Coming off a four-year hiatus, heavy metal quartet Disturbed blazed back into their fans’ lives earlier last year with a new album titled “Immortalized.” Lead singer David Draiman told Billboard the break wasn’t a breakup, but rather time for the band to compartmentalize their lives so “it didn’t feel like it was just a machine to [them] of write, record, tour, do the same festival over and over.” The band re-grouped in late June, announcing their return with a series of videos featuring their grim reaper-esque mascot, The Guy, and a new single, “The Vengeful One.”
Currently, the band is on a world tour in conjunction with “Immortalized,” and guitarist Dan Donegan, calls in from Texas, where the band had shows in Dallas and Houston.
You’re all living in different areas of the country now, but were still able to come together to write “Immortalized.”How did that work, especially since coming off a hiatus?
Technology is amazing. You can live in different countries if you want to. We’ve done that over the years and it’s been a helpful tool, but you lose that human element. As we started writing [for this album], we realized that we needed to spend more time in in a room together. I can send David [Draiman] files to get the ball rolling, but there’s nothing better than us being together, feeding off each other’s energy, improvising and getting reactions instantaneously. It’s not sending files, and then waiting for a response. That can get quite sterile. Once we realized we had to [be in the same room], I’d go to Austin to [David’s] house or he’d come to mine in Chicago. We didn’t put any time frame on it.
What was it like coming back from hiatus? Was it easy to get back into the grove of creating together?
I’m aging myself now, but this will be our 20th year together in August and within the majority of that time we’ve spent very little time away from each other. Even though there’s a strong bond of brotherhood there, it’s like having three other roommates for 20 years. It’s nice to step away and miss each other a bit and it’s given us the opportunity to return to our families and kids. It’s been been a tricky balancing act as we get older and we have responsibilities as fathers and husbands and we wanted to see the special milestones in our kids lives.
What’s your family situation?
I have two kids, and my daughter’s 12 and my son is eight now. The [hiatus] has given me time to go home and I was coaching football for a year. I’m not too proud to say, we were undefeated and won the Super Bowl that year [laughs] though I was one of eight coaches, so I can’t take all the credit. But end of the day, we had that void of not having the stage anymore and the bottom line was that we missed Disturbed. This is our baby, too, and once we got back to it, we realized how much we missed it.
You usedyour mascot, The Guy,to help announce that you were getting back together. How has that character evolved over the 20 years and what made him stick around?
It’s pretty crazy because we never knew it would take off that way. I’m going back to like the ’90s when we were a local club band playing little venues and we’d see people tattoo with the sinister face we were using as a logo and we didn’t even have a record deal yet.
What’s the craziest tattoo of The Guy that you’ve seen?
I recall one guy who we’ve become friends with had Disturbed arched over his stomach and The Guy in an electric chair beneath it. I was impressed that he was willing to do a markup before we even had a demo tape. Then even my garbage man has [The Guy] tattooed on his neck. It’s weird, but it’s flattering.
So during this hiatus, when you were what sounds like the ideal suburban dad, did anyone know you had this second life as a metal star?
In my hometown there are quite a few people who know i’m around, but when I’m in the field with my 8-year-old, I’m wearing a different hat. I’m a coach and a dad.
What do you kids think?
My kids keep me grounded because I’m their dad who embarrasses them all the time. They’ve come on the road with us before and as much as they love my being in the band, it doesn’t impress them because I’m still just that dad that’s a dork to them.