing around them in their lives. If the worst thing that they can say is that it sounds too much like Disturbed well there are worse things that you could say (laughs).

BZ: How do you deal with criticism, do you just let it roll off your shoulders?

DD: Yeah man I have big shoulders (laughs). It’s all right. I’ve been dealing with it my whole career, my whole life. It is what it is. I really don’t sweat it. I concentrate far more on the people that appreciate it and love it than the people that don’t. To be perfectly honest and put it into contextual terms, the lion does not a care about the affairs of the sheep. It doesn’t make a difference to me. Everybody these days and in the internet age where you have this troll society or predatory animals that get off on picking fights with people left and right and trying to be all big and bad behind a key board who would dare say the majority of the things that they would go ahead and say online to the average individual to a persons face and certainly not mine. It really doesn’t faze me. I kind of laugh it off to be honest with you. Occasionally I’ll actually engage with them in a bit of sport (laughs), ok you wanna go? Let’s go for a little bit. Let me show you just how stupid you sound. That’s really what “Vilify” is kind of about, all these guys that try to make me out to be some sort of demogodish egomaniacal prick, I’m so laid back and chill until you cross and then I’m not so laid back and chill anymore. I don’t really worry about it too much. It’s not worth my time.

BZ: A lot of front men have a hard time separating their persona on stage from who they really are. Is that something that you find difficult to separate?

DD: Not for me, but it’s difficult for other people to separate because they automatically assume that I’m that guy that’s up there that has to be forceful and has to be powerful and demanding and a little pushy. That’s what it takes. People come to a show like this to be driven and to be inspired to release their energy, to get the negativity out. That’s my job. I’m their to whip you into a frenzy and get you to forget about the trials and tribulations and problems in your life for however long we’re playing up there and feel powerful. To do that you can’t show any fear, you have to harness every single bit of your anger, your aggression, your strength, your fury, everything and focus it and project it to the audience. That’s what they see and they’ll automatically assume that’s the guy that steps off the stage too. Truth be told it’s a very definitive side of my persona but that’s not all of me. Ninety percent of the time I’m a laid back teddy bear dude (laughs). I’m not looking to get into it with anybody.

BZ: Speaking of getting into it. Rolling Stone recently put that horrible cover out there and you’re putting your name out there condemning it, which is really admirable. What were they thinking? DD: They obviously weren’t thinking very clearly or they had a very devious intention and my opinion is actually the ladder. I think it’s uphorant and reprehensible to put this air brushed tousle haired imagine of this “alleged” terrorist on the cover of their magazine. I know it’s been done in the past. I know that Charles Manson has graced the cover, I know that Hitler has been on the cover of time magazine. I get it, all of them are reprehensible. The reason why this particular one hits home so much is because it is “Rolling Fucking Stone.” They have always been something of an establishment of pop culture legitimacy.

If you’re telling me as “Rolling Stone” magazine that this is the individual that you think todays youth identifies with then you have a very fucked up and skewed view of society. If that is truly the state of things then we are in a truly sad state of affairs because you have just now made this animal look like a rock star, whether he’s guilty or not. You know what, if you’re not guilty don’t run, if you’re not guilty, you have nothing to hide, don’t run. Don’t write what you did in the fucking boat. You can go ahead and throw a million conspiracy theories at me that they were set up and whatever, it doesn’t matter. Until its determined that this guy is innocent…if he was exonerated, put him on the cover, until that fucking point in time you have no right to do that. It’s not that he isn’t innocent until proven guilty, but he’s still a suspect in a horrendous act of violence and terrorism.

You’re only creating a catalyst for a whole new generation of people who want to go out in a blaze of glory, martyr seeking crazy mother fuckers to go out there and blow themselves up so they can be remembered for the rest of time. Here’s the lesson of the story kiddies if you go ahead and you do some shit like this you can end up on the cover of “Rolling Stone” looking all pretty and Jim Morrison like. Suck my dick. It’s so reprehensible, it is so uphorant and it is so irresponsible and they did it specifically to illicit a provocative response. They did it specifically to create controversy in a dying format and everybody knows it.

This isn’t an argument of freedom of speech or freedom of the press, they have the freedom to report whatever the fuck they want. They do, but you know what I have the freedom to protest whatever the fuck I want and so does every other human being on this planet. At some point a line must be drawn. The way that the media has coddled and held up on a pedestal, unintentionally or not individuals who perpetuate these sorts maniacal crimes over the course of decades now is unforgivable and should not be allowed. You go ahead and remember the fallen, not the murderer. You hail the heroes, the first responders, not this maniac. It’s completely socially irresponsible. There is something still to be said outside of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, it’s the golden rule man. Do unto others as you would onto yourself. Have some decency. Have some humanity. Have some compassion.

Who do you care for? Do you care for these little girls who put together this Free Jahar movement because he’s a pretty boy and he couldn’t have perpetuated such a fucking crime because he looks cute or because his parents didn’t raise him the right way or his environment created him? You know something, I’ve been through enough pain, darkness, suffering, loss and agony in the past ten to fifteen years that could create a murderer ten times fucking over and I still didn’t turn into a terrorist. There is no excuse for it, sometimes crazy is just crazy. Sometimes the weak are just weak and sometimes a cancer simply needs to be killed with chemotherapy.

BZ: It feels like it’s the entire media and not just “Rolling Stones.” They turn these events into TV shows.

DD: Of course, people love watching a car crash. This is the same country that will go ahead and have record ratings for a show like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” for fuck sake. People love watching people fall, people love a good story, people love watching accidents happen. It’s a sick part of the nature of this culture and humanity. It shouldn’t be fed. There is still something to be said about ethics and morality and having compassion for your fellow human being and knowing that doing something like this is just uphorant and rude and callous and selfish. It’s no different than a pimp whoring out his fucking girlfriend or daughter for god sake.

BZ: I want to end this on a lighter note. Megadeth has been doing an all star jam, are they going to continue to do it through out the tour?

DD: It’s up to them. I’m not privy to that information, but I will absolutely heed the call every time I’m asked. It’s too much of an honor and a privilege and I’m completely humbled to be a part of it every time it occurs. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and joy to be standing on a stage with the rest of these legends. I really have my own little “Wayne’s World” fan boy moment up there of I’m not worthy every time I do it. It’s like being a kid in a candy store for me.

BZ: What is it like to be…I’m mean you’ve made it to the point where you’re a legend yourself…

DD: Thank you

BZ: You’re looking over at legends and you’re at the same level as them, how do you adjust to something like that?

DD: It’s still very surreal to me. I have difficulties swallowing the notion that I’m anywhere near the same level as these guys. Don’t get me wrong, I fight and will continue to fight and will continue to wave the flag of hard rock and heavy metal and continue to carry the torch to the best of my ability and I will continue to try and be the best representative for the genre that I can be to the extent of my conscious, my power and the conviction of my soul, but I never ever over estimate what I’ve done. I’m always looking to do more, I’m always looking to better myself, the projects I’m associated with, the brothers who stand by me. I never forget the people who’ve helped me along the way. I’m always looking to help other individuals in this space and always trying to be as assertive and assistive as I possibly can. Any career as a artist or no matter what you’re passionate about in life, that passion should drive you and that passion should determine who you become. I will always remain passionate, to continue to develop who I am and yet to become.

 BYLINE: Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.
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Holyblady said...

Cool interview! Thank you. David Draiman is amazing. Loved his music for so many years. What a cool guy!