Latest release: Asylum (Reprise)

Superstars Disturbed are one of the biggest names in heavy music, having attained well in excess of ten million albums sold since the release of their 2000 debut The Sickness. With their fifth full-length album Asylum about to be released, despite being hampered by a sub-par phone connection that the axeman attributed to “being in the middle of nowhere” (and which unfortunately cut our chat short), Brendan Crabb got guitarist Dan Donegan on the phone to talk about their new album and more.

Q: Hey Dan, what’s the latest in the Disturbed camp?
A: We’re in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; it’s actually our first show back.

Q: Good to hear – how is the new material working in the live environment?
A: It’s going great, we were just down in Springfield, Illinois for the last week, just working on pre-production rehearsals for the upcoming tour.

Q: A lot has been said about the new album – some members have claimed it’s in a similar vein to 2002’s Believe, while others have claimed it’s darker and heavier than your previous releases. Where do you think this album sits within the Disturbed back catalogue?
A: I don’t know, I think we just try to take the strong points from each album and grow off of that and kind of blend those things that we liked about each one. There’s melodic moments on this album, there’s definitely a little bit more attitude and just the delivery of it I think is a little bit€ It has those moments of just that in-your-face delivery. Just the overall body of work; we’re very proud of what we’ve become musically, the band has really evolved over the years and we’re just trying to continue to grow the sound of the band by still having those signature things that are us. I mean, there’s an identity; when people hear David’s (Draiman) voice or they hear a riff, they can identify that it’s Disturbed. So there’s going to be those things that are always trademark us, but we just try to grow off of that and evolve the sound.

Q: “Another Way to Die” is the first single and video from the album. Do you feel this is an accurate indication of what the rest of the record sounds like perhaps?
A: (Pauses) Well, that’s a pretty direct political statement that is made, but some of the other material… There’s maybe one other song that’s a little more direct with the lyrics, it’s a little political. But it’s in line with the whole theme of the album. There’s other songs that are a little bit more cryptic with the lyrics and a couple of different subject matters. But this happened to be the track that was a little bit different vibe and we wanted to kind of put it out there as something a little different from us.

Q: David may be the one who can best answer this, but where was the other lyrical inspiration derived from for this album?
A: It’s always stuff… there is personal matter related to David or something that we can all relate to. “Another Way to Die” obviously just being global warming, you know, that’s an issue that we can all recognise. Some of the other lyrics are just relationship issues, you know? Just with break-ups and that kind of thing… but there’s (always) been some kind of happy message to those dark, depressing moments as well. There’s another song “Innocence” that’s about corrupt attorneys who represent killers and child molesters; how they sleep at night when they represent those kinds of people and use different ways to create doubt in a jury’s mind to get these people off the hook. So that’s another subject matter. There’s a lot of relationship issues as well. Then there’s another song, “Never Again” that is more direct and political too, just about recognising the Holocaust, certain people that allowed that to happen and there’s certain subjects looked at within that (which) we’re trying to touch upon.

Q: Interesting. Now, your previous album Indestructible debuted at #1 in a number of countries, including Australia. More than a decade into your career, is the pressure of following up a hit album just not even a factor for Disturbed?
A: The pressure for us (is) to really… We put pressure on ourselves to really deliver, to really push our music and evolve as a band, to try to deliver something that’s going to be fresh for us. We don’t really second-guess what we do; there’s no secret formula to why it works or why it’s successful other than we just stay true to ourselves. We write music that moves us, that feels right to us and we’re just fortunate that since these subject matters are real and (about) emotions, real things that have affected us (and) other people have connected with that. We’re just fortunate that they’ve found some kind of connection with what we do.

Q: You are one of the most popular heavy bands in the world and some would say have little left to prove from a commercial success standpoint. What is it that drives you to keep creating music and not just rest on your laurels?
A: Performing, being on-stage. When we’re off tour it’s nice to go home and not live out of a suitcase but then when we’re home we don’t know what to do with ourselves, you know? We know that the writing process and recording is great but we know that at the end of the day, it just gets us closer to being back on the stage again and performing. That drives us, when we have that connection on-stage with the fans. When we see the way that our music is connecting with so many people emotionally; when I can make eye contact with somebody in the crowd and see that they’re living in that moment, that’s motivational. That’s just such a powerful feeling, to be up there seeing thousands of kids out there and the looks on the faces when they’re connecting with something that we created. It’s a drug to us.

Q: Does the band have any aims for this album – sales, chart positions, tours – or is it just take it as it goes?
A: We just try to deliver the best body of work that we can come up with and whatever happens with it happens. I don’t know what the expectations are; I hope that the fans continue to connect with the new material and I think they will. We’re proud of it, we wouldn’t put it out if we didn’t think we had something to offer. The fans have always stepped up and they’ve always been there for us. For many years it was mostly the US, but other countries are really peaking out too, Australia being one of them. We had a high debut last time in Australia and we know that the fans are waiting for this release. I hope and I feel that they’ll be pleased when they hear the whole body of work.

Q: On the touring front, what are the band’s touring plans for the new record?
A: We’re going to be going out pretty hard, at least a year, maybe a little bit more than a year, just hardcore touring. (We’re playing) in the US and Canada, then we’re going to Europe in November into December and a little bit more US and Canada early next year. Then we’re going to look for Australia and New Zealand, probably early 2011, maybe some time around April I hope. We’re excited to go back – I mean, every time we come to Australia and New Zealand it’s been great for us. It continues to grow over there for us, we’ve made a big connection and left a big impression and the fans seem to like it. It’s definitely one of our favourite countries to come back to; just the way it keeps growing there and that gives us the hunger to want to get back there again sooner.