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Angry Young Men Who Had to Vent

Disturbed sees its furious riffs on individuality as cathartic. A growing fan base agrees.

April 15, 2001|LINA LECARO | Lina Lecaro is a regular contributor to Calendar

With a menacing demeanor that pervades the band's entire debut album, "The Sickness," Disturbed is one of the most compelling acts in the caustic cluster currently referred to as "nu-metal."

While many of today's heavier bands rely on sheer volume and speed to make an impact, the Chicago group is more about intelligent venting than mindless ranting. Incorporating pensive lyrics, thumping electronic effects, growling vocals and a dramatic stage atmosphere, Disturbed may be more serious than most of its peers, but it's no less exciting.

How serious?

"The Sickness' represents the philosophy of individuality, development of self, and finding those things in life that you can be passionate about and bring you meaning," explains David Draiman, Disturbed's frontman and lyricist.

"Unfortunately in today's world, when you distinguish yourself as an individual-you don't think like everyone else, you don't act like everyone else, you don't listen to the same music or look a certain way-people think that there's something wrong with you."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 17, 2001 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Ozzfest exec--Alison McGregor of Creative Artists Agency is the head of marketing for the Ozzfest tour. Another person was erroneously given that credit in an article on the band Disturbed in Sunday's Calendar.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 22, 2001 Home Edition Calendar Page 2 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Ozzfest executive-Alison McGregor of Creative Artists Agency is the head of marketing for the Ozzfest tour. Another person was erroneously given that credit in an April 15 article on the band Disturbed.

Continual touring-including breakout performances on the second stage of last year's Ozzfest-has helped "The Sickness," on Giant Records, sell more than 1 million copies, while tunes such as "Stupify" (which charted for a record 45 consecutive weeks on the Radio & Records magazine Active Rock chart), the current single "Voices" and the band's unexpected version of Tears for Fears' "Shout" incite mayhem in mosh pits wherever Disturbed plays.

'They have a depth and an ethos that people can relate to," says Larry Jacobson, general manager of Giant Records. "Like the best metal artists, they take a powerful lyrical message and put it to equally powerful and memorable music."

With a shaved head and prominent facial piercings (including two sizable spikes that protrude from his chin), 28-year-old Draiman knows what it's like to be judged for being different. But when it comes to the frustration that permeates his lyrics, the past seems to be an influence as much as the present. Draiman was raised in a strict Orthodox Jewish household, and while he wasn't exactly an outcast, he always questioned things. He says his recent success has helped mend a rocky relationship with his parents, but when he was kid, his musical endeavors only widened the gap between them.

A love for noisy rebels such as the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Ramones and a need to rebel against his restrictive upbringing led Draiman to form a punk band at 16. In the years that followed, he pursued his education (he holds bachelor's degrees in political science, philosophy and business administration from Loyola University in Chicago) while making music on the side.

In August 1996, he met guitarist Dan Donegan, drummer Mike Wengren and bassist Fuzz after answering their ad for a singer in a Chicago music publication. Draiman says it was "pretty much dead on right away," and they wrote their first song together at his audition.

Disturbed is a meld of their different musical backgrounds-Draiman inspired by punk and new wave, Donegan schooled on Black Sabbath, Wengren a fan of relentless, Pantera-style rhythms and Fuzz an old-school stadium rock follower-but at the time, their abrasive yet melodic sound was still too heavy for the club scene in a city known more for alternative rock such as the Smashing Pumpkins than for metal.

After three years of struggling to get gigs, the four took action with some aggressive street-marketing. They gave away thousands of cassette samplers at shows by like-minded bands, and their fan base tripled in a matter of months. Soon, Draiman says, "the clubs started to recognize that there was some economic viability in the band." So did several record companies. At Draiman's day job, where he worked as a health care administrator, he pirated office supplies and shipping materials to send out promotional packages to labels. All the biggies came to see them play at a Chicago music festival called Mobfest in the summer of '99.

"They were all kind of salivating," remembers Draiman. "It ended up into a bidding-war situation and we went with Giant because they were simply the most passionate."

Giant's Jacobson says the label wasn't aware of the feeding frenzy at the time, but admits to being passionate-even "fanatical'-about the band after hearing its demo tape. "I offered them a deal without ever having seen them play live, seen their picture or shook their hands," he says. "No other band has galvanized this company like Disturbed."

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Bring the violence

It's significant

To the life

If you've ever known anyone

Bring the violence it's significant

To the life can you feel it

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-from "Violence Fetish"

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Songs from "The Sickness" such as "Violence Fetish" and "Conflict" pair grinding riffs and beats with some very dark, explicit and intense words. It's a brutal combination, but it's one that's meant to be cathartic, not destructive.

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