Finding the Light with David Draiman of Disturbed
"I have no guilt when it comes to doing anything pleasurable."
~ David Draiman
David Draiman is an American singer and songwriter. Noted for his distorted, operatic, baritone voice and percussive singing style, he has fronted the Heavy Metal band, Disturbed, since 1996. He has written some of the band's most successful singles, such as "Stupify", "Down with the Sickness", "Indestructible", and "Inside the Fire."
Disturbed has sold over 17 million records worldwide, making them one of the most successful rock bands in the modern era.
KM: Hi David. Welcome to Tru Rock Revival Magazine. I’m going to toss a few questions at you and answer them in any way you like. Are you ready?
DD: Yep. Let’s see that fast ball. Throw em!
KM: The new song you have out with Nita Strauss, “Dead Inside.” Heavy lyrics. If you really read them, it can have many different meanings with what’s going on in the world today. Was that the intent?
DD: Read it as you want. You make your own decision about the lyrics. It can be about, yeah, what’s happening in our cities right now, right this minute, or, it can be about what’s happening somewhere else, maybe in someone’s home. It’s your choice to interpret the lyrics however you want.
KM: How did you and Nita get together?
DD: I’ve known Josh, her boyfriend, for several years. He’s an incredibly talented drummer. Josh contacted me about this song Nita had but it wasn’t finished. It had no lyrics, really no melody. The idea was there. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in looking at the song and helping finish it. I had some down time from Disturbed, so, we got together and finished the song. I guess it was one of those “it’s supposed to happen” things, and it did. And, it was cool.
KM: It is a cool song. The two of you really gel, your vocals and her guitar skills.
DD: Yeah, I think it turned out pretty cool. Nita is really an amazing guitarist. She’s right up there with some of the best in the business.
KM: For “Sound of Silence.” Did you know it would be such a huge hit for you?
DD: We’ve done a lot of covers. They’re cool and we have a good time with them. I never go into the studio with that intent, hoping it becomes a big hit. I love the song, “Sound of Silence,” and what it stands for, and I heard this hard-edged version in my head and really wanted to lay it down. So, there you go.
KM: How did you feel when Paul Simon acknowledged your version when he saw you on Conan a few years ago?
DD: Oh man, I was running around screaming like a little kid! It was a thrill, still is, to get an email from someone like Paul Simon. The guy is a legend. His acknowledging what we did means the world to me.
KM: As a kid, you had your difficulties and got into a fair share of trouble. True?
DD: Didn’t we all? It’s all part of growing up, learning and maturing. But, I guess for some of us, that rebellion continued, or continues, into our adult years. Although, that rebellion has a different focus and connotation for me these days, than when I was a kid. Back then it was more of a selfish rebellion, what I wanted, and how I was going to get what I wanted. Now, as an adult, as a father, my rebellion is more focused on what we as human beings need to do to help each other, and to save this planet we all live on. My rebellion comes from my words now, rather than through physical methods.
KM: When did your parents finally give up the thought that you would become a Rabbi?
DD: Hmm. Maybe after I set the principal’s car on fire at the boarding school I was attending, and it blew up! Yeah, that could have been when.
KM: Wow! I’ve heard some of this story before. So, it is true?
DD: Yeah. It happened. I didn’t intend for the car to explode, but it happened. I had some anger as a kid.
KM: OK. I’ve done some bad shit in my life, had my share of visits to the principal and guidance counselor’s office as a kid. But, setting the principal’s car on fire? That’s some fucked up, and I guess, some funny shit. As long as no one was hurt.
DD: No, no one was hurt, except for the car.
KM: Why did you set his car on fire?
DD: We [the kids] were all at this big Purim event in school. We’re all kids, underage kids. The tradition for Purim was you were supposed to get so drunk that you can’t tell the difference between good and evil or good and bad. Now, we’re all underage kids but, tradition said you had to get inebriated so that’s what the Rabbi’s did, got all of us underaged kids drunk. So, for some reason, maybe I said something I shouldn’t have, I probably did, and the principal got angry at me and punched me in the face, closed fist. I retaliated by going to a gas station a couple days later and set his van on fire. I didn’t intend for it to explode, but it did.
KM: Did he ever find out it was you who did it?
DD: Well, if he reads this he'll know now. LOL!
KM: LOL! You would have been a pretty unique Rabbi.
DD: I would have been an interesting Rabbi, for sure.
KM: When did you first realize you had this incredible singing voice?
DD: As a child, I had trained as a Cantor, so I had quite a bit of vocal training then. That vocal training was probably one of the best things that happened for me as a kid. I was a rebellious kid, got thrown out of three boarding schools. But, even though I did not become a Cantor, the vocal training I did receive led to my music career, so I’m thankful for that.
KM: Your first band you were in was a Punk Rock cover band. I understand your parents were not too thrilled with that.
DD: Oh, most definitely not. That was probably the epitome of my rebellion and the springboard for my music career. At the time, I was working as a Health Care Administrator and planned to go to law school. I was accepted into seven different law schools but before making that final decision, I went to Israel for about a year, and that’s where I made my own decisions about my beliefs and what I wanted in and from life. Becoming a Rabbi was definitely not one of them, and I decided not to move on to law school. My parents were pretty upset about that decision. I wanted a life of my own and I knew music would be a big part of it, if not the final direction.
KM: People who know you say, “David definitely enjoys life. But, he’s a great guy who knows when to throw in the towel.” On a zero to ten scale, how much would you say you go out there every day and try to enjoy life?
DD: Oh, most definitely on the close end to 10. I definitely know my limitations and when I’ve had enough, but I’ve said in the past, when a door opens for you with a good opportunity, whether it be in business or of a pleasurable nature, you’ve got to step right through it and at least explore what’s on the other side. [wink] Sometimes I’ll walk through that door and hang around for a while, exploring. Other times I’ll take a look and move on to something else. I don’t always walk through the door and hang around. But, when the opportunities present themselves, you don’t want any regrets that you didn’t at least take a look at what was opening its arms for you.
KM: Even though you decided against becoming a Rabbi, do you still consider yourself a man of faith?
DD: Oh, most definitely. I’m still a very proud Jewish man. I love my religion and my people. I love Israel and hope that one day it enjoys a peaceful existence. I don’t necessarily agree with everything the Rabbis always say or do, or say I should do. But, I love my religion and what it stands for. Over 6 million people died who were trying to preserve the Jewish religion. And what for? I have relatives, my grandparents on my mother’s side, who survived the camps. That in itself is a miracle.
KM: What did your parents think about your decision to become a rock star?
DD: Hated it! But, it’s my life to live, not theirs and they knew that.
KM: What is one of your most favorite non-Disturbed songs?
DD: "Aenima" by Tool. A great song full of imagery. Love it.
KM: Your favorite cover you’ve done in Disturbed?
DD: At this point, I’ll say “Sound of Silence.” It wasn’t my choice as the cover song we would do. We’ve done several. It was Mike’s idea (Mike Wengren, drums for Disturbed) and the opening line for the song, “Hello darkness my old friend” was a line that always stood out to me whenever I listened to that song. Being a classically trained singer, the song was a good fit for my voice. Initially, I saw the song as being much more hard-edged, like with what we did with “Land of Confusion” by Genesis, and “Shout” by Tears for Fears. But, Danny (Danny Donegan, guitarist for Disturbed) said "we’ve done that before, let’s try to keep it more like the original but with a few changes." And Kevin Churko, our producer, came up with the very cool piano part you hear at the beginning of the song, and that’s what did it for me, for us.
KM: What did your parents think of your version of the song?
DD: They actually really like it. It’s a song they can relate to because it’s from their time, a song they enjoyed from a duo they both enjoyed.
KM: How do you feel about the new album? How is it coming along?
DD: We’re getting close. It should be ready for release in a couple months into 2022.
KM: How do you think it will compare to your past albums?
DD: It’s definitely taking us back to our roots, to the first album. It’s like a kick in the teeth.
KM: Do you think you would have been a good Cantor?
DD: I would have been like the Jazz Singer on steroids!
KM: Yeah, I can definitely see that. What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?
DD: I have no guilt when it comes to doing anything pleasurable.
KM: Through all the bad and good in your life, has “darkness shown you the light?” [a verse from Disturbed song, “The Light.”]
DD: Ha! I love that. “When you think all is forsaken, listen to me now, you need never feel broken again, sometimes darkness can show you the light.”
KM: And, it seems it has. David, thank you so much for this chat. This has been pretty cool. Good luck on the new album. We can’t wait to hear it. Have a safe New Year and much love and peace to you, your family, and the band.
DD: Thanks, Kreig. Much love and peace to you and your family as well. We’ll be in touch.
Kreig Marks, Publisher / Founder TRR
Kreig Marks is the Founder/Publisher of Tru Rock Revival Magazine.
Rock music has always been his passion, and promoting musicians. In is spare time he is an internationally recognized neuro-fitness trainer/ kinesiologist.