On one side of the spectrum there’s David Draiman, the lead singer of Disturbed, who are known across the globe and sell multi-platinum albums left, right, and center whilst rocking you to the core. On the other side, there’s his brother Ben Draiman . Who is he you ask? Just look up his stuff! After listening to the stunning cover of “Stricken” you’ll want to pick up his latest EP “The Past is Not Far Behind.” I’m not even going to start comparing it to anything by Disturbed. The two are incomparable! David may be a metal legend, but Ben is an alternative rock virtuoso in his own right.
Watch the video for Ben Draiman’s cover of “Stricken”
He’s got it in his blood and he’s out there beating the pavement on his own. With talent like this coming from an independent artist, we at RockRevolt revel in being able to name artists such as Ben as our Indie Band (or artist) of the Week!
We recently sat down with Ben and were able to discover more about this amazing artist that should become the next artist in your collection!
What was it that made you first want to embark on a musical career?
I’ve been playing and singing since I was 13, but it was mainly a form of therapy for me - an outlet to help me through some of the trying times of my life. About six years ago I decided I really missed performing so I started doing acoustic shows in a local venue in my neighborhood. It became somewhat of a regular thing. Eventually two guys who owned a studio in Tel Aviv, Kfir Gov and Daniel Strosberg, reached out to me and expressed an interest in recording a single with me. That single turned out to be “Soon Enough” which ended up getting radio play out here as well as on Rock 108 in Iowa. It got so much love on 94X in British Columbia that it charted, placing 91 of the top 94 songs of 2011! I was simply astounded! And it was only a single. Following an influx of fans, supporters, and new friends I decided that there was something bigger here going on and I wanted to see how far it could go. I returned to the studio to complete the 6-track EP, put a band together for the live shows, and never really looked back since.
Watch Ben Draiman’s “Soon Enough”
With you and your brother being extremely musically talented, was there any sibling rivalry when you were younger?
Well to be fair, he was always more of a singer than I was. I just loved singing so I refused to stop. We were in a few bands together in high school, but I played keys, and even back then he was more into his guitars than my piano, so my parts were extremely limited. Can’t say there was much of a rivalry on music though. We both loved it and I was constantly raiding his tape/cd collection, which ultimately formed the basis for the music I play. He had his thing and I had mine, but we pursued our different paths and developed quite independently from each other so there was never really any conflict. We both support each other all the way and always have.
What was it that made you choose to cover “Stricken”? Has it got any personal meaning to you?
The idea first came about when I was discussing successful covers with my friend and producer, Raz Klinghoffer, who had just released a cover of his own with his project “Earlyrise.” He had said that some of the best covers are ones that change the song 180 degrees and that if I was going to do a slow cover best to choose a fast-paced song. I honestly didn’t think it would work. “Stricken” has long been one of my favorites – something about the hooks and the lyrics that resonate well with me. In fact, from a lyrical standpoint it was exactly the sort of thing I myself would write so it was VERY easy to connect to. So, that very night I went to the piano and tried it. I play by ear so it didn’t take me long to come up with a basic arrangement. It became instantly clear that the lyrics and the melody lent themselves well to a ballad and I was immediately hooked.
We can tell! It’s beautiful. What did it feel like have near universal acclaim for your cover?
I’ve been blown away by the response! Quite a few have mentioned how it made them cry, and few would believe that such a thing could happen while hearing a Disturbed song. To have that kind of impact on people is worth all the money in the world and what it’s all about. It was obviously a big risk to change such a popular song to such an extent, especially among such loyal fans as Disturbed fans tend to be. I’m both relieved and overjoyed that it was accepted so favorably!
You have comments coming in daily and some include from Zach Myers and Lzzy Hale. Have you heard from your brother David on the cover and did he get a preview of it before release?
Of course! I sent it to him immediately after we had mastered it and was extremely nervous to hear his response. I know myself that my art and my music is very sacred and it’s not easy to accept a reinterpretation of it. And while I had already done “Darkness,” which was performed in honor of his coming to one of my shows a few years back, that was still MUCH closer to the original than this was. I still remember when I got the e-mail back from him. I nearly had a heart attack fearing he may not like it and won’t want us to release it. But much to my relief he liked it a lot; so once we had his approval, we moved forward. Since then, the other guys from Disturbed have heard it and expressed how much they liked it as well.
What were the main themes/concepts behind your latest EP “The Past is not Far Behind”?
It includes songs that were written over the course of three to four years. Most are based on deeply personal experiences mixed with bits of existential philosophy. “Avalanche” for example is partly based on the works of Franz Kafka, one of my favorite authors, and touches upon the very existential concept of trying to deal with an absurd reality in the modern world. The more you try to figure it out, the more entangled you get in its web. The only hope for salvation is to try to simply embrace what is, a theme also touched upon in “Soon Enough” in the lines: “Sometimes wrong is the way it’s meant to be, and now I’m so thankful that I know the way things stand”. This theme is developed even further in “Taken for Granted”, which was written about a 6-year-old girl’s battle with cancer and paraphrases a quote by Nietzche in the line “Never mind the darkness when there’s something worth believing”. The line resonated so deeply among some fans that one from England had it tattooed on her leg. Overall, the process of writing for me is a way of dealing with the past in the present and somehow through music you can always reconnect with those moments no matter how long ago they occurred. Thus the title for the album “The Past is Not Far Behind.”
What made you decide to release “Avalanche” and “Soon Enough” as music videos?
When “Soon Enough” was recorded I had developed a small rather close-knit group of fans online. So, I wanted them to share in the excitement of the recording process by taking them behind the scenes. I didn’t have any funds at the time for anything fancy but I did want to provide something visual, so I filmed myself in the studio and edited it myself afterwards. The release of “Avalanche” was a very natural progression from “Soon Enough” in terms of style, and as mentioned before, has related themes. So it was an obvious choice for a second single. I was approached by a very talented photography student named Idan Barazani who was interested in branching out into film. We met a few times and developed the concept for the video. He put the team together to make it happen. Eventually I turned to Roy Kanevsky to edit the video. It was most certainly the right vision for the song and I’m quite happy with how it turned out.
What made you decide to go down a more alternative rock route, especially as a solo artist?
I honestly never meant to be a “solo artist.” It sort of just happened, partly because at the time that everything was coming together I simply couldn’t find a group of guys to play in a band with. Every guitarist I met had to be a singer and some of the drummers I worked with were at times so stoned I was lucky if they got through half the song before they forgot what they were doing. Bass players were simply not to be found, period. After being approached by the producers in Tel Aviv I decided to simply move forward anyway and let things fall where they may, since they offered to provide session musicians anyway. Regarding the genre, it’s simply what suits me the best – a blend of pretty much everything I grew up on.
For any other upcoming solo artists, what advice would you give them, from touring to getting the right sound?
I’ve actually learned quite a bit in the years I’ve been doing this so far. Due to the advancement of technology, there are more opportunities than ever for unknown independent artists to gain a fanbase, but for that very reason it makes the competition extremely fierce and it is very hard to stick out. For this reason we need to work twice as hard to grab people’s attention. We need to engage with people in a more personal way and to remember that there are no shortcuts. There will be TONS of people trying to sell you on some “get famous quick” schemes, making you empty promises, and wanting to take your money, most likely in advance. There are no such things and be extremely wary of anyone that says so. Use every edge that you can to the best of your ability, and be stubborn as hell in the wake of countless rejection that will inevitably come. I honestly believe that one has to be ignored by hundreds to be loved by thousands. But having said that, I think it’s equally important to keep in mind is that it really isn’t a numbers game and being able to have an impact, an extremely meaningful one, through one’s music on individuals living all over the world, even just a few, is really one of the greatest achievements one can obtain. Fame can come and go but relationships with people, becoming a part of their personal narrative can last for a lifetime and leave a legacy for generations to come.
What can we expect to hear from you in the future?
I actually have a few things that I’m currently working on. Nina Vouraki and Yuval Kramer, with whom I recorded “Stricken”, will be doing another single with me, this time one of mine. Our chemistry was really so magical that it was an obvious move on our part. I will also be doing a video for and officially releasing “Taken for Granted” at some point in the future together with the editor for “Avalanche”, Roy Kanevsky, who will be directing this one in its entirety. In addition, I will be doing a project with my friend and producer Raz Klinghoffer in the form of a band under a different name. We have begun work on a full-length album that will be far more rock and a little heavier than what I’ve done till now which I hope will satisfy the growing number of rock and metal fans I’ve accumulated over the years. It will take at least a year before that is even close to ready, though. Lastly, I am planning on doing a few more shows in the U.S. in late January or early February. We are still working out the details.
We look forward to catching up with you in the New Year then!
By: Connor Williams, Journalist