Dan Donegan is traversing the country in a Winnebago, a static-y cell-phone connecting the Disturbed guitarist with the world outside the insulated cocoon of the Danzig/Disturbed/Six Feet Under tour. Little does Donegan know that in a few minutes, Canadian border guards will abruptly cut our chat short. Seems a few guys on the other band's crews don't have perfect pasts, and the Mounties are going to disturb Disturbed's peace by searching their RV for contraband, of which, Donegan assures, there is none. We resume our six-string session in Florida a few weeks down the road. Fortunately, the Chicago-bred band is still in good spirits. And while its major label debut, The Sickness, hasn't met with the chart success of, say, Papa Roach, Donegan is still making the most of the tour that will warm the band up well for its Ozzfest stint. Surprisingly, Donegan, who speaks with a mellow Midwestern twang, is easygoing and laid-back -- a far cry from the grinding aggro tones he summons in songs like "Stupify" and "Down With the Sickness".
Guitar.com: You're on Ozzfest, and you have dozens of web sites devoted to you. Do you feel things are moving very quickly for Disturbed?
Dan Donegan: It seemed like the slow steady climb was happening until we got the deal. Now everything is moving so fast for us! From the time we signed our deal, a month later, we were on the plane to New York to do the HBO Reverb show, then next thing we're doing the album we've always dreamed of. All these opportunities are coming quick, and we couldn't ask for anything more or better. The most overwhelming this is that Ozzy himself commented on the band on Howard Stern's show. He commented that he thought we were the future of heavy metal, so that's a lot of weight on our shoulders, coming from him!
Guitar.com: What other signs of success are there?
Donegan: The other night in Texas, strippers danced to our song Stupify! Also, there's a roller blade hockey team that call themselves Team Disturbed, and there's a kickboxer in Kansas City who comes out to one of our songs, plus a wrestler in Chicago who comes out to one of our songs. I never thought that we wrote sports anthems, or maybe they do it just because were called Disturbed. Also, the Chicago Blackhawks, the last two games of the season, were coming out onto the ice to our songs.
Guitar.com: As a kid growing up, was there an epiphany, that made you choose the guitar and music as a career, or were you always into it?
Donegan: As a kid, just watching Ace Frehley. We'd dress up like KISS, and I had an acoustic guitar. I remember seeing Ace's guitar smoke, so I bought a smoke bomb at the convenience store and threw it in the hole of my acoustic guitar. I did little corny things like that. But I went to an all-boys Catholic high school, and I was wearing a collared shirt and a tie every day. You had to have your hair really short, but I let mine grow, and by the time I got out of high school, it was past the middle of my back. I was already in a band by that time. But my father is really old-fashioned and didn't think I was taking the band thing seriously, and he offered me a job working construction, a union job that paid well, but he said I had to get a haircut. It was good money, so I bought a short-haired wig, and I fooled the company for four years, and my own father didn't know. I was paranoid the first day I got the wig, cause I thought it was so obvious. I'd get up extra early to wet my hair, put it in a pony tail, put on a nylon cap, the wig, then a bandanna or a baseball cap. And I was living with my dad at the time! My mom knew, but she covered for me. When my dad finally caught me, he had to laugh about it.
Guitar.com: And now he must believe you're serious! So when you formed, you were a band in search of a singer That's not the standard way of forming.
Donegan: We didn't know exactly what we were looking for, other than somebody who had the same motivation and dedication and would put in the time to become an original band. We were all influenced by different bands I like Metallica and Sabbath and a lot of new hard bands like Machinehead and Sevendust -- and we didn't sit down with David or any singer and say, "We want to sound like this band, or that band." The first day David came out, we knew he was the guy. Musically, we knew we were a hard rock band, but once David got in, everybody's style has altered somewhat, because a singer changes the whole thing.
Guitar.com: You cover Tears for Fears Shout on your album. How do you approach cover songs guitar-wise?
Donegan: The way I looked at it is I didn't want to approach it as a cover song, I wanted to approach it as a Disturbed song. I didn't want to pay too much attention to the original structure and arrangement, just the original melody hook. Without listening to the original version too much I wanted to play around with a couple riffs to make it sound more like Disturbed.
Guitar.com: Since you look at it that way, you probably never took lessons as a teenager?
Donegan: No, all I did really was watch MTV or VH1, watching the position of peoples hands to know how to play a chord. That's really how I learned my first chord. And there was a kid in the neighborhood who knew how to tune guitars, and he taught me.
Guitar.com: What are your goals for the next few months?
Donegan: To tour with bands we love. To get this experience of being on the road. We're used to playing a couple shows a month in our home town. And learning from some of these other bands were into, like Sevendust, Machinehead and Korn, who, in our eyes are leading the way.
Guitar.com: And what's been difficult for you so far?
Donegan: We're a band used to doing things on our own. This is our career, we don't want anybody working with this band to make a mistake, so it's hard to trust everybody. If they screw up with us, theyve learned their lesson and don't do it with the next band, but we only get the one shot at this! So were picky and we bitch about everything, and we don't rush into anything.