Interview with Disturbed's John Moyer

Disturbed is the benchmark for metal in America for the past decade. Everything from “Down With the Sickness” to their newest studio offering Asylum, they never fail to offer their fans a high energy music with a deep and angry message. The newest album has been soaring up the rock charts debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

CityBeat caught up with bass player John Moyer to discuss the album’s success as well as other offerings the band is providing to help causes they believe in. Disturbed will be playing at the Rock on the Range music festival in Columbus on May 22nd and playing the Riverbend Music Center with the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival in Cincinnati on July 20th.

CityBeat: Hey John. How are you?
John: I’m good. I have a very rare day off right now in my hometown. I’m thankfully home right now.

CB: Where are you?
John: Austin, Texas. It’s raining like a son of a gun.

CB: Well thanks for taking the time to talk to us. We’re going to be doing a preview next week for Rock on the Range. When you come to Cincinnati, is there anything you like to do?
John: There’s that downtown area by the water that it seems like they have made it really nice and great restaurants down there.

CB: Newport on the Levee on the Kentucky side?
John: Yes, I love it down there. Very cool. When we are in town longer than a day, which is rare, or have a day off, that’s usually one of the first places I hit.

CB: Basically, I did an interview with Dan last summer with the Uproar tour in August the week before Asylum came out. The single was already doing well, but you guys have to be really happy with the results of the album and going number one.
John: Unbelievable. You know there is always that anticipation before a record comes out. We really hope it does well. We hope the single connects. We worked hard on the record. But every band feels that way so I don’t think we’re different than any band in our anticipation. We are very fortunate because it sometimes doesn’t work out. Some bands put out that record and it tanks, or the single doesn’t connect, or the record for some reason is flawed. But we’ve always felt we’ve been consistent with our offerings. We’ve always felt we have something to offer that’s new for our fans but also still in that Disturbed sound. The first single off Asylum was “Another Way to Die”. That was the single you were talking about that did very well for us. Since then, we’ve put out “The Animal.” And currently the new single that is working out on radio and is doing amazingly well, we’re kind of blown away by the success of it, is “The Warrior.” The song is specifically about MMA fighting. We are all fans Mixed Martial Arts, but it’s basically about any kind of situation that you have to go in and fight. A lot of our music is about that, it’s about being powerful. It’s music for people who have to deal with stresses, which we all do, whether it’s a soldier or an athlete or a guy driving home from work after a crappy day. That’s what the music is for.

CB: The other thing I saw online is that you have an extra song online called “3” that you can download off the website to support the West Memphis Three Fund. How did you guys get connected to that cause? It can be a little controversial. What’s the background behind that?
John: It’s been a story that has intrigued us since it happened. Even our management reached out to them a long time ago, just personally speaking not saying “Disturbed would like to do something.” Our management reached out and said, “What can I do personally?” We’ve always been monitoring and interested in that whole story. There are just too many holes in it. The truth is, it’s about the kids that were different being persecuted in a small town and our music is about being different. A lot of our music is about people thinking you’re crazy because you’re different. The story about the West Memphis Three is exactly that story. We understand it well. It’s amazing to me after all this time and all the evidence that has come up, it has not been appealed, it hasn’t been overturned. After all the different stars and the attention it has gotten, those kids are still in jail. So David, on this album, we were putting songs together and he wrote this song “3” that was about the West Memphis Three, a really cool track. We were thinking about putting it on the record, as we always do, we always have a couple extra songs. We were putting the record together, and for a couple of reasons we didn’t put it on the record. One, I don’t think it necessarily fit with the theme of Asylum directly. We always try to make a record that people can listen to from beginning to end as a cohesive body of work. And the main reason we kept “3” separate was we wanted it to be its own identity and not get lost on a record so we could do this. Release it later and have the funds go to their defense fund.

Read a Wikipedia entry about the West Memphis Three here.

CB: How is it doing?
John: I don’t know. I personally don’t know. Hopefully well. We’ve been advertising it on our various websites and letting people know that if you download and buy the track, all profits we make on it will go straight to their fund. Hopefully it does well. I’m sure it’s only a drop in the well but it’s our part to help.

CB: You’re going to be at Rock on the Range, it’s one of my favorite weekends of the year. What are you looking forward to at Rock on the Range?
John: Obviously there’s a great lineup so one of the things I like to do is check out the other bands. Unfortunately we will only be there, I think we play on Sunday, we have another show on Saturday in Milwaukee. So we won’t be there for the whole weekend. But we’ll come in early on Sunday, and I’ll basically roll out of the bus and start going stage hopping. It’s an all day event, and I’ll just go around and check out as many bands as I can until we play. That’s the fun of it for us as musicians. We’ve been doing this a long time now and we have got a lot of friends who play in other bands and people we know, there are a lot of people we know there, and not just people in other bands, guys on the crew, guys that are working photography, guys who are supporting the equipment companies that are going to be there. When we have a festival like that, so many bands coming together, it’s a bit of a family reunion. We get to see a lot of people we don’t get to see all the time.

CB: You have been together for ten years and have five albums and are always on the road, you fall into the workaholic category to me.
John: We are definitely workaholics. We have five albums in ten years and the band has been together longer than that. Let’s call it eleven years. Think about that, five albums in eleven years, that means every two years, roughly, we are putting out a new record. Well, what happens between those two years, we have to tour a record. We tour for a year on a record. And that only leaves only a year between touring and releasing a new record where we have to write a whole new body of material, get in the studio, record it, master it, and promote it, and get it out again and then get our wheels running for another tour.

CB: It seemed really aggressive compared to a lot of the bands that I talk to. One of the questions I have for you is do you have any down time and in your down time, what do you do?
John: We don’t have a lot of down time. In fact, increasingly what has to happen is, three of us are married with kids. David, our singer, is engaged to be married.

CB: He is. That’s scary. I’m wondering if the writing will change if he’s in a happy relationship.
John: That’s an interesting point, but David, I don’t think that will ever change for him. He’s always going to be in touch with that angry side of him. It’s just how he is. His therapy is writing lyrics like that. And to tell you the truth, no matter how happy a relationship is, being married and doing what we do as musicians, being on the road a lot is very stressful to a relationship. It’s stressful on our lives to. And I was about to say, we don’t have a lot of down time so we have to incorporate a lot of what would normally be our down time with our work schedule. So we try to bring the families out as much as possible. When I am home, it’s all family time for me, I don’t have much time to do much else. Sometimes, if we are off for a couple weeks, I might go out and see a show or try to do something else. I’m a big homebody when I am home. Because when we are out, everyday we are out. Every day we live being out. When I am home I like to be a homebody and I just basically curl up with the family and do family stuff. As far as the other side of it, everybody has a right to happiness including David. I don’t think that’s going to change his lyrical approach. In fact it might make it more vicious, you never know.

CB: I just think it’s an interesting concept. He seemed to be the only one that wasn’t in a stable relationship for a long time. He’s so personal when he writes it seems like. Anytime that you have a big life change like that, it is interesting to see what will happen.
John: It is, this record more than any other, his lyrics tend to be more personal, more specific pain off of loved ones and loneliness. These are subjects he approached on Asylum. He had a lot of solitude at that time and I think that is why the name Asylum crept to the surface.

CB: You’ve had ten years, you’ve been doing this longer than ten years on your own. Is there any defining moment you have had in your career that you can look back on and say it was amazing or something that has happened to you?
John: Everyday, I pinch myself. When we stand up in front of a crowd of 5 or 10,0000 people or like Rock on the Range when we will be in front of 40 or 50,000 people. You can’t help but just go, “This is amazing. This is an amazing moment here that I get to do what I love and I get to do it for so many people at a successful level.” It’s almost that life is a continuing defining moment. We try to cherish it and not take it for granted. To me the biggest thing that I value about Disturbed and what we’ve done is our longevity, being able to do this year after year.

CB: You have very committed fans. You’re fans are probably more committed than a lot of the other bands.
John: I wouldn’t disagree with you. I think our fans are great and I think we just don’t have fans off the first record. I feel like every record we reach out and grab some new fans who didn’t know us before. Then they go back and check out some of our older catalog and get into what Disturbed is all about. We are always trying to evolve as musicians and stay fresh. Even though, Danny finishes his guitar work, I put my bass on it, Mikey does his drums, and David sings it, it still sounds like a Disturbed song, we can’t help that. We love the fact that we are an identifiable band. We’re always trying to stretch ourselves as far as the songs we write and where we go with our playing styles. I think that evolution has allowed us to have that longevity in our career.

CB: You guys are coming through this summer, you guys are coming on Mayhem Fest in the next tour for the summer. You are going to be with Megadeath and Dave Mustaine. I know they have to be huge influences to you guys.
John: I’m a big Megadeath fan. It’s awesome. We know Dave Ellefson very well and I’ve met Dave Mustaine a number of times over the years and he’s a great guy. I’m super excited about it. Not to date myself or to date Megadeath, but I was in high school watching them in the arenas and listening to their records saying to myself, “Man wouldn’t it be great one of these days to be up on a stage like that to be able to rock out like they’re doing.” They’ve been around a long time. I got into them around the Rusted Teeth era and they had already had four or five records before that. It’s dangerous. And that’s what’s great about hard rock and heavy metal is that the music belongs to the fans. That’s why the fans are so commited, and it’s not just Disturbed fans, and you mentioned this earlier that we have rabid fans, but I think that fans of hard rock and heavy metal in general are very dedicated because it is music that belongs to them. They like it because it sounds good not because People Magazine rated it five stars. It’s the bastard child of the music industry. Nobody really acknowledges it. There’s like one category on the Grammys for it. There’s no real industry because the more popular side of media does not embrace it. But it exists, and it thrives, and it’s powerful. The biggest festivals are rock and metal festivals and it’s because the fans connect to the music. You can’t deny it. When you get into it at a young age, it’s like dangerous music you hide from your parents because it belongs to you and you know it’s powerful.