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It’s been two decades since drummer Mike Wengren and guitarist Dan Donegan held auditions to find a much-needed front man for their new band (then known as Brawl). After seeing dozens of singers, both Wengren and Donegan started to lose hope. Until in walked David Draiman, a 23-year-old Jewish guy who had previously worked as a healthcare administrator. He had an air of confidence that impressed them, and a catalogue of original songs – but it wasn’t until he opened his mouth and sang that the two aspiring musician buddies knew they’d found someone special. “From the very beginning we knew that together we had something,” Wengren says over the roar of a crowd.

“I apologise for the noise!” he yells, “I’m at an ice hockey game. It’s the Detroit Red Wings against the Philadelphia Flyers – they’re both fighting for a play-off position, so this game has a lot of weight behind it,” Wengren explains. “I try to go to as many games as I can when we have days off. It’s definitely a passion of mine.”

Content to be just one of the thousands of sports fans, Wengren is happy to be anonymous for a night, while he cheers and claps the ‘rock stars’ of his favourite game. It’s funny to think that although he lines up for a beer and a hotdog alongside other hockey fanatics, he is actually a member of one of the most talked about bands of 2016.

Disturbed’s cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sound of Silence’ has become a worldwide sensation. After appearing on the Conan O’Brien show, Paul Simon gave Disturbed his blessing and congratulated them on their original composition – and at last count the official music video for the cover has been viewed over 37 million times.

“It’s pretty amazing!” Wengren admits. “We’re still pinching ourselves on a daily basis.”

Disturbed released their first LP, Sickness, in 2000, and spent the first decade of the new millennium touring the world, while steadily producing a new album every two or three years up until 2010’s Asylum – when after a year of constant touring they announced that Disturbed would be going on hiatus. “We all just needed time to do our own thing,” says Wengren who, along with founding member Donegan, pursued other projects and formed the alt-rock acts Evans Blue and Fight or Flight.

Bassist John Moyer also found interests elsewhere, becoming the bass player for Adrenaline’s Mob and Art of Anarchy, while Draiman lent his vocals to industrial-metal band Device. “We’d all been going non-stop for 20 years. It was healthy to take a breather.”

Fast forward to 2004, and while back in his hometown of Chicago to visit family and friends (and catch a couple of ice hockey games), Wengren met Donegan for dinner, and over a few courses and a few drinks the seed that would become Immortalized was planted. “Over the years the writing process had changed because we all moved to different cities. For Immortalized I really wanted us to be working and writing music in the same room like we used to.”

Immortalized is Disturbed’s sixth studio LP and debuted at #1 on the ARIA charts when it was released last year. “It’s great to see that once we came back from hiatus not only have people not forgotten about us, but new people have been discovering us,” Wengren smiles. Currently on a tour of the US, the multi-platinum, Grammy nominated supergroup will tour the UK, Europe and Canada before returning to our shores in November.

The opener on Immortalized is aptly-titled ‘Eye of the Storm’ as it pulls you in and sucks you up into the world of Disturbed. ‘The Sound of Silence’ features on Immortalized, as well as the thought-provoking ‘Who Taught You How to Hate’. “Kevin Churko was the producer – he’s worked with Ozzy Osbourne, Papa Roach, In This Moment, and Five Finger Death Punch,” Wengren says. “We knew he was the man for the job because the chemistry was there from the beginning.”

While Wengren says that they love playing their most recent recordings, he insists the older ones will also be on the setlist. “Every tour cycle is a bit of the best of both worlds. We get to play all the favourite hits (the older songs that the fans wanna hear) and we also get to play some of the new stuff that we’ve created on each record – we play it all. We just can’t wait to get back to Australia.

“When the Soundwave Festival got cancelled, we were crushed,” Wengren says, “so it became a major priority for us to try to put something together to make sure we could come here this year. It’s such a beautiful country – we love the scenery and the sight-seeing. The people are wonderful, the food is great, the culture is amazing.” And we have ice hockey too!
Written by Natalie Rogers

When & Where: Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne – November 12