Interview: Dan Donegan of Disturbed
Mon, 10 Mar 2008 07:45:02
Disturbed guitarist Dan Donegan is taking a short break right now, back home in Chicago. The band's gearing up for their appearance at Operation MySpace, a show for the troops in Kuwait that sees Disturbed sharing a stage with Filter, Jessica Simpson and Pussycat Dolls to name a few. It's a very diverse bill, but more than worth the cause. With a smile, Donegan exclaims, "It's exciting, I mean, I'm definitely not looking forward to the flight [laughs]. It's a long way, but once we get there, hopefully we can put some smiles on the troops' faces and be able to meet some of them up close and personal. It's going to be great to let them know how important they are, and that we, in America, haven't forgotten what they are doing over there."
It's rare for Disturbed to have any quiet time. The band has been grinding the axe almost non-stop since they hit the scene with a bang in 2000, following platinum album after platinum album and touring constantly. However, Disturbed are back with their most vicious, volatile and downright infectious offering to date, Indestructible [Summer 2008]. The album traverses a dark spectrum of emotion, and sees the band morph into a sharper, more technical metallic beast. Before hopping on the plane overseas, Donegan checked in with ARTISTdirect to discuss Operation MySpace, Indestructible and more.
How did the Operation MySpace show come together?
For many years, we've wanted to do something for the troops. We've had a lot of troops come to shows, and we’ve met them in meet-and-greets or backstage. One of the things that really triggered it for us happened a couple of years ago. We were presented with a bronze star from a Sergeant Lieutenant who came to a show with his wife. We just wanted to meet the guy, shake his hand and thank him for his job. We had no intention of accepting his bronze star that he earned. He came back there, and it was a very emotional time. He kind of insisted. Everybody was a bit teary eyed seeing the emotion that this guy had and how important it was for him to present us with his bronze star. He felt that we were like the additional member of his troop. He hadn't lost a guy. Every mission that he went in on, he and his troops listened to us ritually to inspire them and pump them up going into their missions, and that was a touching moment. I think a lot of people knew how important it was for us to do something for the troops. MySpace approached us when they were putting this show together, and we jumped all over it. We're like, "We want to go there. We want to do something for them, go to Kuwait and pay our respects to them," because what we do is easy, you know? We all make sacrifices in life, but they make the biggest sacrifice. To be away from their spouses and their kids, it's a very big sacrifice to make. We want to go over there and give them the opportunity to escape for a few hours. Maybe forget a little bit about what their job is and just to be able to enjoy themselves, so this is a great opportunity.
It feels Indestructible is much heavier and more cohesive than anything Disturbed's done before.
Well, I hope so. We feel that way too, of course. We're not going to put it out, unless we feel like it’s knocking it up a couple levels. We're definitely happy with the direction we are taking on this record.
The guitar fireworks are much more prominent, and the solos truly stand out. What was your writing process like personally for this record?
It was pretty similar. Everything just starts out with guitar riffs that I throw at the guys. Usually, once I had a few ideas, we discussed the direction and the vibe for the music. But ultimately, it happened naturally, no matter what we talked about. I can't just sit down and force something out. It just so happened to be that, collectively, we were all on the same page with what we were trying to achieve with this album. Mikey [Wengren], my drummer, would come over, and I would throw a rough structure idea of the songs at him. We would piece them together and give them to David to work with. Luckily, right off the bat, the material came together really quickly. Everybody was just on the same page in terms of what was going on.
You guys have definitely maintained the Disturbed sound, but at the same time, you've evolved.
I don't want to become too redundant. Even though there are certain elements that are always going to sound like us. David's vocals, the riffs and the beat are going to be signature enough. I think it’s great that within the first five or ten seconds of a song people are going to be able to identify that it's us. But we like to still evolve and experiment. We try to offer something new, and I think, so far, we've been successful at delivering. This’ll be our fourth record. It did sort of take its own direction. I mean, to us it seemed clear that Believe was obviously a lot different than The Sickness, and Ten Thousand Fists was different than that. We just picked those certain elements off of each album that we really liked, and we tried to evolve from there. But we just want to continue growing. I don't want to deliver the same record over and over. That’d be boring. We keep pushing ourselves and challenging each other to try new things.
The title Indestructible really fits your sound too.
Well, for sure and that title kind of came a little bit later in the recording process, which is kind of odd, because usually going in, we have some idea of what we want to call the album. It changed around a little bit this time, because of that particular song's lyrics. As we were tracking the music for it, David re-approached what he was doing vocally, and we changed the title. As it all came together, it just seemed appropriate, not only as a song that is more directed towards troops, but toward the band as well. We've been together collectively since 1996—and I've been with Mike since 1992, actually—so we have a long history together. To be able to maintain and achieve some success in this business—not to be cocky in any way, but we feel the we've been fortunate and blessed to be making good moves and making good music to keep the fans interested—especially an industry where a lot of bands are struggling or suffering and the industry in general is suffering. By being out, touring, working hard and gaining that fan base, we feel we've been able to rise above the downsides of the business and maintain what we're doing.
You burst into the scene on OZZfest 2000, and you’ve managed to outlast so many trends in heavy music.
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