Dez Fafara (Devildriver)

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Sometimes we get a last minute offer to have a chat with a cool artist to promote their upcoming tour, album or something in that direction. This time it was someone we just couldn’t refuse and had to make some time for: the illustrous Dez Fafara of Devildriver (and formerly Coal Chamber). So I sat down with my laptop to have a short Skype conversation on a random Tuesday night with one of the friendliest and most active people in the metal music scene about their upcoming Europe festival tour, music projects and the lot…

Nice to be able talk to you! How are you, man?
I’m good, man! Being home, preparing to do some vocals today, so excited!

Are you excited about the coming tour in Europe?
Yeah, we’re coming to Europe for about 3 weeks or so and I’m really excited. We’ve already have rehearsals and did Blackest of the Black as well (a festival in…, FYI), so that’s been a great warm-up to get us ready for us to do these shows. And I think it’s just going to be a fantastic time, we’re doing some great big festivals.

Yeah, you’re going to be a bit all over Europe I saw. Now, I heard from a friend that you might be playing some Coal Chamber songs at your shows. How much of that is true?
No, it’s going to be just on specific events in the future, so not for every tour or every event.

Do you have anything special planned for your shows during this European tour?
We’re definitely going to play a few songs we haven’t done live for a while. And of course, the band is just… we’re playing so tight, so well together… I just can’t wait to bring that energy to Europe.

Yeah well, if there’s one thing you can say about a Devildriver show, it’s that there’s a lot of energy for sure…
Oh thank you! Well, I come from a punk rock, psychobilly background… I think that needs to be said. And at those shows there’s always been a fair amount of energy, you know? And I really hate to watch bands that just really rely on the lights and everything to be their stage show. If you’re not going around and you’re not sweating and you’re not feeling it, it’s not really the kind of band I’ll be listening to.

Yeah, I remember seeing you at Graspop some time playing in one of the tents and there were like probably 3 circle pits going at the same time. That was damn impressive…
Thanks! I think that’s a really cool thing and it’s definitely not something that we do or they do, it’s something we do together, right? So, there’s not a ton of bands that really inspire that around the planet, I’m glad that we are. You know, some promoters in the Unites States come to the conclusion that they don’t want to book a Devildriver show because they tend to get out of hand… a little bit. But, you know, when I was younger I remember when you went to a show you had butterflies in your stomach, you know. You didn’t know what was going to happen that night, of course not violence or so, you just didn’t know what was going to go down. So yeah, our shows have never been overly violent or so, they’ve just been really aggressive. And I think that our fan base has a task in this as well, if we’re out there going off live, they’re going to go off for us, so it’s something we do together…

I kind of agree with that, nowadays a lot of shows are so predictable and safe…
Right. Well, the worst thing for me, is when people go see a band and the first thing they say when they get out is “Oh man, did you see that light show?!”. You didn’t mention the music, you didn’t mention the band, you didn’t mention the energy… you’re impressed by… the lights… (laughs)

Yeah, that’s a bit sad I guess. Some time ago I went to an underground punk festival and that was the first thing that impressed me, you never knew what was going to happen: a guitarist jumping into the moshpit while still playing and so on… That brings such a cool vibe!
Yeah, I love the vibe! Whether you play a festival or a club show, you gotta go off and you got vibe. That’s the first thing that our shows are about, is vibe. I think that’s the thing that has kept us going for so long: the people has attached the label to us that if you want a see a band go off live, if you want to see a band that is into what they do, go see Devildriver. And if you want to see fans that are into what a band does, go see Devildriver, and you’ll see people going off, you know. It’s always been cool, man, whether it’s 500 people or 50.000 at a festival, there’s always a lot of energy going around Devildriver and that’s something I’m proud of!

So are there any countries or festivals you’re playing at during the short European tour that you’re really looking forward to now?
It’s hard to pick just one or so. It’s been awhile we’ve been there, so every single one will be a good time, you know? We don’t have that luxury in the States that every morning you wake up in a different country. There’s some great festivals that we’re doing like Download in France and UK, Hellfest, Graspop,… some of the festivals we’re doing in Germany I’m really looking forward to. It’s just going to be a really great time!

And your very last show will take place in Finland (at Nummirock, FYI), THE country of metal, that’s pretty cool!
Yeah, that’s going to be really cool. I think we’re going to catch a “red-eye”, like arriving at the hotel and catch some sleep and then go do the show. I think that’s going to be one of the most energetic shows… because those “end of tour shows”, when there’s a lot of traveling done, often times it’s one of the most “kick in the ass”, so it’s going to be awesome!

So, I heard that you’re now working on a sort of country cover album, am I right?
Well, what we’re doing is taking “outlaw country” and making it into “outlaw metal”. What people need to understand is that when you come on a heavy metal tour bus in the United States, is that you’re going to hear “outlaw country”: Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson,… If you’re hanging out with a crowd before they come to metal shows, you’re going to hear “outlaw country”, they’re listening to Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson… They’re listening to those outlaw artists. There’s respect from those artists for what we do in heavy metal and there’s a lot of respect in heavy metal artists for what they’ve done and are still doing. So we are taking those songs, making them heavy as hell, there are like at least 30 guests… Just to give you an example: we’re doing Ghostriders in the Sky, did it at Johnny Cash‘s cabin in Memphis, his son John Carter Cash and his wife are on that, Randy from Lamb of God is on it and me as well. Every song is stacked up with artists and the music is very heavy… some of the heaviest stuff that Devildriver has ever put out actually!

That sounds very promising!
Yeah, and that being said, it’s like the blending of two “outlaw” genres. Outlaw music is blues, black metal, punk, metal, psychobilly,… you know what I mean? It’s the stuff that’s underground, that’s not pop or popular. It’s important to do the genre justice and I think we’re going to do that.

That sounds really cool! I think it’s awesome when a band takes music from a total other genre and makes it their own and well, like you said “heavy as fuck”.
Right, I think when people will hear the legends in the country, like June Carter and Johnny Cash‘s son, let’s just start there… But when you’ll hear the amount of guests from the heavy metal genre, from the outlaw country genre and legendary guests from the punk rock genre, like Lee Ving from Fear… I mean, I think that all the people that came to attention to what we were doing and were like “yeah we want to be part of this”… So yeah, it’s going to be very cool! That being said, we’re now starting to not talk about it too much, ’cause I just let people in a little bit about what is going on. But we haven’t given up all the names of people, names of the songs or the artwork and it’s not coming out ’till next year, so we’ll do some real press on it next year.

I’m guessing it’s going to be a difficult album to do live then since you have all of those guests?
Well, we’ll obviously do one or two of them live and we’re thinking on doing a tour with the whole record. In the different cities we can fly some guests out, we just don’t know how that’s going to go. It’s a very organic thing, we had some time off between tours and decided to do something cool so people didn’t have to wait 3 years between records from us. I anticipated 2 or 3 guests, just a few friends… I called Corey Taylor, Randy from Lamb of God, John Carter Cash… and now it turned into a complete monster with people calling me daily from different bands to be on it, you know. What would be a logistical nightmare, but I’m running it all myself, which is great cause a lot of the conversations are happening like at 11:30 at night or on Sundays, you know what I mean? Like speaking from artist to artist, so it’s becoming really cool and I think people are going to love it.

I’m sure we’ll love it indeed! Now, your debut album of Devildriver is soon to be 15 years old, are you planning to do some kind of anniversary tour like many bands do nowadays?
Nah, I’m too busy looking forward to look in the rear-view, my man. Even though people are talking to me to write a autobiography et cetera, but I have no time looking in the rear-view, I got to look forward.

I was guessing such already after hearing you talk about the outlaw music record.
Yeah, I mean, there will be plenty of time to look back on a long-lived career where I’m very grateful, but not now, I’m too busy looking forward and doing things.

I’ve understood that you’re a quite diverse music fan…
Yeah! 100 %, absolutely!

…and I was just wondering if there would be an artist or band that you recently discovered or listened to a lot that you’d want to do a shout out to…
Euhm… yeah, you know who I’ve been listening to a lot right now? It’s a band, it’s like far away from the metal genre, they’re called Kava Kon… they have like 3 records out on Spotify and stuff, so you can check them out. And as far as newer bands, the other night we were jamming Municipal Waste and on Blackest of the Black I went to see Ghoul, I think they were killer… You know, I love all music and I say it all the time, it’s nothing new: I’m no purist… In my house I can be listening to Black Flag and then Black Sabbath then Billie Holiday in a matter of 5 minutes, you know. And it can go from Johnny Cash to the Germs and right back to Ozzy within a matter of minutes… I just love music and I’ve just never been, I guess essentially a purist. And I always say that the guy that says he only listens to heavy metal is either lying or trying to look cool in front of his friends. (laughs)

Yeah, I read that some time in one of your older interviews and I like that of you.
Yeah, and it is true, you know. There’s always a guy like “I only listen to heavy metal” and then you catch him listening to like Michael Jackson at night, you know…

As long as they put their energy and soul into the music they make, I think it’s worth listening to or at least trying it.
Yeah, and that’s what it is for me too… it can be an unsigned band or a signed band, but basically if it’s good music, it’s good. I think it was Lemmy who said that when they asked him what kind of music he listens to and he was like “good music”, probably the best comment I’ve heard in a long time, right?

Yeah, true! Now when I was browsing through your quite active Instagram account, I noticed that you’re actually quite the geek?
Yeah, absolutely! 100% when it comes down to like Star Wars, Star Trek, reading,… being alone… quite the geek.

It was just cool and sort of surprising to see that someone who looks badass and a though guy in the scene is actually also a geek.
Real people? I mean, here’s the thing, I think the word “geek” is just a term for someone who’s interested in science fiction, interested in reading, likes to be more by themselves than in a pack… is usually a bit more articulate and intelligent than the pack… that’s the word now. Maybe when we were young when you called someone a geek it was derogatory. Now it’s absolutely a compliment and I think the thing that absolutely attributes the word geek to me, is that I’m probably the most private person in the music industry, most definitely the most private person in heavy metal. You won’t catch me backstage running around, in strip clubs, partying,… I’m extremely private. That turns me to the geek mentality, as a kid I was always playing by myself in my room and quite often when I had friends over I would tell my mom that they used a cuss word or whatever to get them to leave ’cause I would rather be by myself. (laughs) So yeah, that geek title is now becoming the flag for the “alternative” to the “normal”. And I think that’s why a lot of people have been embracing that lately, I’ve been noticing even on social media: #geek #loner… stuff like that. It’s good to see. Like I myself, I’m so uncomfortable in crowds that when we do meet and greets I can feel the wind sucked out of my life for a minute. But then on the other hand, it’s the highlight of my day, actually getting to meet people in a controlled environment rather than “hey hey! sign this!”, you know, in this overly stimulated environment. So we’ve been doing these meet and greets at shows and I’ve realized that they’ve become the highlight of my days, getting to meet people too. So I guess it goes both ways, right? I mean, when it’s good, it’s good.

I’m about at the end of my questions, any last words you’d like to aim at your fans or our readers?
Just thank you very much for your support, you know? Looking forward to come and play some shows and yeah, thank you very much for your support, I’m very appreciative for it!