Music: Disturbed

Jul 27, 2010 1:33 PM, By Sarah Benzuly



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Disturbed is, from left: John Moyer (bass), Dan Donegan (guitar), David Draiman (vocals) and Mike Wengren (drums).

Disturbed is, from left: John Moyer (bass), Dan Donegan (guitar), David Draiman (vocals) and Mike Wengren (drums).

A lone Pro Tools rig may have been gathering dust on the bus while Disturbed hit the festival circuit in Europe last summer, but that didn’t keep guitarist Dan Donegan from seeking out a private room after soundcheck to lay down some riffs that would become the creative spark for their latest album, Asylum. After taking a month off post-touring, the band got the itch to start focusing on the new album, working on basic songwriting and arrangements before drummer Mike Wengren would need some downtime with his family and their new baby.

Pre-production began at Donegan’s home studio, where the band hashed out ideas for about two months. “I have a V-Drum electronic drum kit and [Wengren] has one at his house,” Donegan says. “We’re not bothering the neighbors enough where they’re going to call the cops on us! We’ll just record the structure, get a feel for what is coming musically to us, and at that point I’ll record it and give it to John [Moyer, bass] and David [Draiman, vocals] and have them add their parts and see what strikes David, vocal-wise.

“I’d say 98 percent of the time, what I sent to David ends up staying that way. We’re really on track with each other as far as having a good idea and a good feel for these songs and what each guy brings to the table. There might be a few changes here and there as [Draiman] develops a melody on top of the song. We may feel like we should double-up on a chorus. We really beat those songs to death before we even thought about going to a studio. We don’t waste time or money; we go in when we feel that the songs are ready at the demo level.”

At this point, baby Wengren entered the world and the band had a slew of material. Next stop, Groovemaster Studios (Chicago), where the band has tracked all of their previous releases, albeit at the studio’s former location; the studio has since moved to the South Loop area and should be finished with construction by the time you read this. “The thing I love about [Groovemaster] is that I’m home in Chicago,” Donegan says. “I don’t feel like I’m going to work to punch the clock or going to L.A. and have the record label pop in any moment they want. [Laughs.] Groovemaster feels like I’m going to a friend’s place where I’m kicking back, recording ideas and nobody interferes with us.”

The band’s past experience in working at this studio and self-producing their previous album, Indestructible, helped create a relaxed, but direct modus operandi as they once again self-produced. “Every time is a learning experience, especially working with the other guys in the studio,” Donegan says. “Working with [producer/studio owner] Johnny K, who was our first producer, we were doing our demos with him before we got signed and we learned a great deal: how to track things properly, how to get performances. And we’ve always had a good sense of the direction of the band and we never really had to rely on a producer to shape the band because we’ve already done that; we already know what we are trying to achieve. By self-producing, I personally like that added pressure of having to deliver. It makes everyone come into the studio knowing that it’s all on our shoulders to deliver a great record.”

Sans producer, Donegan took it upon himself to act as ringleader, overseeing arrangements and performances—pushing each bandmember to get more out of them. “I’m the studio guy who is going to be in [the studio] first thing in the morning and I’ll be the last guy to leave,” Donegan says of his nature to be involved in every aspect of the record-making process. “I think because the songs start with me bringing in a riff, I have more of a clear vision of what I’m trying to achieve musically: the syncopation of the drums or certain bass lines.” While Donegan is pushing Wengren and Moyer to go past a previous creative limit, Draiman handles his own vocal production, though Donegan will listen to his vocal performance and give critiques and such. “I can throw those opinions at him and push him in a certain direction,” Donegan says. “But overall, it’s me overseeing the majority of it and vocally David hitting his part. I think the challenge now is that it’s been so long—we’re five albums deep, not to mention all of the B-sides—lyrically, what do we sing about that we haven’t done? Musically, where do we go next? We want to continue to evolve and stretch out a bit.”

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