Music News

Disturbed & Disturberer

Behind every successful rock star today, it seems, stands a couple of lousy parents who couldn't care less.

From Eminem's pill-popping momma to Benji and Joel Madden of Good Charlotte's absentee dad to Staind frontman Aaron Lewis' neglectful hippie procreators, dysfunctional couples with the poorest of parenting skills have inadvertently given a whole generation of rockers and their fans a Billboard chart full of psychodramas.

David Draiman, lead singer for Disturbed, can certainly lay claim to a messed-up childhood. "I got the crap kicked out of me when I was a kid, on more than one occasion," complains the shaved-domed songwriter, taking a break from some studio work in his hometown of Chicago (where he admits he still hasn't visited the folks). "But I'm not writing about it in one of my songs."

Draiman says the screamed psychodramas in metal hits like "Down With The Sickness" (sample line: "No, Mommy, don't do it again! I'll be a good boy! I promise! Don't hit me!") are merely inspired by personal history, not a literal journal of his own tortured upbringing. "I'm really talking about the conflict between the mother culture of society, who's beating down the child yearning for independence and individuality, and the submission of the child." Uh, sure, dude. Whatever.

Chevelle's Sam Loeffler, on the other hand, has nothing but nice things to say about his mom and dad. "I love my parents, and my brothers and my sisters," gushes the oldest of the three Loeffler brothers who make up the heavy metal trio, who along with Disturbed are performing on this year's Ozzfest tour. "But that doesn't mean we don't have our own family issues. I mean, with us being brothers, it is hard to get along sometimes."

Together, Loeffler and Draiman make up a kind of mismatched buddy team on this summer's Ozzfest extravaganza, like a badder Fonz and Ritchie Cunningham locked in a battle of the bands at Arnold's.

Both Chicago natives, both entering their thirties (Draiman passed the milestone this year; Loeffler is 28), the Disturbed singer and the Chevelle drummer seem to possess precious little else in common. Draiman still apparently has genuine beefs with his parents. He recently offered them one of his platinum records as closure for their lack of support in his musical goals -- then complained in the press that they didn't deserve it. "They still never see me play," he said sourly.

The Loeffler brothers, conversely, sound like they have little in their upbringing to be angry about. "We grew up going to car shows with our dad," recalls Sam fondly. "The biggest thing we'd freak out about when we were little was who got which Matchbox cars." Chevelle's very name, in fact, stems from a passion for classic cars the seven Loeffler kids inherited from their Chevy-collecting dad.

Loeffler's band has also been embraced by the religious right as an example of a growing trend towards spiritual longing in mainstream rock music -- even Christianity Today found "nothing offensive or crude" on Wonder What's Next, the trio's first major label release (the band's debut effort was distributed on the Christian label, Word Records).

Draiman's lyrics for Disturbed's latest release, Believe, by contrast, are teeming in profane anger even while the Jewish-raised singer is quoting the Torah and encouraging the listener to "liberate your mind." A 17-year student of theology, Draiman is an outspoken critic of Christian religions -- a theme that surfaces in several songs on the band's latest album, Believe. "As far as I'm concerned, the Vatican should be knocked down, the gold taken out and melted down and donated to charity," he says flatly, in a voice that sounds distractingly close to the more talkative half of Beavis & Butt-Head. "God does not need your money."

Can an emotionally scarred Jewish boy with a devilish braided goatee share a stage with a Matchbox-collecting Christian choirboy -- on a tour headlined by America's favorite dysfunctional dad -- without driving each other (or Ozzy) crazy?

"I honestly don't know what it's gonna be like," admits Loeffler, whose band worked the less-lofty second stage on last summer's edition of the perennial moneymaker. "But with the Ozzfest crowd, crazy' is not necessarily a bad thing!"

In today's metal, a tortured childhood carries as much street cred few graze wounds do in the rap game. But turning personal pain into lighter-waving arena rock can be a process more excruciating than Janovian scream therapy.

"It's very frightening," says David Draiman. "Because here you go, you've decided to be open and bare a part of your soul to these people, and lay it out on a platter for them to observe. So until you know that the listeners are getting any part of what you're saying, it's incredibly frightening."

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Jimmy Magahern
Contact: Jimmy Magahern