by Mark Hensch
2008 might just be Devildriver's year. The increasingly popular heavy metal act just put out a ripping new album in "The Last Kind Words" and will soon embark on a headlining tour with 36 Crazyfists, Walls of Jericho, and the legendary Napalm Death. Catching frontman Dez Fafara before he wraps up a tour stop with Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage, and Soilwork, we chatted about the past, present, and future of Devildriver.
Mark Hensch for Thrashpit: Thank you so much for taking time before a huge show like this to talk about your band and your career. I'm truly thankful. First things first. You have a new album out with The Last Kind Words. How do you think the album differs from previous Devildriver records?
Dez Fafara: I think the first record was written predominantly around one guitar player, so that's the difference there. Beyond that, it was just kind of introducing us and it is a very linear record, very verse/chorus/verse/chorus. The second record was kind of where we found out (after our first guitarist left) that everybody---including me, my drummer, my bass guitarist, everybody---can write guitar. We as such had a very creative second record, but for me, looking back on it, it's very scattered in places. For the third record, we took all of those things, including capturing our live show---which is up-tempo and energetic---and put it into the new record. That's why this new album is faster, and with more riffs, more solos, more up-tempo. There are not so much traditional verse/chorus structures. That's the growth of the band right there, and this is the record that for me solidifies us as finding our sound. Some people find it on their first record---like Guns 'n Roses---we started to do it at first, got lost, and now have kind of reigned it back in and honed it.
Thrashpit: Is it hard moving away from the more structured verse/chorus/verse formula you're talking about?
Dez: With us, everything is natural and organic. With the kind of record we wanted to make, we wanted it to capture the up-tempo live show. It might not be verse/chorus on this album but I'd like to say that it has as many hooks as a tackle-box. That's what rock 'n roll is. It has to have a hook; it has to be a song. There are lots of death metal bands out there I don't like because I don't understand it and I can't catch a hook out of it and I'm not going to listen to something just because it's heavy. For me, it has to A) groove and B) have something that's going to catch me.
Thrashpit: What do you think the best song on the new album is and why?
Dez: That's way difficult! I'm pleasantly happier with this album in comparison to anything I've done in a long time and I don't think I could pick any one song.
Thrashpit: How about I rephrase the question then. What do you think is the best part of the album as a whole?
Dez: The continuity. It's the fact you could listen to the whole record and as a fan of music I honestly think that after hearing it, you'll want to press play all over again. I can say that there are songs on the previous records that blah, I could do without, but I really love all the tunes on this one. We as a team did this. We'd say "oh, not this one," or "oh, not that one." We did the best we could to make the whole thing fit together.
Thrashpit: One thing that has always intrigued me about Devildriver is how clear your vocals are---it seems like every word you scream is 100% understandable. How do you do this whereas tons of your peers in the metal world can't?
Dez: I sing very different from a lot of other people in the scene right now. It seems like everyone who can scream is picking up a microphone right now. I don't smoke cigarettes or drink any hard alcohol. I try to stay out of the cold. I wear a scarf around my neck when I do. Basically, just stupid little s***. If I'm up too late I'm not going to be up front in the bus lounge yelling and wasting my voice for the next day.
Thrashpit: Lyrically, how do you approach writing a new album like this one? What kind of headspace do you have to be in?
Dez: I tend to do a lot of my writing between 4 and 8 a.m. in the morning. For some reason I'll wake up when it's still dark out and I'll just put a fire in my fireplace and just write. That's the point where it comes out. I have a glass of wine at 5 in the morning while I'm writing with coffee---yes, I know that sounds awful---and just find that headspace. Besides the fact I have children and a Doberman and cats, I have to do it at certain times of the day as quiet time is very difficult to find at my house.
Thrashpit: Do you mind talking about your family at all? Namely, what is your family life like?
Dez: 3 boys---10, 13, and 16. They're all musicians.
Thrashpit: How has being a father changed your outlook on playing a style of music like this?
Dez: Our music is more to push you into perseverance and determination towards living life. How do I define that in terms of being a parent? I have to make sure that what I'm saying is not overly contrived from the point of view that I have kids. I have to be able to let go of that to write the kind of stuff that I do. You don't write lines "And the World f*cking f*cked her" thinking about what your kids are gonna read.
Thrashpit: Let's touch upon your days as the vocalist for Coal Chamber. How do you approach Devildriver differently from your earlier band?
Dez: Well, the clarification needs to be made that I didn't leave Coal Chamber because of the music or the scene changing. I left because the members found methamphetamines to be more interesting. They found meth to be more interesting than touring and doing the right thing. That's what tore up that band. I loved that band and there are songs I miss singing every night. I don't know if I'll ever get to sing those songs again, so just imagine what that is like. I wish the best for those guys and I wish that they'd all come clean, come sober, and come calling to say hello.
Thrashpit: Is there any chance you'll ever possibly get back together with those musicians?
Dez: We don't keep in touch really. I did get a call from Meegs, the guitar player, about a month ago, trying to open up communications with me after years of no communication. At that point, we were about to tour and I just couldn't emotionally go to that place. I wish the best for them, and I look back on those days with Coal Chamber with a fondness I don't you could imagine.
Thrashpit: Speaking of Coal Chamber, how do you deal with intolerance from people who didn't like your previous band?
Dez: The fact people say Coal Chamber is more mainstream (than Devildriver) is a trip for me, because to me we were like Goth meets rock. Until I did the song with Ozzy, it was really underground music. "Shock the Monkey" crossed us over into this marketable thing, and that, coupled with fame and money and all the drugs they found, that's what f*cking tore us up man. You gotta do what you gotta do.
Thrashpit: Onto the show tonight. I saw you and Opeth two years ago. What made you and Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage and Soilwork get added to the mix?
Dez: It is an f*cking incredible line-up. We've toured with Lamb of God several times and their agent called and we called and Killswitch called and the rest is history. We want to thank them a lot, as it has brought us to a completely different kind of crowd. Every night I've asked "how many people have never seen us live?" and you can a big crowd with half the audience raising their hands. That's why we're here tonight.
Thrashpit: For those of my readers at home who haven't ever seen you guys live, could you describe what a typical Devildriver show is like?
Dez: Pure energy. Constant movement. Song. Song. Song. Thank you. Song. Just going.
Thrashpit: You guys recently attracted lots of attention for opening up an absolutely massive moshpit at England's Download Festival. Some are calling it the largest pit in metal history! What was it like being there in the flesh and seeing that monster springing up?
Dez: It was massively humbling. When you see something like that onstage, that's the one time you're connected with the crowd. For that one moment, you're not a musician and they're not a fan. You're both doing the same thing. Between 12,000 and 18,000 people were there. It is the kind of magic that either happens or doesn't, and it just happened to happen to us.
Thrashpit: Last question. Where do you see Devildriver going in the next couple years---what does the future hold?
Dez: We're going to jump to the next level and start headlining now. On December 18 or 19, we're going to announce a headlining tour (announced since this interview as a Devildriver/Napalm Death/Walls of Jericho/36 Crazyfists/Invitro super-tour) with about 100 shows. It is going to be intense. We're probably going to do two separate line-ups and two separate runs. The diversity of the package is going to be really killer and you guys are gonna love it. Also, anybody who has ever supported me or Devildriver in the past, thank you so much. Come to the show, get in the f*cking pit, and have a good time!
Thrashpit: Thanks man! It was fun, and here's hoping you break that mosh pit record again for us tonight!
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