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Dez Fafara: The Next DevilDriver Records Will Be “Fucking Furious”

DevilDriver

Boasting a rejuvenated line-up, growler Dez Fafara and his DevilDriver cohorts return with another bruising offering of groove-laden metal, Trust No One. Brendan Crabb goes downtown to meet the wretched.


There was significant personnel turnover within DevilDriver after the touring cycle for previous album, 2013’s Winter Kills concluded. Instrumental prowess aside, what qualities did you prioritise when assessing potential new members?
For me, it was about replacing guys with guys that could play as good, or better. And then attitudes had to be completely different than the previous members. I was looking for easy-going people with no drug or alcohol problems, no attitude problems. Guys who were going to be easy to get along with to do many, many more dates with and hopefully records with as well. And I found them. These guys are just genuinely cool, man. From the first moment meeting Austin [D’Amond, drums], I knew he was the guy. I’ve been hanging out with Neal [Tiemann, guitars] for about two years previous to him joining, and him and I have been working on music for side projects that whole time before that. [Author’s note – bassist Diego ‘Ashes’ Ibarra has also been recruited for touring duties after Chris Towning left the ranks].

What was the primary catalyst for the recent line-up changes?
At the end of the Winter Kills cycle, we had coming down to see you guys Down Under, then we were coming back to do Knotfest for just one show, and that was going to be the end of the cycle. We had about a week before we were coming down to see you guys and I had text John [Boecklin, drums] and said, ‘Look man, we haven’t got along since the second record. Isn’t it important to be happy in life?’ He said that it is and I said, ‘Well, we should probably part ways’. He said, ‘Yeah, we should’. So that was that. And Jeff [Kendrick, guitars] left on the heels of him leaving, but Jeff had a lot of problems within the band and the other musicians along the way, because of his lack of contribution for 12 years. He never really wrote a song. So there was a lot of issues between him and the other members that played the instruments. A guy like that you want to replace with a guy that wants to write. So Neal came in with 12 songs. Consequently, the first song we released, “Daybreak”, came from Neal, obviously with Mike [Spreitzer, guitars] working on it as well.

In regards to new guys joining the band, usually you’re like, ‘Look man, you’ve got to sit down and shut the fuck up for like the first year and learn how it works’. We weren’t like that. We were like, ‘Come on in, what have you got to offer? Let’s make music, let’s be friends, let’s have a good one’.

 

“Whether you’re a painter, sculptor, musician; it’s incumbent upon you to shed light to people. And that’s what I’m doing.”

 

Is there an over-arching theme to the lyrics on this album?
Those lyrics specifically belong under the umbrella of Trust No One. It’s incumbent upon any artist to shed light on where they’ve been during the writing process and during the recording process, or in the previous year leading up to the writing process in their life, as well as kind of shed light, be a mirror for society around them. So whether you’re a painter, sculptor, musician; it’s incumbent upon you to shed light to people. And that’s what I’m doing. Like, really look around you. They say if you go to an airport, ‘If you see something, say something’. I mean, everybody’s looking over their shoulder. That goes for the wide majority of how our society is now.

And also within it, very personal. You can look at people who may have betrayed you, may have been wolves in sheep’s clothing. Within this record you’re going to get everything from songs about betrayal and anger… But you’re also going to get “For What It’s Worth”, my first love song I’ve ever written. “My Night Sky” is like one of the most positive songs I’ve ever written, about keeping your head up and remaining positive. I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, and even in the darkest moments aggressive music has always brought me empowerment. So if DevilDriver can be that be that for anybody, I’m in.

»» Read More: DevilDriver’s Songs For The Day After Judgment Day ««

So is Dez a hopeless romantic at heart then? [laughs]
Well, I mean, obviously I’m in love, I’ve been with my wife 18 years. But it’s some of the heaviest lyrics I’ve ever written. When you’re saying, ‘For what it’s worth, I would move heaven and earth, even kill at will’. You’re telling someone, ‘I love you so fucking much I would protect you with my life’. That’s one of the heaviest emotions you can write. There’s a lot of emotion in this record. But it all kind of goes under that umbrella of, ‘Hey, be very wary of people. Don’t just bring them into your family’. I’ve had several people in business, several obviously in music, and several in my personal life that in the past two years I’ve parted ways with, and I’ve watched my life get significantly more positive. So you’ve got to watch the negative outlays that come around you on a daily basis when it comes to fucking humanity. 

There was conjecture among some more grizzled metal fans who bemoaned you making an album [Rivals] with the much-loved, but also oft-maligned Coal Chamber during DevilDriver’s downtime between Winter Kills and Trust No One. One school of thought was that you’d spent more than a decade building DevilDriver and establishing credibility there, only to take what some perceived as a step back by embracing Coal Chamber again. Were you aware of that sentiment?
Every band’s got its criticism. Coal Chamber toured the world with Pantera and Black Sabbath, and had gold records. It seemed to me that a lot of people loved that band, and we left at the height of where we were at. We had a massive draw, we were a massive presence all over radio. It’s just that inward, all the members had problems that I didn’t want to deal with any more, so I left.

As far as credibility, I mean, every band has got its critics, right? So that’s all good with me. As long as you’re doing something real and to the point. And the thing is this; I took time off from DevilDriver not to do Coal Chamber. I took time off completely, just to take time off. When I took time off, the Coal Chamber guys called me and said, ‘Look, what’s your most important thing?’ I said, ‘I want to eat dinner with my family every night’. They said, ‘Well, you have a studio at your house, why don’t you record a record?’ I said, ‘Cool, okay, I’m just sitting home anyways’. I’m not a guy who watches TV. Sure, I’ll make a record and have a good time doing it. Then they were like, ‘Do you want to do some small amount of touring?’ Which we did.

 

“I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, and even in the darkest moments aggressive music has always brought me empowerment. So if DevilDriver can be that be that for anybody, I’m in.”

 

It was quite the opposite way around. I took time off and Coal Chamber came to me… It’s kind of on the bucket list. I left that band at the height of everything on [2002’s] Dark Days, and it was like, I would love to record something new with them. I don’t know if you were at that Soundwave show when Coal Chamber played, but every single audience member was singing the words as loud as possible. I could have just stopped singing, basically. So that’ll tell you where the fanbase was at. And as far as critical, well, some people say he took a step back. How do you take a step back into a band that made you who you were? A band that gave you gold records, took you around the world, did songs with Ozzy. So I never understood that. And there’s probably a million-plus people in the world that would love to have that opportunity to take that ‘step back’ [laughs]. The internet wizards sitting behind keys [laughs].

What’s the current status of Coal Chamber?
Coal Chamber right now, Coal Chamber has no place in my life whatsoever at this point. Not with DevilDriver firing on all cylinders and where we’re at. I’m telling you, if you’ve heard Trust No One, the next subsequent records after this are going to be fucking furious. We’ve kept our signature groove, but we’ve also jumped way away from any people around us. So we’re really defining ourselves at this point, and stepping completely away from the pack.

You’re renowned for being firm friends with Soundwave promoter AJ Maddah. What’s your take on that festival’s collapse?
That’s like part of my family right there. AJ and his wife Jo are like family to me. I owe that man a great deal for DevilDriver’s presence and Coal Chamber’s reuniting presence down there, doing Soundwave. I was a promoter when I was really young. I was 18, 19, I had times when I promoted some clubs, so I understand the promotion gig. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. When you win big, you win big, and when you lose, you lose big. But that guy is a genuine good person. And that festival is fucking amazing. One of my favourites around the world… Not many people know this; AJ made a point to go out to dinner with every fucking band, dude. People don’t know that. People don’t know he flew out my whole family, all my kids, everybody. When it [the festival] went south, that was devastating. 

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