Disturbed’s David Draiman Talks ‘The Sound of Silence,’ Return to Touring + More
Disturbed made their triumphant return last year with the release of the Immortalized album and they’re currently selling out shows and topping the charts with their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.” We recently had a chance to speak with Disturbed’s David Draiman to get the lowdown on the band’s return to touring, the creation of their cover of “The Sound of Silence” and his thoughts on some of the band’s upcoming festival appearances. Check out the chat below.
Congrats! “The Sound of Silence” is currently No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock chart. How does it feel to see the response?
It feels amazing and especially with this one. The whole thing has been very very surreal. We really hadn’t expected the level of exposure and fervor over the cover. It was a gutsy move on our part to go in this direction and I have to credit Mike [Wengren] for coming up with the suggestions to begin with, Dan [Donegan] for insisting that we keep it acoustic and ethereal and Kevin [Churko], our producer, for starting things out with the beautiful piano arrangement and kind of all of them convincing me to go back to a place that I had not visited vocally in many many years. The effect it’s having on the [fans] is touching and truly, truly overwhelming and we couldn’t be happier.
I’ve heard from numerous people who aren’t necessarily Disturbed or hard rock and metal fans for that matter, and the response has been universally positive. Have you started to see a different audience because of the song?
Not at the shows yet but then again the current run that we’re at those shows went on sale back when the record was released and the whole run sold out in relatively 48 hours and I don’t think those people had the exposure to it yet or had the opportunity to buy tickets. What we end up seeing in the future remains to be seen. What I can tell you is from an online perspective and from just in sense of the messages I’ve gotten and people stopping me on the street or any number of situations like that, it’s definitely a whole other level and it’s definitely people that we’ve never been able to reach before. I never thought I would see myself in a guest on the morning show on a classic rock radio station or things of that nature.
It really is wonderful to see how many people, how many new people are being introduced to us. I think that in this particular point in our career after being in it for 20 years and establishing ourselves to the extent that we have we really don’t have anything more to prove as an original act so there is no fear of the cover being something that defines us in any way. It definitely is a key to unlock the door for many many people and we welcome them with open arms.
You have to give credit to the Simon and Garfunkel lyrics, which is amazing, but the arrangement you put together and the conviction with which you deliver the song, obviously you have a connection. So why was that the cover, and what does that track mean to you on a personal level?
The lyrics always spoke to me ever since I was first exposed to it as a child. It certainly spoke to Mike, as well. You know we have to give credit where credit is due. It was really his suggestion. If you listen to the intricacy of the lyric it’s talking about someone who is enveloped in the darkness, who welcomes it, who feels like he is a bit of an outcast in a world full of chaos, who feels like someone who’s an introvert in a world full of extroverts, who feels like someone who’s bearing witness to things that they can’t come to terms with and who’s trying to express words that fall on fears and unfortunately wisdom that doesn’t end up getting developed. Tremendously poignant.
Simon and Garfunkel were genius in their crafting of this lyric and I know that they spent months developing it and they had to work on several revisions over the course of their writing the song to get it to the point where it was and where it got to. So I have tremendous appreciation for the work and the creativity and the artistry involved in the crafting of this lyric and there is no doubt in my mind that because of how deeply it does speak that is a huge factor in the conviction of the delivery. I mean and feel every single word. So it resonates very powerfully within me and I think that emotion and the content, the connection, is affecting people and people are feeling that. So you really couldn’t ask for more of a perfect balance between the art that you’ve created and the emotion that needs be tied into it.
You’re back touring after taking a long period away from the band. Is it sweeter after the break you guys took to be back out on the road and to see the response? Does it resonate more, having that time away?
It does, absolutely. You want it more. The longer you are away from it, the more you want it. To come back post-hiatus to the level of excitement that we’re seeing and the exuberance of these crowds and their involvement and them singing the words to nearly every song we play — almost louder than I can actually sing through the power of the PA is really overwhelming. There’s no getting away from it, they’re overpowering. It’s quite a thing to witness as an artist for people to be so invested and so committed. It’s truly surreal and really unbelievable.
I’ve seen other bands do it and have wondered why other bands don’t but you let the album come out and settle with people for a bit before you hit the road. Was that a conscious decision and can you talk about how that’s helped in the acceptance of the new album?
It was a conscious decision but it was also a decision based on circumstance because part of what our plan was, and in our keeping the album secret for as long as we did is that when people don’t know anything is coming and in particular promoters don’t know that anything is coming, you can’t book things. A lot of tours are booked months and months ahead of time. So when all of a sudden we drop a record out of the sky, taking everybody by surprise, it was a wonderful surprise and the fans deserved it. It’s not exactly the most conducive scenario for heading right out on the road afterwards because nobody knew. Not promoters, not anyone, in order to keep the thing truly secret.
We needed that time to plan accordingly, whether we liked it or not. It certainly seems to have worked out splendidly. The run sold out front to back. We’ve been honored with headlining or being one of the headliners of just about every festival in the month of May that has the word “rock” in it. It’s been truly, truly amazing. The post-hiatus environment couldn’t have worked out better if we had prayed for it. It’s been a tremendous blessing. We couldn’t be happier to have all this excitement and to have all these opportunities. We’re honored and we promise to live up to the huge trial [laughs] that is laid in front of us. We’re not going to let anyone down.
The video you had up of the kid celebrating his 12th birthday has gotten plenty of love. That’s a nice first concert memory. Do you remember your own first concert memory?
Regarding that wonderful boy, that sweet kid, my favorite thing was, “This is my first concert and it was amazing and I gotta say so far it’s the best concert I’ve ever been to.” [laughs] I love that! Such a boyish, youthful innocent statement. Just so endearing, that kid was adorable. But we do stuff like that all the time and that’s something that we’ve noticed on more than one occasion. I just can’t help myself, when you see a young kid and they’re way into it, and their parents are there with them, I cannot help myself. There’s an aspect of it where I kinda feel bad. Oh boy buddy, put on your earmuffs for this part of the song because you really shouldn’t be hearing this kind of language. I try to convey the whole notion that I think there are far worse things in this world than a little bit of profanity. There’s definitely much worse things that any young person can be exposed to and hopefully they know how to take this in context. I just enjoy having them there, and I enjoy the parents that have the courage to introduce them to it.
When I was first introduced to the live experience, I snuck out of my parents house during a Sabbath night, Friday night and went to what used to be called the Cabaret Metro which is now just Metro, Joe Shanahan’s place in Chicago. I saw some punk rock cover band. I was 12 years old. I don’t even remember what their name was, they had like a few originals and were doing a bunch of old school punk rock covers. They did some Ramones, Misfits, Operation Ivy. I just remember the whole experience of witnessing a connection that the singer had with the crowd and that energy exchange. Feeling it and knowing that I wanted it, really badly. That was the spark that started the fire for me.
You’ve got a lot of touring coming up with Rob Zombie, Breaking Benjamin, Alter Bridge, Saint Asonia …
Beyond honored to be sharing the stage with all those guys. Talk about an amazing lineup of singers in particular. Let’s not forget the rest of the band as well, but, oh my god. All these guys are tremendous. All these bands, musicians are tremendous and we’re just honored to have their company and to share the stage with them. I’m looking forward to having some live collaborations together onstage, hopefully. I’m going to try and twist their arms to get them into doing that. We look forward to it. We’re friends with all those guys so it’s going to be one big traveling rock ‘n’ roll summer camp.
There are a bunch of festivals coming up. What does it mean to be one of the headliners for Chicago Open Air, basically playing in your own hometown and kicking off a brand new festival?
Beyond honored. To be one of the bands chosen to kick the whole thing off, in the year of its inception, is a tremendous honor and a wonderful opportunity and we’re beyond elated and proud to do that in our hometown. It’s still my hometown. I live in Austin, Texas, these days but I will always be a Chicago boy. I still miss it in many ways and always look forward in getting back there when I can. So, this will definitely be a proper homecoming and we’re in some tremendously powerful company.
Also, you’re one of the main acts on Seether’s Rise Above suicide prevention festival. What does it mean for you to be part of that festival as well?
I think my views on suicide prevention are already quite established. “Inside the Fire” was written about someone I had lost to suicide. There’s always a tremendous amount of emotional cost to everyone you leave behind. There’s always another way. You should always seek help and you should always try to look past whatever seems to be so daunting in your life that would make you go to a darker place as to eliminate the possibility of any further chance of anything. It’s a horrific thing. The more support structures we create, the more opportunity we create for people to have a lifeline and to find a way out of that dark abyss they sometimes get pulled into, the better off we will all be because it’s something that is done singularly but it definitely doesn’t leave a singular hole. Everyone feels the effects of it, anyone that you’ve touched or know or love. Anyone that loves you too. So, we’re very honored to be a part of it and hopefully it will continue to move in that direction.
There are tons of things going on for Disturbed right now, but what should we be looking for down the road? Are we going deeper into the album at this point?
We will be. We have not yet decided yet on a fourth single at this point. I know the discussions are ongoing. We are going to be doing a virtual reality video for “The Sound of Silence,” hopefully being one of the bands on the forefront of that technology. Looking forward to that, and that’s with the same director who directed the original “Sound of Silence” video, Matt Mahurin. He’s brilliant, so I’m sure what he’s going to come up with next is going to be just as brilliant. Just looking forward to continuing to try and spread this growth and incredible passion people have for our cover to places we’ve never gone before. Hopefully the Conan performance isn’t the last opportunity we have to do something like that and hopefully the other late night shows will open their doors to us and we’ll have more and more opportunities to expose our interpretation of this track to more and more people.
We can only hope that Paul Simon himself and Art Garfunkel are as proud as we’d hope they would be of what we’ve done with it. Hopefully we’ll get to hear from them soon. I keep hoping, [laughs]. I know that we’ve heard communications via our agent at CAA, who has been speaking to their manager who said he has heard it and they have heard it and they love it, but I would love to hear from them personally and or to hear from Paul in particular. That would be a crowning achievement for us, because we do respect them so tremendously and their creation. That would be wonderful, but we’re looking forward to this amazing summer tour. We’re looking forward to finally getting back to Australia which is long overdue since the whole Soundwave debacle. We’re looking forward to an amazing cycle which will probably last through the new year. So, we’re gonna be going long and strong on this one.
[Editor’s Note: Since the interview was conducted, Paul Simon did respond to Draiman, complimenting his performance on Conan. Read more here.]
Our thanks to Disturbed’s David Draiman for the interview. The band’s Immortalized album, featuring “The Sound of Silence,” is available for purchase at Amazon and iTunes. And you can look for Disturbed playing a mixture of co-headlining dates with Rob Zombie, headlining festivals this spring and co-headlining a summer tour with Breaking Benjamin that also features Alter Bridge and Saint Asonia. See all of their upcoming dates here.
David Draiman Discusses the Process for Covering “The Sound of Silence”
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