In 2002 Coal Chamber were coming to a halt, but front-man Dez Fafara couldn’t stop doing what he loves. This led to the formation of DevilDriver. The 16 years following, as they say, has been pure metal history. After the huge success of their 2016 album Trust No One and this years ‘Outlaws ‘Til The End Vol.1’ becoming an unexpected hit across the board – the Southern California groove metallers have never been in a better place. The five-piece have also collaborated with BMG to re-issue their first five albums to remind us what a great back catalogue they have to offer.
DevilDriver performed at Bloodstock Open Air Festival last weekend, which went down extremely well. We caught up with vocalist Dez Fafara to talk about Outlaw country, the state of metal today, listening to EDM, plans for the next album(s), recording at the Cash Cabin, headlining festivals…and more!
Did you enjoy performing at Bloodstock?
Fucking incredible. I just told Vicky [Hungerford, Bloodstock organiser], her sister, and the whole crew: thank you so much for having us. Everyone in DevilDriver has been waiting to do this for a while. What a fucking amazing show. I have been made welcome in the UK since I was a kid, and I’m so appreciative. We were smiling up there, I have a large amount of gratitude for a fan-base who has stayed with me my whole life. I don’t want to let them down, I want to go hard, and they went hard for us today – that’s the best! There’s certain places around the world where you do the right job and don’t sell out, don’t make stupid moves, they will stay with you. I’m very pleased to be here.
The last record, Outlaws Til The End Vol. 1, was quite a unique idea, what do you make of the fans reception?
Unbelievable. The thing about ‘Outlaws’ is that over in America it got to number 1. And three weeks later it came back and took number 1 again – that doesn’t happen. We wanted to give the people who follow DevilDriver something before the next record – it was supposed to be something cool and fun. Now it’s got a life of its own.
I feel I keep explaining to European and UK audiences that when you go backstage at a concert, a barbecue, or on a tour bus, they will play Slayer into Johnny Cash, Pantera to Willie Nelson… the kid with the Slayer back-pack will have a Johnny Cash badge. It just makes sense, but it’s just never been done.
With the guests that we had, bringing in Johnny Cash’s son and also one of my good friends Randy [Blythe, Lamb of God vocalist], people like Wednesday 13, Brock from 36 Crazyfists… it’s fucking unbelievable. Everyone gave 110% too. It’s got a life of its own. That’s what real art does. We didn’t do it for radio or whatever, we did what the fuck we wanted. The fans latched onto it. Pretty cool… And I had no idea how it would do here.
Did it feel a bit like a family affair working with your friends you have known for years?
It was! I didn’t want to do it without Hank 3, I’ve known him for 20 years. Didn’t want to do it without Randy, he’s a family friend and always at the house. Once they signed on and John Carter Cash and Ana Cash signed on, once we knew we could record at the Cash Cabin, I knew it was taking on a bigger life of its own. At that point, other guests called. I called Wednesday, he was in. I called Mark Morton [LOG guitarist] and it was just bad-ass!
Although DevilDriver are already a huge name in the world of metal, will this album create a whole new path for the band?
I don’t know, we’ve stayed out of the picture for the past four years. We’re getting ready to make a big play over the next four years. [We want to] headline every main stage in Europe three years from now. It’s going to take one or two years to make that play and it starts right here. I just told Vicky that we started here at Bloodstock and now here we go! I also told this to Andy Copping from Download too – we’re coming! We’re coming with full production, we’re coming now – it’s time. [2016 album] Trust No One was our highest selling record on its debut week, so there’s something happening here. Of course, I had to change up two of the main guys who had been with me for 15 years, but it’s good those changes were made because now I’ve got dudes who can actually deliver more than what I need. I’m pleased all around.
We’re just a different kind of band, we’re half punk-rock and half metal, we’re vicious, we’re volatile, we aren’t going to be up there giving you ‘hearts’ or any of that bullshit. And they get that from us, we’re coming here to whoop your ass, which is the kind of metal that you like and what I like. Something volatile, scary, you never know what the fuck is going to happen. There are clubs in the United States that won’t book us because it’s out of control. It’s so cool, the reputation precedes us. And that’s good with me.
Is it that mindset that got you managing bands with your wife in Oracle?
My wife, Anahstasia, is the CEO of Oracle. I’ve been through the ringer with other management companies. I know that mistakes have been made enough, so I thought, what can we do to give back to the scene? Let’s bring in bands that need management and let’s do it right. Let’s be honest, be truthful, be on the level, let’s build their careers, let’s make good moves, not be out on the boat for three days, be in the office at 5 am, till midnight. Only sleeping five hours a night. We’ve been doing that for two years and you look at the roster – it’s massive. The two bands coming up in the next few months… are going to shake the world! We’re building something beautiful, my wife is a very hard worker, we have several assistants and another manager we’re bringing in and I’m just pleased it’s all happening.
What stands out for a band to add to your roster?
You’ve got to have something special. I’ve turned down 25-30 bands. I’m not just signing metal, obviously, I come from the goth side of things so I’m working with Combichrist and Wednesday 13. We’ve taken on some amazing acts, like Amigo The Devil, he’s ready to come over here and bring his record out. You guys are going to LOVE him. He’s a singer-songwriter with a guitar, but it’s dark and murderful. There’s a theme around Oracle where the bands have to have a certain darkness. I haven’t taken on any symphonic metal or anything like that, I only listen to shit I really like.
When you mentioned you’re from a Gothic background, I’m sure you meant Coal Chamber – are you revisiting any of that material soon?
It’s gotta be on its own time and we’re going to see what that time is. Yeah, we’ve been playing some of the tunes, obviously by ourselves. It sounds heavy as balls with two guitar players and double bass. We’ll see whats going to happen. What’s cool is that DevilDriver fans have embraced that notion. When I left Coal Chamber I kept that separate for 13 years because it should be that way. Some other bands have band members who step out and keep playing their songs. I never did that out of appreciation for the fans who loved Coal Chamber. Now it’s time to embrace who I was, and who I am, bring them together and watch them explode.
So that record was volume 1, does that mean there is going to be a volume 2, 3 or even 4?
My manager slapped a ‘volume 1’ on there because SO many people called and wanted to be part of it. Two or three of them were from some of the biggest bands on the planet. So I said “Okay, if this is really what’s happening then we’re putting a ‘volume 1’ on there”. That being said, a year and a half in the making and money ran out halfway through. Logistics were fucking insanity. To get it done was insane I told her (Anahstasia) five minutes before it was done “I don’t think we’re going to finish this”. Everyone put 110% in, no one put their hand out for money. Everyone realised the camaraderie and getting all these artists to jam together is what’s important right now. That’s why we did it.
Did this ever inspire you to do another ‘spin-off’ album following a different sub-genre or movement?
People seem to like our covers and we do too, but we chose what we did because it had never been done before. If I did punk-rock covers or 80s covers, early metal covers…come on, it’s been done! I’ve never been the guy to walk in the path of anybody else. As a matter of fact, if I look down and I see footprints – I automatically make a left to the right. That’s the kind of scenario that keeps you driven and keeps you going. I have a line: There’s a fork in the road, which way do you go, through the middle I rode.
So did you go back and listen to a lot of old country records, or did you already know what you were going to do?
Well, I grew up on this stuff, in the United States, it goes hand-in-hand with what I do. A lot of the lyrics on Outlaw Country are some of the most poignant on the planet.
The storytelling is incredible, you hear a lyric like “If the drinkin’ don’t kill me, her memory will” [by George Jones] and you’re like ‘Fuckin’ A! I wish I wrote that!‘ And it’s that way with any Johnny Cash tune [too].
To go to the Cash Cabin with John Carter Cash producing. I go in and sing, work with his wife Ana (who sang on ‘Ghost Riders‘) besides the fireplace next to Willie Nelson and Chris Cornell was like this place will be a museum one day and we’re all going to be here. It was a very, very fuckin’ heavy moment for me. It was a moment for me also when I spoke to John Carter Cash about how he loved metal, like how his dad took him to see Ozzy. And I took an hour to tell him how Outlaw Country saved my life. All these old stories about Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings. Outlaw shit. I’ve always loved the nitty-gritty, down ‘n’ dirty, I mean I was raised by bikers and I’m a runaway. There’s a street sense to everything I do and it has to remain that way. Visceral and street. And outlaw country is street.
Check out a guy called Vaughn Monroe, he actually wrote ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’, not Johnny Cash. He has this like bubble in his voice, like this 40’s thing. It’s fucking haunting.
OK, you’ve done Outlaws Vol 1, you released it, toured it, does this mean you’re looking to the next DevilDriver album with original material?
I mean we’ve been in the studio and recorded about twenty tunes. I’ve never done a cover record – but we did it. And I’ve never done a concept record so I’m doing a concept double record. You’ll get a record next year around July. Then six or seven months later you’re getting another one. I’m going to start stepping the fucking game up. Problem is with bands is they wait about four to six years to bring out a new record and they wonder why in America the metal scene has taken a dive… hard! First of all, I have three kids in their 20’s, so who doesn’t want to go to an Excision gig, or EDM, or Scarlxrd and shit. I mean who doesn’t want to go somewhere where there’s 35,000 girls in bikinis -I get it. If you want the scene to survive, you’ve got to water the flower. Give us a record every two years at the most. The days are gone when a band can release something every four years. I mean, how long is high school? Four years? Say you start high school and you get a record you love, but you don’t get the next one until you graduate? That’s what’s killing the scene so we’re stepping it up, with Napalm Records.
Would you recommend any younger bands to follow this mantra?
Just make heavy metal and be yourself. Be different and don’t follow in anybody’s path. Be different. Don’t be one of those bands who are like heavy verses and clean choruses so you can make it to the radio – I can’t stand that shit. I appalled with it, I don’t listen to it and I’m against it. I like heavy mother-fuckin’ metal. I like what Slayer did.
Do you think today’s political climate will inspire today’s musicians to create another movement?
Political movement? Well, there’s one happening in the states because the president is a fucking jack-off. Yes, it’s making everybody write, think, and talk.
If I didn’t have punk-rock as a kid, I’d be fucked. I like volatile shit and it’s going to get even more nuts with us. I’m pushing against everything that’s happening right now in the states. Bands people think are metal bands right now are not. They are glorified rock bands with 50/50 deals with their label. There are people dressing them backstage, saying they should put a black jacket on because punk is ‘in’ right now. I’m fucking over it. I’m the only guy that’s vocal, I’m saying the truth, how I feel and I’m not holding back. I’m the face of ‘fuck you!’
Do you feel metal will rise to the top again?
I don’t think the fans will ever let it go, especially in the UK. Come on … there’s 72-year-olds and 5-year-olds out there. It’s insanity. A girl brought her baby to the signing today, the kids jumped into my arms and smiled, he must have felt my vibe. Metal is a culture, metal is a lifestyle, metal is a family. It’s been embraced in the UK for a very long time, I am just pleased to be part of it. The UK is a stronghold for me. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. If the UK doesn’t like you-you’re fucked. Go ahead and quit. You can’t think you can go all over Europe and everyone’s going to like you, this is a very hard fan base. To get them to do what they did for us today – you can’t get up there and tell them to do it, if they don’t feel it they would be like ‘fuck off!’. I love the UK for that. It’s always been that way. I love it.
Are there any bands you listen to that should step up soon?
There’s a lot of good shit coming out now. Combichrist are amazing, their next record is great. Power Trip – They’re fucking cool as shit. There’s a lot of stuff holding true and not skewing their art to make it to fucking active rock radio. And those [the rock radio bands] are the bands I can’t stand. You can’t skew your art…for example, say you’re a painter and you know if you put more red in your painting you will make more money. So you put more red in your painting for that reason: FUCK YOU! It’s not coming from your head, or your heart, or soul, you’re going for the clamorous. I’ve never done that with either Coal Chamber or Devil Driver. It’s come from my heart. I wouldn’t know how to skew it (laughs). Let’s write a radio song! What? (laughs) but… ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ is getting mad radio play in the States. How the fuck is that happening? With John Carter Cash, Ana Cash, and Randy Blythe – how is that getting played on drive-time radio? But it is!
So they’re seeing the art they are putting out and thinking ‘This is real’ Don’t be fooled. If it’s not volatile and visceral – it’s bullshit, it’s not metal. So many killer bands about and I’m pleased to be part of it.
So do you think this is the next generation of headliners?
Well look at the likes of Slayer, Aerosmith, Ozzy, Deep Purple – they’re all ready to go away. So who’s there? Me and [Jamey] Jasta were just talking about this. Who’s gonna be there? We fuckin’ are! You don’t step on the likes of Ozzy or Deep Purple, you got to wait until they take their leave and pass the mantle. It’s like Alice Cooper, when he goes he should pass the mantel to Wednesday 13. He is the new face of what Alice does.
I’ve been in this business a long time and what a pleasure to be embraced by the UK today. I mean did you see my smile? (he grins) I couldn’t be pissed!
So do you think you can beat a band like … Nickelback to headlining the big European festivals?
The guy can write a good song you know – but it’s not heavy metal. This festival [Bloodstock] has all kinds of bands and so does Download. You got to embrace it all.
I listen to blues, Billie Holiday, black metal, Black Sabbath, I love it all, Outlaw Country, Scarlxrd, Ghostmane, Dropout Kings – I only manage that band because they are bad fuckin’ ass. I listen to all of that sort of thing, I have kids in their 20’s, I saw Scarlxrd when there were only five people at his gigs. He’s bringing heavy music to the youth. It doesn’t matter how you bring it, it’s like The Prodigy. They are metal as fuck. I love that band – I want to tour with The Prodigy BAD! If they read this…call me!
So would you crossover with any of that kind of music?
I don’t know, I mean would you? It’s got to come naturally. I could wake up and think ‘Let’s put a dash of pepper in that’ and do it. It can’t be calculated though or skewed. This is what’s happening in America. It’s not Pantera anymore, who were writing on their own merit and taking out bands like Coal Chamber and Machine Head across the country. It’s glorified active radio rock bands who are pretending they’re heavy metal. Don’t pretend – just be you.
The UK is my stronghold. I love them.
Check back at RAMzine.co.uk for review highlights of Bloodstock 2018 as well as interviews from the likes of Doro, Fozzy, Venom,Inc, At The Gates, Pallbearer, Combichrist, Voyager, and many more. Also check out issue #20 of RAMzine for an interview with Wednesday 13 and full review of Bloodstock Open Air. The zine will be available in September.
DevilDriver will release revamped editions of their first five albums on vinyl on September 28th via BMG. Other than their self-titled album, this is the first time the band will get them on vinyl. They are limited to 500 copies each in the UK.
The reissues are: DevilDriver (2003), The Fury Of Our Makers Hand (2005), The Last Kind Words (2007), Pray For Villains (2009) and Beast (2011). These have been remastered by Andy Pearce who has worked with Black Sabbath, Anthrax, and Motorhead to name a few. They will be available to buy in limited edition coloured vinyl and deluxe CD formats.
Each reissue has exclusive bonus tracks and an interview with Dez Fafara in the liner notes. You can pre-order the titles here.
Check out the video below of Dez unboxing the vinyl below: