Then a funny thing happened in the mid-1990s: Music started to kind of suck. Popular music became watered down with the influx of painfully average boy bands, singer/songwriters, and alternative rock outfits. As a result, the lines of what constitutes a music genre blurred. As far as metal was concerned, this was not a good thing — hell, even the members of Metallica cut their legendary long, flowing locks. America was primed for a watered-down musical revolution, and bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, and P.O.D. were ready to swoop in shove their brand of "metal" down everyone's throats, whether we liked it or not. With them came a new genre, the appropriately named "nu metal." The new style was all the rage, with albums selling like hotcakes, tours selling out regularly, and videos infiltrating MTV's Total Request Live.
For those who knew members of nu metal bands before they hit it big, the nu metal craze did not come as a shock. The bands had to make ends meet before their sound hit radio airwaves, working a normal 9-to-5 job like any responsible adult. But that didn't mean they didn't have the spirit of nu-ness. For example, members of Chicago rockers Disturbed often worked in the food-service industry, and made everything they dealt with nu.
"Oh, man, Dave [Draiman, lead singer of Disturbed] would always take people's orders in this low, growling voice and he often beatboxed or rapped the day's specials," says Chicago Applebee's manager Steve Trufork. "His buddy Dan [Donegan, lead guitarist] would always bring his own spices and other additives to work in the kitchen, often putting some raisins into someone's clam chowder or some hot sauce on top of a customer's sundae."
Trufork sounded less than pleased when he recounted his experience employing the nu metal rockers. "Why did those guys feel the need to mess with a perfectly good thing like an ice cream sundae or a nice bowl of soup like that?" he angrily asked.
Trufork later told me that word had gotten out, and restaurants in Cleveland, Orlando, and Los Angeles started seeing the same thing happen. Apparently, much of the customer base didn't mind the quirky changes to the menu items. Some people actually preferred an out-of-place piece of chocolate in their nacho plates or their waiter rapping the entire dessert menu, which only encouraged the growth of this odd little practice.
As life often imitates art, the members of Disturbed signed a record deal, quit their jobs at Applebee's, and started recording multi-platinum albums. This time, however, the band was able to put their own little twist on metal music and not a plate of chicken wings.
Sat., March 28, 5:30 p.m., 2009