Fight Or Flight and Disturbed Guitarist Dan Donegan
July 20, 2013
By: Nicole McKay
MPR: It's only a few days till the debut Fight or Flight album, A Life By Design, drops. Are you excited to get the new stuff out there?
Dan: Very much so, it's a long time overdue, we've been tracking and tracking; it's been a while, almost a year to the day since we started to track the album so it's exciting to finally get it out.
MPR: I hate to even call the band a side project. After listening to the album this past week I can tell you guys have found a distinctive sound. It's a new entity in itself totally separate from Evans Blue or Disturbed. Is this a one off, or do you think Fight Or Flight will continue even after Disturbed regroups?
Dan: Well we definitely have every intention to continue. I definitely am as committed to this as I am to Disturbed. Just now I have two priorities in my life. I didn't even have any intention in the beginning to do a project. And I hate calling it a side project too but that's the way people are gonna view it because Disturbed has always stayed and always will be such an important part of my life
MPR: How did the lineup for the band end up coming about?
Dan: Just as the songwriting was evolving between me and Dan Chandler, the intention was just to write a song, we didn't know we were going to form something in the beginning. It developed and we were liking where we were headed. We recorded it, and once the recording came out we decided 'hey, we wanna tour,' so we decided to finalize the other band members.
We reached out to a short list of guys we really liked to see if they were interested and available. The guys on my wish list were on board from the minute I called them. We got Jeremy Jayson, a guitar player from Milwaukee, I've seen him play over the years and I've always thought that he's really talented and he needed a chance to get in something to get him some exposure. Sean played with the band Rise so I knew him from years ago. So I reached out to him, and of course I knew Mike from Disturbed.
MPR: Was the writing process a collaborative effort?
Dan: It was a collaboration between me and Dan Candler. We were talking online, messaging each other, just saying 'hey, are you interested in writing something together.' I didn't know what my plan was because we'd decided to take a hiatus with Disturbed, and he was out with Evans Blue, so I didn't know what his intentions were other than 'hey let's get together, write some songs and see what happens.' So then he started throwing some ideas at me, I kinda bounced them back and forth and it evolved naturally.
MPR: Are any of these ideas, either music or lyrics, ones you've been sitting on for a while just waiting to bring to life, or were they all written with Fight or Flight in mind?
Dan: Um both for sure. He definitely had a bunch of ideas already in the start. Some were just vocals and acoustic guitars, just raw live recordings of it, and I kind of started with those ideas. I think "Avoid" was the very first song I worked on cause it was sort of more experimental for me. The very first thing was it was acoustic. I just completely changed the vibe of it, it was all experimental just trying to add a little bit of electronics on the verses. I wanted to take a little bit of a different approach because I knew that even though I didn't know what was gonna come of these songs I knew I wanted to step outside of Disturbed a bit too and try something different creatively.
On "Avoid" I didn't even pick up the guitar until last. I was messing with electronics and stuff on the verses and I picked up a bass guitar and started playing a little bass line. So it was definitely a different approach than I've ever taken before with songwriting. I had a few of those first ideas that he had originally to start then there were a few new fresh ones once we got comfortable writing with each other.
MPR: Yeah it's a great album, definitely different, but good different.
Dan: Thank you. Yeah I was hoping to achieve that, I definitely wanted to step outside the box to have another creative side and show that there was something different in us.
MPR: Disturbed left off at the top of its game headlining festivals, rolling out hit after hit. Is it a humbling experience to start at the bottom and work your way up again?
Dan: You know, I love it. I'm not afraid of it. I've been there and I'm excited about doing it again. There's something that I love about going into those hot, small, sweaty clubs and seeing a band just giving it everything they've got, just pouring out trying to win fans over. Yeah, I've had a lot of success with Disturbed, but this is a whole new band and like you said this is starting over. So its going back and trying to turn people on to what this band is, to what these songs are. I'm very much looking forward to going out there and I'm sure well see a lot of familiar faces that have been going to Disturbed shows over the years. I'm looking for that intimate environenment and getting out there and proving it.
MPR: It's been quite a while since you first got signed. Bands can do stuff independently these days with all this great social media, but on the other hand the music industry, especially rock, definitely isn't where it used to be. Do you think it's easier or harder to make it now compared to then?
Dan: It's both, I mean I'm still old school where I like that interaction and that connection. I know it's become convenient with the social media sites and that for sure, cause you can reach a huge audience, but I still like going out and being road dogs, you know rubbing elbows and connecting with people on a personal level. I don't like having to always rely on the Internet. You know there's just a better connection when you go out there and you can bond with somebody. Being in a room just pushing your band. In those early days we were out there with cassette tapes and CDs and flyers and making that personal connection. And we still kinda do it in the same way. Yeah we have the luxury of the Internet to help get it to the masses but when we're out on the road we're gonna be a promoting machine too, we need to make people aware of what and who this is and try to turn them onto it.
MPR: I've heard your first single "First of the Last" quite a bit on the radio lately. Can you explain the meaning behind the track a bit?
Dan: The song and the idea was kinda just our fascination with certain conspiracies. Not being a total conspiracy nut, but you know just thinking that we like a good argument, a good debate. There are definitely some things that caught our interest that we collectively have strong opinions on, whether that be vaccines or assassinations, or there's gun control. Anything, there's a lot of strong arguments.
I mean whatever anybody's stance is we're not trying to force our opinions down anybody's throat, but we want to raise certain issues to make people aware of it and to debate it. You know whether it's genetically modified foods, or you know, I have two small children and I always worry, are vaccines doing more harm than good. I'm not claiming to know that answer, I'm searching for that answer cause I'd like to know. So there's a strong argument for people that think that it can lead to autism or forms of cancer. So there's just some depth to that that and we're just intrigued by some of these debates.
MPR: I believe you guys just made your live debut the other day. How'd that go?
Dan: We were supposed to have a show on the 16th with Avenged Sevenfold but that was postponed. Now that avenged is coming back out and they've got a new album too I think they had some production issues that they didn't wanna rush. So our first show is actually coming up on the 27th. We're gonna do a headlining run, mostly Midwest heading to the East Coast and back.
MPR: Have you guys been rehearsing and getting ready to head out on the road?
Dan: Oh yeah we've been going at it. We had a full day yesterday and Dan and Sean will be coming in this week. In the middle of next week we'll have a few more days with them before we head out.
MPR: You've got a headlining run with Mindset Evolution and a few festival dates lined up at the moment. Are there any other touring plans in the works for the rest of the year?
Dan: Um yeah, nothing in stone yet but we definitely plan on going out for a good part of the year I hope. That's our intent, we wanna tour anywhere and everywhere we can, so this is just the first part of it. A couple festivals in there, we're doing one with Godsmack up in New Hampshire and another one with Avenged Sevenfold in Pennsylvania and we're building shows around those as well. So hopefully we'll have a ton of touring to do. We're talking with management and our booking agent now and trying to find something else we can jump out and be a part of and if not just do some more headlining stuff and bring another band with us.
MPR: I don't wanna take up too much of your time so I'm gonna wrap this up with a completely unrelated question I always like to ask: if you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Dan: I think it's gotta be flying. Definitely. Cause especially being a musician and all the traveling we do, if I could avoid the airports and just take off on my own, that would probably save a lot of time and be a good power to have.