Dan Donegan of Disturbed Talks "The Lost Children" and "Dexter" and Looks Back on "The Sickness"
Thu, 22 Dec 2011 12:46:35
"There are different vibes throughout The Lost Children," smiles Disturbed guitarist Dan Donegan.
That dangerous diversity remains a Disturbed tradition. In fact, they utterly perfected it on the 2010 masterpiece Asylum and their latest collection The Lost Children is another shining example of the band's uncanny ability to traverse darkness and light within the space of the same song. David Draiman's vocals volley from hypnotic to haunting on the likes of "Hell" and "Old Friend" while Donegan infuses industrial infectiousness into bombastic metal bombardment. His programming and six-string prowess entwine for an undeniable assault on the senses. He's one of the best guitarists in modern metal, and it's clear as "Hell" on The Lost Children.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and "Dolor" author Rick Florino, Dan Donegan of Disturbed talks The Lost Children, Dexter, and so much more…
The Lost Children definitely maintains a cohesive vision. Was that always the goal with this collection?
Thank you! I'm glad you feel that way because we feel that way as well [Laughs]. For us, it's hard to leave anything off. We don't write 50 songs and pick the best ten or twelve to put on the album. We write every song with a purpose. We want it to be heard and shared with the fans. Unfortunately, over time, you have a collection of songs that have never seen the light of day. We wanted to make sure they got out at some point.
How important was the sequencing of the album for you?
It's important for the overall flow. All of these songs were written over the length of our career. Some of these songs were even written while we were a local band. To sequence them from different eras and times we wrote them, we wanted to create a vibe throughout the album. For us, these songs are important. This feels like another album for us. These are songs we want to be heard and we want to be able to play some day. We've only played a few of these songs live because people aren't familiar with them. We didn't want to bore people with something they're unfamiliar with. Whenever that comes in the future, we'll maybe get a chance to play some of these tracks.
What's the story behind "Hell"?
That was a tough one for us. Even back when we wrote it for Ten Thousand Fists, we knew that it was a strong contender to possibly be a single. To leave it off the album was a big decision. We're fortunate because we never have the record label interfere with our decisions and what we do. We're pretty lucky that we're one of the few bands allowed that freedom and luxury. We make those choices of what goes on and stays off the album on our own. At the time, we thought, "Hell" is such a cool song, but we want to leave it off hoping we can find the right outlet for it at the right time—whether it be a soundtrack or a sporting event. We left it off because we felt it was such a strong song. The song was always in the back of our minds. As far as the message and the meaning goes, a lot of David's stuff lyrically is relationship-related. That's another one of those situations. I think it's more so about a person who's coming in and out of your life in a relationship, and it brings you "Hell" [Laughs].
Do you feel like it's a prime example of melding electronic sounds and heavy metal?
For me, it's always been fun. The guys tease me because I'm so crazy about working on the ear candy and some of the electronics. I'll sit there for hours and hours going over the same part and tweaking the tone of it or making minor adjustments. Maybe, I overanalyze things too much [Laughs]. In my head, I know what I want to hear. It's just a matter of seeking it out until I get what I'm looking for musically. Electronically, it's been fun to experiment. It's another creative way for me to express myself. Sometimes, it influences what I'm playing on guitar as well depending on if I come up with the electronic part first. In some cases, that may be it.
Is that connection between sounds something you always wanted to explore?
I'm always open to it. I'm open to any instrumentation. If it serves its purpose, then we do it. Even on the Believe record, we really didn't have anything electronic-wise, there were a couple of underlying keyboard lines, but I backed off little bit. Over the years, I brought it out a little more. It's another creative outlet.
Where did "Mine" come from?
We wrote that as we were doing the Asylum album. I wanted to experiment and do something vibe-y. It's over five minutes. I'm messing with some of the samples and electronics. It starts out with a little bit of a Nine Inch Nails vibe setting up the song. I like pushing the boundaries a bit.
What era was "Dehumanized" from?
That was the only b-side we had from Believe at the time. Since we toured so much on The Sickness, we were out for almost two years. When we came home, we knew we wanted to start writing right away. Touring off The Sickness for two years, we were excited to get new material going. We played it live a couple times, and it's on the Music as a Weapon live DVD, but we never released the studio version before. This will be the first time you hear that version.
What do you think of now when you think of The Sickness?
It was obviously very exciting for us. It was our first big opportunity after playing around as a local band in the Chicago and the south suburbs. We'd demoed a few of the songs like "Down with the Sickness" and "The Game", but we never properly released them. We gave out cassette samplers for free around town to help make people aware of us—if anybody remembers what cassettes are [Laughs]. To finally go into the studio and be able to track these things properly and have a budget that allowed us some time to nail everything was great. We went with a local producer Johnny K who was a friend of ours. I knew him from my neighborhood. He was the guy around town trying to make a name for himself. It was his first album too. For the both of us to have our opportunity at the same time was incredible. We weren't feeling pressure that way. I didn't want to go out to L.A. and be put in a studio where I feel like I'm punching a clock or the record label's looking over our shoulder the whole time. We were lucky that the label trusted us enough to say, "Okay, you want to go into the studio in Chicago with a no-name producer who's just a local guy who does demos? Sure, go ahead and do it" [Laughs]. It was a bit surprising that they were okay with it. They put us in a little test runs, and we did like three songs so they could hear the quality. Once they heard those results, we were given the green light to do the whole album. It was a great opportunity. One thing stands out to me. We were all so new at it that I remember Warner Bros trying to call to get updates on how things were going. Johnny, going from a local producer to an opportunity on his first major label album, didn't really have a full staff of people in the studio. The label would be calling and he wouldn't be answering the phone because we were working. He'd just blow it off for days. We thought it was hilarious that the record label knew nothing that was going on. They'd keep calling. He wouldn't return their calls and we'd keep pressing forward. Looking back at it now, it was funny that they were left in the dark for a while. It was cool we got to do our own thing. I love looking back at some of the DVD footage. When we released Decade of Disturbed with Asylum, it's unbelievable to look back at some of those accomplishments along the way.
If The Lost Children were a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
It'd probably be something dark [Laughs]. "Old Friend" was written because we're fans of Dexter. It's got that mindset. I'd say something in that world of horror movies.
What's next for you?
I really don't know! That's a good question. We wrapped up Mayhem in the states and we went to South America for the first time and did some shows there. It left a great impression on us. We've wanted to go there for our whole career. This is the first time we haven't made a game plan yet. We always knew what we were going to do next. This is the first time where we were like, "Let's not have those discussions yet". We've been at it for so long. Let's just go home for a bit and unwind. I've been back in piano lessons. I'm going to start jamming with some guitar players around town to get creative in other areas. I'm learning piano because I like the instrument, and it's something I do with my daughter. She goes for piano lessons too. I thought it'd be good exercise for me. My right-hand, my picking hand is usually limited to picking and finger-tapping. On piano, I'm using both hands and building different muscles and getting the mechanics down. I think it will benefit me down the road. I've been going to concerts. I want to have that feeling again. I like being that guy in the crowd watching bands, being pumped up, and getting inspired by that. Over the years with being on stage or watching bands from the stage, I like going in the crowd. I want to feel that. I want to get that fire of what made want to do this in the first place back inside me. It's nice to go back to that.
Have you heard The Lost Children yet?
Dan is also featured in our retrospective on Korn! Check out what he had to say about the band here!