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Disturbed, Godsmack and Machine Head creating Mayhem on tour

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Friday, August 5, 2011

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With its 13 bands and three stages, the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival is its own kind of traveling story. But it has achieved a new level of notoriety recently as the last stand for headliners Disturbed — at least for a while.

The Chicago quartet, whose last four albums have debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, has acknowledged that it intends to go on an indefinite hiatus after it comes off the road in late August.

“It’s just the right time to step away for a while,” explains frontman David Draiman. “Many of those reasons are personal reasons, and many of those reasons have to do with the state of the music industry in general. The industry is still in a state of reformation; it is on the verge of collapse, in my opinion. It’s a frightening time.

“And I think after 10 to 12 years straight of touring it’s just a good time for Disturbed to go away for a while and wait for the Phoenix to rise from the ashes.”

Draiman, 38, says the split isn’t because of any animosity among the four band members — “This isn’t a bad blood thing,” he notes — and he’s not making any predictions about when or even if the band will return. “I can’t definitely tell you at this point one way or another,” the singer says. But knowing that an end, temporary or permanent, is approaching has fired the group up during its Mayhem run.

“I think we’re all viewing this as our last hurrah for a while, and we’re making them count,” says Draiman, who’s getting married in September. “We’ve been playing stronger and more precisely and with more passion than I think fans have seen from the band in years. We brought out all of our toys and the biggest production we’ve ever assembled on stage for Disturbed.

“We really kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re very, very motivated to make these performances truly ones to be remembered by and to leave a lasting impression on the fans for a while.”

Like Disturbed, Godsmack is on a sort-of hiatus as a band. Though it’s still out playing, the Massachusetts quartet’s members are clearly devoted to other musical projects — frontman Sully Erna to his solo career and the others to their group Another Animal.

And after worldwide sales of more than 17 million albums, nobody’s feeling any worse for the wear.

“We still want to do Godsmack. We love Godsmack,” Erna, 43, explains. “And we need that because it’s our bread and butter. It’s not like we’re making money off our side projects.

“The nice thing is we don’t have anything to do but just perform now. We don’t have to worry about writing a record or pushing singles or any of that stuff. I mean, the band has 19 Top 10 (rock radio) singles at this point. We’ve done a great job over the last decade, and it’s nice to have a tour once in a while like this, where it can just be about having fun.”

Erna, who released “Avalon” in September, says the group has already benefited from outside interests. He recorded “Avalon” before Godsmack made its most recent album, 2010’s “The Oracle,” which Erna says allowed him to “bring some extra tools into writing the Godsmack record.”

“It’s nice to kind of exorcise these other things we have inside ourselves when we have the time to do them,” he explains. “We can’t be Godsmack all the time anymore. It’s exhausting, and it’s tiring to just eat chocolate ice cream all the time. Sometimes you need ... to switch the flavors up. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Machine Head guitarist Phil Demmel says that beside playing for fans, the best part of being part of the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival tour is the camaraderie between the bands.

“They throw these metal mixers on nights when there’s been a day off and get all the bands together,” Demmel, 44, says. “They have themed parties, like a Halloween party the other night. They do a good job of keeping everybody together and intermingling and getting to know each other.”

Demmel’s costume for Halloween night: “Our bus broke down that day, so we didn’t have a chance to go pick up anything. I wear a backwards (Philadelphia) Phillies hat a lot, and a lot of people give me (grief) about being Fred Durst (of Limp Bizkit). So I got a windbreaker and went as (Durst).”

The tour has been a busy one for the Oakland, Calif., quartet. Besides the shows, frontman Robb [cq] Flynn has been flying back and forth to mix the group’s new album, “Unto the Locust,” which is due out Sept. 27. “We haven’t really been a group on this tour yet,” Demmel notes. “We’ve traveled together only a handful of nights so far, but it’s important that (the album) gets done and gets out so we can do a more substantial touring cycle afterwards.”

The Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival, featuring Disturbed, Godsmack, Megadeth, Machine Head, Hatebreed and more, begins at 2:15 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $59.50 and $39.50 pavilion and $25 lawn, with a $79 lawn four-pack. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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