So, the usual happened. I got down to the venue, wandered about in the sun because as usual I was painfully early and awaited my interview time here in Manchester at the O2 Academy.
The time draws closer and for some reason I become strangely nervous, which never happens, after all he’s just a man right?
After a short while the nerves do one and I’m called onto the tour bus to have a chat with the man himself, the nerves had gone and out from the back lounge he comes, Dez F*cking Fafara of Devildriver! Greetings are exchanged and we’re off discussing the bands sixth album, ‘Winter Kills’, fan reactions, his home life and more.
Hey man! It’s good to have you back in the UK, how the devil are you doing today?
I’m doing great, I’m doing great!
So lets go back to Winter Kills, it’s coming up on nine months old now, but does it still hold the same meanings for you as when it was written? I know things gain new meanings over time…
Absolutely. There’s still new facets of the record that we’re finding. I mean we’re starting to do more songs from the record [live], we do 5 songs but we’re adding ‘Gutted’ which I think we’re gonna start adding tomorrow night and we’re gonna keep adding more and more tunes. I’m finding in the reception that everybody has a different song off the record that they love and that’s a really cool thing. When it’s not just narrowed down to 2 or 3 tracks and it’s like “oh these are the favourites”. Everybody is always asking for a different track so eventually I’d like to play ‘Winter Kills’ in it’s entirety.
Recording it, did you alter anything from the DevilDriver recording style of your previous releases?
Well what was really interesting was that when I got the music we were on tour, so I sat in the back lounge and I would write…A LOT! and I would call the guys back at the end of the night and read to them what I had written. I had never really done that and it was cool to get that instant feedback from the guys. I recorded at my house too, I built a studio in my house and that added a certain something for sure to the recording.
Not like a comfortable feeling ’cause you’re never really comfortable when you’re laying a record down but more of a cohesive feel that I could just leave my dogs at the door and go, and go and record and instead of worrying about “oh I got two more weeks recording then I get to go home”. We’re already on the road so much man, we do more shows than any band alive! I felt it necessary when recording it do so at home. Those were the things that were different about it.
Was it good for the family having you home?
Yeah, absolutely. Instead of spending another three weeks to a month away I would go into the studio and do my thing like anyone else and come home for dinner which was a very nine to five feeling actually haha!
Some kind of normality!
Yeah, it added something to the record. When I listen back to the vocals it has a ferocity to it. I’m in my zone, I’m in my place where I f*ckin’ live you know? So I don’t think I can record any other way from now on! I’m a bit spoiled now.
You also have brought in Chris Towning into the band as a full time member after being a live player with you guys for some time. Did he have a hand in the release? Does he alter the dynamic of the band?
Here’s the thing, well most of the record… ‘All’ the record was written before he came in. So no, he didn’t do any writing on this one. The rest of the guys in the band were right in saying. “Look this thing is already written. Lets use Chris on the next record and see what he brings.” That being said it’s gonna be curious to see what he brings to the mix, you know? ‘Cause he listens to a whole different bunch of bands that I don’t and I listen to a bunch of stuff that he doesn’t and so do all of the other guys and vice versa. It’s always interesting.. the influences the guys in Devildriver jam on, it’s always a crazy different bunch of tunes you know.
It’s a great variety then?
It is and it’s brilliant and I think that’s what makes Devildriver who we are and makes us have a unique sound.
When writing, first and foremost you have to write for yourselves. You have to be pleased with your final result. Do you ever take fan reactions to your more popular tracks or riffs and use them in the writing process?
Certain people do use a formula, we don’t. I don’t believe in it.
If you say look ‘Clouds over California’ is a very popular song, lets do another clouds you’re gonna fail miserably. Any time you point your art towards a direction you know is going to be what people want to hear you’re missing the boat when it comes to art. We just do what we do and if people like it then great! But that’s why you get six records and every one of them is so different. We have a signature sound but every record is so different.
I mean ‘Pray for Villains’ is so much more different than ‘Beast’ and ‘Winter Kills‘ is as far away from ‘Beast’ as possible so that being said, I don’t ever wanna make the same record twice, you know?
DevilDriver is a touring machine, you are literally always on the road. Is this still as important to you as your early days with Coal Chamber? Is it still as important to see the fans go crazy for your music?
Yeah! And these shows particularly where it’s been just mental we’ve only had one or two nights that haven’t sold out. I feed off the crowd, there was a guy interviewing me a couple of days ago and he said ‘you command the crowd and you tell ’em what to do’ and actually no, it’s the other way around. If the crowd are going off, they’re gonna command my reaction so it’s not my actions but my reaction to what is going on. It’s a cool thing man when you can play music and move people, when you don’t just wanna stand their with a beer in your hand, you wanna drop that and your girlfriends hand and get in the pit, thats kinda something special and I feel we’ve got that right now.
DevilDriver’s all about the pit!
I’m all about dancing, don’t just get in and beat people up. I’m about the dancing, it’s how I was when I grew up around punk rock. You just get in there and you go for it! I like to see it you know.
You have a great live show, but is there anything you’re still keen on including in a live set? You had an eagle with you on stage in Germany after all!
Haha! Julius the eagle. That was a great time. I dunno man. I don’t wanna go all “over production”, in the states we do have a full on production, we didn’t ship it over here this time because we’re here for such a short amount of time, it just wasn’t viable. We have dummy cabs with the cross on it and a bunch of different banners and a light show we bring out. Other than that…I don’t see pyro or anything like that, I don’t think we need it. People wanna see us go up with a beer in our hand and get down on it. And that is what we do.
How do you find the balance between your tour and home life? Is it easy for you to just go home and switch off?
Erm, the first four or five days after I’m home I can really switch off, after that I start to get really uneasy. You have to find the yin and the yang of it for sure. If I can catch two or three weeks between tours then I’m good to go and my family is good to go. My wife and I have a three week rule too where if I’m out and haven’t seen her for more than three weeks she flies out, this being the only run she hasn’t come out on because we have stuff going on at home with the kids and dogs and everything else.
It’s great you’ve found a balance that you can work with..
You gotta man! You also gotta understand that you’re either built for the road or not, and I’m the guy that is built for the road. It’s very difficult for me to sleep in a bed. You know my bedroom at home is pitch black in the middle of the day and it might as well be a bunk. I start getting a little crazy. You know I suffer from ADHD really bad and I’ll be cleaning baseboards and fixing things that aren’t broken to the point where my wife is like ‘OK, it’s tour time’.
You’ve been in two bands now that have defined their respective genres. DevilDriver and groove metal and Coal Chamber was a whole beast of its own. What do you think the secret was to the success of the these bands? Timing?
Well everything in life is timing. There are no coincidences, it’s always timing. But also it goes back to your previous question, if you make art for yourself or if you don’t ,just go for it where the scene is. When Coal Chamber first started there was no scene around us. Eventually we got labelled into a scene and there was a scene after years. I think if you just do what you do people will see the honesty in it. And I’m a hardworking cat so people know I’m just out there playing three shows and having five days off. I’m out there playing shows and I love music and I love playing shows. You can see it on my face when I go on stage, you know. My microphone to me is everything!
Dez, you’ve personally embraced social media, especially Twitter and Instagram. Do you believe social media is important in connecting with your fans?
It’s important to me, for me. I’m a real recluse man! I’m a hermit, I don’t go out afterwards, you will rarely find me out at a bar and I don’t do the stripclub or the backstage thing. I like to hang with a very close group of friends that I know in each town. It’s hard. People don’t really get to meet me unless they catch me from the bus to the stage or there’s a meet and greet. So the way you can connect is social media. I would have loved that when I was younger. Ozzy posting stuff or whatever and if you go on my Instagram you can see how I live..my home and my dogs and different esoteric things I’m into.
I post Freemasonry stuff and all sorts of things and I think it’s important that people get some more of you than just the stage and just the music then they can tie into you a little more. They can see that ‘oh this guy is just like me’. And I’ve said it a million times. I’m just a bricklayer that got lucky.
It’s good for people to see the life you have and where you live…
All of it man, all of it. Me and my kids hanging out or my dogs, and I’m a very normal cat at home. I live in a very normal environment, I have a very normal life and home and people need to see that and on the road as well I keep to myself. If it’s not the shows, I’m on the bus.
The future of the music industry looks somewhat bleak, I can’t deny it. Metal always seems to get the raw end of the deal. With things like piracy rife, where do you see the industry going from here and in your mind how can it evolve?
Anything underground gets a raw deal. Punk rock, blues and metal suffers because there’s a lot of pop. Well I don’t know. You do need a machine to get to a certain level and that machine is a record label that hires other people. Or gets people like you here for interviews and such. Should we be able to replace that with the artist doing that then maybe the labels will go away, I’ve no idea. As of now I don’t make money off of records we make our money off of touring and you guys coming to buy a t-shirt.
Everything else is put into the studio and making a quality record. So you don’t get a piece of shit that we made in our garage. So we can hire a producer and that is what the music from the label quantifies into. I guess the short answer – No-one knows what is gonna happen. Until it does. When I was coming up, I have gold records because people bought records, now if you sell 100,000 records then you’re like a superstar, you know? Well I’m like, cool, change the plaque then ‘casuse I want the plaque!
The record sales are counted against what music was selling in the eighties it seems..
Right on man! It’s not all about the album sales though. Are people coming to the shows? Are they digging what you’re doing? Is the internet lighting up with people who have gratitude in their hearts for the music that you make? Ok, cool. You’re doing your job.
And finally you’re a well travelled and thoughtful man, if you could give the world some advice as a whole. What would you say?
Be strong, believe in yourself! Keep a tight core group of friends. Don’t take shit from anyone but be a very caring individual. I mean if you fell down outta this bus I’d be the first one to pick you back up and if you’re not that kinda person then you’re not living the correct life.
Listen to your intuition. That is another thing I do a lot. I’m the guy that if there is a left or a right to make and my mind tells me not to go left even if that is the way to get there. I’ll take a right. I listen to myself a lot and I think people need to do that. You need to kick back and have some quiet time. Your own notions in your head will come through and tell you how to live life and as far as caring goes I’m an average guy. I have a family. I care for my friends my dogs and my cats.
You’ve seen more of the world than most, is there anywhere you still haven’t been?
I have seen most of the world, yes. I have not been to Egypt and I have not been to China. There are a few places in Asia I’ve still not been to and Israel also. I’m trying more and more on tour to get out to historical sites. Be it a castle, we fly into Peru I wanna go to Machu Picchu. I wanna see the pyramids without being taken hostage. You gotta wait for the world to calm down before you go to certain places. I love to travel! It’s what’s important to me.
Many thanks to the amazing Dez for sparing MetalMouth.net some time.
BUY WINTER KILLS HERE – Amazon UK
Devildriver are currently heading to Europe and the USA for more tour dates, get all the info here: www.devildriver.com/tour-dates