DevilDriver Frontman Dez Fafara on Gratitude Towards His Years in the Music Biz From Coal Chamber to DevilDriver, Latest Record and Much More!
While I’ve witnessed the progression of his career, starting from his days with Ozzfest upstart sensations Coal Chamber to a storied career with his current band, Devildriver, it’s almost easy to forget that Dez Fafara is a seasoned metal veteran. Dez really speaks and carries himself with a lot of intelligence but also an underlying sense of adventure that you don’t get from talking to most artists, let alone ones in the biz as long as Fafara’s been. Devildriver are wrapping up some U.S. tour dates for their latest album “Winter Kills” and gearing up to stay busy promoting the album all through the new year, including a nice European tour. I recently had the pleasure of talking with Dez about his career, his writing process and more, read on…
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hey, what’s going on Dez?
Dez Fafara: Not much man, I’m doing good, just listening to some black metal (laughs)!!
LRI: Sweet, I was just listening to Winter Kills, the latest album from DevilDriver (laughs)
Dez: All right man, what do you think??
LRI: It’s loud, it’s aggressive and it’s not gonna please my mom. I think my mom is totally not gonna dig it.
Dez: (laughs) I love that. “It’s not gonna please my mom”. That’s cool, I’ll take that. I’m gonna make a bumper sticker that says that “DevilDriver, it’s not gonna please your mom!”
LRI: Having said that, I do appreciate the intensity with which you guys came at this record. Six albums in you’re definitely not putting out “Load” or “Reload” here but at the same time there’s quite a bit of variation in the songs themselves.
Dez: Cool man, yeah it’s an intense record but it has a lot of emotion in it and a lot of depth in it both musically and lyrically, I like to write a little deeper than the next guy and my guys put together a really atmospheric, cohesive record that just plays and flows in its entirety and I am just so pleased with the feedback we’ve gotten since releasing it. It really is my favorite record and I’m glad a lot of other people feel that way too. It makes us feel good because we definitely worked hard on it.
LRI: Most people also know you from your days fronting Coal Chamber, does it give you any certain satisfaction just the fact that you’re as excited about what you’re doing now that you’re technically a “veteran” as you were back in those days?
Dez: Yeah, I think it’s a rare thing in this business to feel this kind of excitement after a period of time. I mean, I’ve seen guys after three years in this industry that lose it all and don’t even wanna listen to music anymore. I wake up listening to music, I go to bed listening to music and when you just called I was listening to some cool new stuff for Decibel Magazine, music is my whole life and I feel privileged that I enjoy it to the extent that I do. I still remember the days I worked on a construction site, listening to the radio all day or listening to tapes or whatever and thinking to myself “That would be killer, being one of those bands, I would love to be able to live my life and do my art and make music” and it’s actually come to fruition over the last twenty years. I feel really blessed, looking back on what I’ve done over the years and even more blessed to still be doing it, absolutely.
LRI: Do you think that kind of gratitude is something that should be important to a lot of bands coming up? It seems like there’s a lot of frustration about the way the business has changed and a lot of young bands feel they aren’t happening fast enough.
Dez: I think first of all, what’s “fast enough”? I mean, if you think you’re gonna go out a play a show or two and the next night there’s gonna be a thousand people there, that’s just not how it works or how it happens. You gotta put the work in and earn that audience one person at a time, one city at a time, one country at a time and on and on. I could give young musicians all kinds of advice but then you’d have to lead the horse to water and watch em drink. I would definitely say to stay away from all the cliche bullshit that’ll take you down in rock and roll, the hard drugs, the ego and all of that bullshit and just narrow it down to making your music and traveling with your friends and trying to be happy with life on the road.
LRI: I also think it’s important for anyone even peripherally involved in the music or entertainment biz to remember being that chronically excited and stoked 14 year old.
Dez: Totally. I’m still totally that way when I meet people all the time who were my heroes and I always walk away like “I can’t believe it, I just met fuckin Alice Cooper!” or whatever. A few years back I did this Christmas song and when I was leaving Ronnie James Dio, who was on one of the tracks, was walking in and he came in and pinched me on the cheek and said “How ya doin kid?” and I got red faced and my assistant looked at me and I looked at him like “Did that just happen?” (laughs). It kinda stunned me momentarily and then I was like “Dude, I need to go back out and snap a photo with him” and my guy was like “Nah, man, you’re gonna run into him at festivals and stuff, you know how it is” and it was just a couple months later that he passed. Sometimes I can’t believe, I feel like I’m looking from the outside looking in and basically remaining or feeling like who I was when I got a record deal, I haven’t changed one bit. I still feel just as socially awkward, basically a loner, a hermit kinda guy but then again, that’s helped me on the road as well as far as not getting involved in any kind of bullshit but also keeping me on that train of thought where I feel like I’m on the outside looking in so I can still look at my life every day and feel blessed. That being said, it’s a good day to be alive right now.
LRI: Obviously, “Winter Kills” is also a song, the 4th track on the album, but the title also lends itself to this great cover art you guys have here. What led you not only to that title but also the amazing cover art for the record?
Dez: Well, we were writing in the winter, recording in the winter and we wanted the cover to be desolate, we wanted it to have a very desolate feel. I live in the desert and it gets hot as hell but in addition to that, in the winter it gets cold as hell and desolate as hell. It’s a really empty, desolate place where everything dies off in the winter and then the spring comes along and everything blooms again. The thought behind “Winter Kills” is also that of a rebirth, we have a new label, we have a new bass player, we have a new sound, every record has our signature sound on it but we definitely have a new vibe, a positive vibe going in the band right now and all that said, I wanted the cover art to encompass all that. That skull, with those horns, placed in that location where we shot with that mountain behind it, which is the mountain my my house, says it all.
LRI: As you said, your lyrics do run a little deeper than your average metal band and are not afraid to be thought provoking. What kinds of things tended to inspire you for the “Winter Kills” record?
Dez: Well, I tend to write about everything man, from the metaphysical on a song like “Oath of the Abyss” which is a magic oath, an Allister Crowley thing to a song like “Gutted” which is about someone who definitely deserves to be filleted or gutted. What I like to do is write about everything I see in life or that’s around me and try to make the listener feel it and maybe empower them a bit to get through whatever they’re going through because you know I’ve been in the same circumstance so I do write a lot of empowering stuff but I also like to take you there and I feel like if I take you to the house and I open the door and show you the rooms inside within the lyrics, you’ll find some place to rest your head for a minute and say “Ok, wait, maybe I can get through this, this guy’s been here before and this is how he got out of it, this is how I could deal with it” you know. I mean, even songs which are about revenge are necessary in life, you know, but I do try to and tend to write a little deeper although I think sometimes age has something to do with that as well.
LRI: Bands that give a shit have all the opportunity in the world to get feedback from their fans if they care to pay attention. Have you heard a lot or learned a lot from dealing with your fans and does that empower you a bit as well?
Dez: I certainly have and look, there is NO DOUBT that without music I would have never got through the things that I’ve had to go through in my life. There’s just no way possible, music has been there for me, every step of the way as a kid, as a young adult and to this day. I always went to music, I always went to that place, I always went to punk rock, blues and metal, the real “feeling” kind of genres that would take me and give me some kind of spirit. I have heard that same thing from our fans over the years, several times, more than you would think and I have to tell you, it makes you feel good. It makes you feel like you’re doing something that matters, you don’t wanna be some preacher dude but if someone is listening to your tunes and it really helps them, you can’t help but feel that. I had a guy via Twitter who had really been through a tough time he told me “Hey, I just watched my mother’s body burn, she died and I’ve been listening to your stuff all day and just wanted to say thank you for getting me through that.” I mean, there’s NOTHING I can say, other than “I’m sorry for your loss” because obviously it’s social media and I’m not able to reach out like that and have a longer conversation but just knowing that your music can help someone get through something as horrible as losing a parent is just a great thing. If I could do that once in my life, that’s a pretty amazing thing but to be able to have done it a few times really feels good.
LRI: It’s so cool that your label, Napalm Records, gave you a vinyl release. I’d have to pick that up if I saw it at a show.
Dez: It is cool! I just started collecting vinyl with my kids, they wanted a record player so I got one and immediately went out and bought like a thousand dollars worth of vinyl, everything from Black Sabbath to Johnny Cash to AC/DC to Elvis. I think it’s a really cool thing to be able to give people a good record on vinyl, I mean it’s good to see the resurgence. I’ll walk into stores now and see not just the traditional turntables but the little suitcase ones and it’s just really cool to see the format alive like that. You know, you don’t wanna date yourself or sound like an old codger by saying everything sounds better on vinyl but the truth is it really does sound better on that real thick 180 gram vinyl. It just sounds warmer, natural and in your face completely.
LRI: This is such a good record from you guys are you gonna do right by it and stay out there on the road as much as humanly possible?
Dez: Absolutely. We’re touring the U.S. then we’re taking off for Christmas, like literally come off the road ten days before Christmas and then we’ll be focused on gearing right back up again and hitting Europe after that. We’re definitely going to be doing a lot of touring on “Winter Kills”, DevilDriver tours harder than any band out there and log more road miles than anybody. I cherish it, I for one enjoy the time out and so do my guys and we really enjoy this record as well.
See Devildriver LIVE
Dec 10 House Of Blues Dallas Dallas, TX
Dec 11 White Rabbit San Antonio, TX
Dec 13 Marquee Theater Phoenix, AZ
Dec 14 Soma San Diego, CA
Dec 15 The Observatory Santa Ana, CA
Mar 27 Underground Cologne, Germany
Mar 28 FRI-SON Fribourg, Switzerland
Mar 29 KiFF Aarau, Switzerland
Mar 31 Backstage Halle Munich, Germany
Apr 01 Le Trabendo Paris, France
Apr 03 Solus Cardiff, United Kingdom
Apr 04 Electric Ballroom London, United Kingdom
Apr 05 Wulfrun Hall Wolverhampton, United Kingdom
Apr 06 Garage Glasgow, United Kingdom
Apr 08 The Academy Dublin, Ireland
Apr 09 O2 Academy 2 Manchester, United Kingdom
Apr 10 Mo Club Southampton, United Kingdom
Apr 11 BETIZ FEST Cambrai, France
Apr 12 Club X Herford, Germany
Apr 13 Voxhall Aarhus, Denmark
Apr 15 Klubben Stockholm, Sweden
Apr 16 Sticky Fingers Gothenburg, Sweden
Apr 17 Gruenspan Hamburg, Germany
Apr 18 Trix Antwerp, Belgium
Apr 19 Paaspop Schijndel, Netherlands