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Success Story - Oct 2, 2002

Disturbed built their following at the club Champs in Chicago

picture Disturbed released their debut album "The Sickness" in March 2000. Spearheaded by the single "Stupify", one of the biggest tracks on American rock radio in 2000, the album has sold double platinum in the US (2.000.000 copies).


Dan Donegan on guitar, Mike Wengren on drums and Fuzz on bass were, in 1997, looking for a singer to form a band. They ran an ad in local newspaper The Illinois Entertainer and held auditions, one of them attended by David Draiman, hailing from Brooklyn, New York. The band and David clicked instantly, and the line-up for the band was complete.

They choose the name Disturbed, and together they set about writing songs, rehearsing in a warehouse south of downtown Chicago. They subsequently started giving concerts, booked by the guitarist Dan, at clubs in Southside Chicago and, in particular, at a club called Champs, where they played on many occasions. The owner liked the band and was rewarded when more and more people turned up to see them, until they were eventually playing to a full house every night.

The band were friends with local producer Johnny K, who recorded a demo with them in his own Groovemaster studio. They got CDs made, containing the tracks "Down With The Sickness", "Meaning Of Life" and "The Game", and handed them out at more known bands’ concerts for free and sent them to local radio stations. One of them was Rebel Radio - the DJ liked the band and played the songs often. The band also sent various copies to industry people but with little luck.

At one point Steve Richards, manager of Slipknot, flew in for a private showcase but for some reason decided to pass on the band. Advising the band about the industry was their future attorney Jeffrey Light, who had also received the demo, and liking it, worked closely with Dan on who to contact.

In February 1999, Dan and manager Jeff Battaglia met at a mutual friend’s wedding. Dan presented the demo to Jeff who was completely taken by it and went to see the band play at the Champs several times. Impressed by their live show, Jeff and his partner Roger Jansen signed the band to their KMA Management and booked them to play at the June 1999 MOBfest. The MOBfest is an annual music conference, held since 1997 in Chicago, which organises music business panels and showcases bands.

The conference is attended by various industry people such as A&Rs, publishers, managers and producers. Once Disturbed had played the conference, offers started pouring in from different labels, including Elektra, Atlantic, 143, Warner, Island/ Def Jam and Dreamworks. David Andreone from Warner/Chappell Publishing had also attended the MOBfest and was completely sold on the band, and it was his passion for and interest in Disturbed’s music that made the band sign a publishing deal with him. He is also the one who later arranged for the previously unreleased track "Welcome Burden" to feature in the movie "Dracula 2000".

Berko Weber, A&R at Giant Records (at that time a Warner affiliate), had not been able to attend the conference, but as the word started to spread about the band in the industry, he contacted KMA Management asking for a demo which he got and loved. He played it for Giant President Irving Azoff, who told him to do whatever it took to sign the band. The band and managers Jeff and Roger felt that Berko and Irving’s interest and commitment was real and so the band subsequently signed a label deal with Giant.

Although the relatively unknown producer, Johnny K, was chosen to produce the album, as the band felt he understood their music and they wanted to give him a chance. The album was recorded in its entirety at Groovemaster studios and was later mixed by Andy Wallace.

For the release of "The Sickness" in March 2000, the management hired a company called Bandbitch to do streetmarketing. 250.000 cassette samplers containing two songs were manufactured and handed out by the kids in the street teams at rock concerts who also went into different Internet chat rooms talking about the band. These activities increased awareness of the band and also the number of visitors to the band’s website, where free MP3s could be downloaded. Publicist Mitch Schneider (MSO) was hired to increase press coverage on the band and the band went on a promotional tour.

"The Sickness" was released March 7th 2000, and quickly sold gold. The single "Stupify", released slightly before the album, found it difficult at first to gain airplay, but grew to become one of the rock tracks of the year.

All contact info to the people mentioned is to be found in the HitTracker.


Written by Kimbel Bouwman



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