After parting ways with COAL CHAMBER back in 2003, frontman Dez Fafara quickly emerged with a new band DEVILDRIVER. Wasting no time the band released their self titled debut album just six months after forming and since then they’ve consistently pumped out new recordings every two years. The band’s latest offering ‘Beast’ was released in February this year and features the single ‘Dead To Rights’ which proved so popular it actually crashed the Roadrunner Records website shortly after being released for download! NZRock caught up with Dez Farafa on the band’s visit to Australia as a part of the Soundwave Festival.
NZRock: You’re in Australia at the moment for Soundwave which unfortunately isn’t coming to New Zealand. Is there any chance we’ll see you here sometime soon?
DF: I’ve never been and I just know what a beautiful country it is. We’ve been trying so hard to come over. I wish that Soundwave was coming over. It’d be an honour to visit to New Zealand. Yeah, real sorry for what happened to everybody in Christchurch man. My heart goes out to those people and everything that’s going down with you guys over there. You know I’m from LA so I know earthquakes well. When I was a kid hundreds upon hundreds of people died and we just had one recently in the 90s as well that was pretty devastating. My heart goes out to everybody over there, let everybody know.
NZRock: After listening to the new DEVILDRIVER album ‘Beast’, that seems like a pretty appropriate title! Did you guys aim to surpass your previous albums in terms of heaviness?
DF: You know I just think we don’t ever make the same record twice. We aim to advance ourselves and really to define ourselves. We’ve released a large body of work in a very short time – five records in eight years and that’s due to the fact that we were only together for six months before we made our first record. Most bands have been together for six years before they make their first record you know what I mean. So as far as trying to surpass ourselves, we knew this time that the technical aspects of the players had to be more, the ability of the vocals, the cadence and everything else had to be more… and I was at a place in my life when I was writing the record that was dark, so I had to get some things off my chest. When all those things kind of come together they’ll cascade down and they’ll create art that comes out real and comes out with a feeling that you can attach yourself to. I think this is one of those records that when you listen to it you’ll be able to connect with your own personal life rather than ‘Pray For Villains’. That album was a third person story telling kind of record. I really tried to do something out of the box and bless it the people took to that as well. But with ‘Beast’ the technical aspirations of the band really went up and you can hear it in the solos and the drumming and the bass. So as far as aiming to surpass the last records, we don’t think of it that way, we think of it as an organic growth and a definition. Each record should be a definition of the band and should never sound like the previous records. I mean 20 years from now I never want to repeat myself.
NZRock: On this album your vocals sounded angrier than on the previous ones. What were the dark things that were going on in your life that inspired them?
DF: I wasn’t in a good place. You know after 15 years in the business I realised there were a lot of people around me that were vampiric both in business and friendship wise and I got rid of them out of my life. Also my family and I were basically homeless for a few weeks, luckily staying with family and friends. We had to move houses. Whenever you’re doing that kind of thing during the making of art, whatever the feeling is it’s going to be injected and the feeling was “pissed” at that point. When I look back on this record, years from now, its going to show where I was, a place in time in my life, and I think that’s what art should do – let everybody know where you’re at, at the place and time that you’re making it.
NZRock: So when the Roadrunner Records website crashed after you made ‘Dead To Rights’ available for download, was that a good indication to you that ‘Beast’ was going to get a good reception?
DF: It was, they’ve never had that happen so that was just an honour you know. I mean to have the need and want for your music to go ahead and crash websites that was a cool thing. However, I wish it would’ve stayed up, because then people would’ve got more of the track haha! But it’s been an honour that the dedication of the fans made that happen.
NZRock: Were there any songs that you didn’t release from the ‘Beast’ recording sessions?
DF: No nothing from the latest recordings. As a matter of fact on the special edition you’ve got three extra tracks with a DVD. I like to look at it as a DVD with three tracks rather than a b-side of three tracks with a DVD because the three tracks should’ve made the record. They’re outstanding. They’re not b-sides to me, they’re a-sides. But you know, the record would’ve been too long with all those songs on it and we didn’t want to just leave them floating around. We want to give the fans all the music that we possibly can.
NZRock: I actually wanted to talk to you a bit more about the DVD. I understand that you’ve always had someone filming DEVILDRIVER since the band started out…
DF: If you go pick that thing up man you’re going to see over three hours of footage and its 8 years in the making. You’re going to see us making the first record. You’re going to see rehearsals for the first record, all the touring, tons of stuff, band interviews, and interviews with other bands about us. We tried to cram as much on there as we possibly could because you know people had been waiting for us to put out a DVD for so long. Many bands put out a DVD, they bring a guy out for 20-30 days and they call it ‘A Year In The Life Of…’ but its not, its 20 or 30 days in the life of. This is eight years in the making and its kind of a mini movie of sorts. It’s got some very volatile moments, it’s got some extremely personal moments and it’s something that’s going to connect with fans of our music.
NZRock: I have to ask, does it include the legendary circle pit you guys started at Download?
DF: It does, it includes all sorts of footage. If you’re a fan of DEVILDRIVER from the first record or if you’ve just come on board, you’re going to be able to see what you want to see and that is the making of all the records, interviews and proper tour diaries.
NZRock: You guys have consistently released an album every two years since starting out. Is the plan to keep that trend going?
DF: For us it’s just important to be prolific, to write and to keep defining ourselves and moving forward. So yeah, we’ve released a large body of work in a very short time and in part that is to show people what we can do and to also grow. We need to make large steps and large growth which I think we’ve done. No record sounds the same, we never want to repeat ourselves and that’s another important quality of DEVILDRIVER that I love, we never repeat the same record twice.
NZRock: You worked with Andy Sneap (MACHINE HEAD / ARCH ENEMY / CRADLE OF FILTH) on this record as you’ve done in the past. Would you work with him again on the next recording?
DF: Yeah we love working with Andy. He knows the band, he knows what our sound is, he knows my voice inside and out so he’s kind of like the sixth or seventh member you now.
NZRock: A few years back you did that track on the Roadrunner United All-Star Sessions with Dino Cazares from FEAR FACTORY and it was actually FEAR FACTORY that recommended your former band COAL CHAMBER to Roadrunner in the first place…
DF: Absolutely! If it wasn’t for Burton C Bell and Dino Cazares I wouldn’t have a record deal. They turned Roadrunner Records onto COAL CHAMBER back in 94′ and we got offered a deal in 95′ which I passed on just for personal reasons, and a year later decided ok I’m going to go ahead and do this. But without FEAR FACTORY there would’ve been no COAL CHAMBER and without COAL CHAMBER there would’ve been no DEVILDRIVER.
NZRock: Have you ever thought about doing more work with those guys?
DF: You know I’ve been very fortunate to not only meet all my heroes but to work with a plethora of them. I did a song with Nikki Sixx, I’ve worked with Phil Anselmo (PANTERA / DOWN / SUPERJOINT RITUAL) and the VIKING CROWN, I’ve worked with OZZY OSBOURNE in COAL CHAMBER, I’ve worked with Mark Morton from LAMB OF GOD on a side project. There are a lot of people that I still want to work with and I think it’s important outside you’re band so you can bring something else to the whole when it’s time to do another record.
NZRock: As far as touring goes for DEVILDRIVER, you guys do a huge amount of it. How do you survive constantly being on the road?
DF: You’ve got to put your head down man and when it gets stormy out, you’ve got to be able to be a pirate. DEVILDRIVER has worked extremely hard, we love touring, I love the touring lifestyle. I’m fortunate now because I’ve got my wife and my children with me for the first time. But you’ve got to have a strong family at home in order to be away from home the way that I am. And I do, I’ve got a strong woman behind me and my kids understand what I do. I personally love touring. Nobody loves to get up to go to a truck stop at 2am more than me haha! I love the road. I’m riding up with the driver in the tour bus all the time until late at night listening to music. You know it’s either in you or its not in you and its definitely in my blood. I don’t know what else I’d do?
NZRock: There are a couple of videos on Youtube which show a concert where you kick one of the bouncers out for punching a fan in the face. What was it like being in that situation and that sort of thing happen frequently on tour?
DF: Well you know I would say this. DEVILDRIVER is one of those shows where it’s very visceral. It can get extremely volatile. There are not many bands out there where an imminent riot can start and DEVILDRIVER is one of those bands. So we depend on our security people to take care of our fans and not abuse them. So you know, you get this big powerhouse of a guy and kids are coming over the top into the barricade and he’s throwing them down and I’m thinking that’s not your job motherfucker! Your job is to protect people. So I yelled at him and I got him kicked out and it’s a good thing. I’ve done that numerous times. It’s an authority thing, they take their authority to another level and they’re there to protect our fans not destroy them. So I’d like to stand up for the people that come and buy a hard earned ticket.
NZRock: Last time you guys played Soundwave DEVILDRIVER had an intense bowling match with LAMB OF GOD and I think you thrashed them on that occasion. Have you guys ever caught up for the ultimate grudge match?
DF: No I’d love it though haha! That was a great day. People have to know this, I’d never bowled a day in my life and out there they had a bowling champion – I guess he was an Australian bowling champion – who as there. He walked up to me and told me that I definitely had bowled as a kid or something and I said no I’ve never touched a bowling ball in my life. But funny that as we went into that match I said I’m gonna bowl better than anybody and everybody kinda laughed at me. But I did, I bowled better than everyone which just goes to show, have some belief and you can surpass everybody.
NZRock: Positive affirmation!
DF: That’s it, positive affirmation. Glass half full, that’s my life!
NZRock: Going back to when you started DEVILDRIVER, coming from the COAL CHAMBER background, did you feel that you had a lot to prove with your this band?
DF: Well not really. I mean look, when I left COAL CHAMBER I left at the height of our career. When I left at first I said that I left because I wanted a musical change but what it really was is that I was good friends with all of the COAL CHAMBER guys’ families and I wanted to protect them. I left because they were on hard drugs. They were doing speed, they were doing methamphetamines and they were killing themselves. Every night I was going on stage I was feeding them money, I was feeding them fame which they were buying hard drugs with and they were going to kill themselves so I left that band to save my friends. Now, saying that, I run into them six or seven times a year, we’re great friends, they’re clean off of hard drugs so I did the right thing. In the end, the character that I showed, leaving at the height of my career just saved my friends. So as far as something to prove, not really. Journalism is what told everybody I had something to prove. And honestly, a journalist has a lot to prove to me. It’s really easy to pick up a pen but it’s hard to start another band you know what I mean. So the reason I left them is because they were killing themselves with drugs and I didn’t want to see my friends die. It’s good to be friends with them now and know that they’re sober and clean. DEVILDRIVER has nothing to prove, we do our own thing in our own time in our own way. And we don’t sound like anything, it’s hard to peg a sound on us. You can’t call us Emo, you can’t call us Death Metal, you can’t call us Black Metal, we’re hardly this American Metal movement, we’re far away from that. So I’d like to think we’re just a volatile band with a visceral feel.
NZRock: Speaking of journalists and their responsibility, what is the worst thing that you’ve read which is untrue about your band?
DF: The worst thing about DEVILDRIVER? Oh so much shit but I don’t care. You know listen man, critics are just a dime a dozen and they all lose their jobs eventually. I’m sorry because I’m talking to a journalist right now haha! But you know from an artist standpoint, I don’t read my own press at all and I don’t really care. I do what I do, I do my art, I throw clay, I throw paint to do what I do. I think it’s very important to be honest with yourself and do art that is honest and if somebody wants to critique it in a positive way great, if they want to critique it in a negative way, great. But I think that all journalists should understand this: That behind every man in every band is usually a family, so what they write about you, doesn’t just affect you, doesn’t just affect the band, but it also affects the families behind the bands. So people should be careful with what they critique and how they critique it. And who am I to judge? Who are you to judge? So the critics that actually judge, those are the guys that I laugh at. But like I said, I don’t read my own press so I live in a bubble and it’s a good thing because I can make art in my own way and make it special for you and people who are fans of what we do.
NZRock: Just before I let you go, what is the band up to for the rest of 2011?
DF: Well we go home for just a little while here after Australia. We go out with Glenn Danzig and then we’ve got a big surmounting task in front of us. We’re going to tour until late 2013, early 2014 on ‘Beast’. I mean we’ve been releasing a record every two years, I don’t think with ‘Beast’ that that’s going to be the case only because it’s shaping up to be some real immense touring coming off of this record so get your taste of ‘Beast’ and live with it for a while because it’ll be the only record that you’re going to get from DEVILDRIVER for the next at least three to four years.
NZRock: Thanks for doing this interview and all the best for the upcoming tour!
DF: Yeah do me a favour man. Tell everybody in New Zealand that I wish DEVILDRIVER was coming out. It looks like we’re coming back in January / February of next year and I’m going to really try my hardest to get out there. It’s a country I really want to see. From the pictures, from the people that I’ve met, it looks beautiful and I really want to experience it. So tell everyone I said hello and hit the Roadrunner websites man and tell them all that you want us to come to New Zealand, it’ll really help!