Disturbed's Mike Wengren: 'I don't know what time off is'



© Sara De Boer/Retna Ltd./Corbis

Disturbed recently celebrated yet another Billboard Number 1 album as Asylum shot to the top of the charts. Not only is the album a commercial success, it's also arguably the band's musical highpoint, as well.

With a UK tour in their sights, we spoke to drummer Mike Wengren to hear all about how Disturbed recorded yet another snarling beast of an album.

Tell us about the recording of the album

"We took about a month-and-a-half off after the end of the last touring cycle and we got right to work. Danny [Donegan, guitarist] throws me the riffs, I put the beats his way and we start from there. At the time my wife was pregnant so we knew we wanted to get the bulk of the riffs written so I'd have time to spend with her. So that's what we did, we hammered out the majority of the songs and I took another month or so off. It only took about seven weeks to record the material. When we go into the studio, studio time is money. There's always room to improve and try a new idea, but we do that before going into the recording studio. We all have mobile units and electronic drumsets and Pro Tool rigs in each others' houses. Pretty much the songs are ready to go before we hit the studio."

"It only took about seven weeks to record the material. When we go into the studio, studio time is money."

Did you try anything different drum-wise with this album?

"That's the one exception that allows for more experimentation in the studio. When we're demoing we use electronic kits for convenience, but when you play it on an acoustic kit, dynamics especially, it doesn't always translate well to the acoustic kit so we'll have to change a part in the studio. There's always room for that, but as far as the equipment itself, I've been using pretty much the same gear all my career. I'm Pearl drums, Sabian cymbals, Evans heads and Vater drum sticks and I pretty much stuck with that with this one as well.

Do you often use electronic kits when preparing to record?

"We went and bought outright some of the Roland V Drum kits. It's a very convenient thing for us. We love to stay fresh and on top of our chops so I'll bring it out on the road with us. It's a lot more convenient to plug an electronic kit into a Pro Tools rig than it is mike up an acoustic kit in a dressing room. From a writing standpoint, it's a great tool to have on the road. It's also great to have to warm up with on the road."

You guys always seem to be on the road or in the studio.

"We love to play, perform and write. Even during this last break there was just a short break before we started writing again but even during that we remixed, re-mastered and re-released our first album and we were working on our Decade of Disturbed documentary. There are always things we're working on. I don't actually know what time off is. That's the work ethic of the band and we share the same headspace with that.

"There are so many bands that are so talented but they're lazy."

"I'm not trying to pat ourselves on the back but there's so many bands that want advice on how to make it and we just tell everyone that you have to work hard. There are so many bands that are so talented but they're lazy. They sit around and expect everything to be handed to them. When we were just a local band before we got a record deal, we became our own self-promotion machine. We were making no money and with the money we did get we'd go into the studio and record three song demos. We'd save up and mass produce those and any show playing in our area we'd go and stand outside and hand out a couple of hundred demos every night just to get the word out there."

Asylum is out now

Rich Chamberlain

Rich is a teacher, one time Rhythm staff writer and experienced freelance journalist who has interviewed countless revered musicians, engineers, producers and stars for the our world-leading music making portfolio, including such titles as Rhythm, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, and MusicRadar. His victims include such luminaries as Ice T, Mark Guilani and Jamie Oliver (the drumming one).