DISTURBED Guitarist On Spotlighting Mental Health Issues: 'We Just Want To Help Raise The Awareness'

August 10, 2019

Prior to DISTURBED's performance at the recent Rock USA festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, guitarist Dan Donegan spoke with Kaytie and Cutter or the Appleton, Wisconsin radio station Razor 94.7 and 104.7. The full conversation can be seen below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On the band's recent single, "A Reason To Fight", which addresses mental health and addiction:

Dan: "All of us collectively have dealt with the issues of addiction or depression, whether it was us individually or close family members or close friends, as most people have. It really hit home. Early on, when we were in the writing process in the studio, I had mentioned to David [Draiman, vocals] — because when we start writing, we've written over 100-something songs together, so sometimes he'll turn to us and say, 'Hey, is there anything,' trying to spark a new idea or a new subject that we haven't touched on before. I had mentioned to him early on that I wanted to touch on [mental health awareness], because I have a close family member to me that has had his struggles with addiction. I know what a great guy he is. He's had his battles, and he's struggled with it, but he's a great guy and I can see the shame in his eyes of feeling like he let himself down and everybody else down. I'm always there pulling for him, because I know that it's a demon. It's something that you've got to battle every day when you get to that point. We wanted to spin the positivity to it of letting those who are fighting those demons to keep fighting, and [know] they're not alone. It's our job to kind of step in and intervene and hope that we can be that added strength to them to help them continue in that fight... We just really thought it was an important topic to touch on."

On writing the music for the song:

Dan: "The song kind of came last minute. Musically, I had the intro piece on the guitar, and I didn't quite have enough music to where I was ready to present it to the guys just yet. We were in the studio in Las Vegas making the album, and the song almost didn't become a song because I wasn't ready to present the music. I had the intro piece, and we had a little bit of downtime in the studio, and Kevin Churko, our producer, walked in the other room to set up some microphones on the drum kit, and we had a little bit of downtime in the control room, so I just started noodling around and playing that part. David's like, 'Wait a second — keep playing that for a second. Keep looping that part.' A melody came to him, and he just started scatting over the top of it. Right off the bat, it just had this catchy, melodic hook to it, and we made it a priority. At that point, as the music was progressing and we finalized it in the studio, that brought out the emotion of the song. David said at that point, 'This is the one we need to use musically [to] send this message lyrically."

On the song's reception:

Dan: "It's such a deep, personal topic for us, and we knew how much it home for us and how theraputic it was for us to be able to play this song live and get this message out, but we never really knew the magnitude of how much it hit so many people in the audience because of their own experiences... When you can see the biggest muscle-head, beefiest guy out there in a mosh pit the song before, and the next song, he's broken down in tears, you realize it's okay to let your guard down. Whatever that guy's experience is, whether it was him or a loved one or a friend or whoever, there's a lot of people going through it. We just want to help push the message and raise the awareness."

On how his views on mental health have changed over time:

Dan: "A big turning point for me, surprisingly, was when Robin Williams committed suicide. In my younger years, I would get angry — like a lot of people would get — when I had a few friends that committed suicide. I would think it's a selfish thing, and I'd get frustrated. I'm like, 'You didn't get rid of the pain — you just passed it on to somebody else that loves you by doing that.' Then I see someone like Robin Williams do it and I realize, 'This is a sickness. It's not a choice'... You think, 'This guy's famous. He makes everybody around the world laugh. He's got money; he's got family.' You think he's got everything. Why would somebody like that do it? The reality kicked in that it is a sickness, and they can't help it. Same with Chester [Bennington] and Chris [Cornell]. You've got everything — beautiful family, money, fame, fans everywhere, and you think that that's going to solve your problems, and it just doesn't. There's just people that are dealt that, and they have to battle those demons."

DISTURBED's latest album, "Evolution", was released last October via Reprise.

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