"The guys stopped the song. They all looked at me like, 'What are you doing?'" How David Draiman came up with the legendary 'OOH-AH-AH-AH-AH' monkey noise on Disturbed's nu metal classic, Down With The Sickness

David Draiman singing on stage in 2001
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's one of the most instantly recognisable moments in all of metal and made David Draiman an instant icon of the nu metal era. Just over thirty seconds into the song that made Disturbed famous, 2000 floor-filler Down With The Sickness, the frontman lets loose a bizarre but unforgettable 'OOH-AH-AH-AH-AH' monkey noise that'd become synonymous with him, his band and the wonderful ludicrousness of the nu metal explosion in general.

In a new interview on The Jesea Lee Show, Draiman opens up on the spontaneous moment that gave birth to a legend, revealing that his Disturbed bandmates were dumbfounded the first time they heard the cry come out of the singer's mouth.

"It was just improvisational, man, you know," he explains. "The first time we ever started writing the song, at first, when we first came up with it, that first section where that first 'Ooh-ah-ah-ah-ah' began, was just a pause for dramatic effect. It was just dead space before the whole band kicked in, and that beat, the rhythm, that primal, tribal vibe that it had, I just, one time, improvisationally just tried it! And, literally, the guys stopped the song. They didn't know what I was doing. They all looked at each other, like, 'Is he OK?!' Like [I was having] maybe a seizure or something. They all looked at me like, 'What are you doing?' I'm like, 'I don't know! But just humour me, there's something to it.' And it stuck, and after all these years, I think my only fear is that when I am finally laid to rest, on my headstone it's gonna say, 'Here lies David Draiman, Ooh-ah-ah-ah-ah!'"

Draiman goes on to reveal that while the 'Ooh-ah-ah-ah-ah' noise was entirely of his own making, his willingness to experiment with his voice was very much inspired by some other heavyweight vocalists of the nu metal generation.

"All the little noises came after me being a part of Disturbed," he continues. "The rhythms. And there were so many people in the genre - Jonathan Davis in particular, who, ever since I heard that first Korn record, there are so many parts of his beatbox-ish kind of, gibberish rapping that he does, that were very inspirational to me. Him, Chino Moreno from the Deftones, their first couple of records were incredibly inspirational and seminal for me. Just understanding what more could be done with rhythm, and how the voice could end up becoming a rhythmic instrument in of itself. It really just helped me focus myself in that direction."

Down With The Sickness has amassed over 700 million streams on Spotify, while its parent album, The Sickness, released in March 2000, has been certified five times platinum in the United States for sales of over five million copies.

Watch Draiman's interview below.

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.