JB Martell and Heavy Metal Momma of We Love Metal recently conducted an interview with guitarist Dan Donegan of DISTURBED. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
We Love Metal: A lot of people on the Internet call DISTURBED "nu" metal. Do you consider yourself nu metal?
Dan: Well, I think we got lumped in that category because we came out at the same time that category was added and a lot of these bands started to come out in the late '90s is the same time that we got signed. We were fortunate to have outlasted that by riding that wave and showed that we have always been influenced by the classic metal bands, so there was nothing nu metal in our minds about what we were doing. Nu metal, to me, at the time was bands that were incorporating turntables and little bits of hip hop with metal guitars and drumming, and I respect some of those bands that did it… I was fans of some of those bands that did it, but the bands that inspired us to pick up an instrument were the first bands — BLACK SABBATH, IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, PANTERA, METALLICA, QUEENSRŸCHE — those were always guitar-based, riff-driven, double-bass, hard, slamming, powerful melodic vocals. Those are the ingredients that we have. I guess we have always just viewed ourselves as a metal band trying to expand and follow in the footsteps of the greats.
We Love Metal: I guess that's why we asked it because a lot of people will group you in with KORN and SLIPKNOT… and respect for those bands but...
Dan: And there is respect. We have toured with those bands and are fans of them. KORN, at the time, was revolutionary in bringing the seven-string detuned guitars in. You know, that's their thing and that was something new that they were bringing to the table and a lot of the newer bands were starting to follow that lead. SLIPKNOT, obviously, with nine members in the band is more of a chaotic show there and percussive. I mean that's their thing, they had their own little niche, their own thing. With us, we were relying basically on what we were brought up on, and the fact that David [Draiman] is one of the only singers in my mind, one of the few singers that is very melodic and rhythmic in his vocal styles as well. I think a lot of nu metal bands didn't offer much melody; there was a lot of monotone vocals and a lot of screamers. Some are very good at it, but our preference was to bring something you're going to be able to hum the melody to when you leave a show or listen to an album.
We Love Metal: Do you think those classifications are hurting metal sales? Like, if you get classed as metal, do you think that is hurting you on a mass scale?
Dan: I really don't put that much thought into it. I don't care. You know, we just write music that is right for us. Whatever category someone feels comfortable putting us in, you know, they can go ahead, but I never really bothered looking at it that way of where do we fit in because people are confused of where does DISTURBED fit. Nowadays heavy metal, it seems the term is changing quite a bit. Like I said, when we were growing up, heavy metal were those classic metal bands. Today's heavy metal, at times, seems to be who can play the fastest or scream the loudest or have the most monotone vocals. That's not what I remember heavy metal being to me. There were always different divisions of heavy metal, be it hardcore or death metal or black metal, so you know I never really worried about what category we fit in or where we fit in. As long as we wrote music that moved the four of us in the room and we got a chill up our spine when we created it, then that's all I was ever concerned about.
We Love Metal: Something that you and Dave are quite vocal about is the record industry's seeming inability to adapt to people. With that being said, DISTURBED is multi-platinum with all albums. Do you think it's your fan base's hardcore loyalty that causes them to continue to buy the material?
Dan: Sure. I mean, definitely the fan base. Definitely. You know, not to pat ourselves on the back too much, but when we create our songs, when we put out an album, we give them nothing but the best we have to offer from start to finish. I think some of the other bands don't put forth that effort. I think there is a lot of filler on other albums and bands that are only concerned about their two or three singles or whatever it might be. You know, I like the whole body of work. I'm an old-school thinker of hoping that fans don't only download a single. I hope they appreciate the first song to the last song and find some sort of connection within there. My biggest flattering thing for me personally is when someone comes up and names a song that is not a single that they connected with that has become a favorite of theirs. I mean, they are all important to us. We work hard and we put just as much attention into the last song of the album or a song that stays off the album that is always a tough decision for us to make, but it gets an equal amount of attention as whatever our first single might be. That's just always been our attitude of trying to create the best stuff at that point in our lives.
We Love Metal: You've been on the road with ALL THAT REMAINS, SKINDRED, and ART OF DYING. You guys are obviously the most commercially successful of them, with no disrespect to the bands. Do you find you are taking on a mentoring role with them?
Dan: I think with every band we're out touring with, when you spend time with a lot of talents and musicians, you learn a lot from each other. You know, it's not that we're just strictly the teacher. Even as the headliners, you pick up little things from other bands. Everyone is talented out here. When we're out on tour and we do these festivals in Europe you're on the same bill as METALLICA or JUDAS PRIEST and then you are sharing the stage with some of those bands, you look at them and ask, "What do we need to do to get to that level, to have that long of a career?" I think we all definitely learn from each other. I mean, I notice other bands might have toured with us and they see us in that headlining spot and we bring a bigger production show, we've become and arena-sized band. They definitely see that and ask themselves the same question: what do we do to get to that level to have that kind of audience? We have the most dedicated hardcore fan base. I'm amazed to see the wide age range of fans that we have brought out to the show. So it's good to know that when we see younger faces we have been at this for a good solid ten years and we're still tapping into a new generation of people.
Read the entire interview from We Love Metal.
Mark The Shark of the Pensacola, Florida radio station WTKX 101.5 FM (TK101) conducted an interview with Dan Donegan before DISTURBED's April 7, 2009 Music As A Weapon IV concert at the Pensacola Civic Center. Watch the nine-minute chat below.