August 23, 2013 Interview – Dez Fafara of Devildriver & Coal Chamber
Devildriver is a band which will never rest on their laurels. Plugging away for over a decade now the band has released 5 successful albums, toured all over the world, and made Devildriver a household name in the metal scene. Ready to out do themselves the band has put together possibly their strongest album to date in their 6th effort Winter Kills. Dez Fafara leads the way for Devildriver with a burning passionate unmatched by many. Having accomplished a great deal in the past 2 decades, in recent years Fafara went full circle back to where it all started in Coal Chamber. Recapturing the magic of Coal Chamber’s past Fafara is now ready to bring Devildriver to the next level. Recently we sat down with Fafara for a intimate look at the history behind Devildriver & Coal Chamber, the blood, sweat, and tears that went into Winter Kills, and love for music.
Crypticrock.com- Devildriver has been together since 2002. When you guys first formed it was toward the end of Coal Chamber. You have now spent about half your professional career with both bands. Looking back over a decade later what do you think was the driving force for you to give Coal Chamber a break and try something new with Devildriver?
Dez Fafara- Well the driving force to leave Coal Chamber was that I wasn’t happy with what was going on in the band. I didn’t like all the hard drug use. I thought it was ruining the music, ruining the vibe, and I just wanted to do music. I’m very low key, and I just felt like the band was high maintenance at the time. I moved to Santa Barbara and I got a new fresh clean slate in a new town. I started meeting guys around town, they started vibing with me, and started throwing barbeques at the house. We found out hey you’re a bass player, you’re a drummer and we formed a band and did a demo. I wanted to get back on the road and I wanted to get on with things. Leaving a band is much like a break up, you never know if you are going to find another good girl, and you don’t know if it’s ever going to happen again for you. I was lucky and humble that people wanted to follow what I did artistically. Now subsequently Devildriver is on our 6th record, every record has been different but has a signature groove sound. It’s much more fitting to the music I listen to definitely and the style of music that I want to do. However, I did enjoy recently going back to do the Coal Chamber shows. I did enjoy revisiting the music that made me in the past. I had a great time listening to the fans and listening to their take on revisiting our music.
Crypticrock.com- As you just mentioned recently as of 2011 Coal Chamber reformed and did a full tour with Sevendust and Lacuna Coil. That was an 8 year break. What ignited you after almost 8 years apart to do something with Coal Chamber again?
Dez Fafara- I missed it, I missed the music. The guys seemed like they had their lives together. Me and Meegs have never been tighter ever. Keep in mind we struggled out of Hollywood together, lived in one bedroom apartments, and stole food from Trader Joes. It’s nice now that I’ve re-mended that relationship with him. He’s a big part of my life, he’s the original member of Coal Chamber. Even Mikey wasn’t the original member when we were coming up and doing all those shows that got us signed. I have something in my heart for Meegs, it’s just unbelievable. We went around the world together, we toured with Black Sabbath and Pantera, we did tons of Ozzfests, and did a song with Ozzy. It’s good to re-mend that relationship. How rare it is in life that you can actually go back in time for a minute , re-mend some relationships, heal some old wounds, and then move on. That’s where I’m at right now with Devildriver and the new record Winter Kills. I’ve been there and done that and now I’m in Devildriver world. I’m pleased to be in two bands and they’re two great bands. I’m surrounded by musicians and that a good place for a singer.
Crypticrock.com- Like you said it’s not very often you get to go back and mend relationships in life. That’s a very fortunate thing you were able to do there. With that tour concluded your focus is back on Devildriver now. Devildriver is set to release their 6th full length album Winter Kills August 27th. Tell me what the writing and recording process was for this new record?
Dez Fafara- We wrote both on the road and off the road. The difference in what I did is I did write primarily on the road. I started to write the record at home but I wrote primarily on the road. That was really cool as a writer to get immediate gratification, I’ve never had that. I write very solely alone and early in the morning usually at home. This time it was different I sequestered myself to the back lounge. I called the guys back at the end after 3 or 4 hours of writing, I read them the lyrics, I sang them the songs, and then got instant feedback immediately on what they liked and what they didn’t like. Someone would say to me hey you can’t hear it on the demo but guitar is really doing this, why don’t you try and go along with that. It really helped the writing process, it made for a very cohesive record. The band is in a amazing headspace right now, we’re in a great place. It’s just an exciting time. We’ve been sitting on the record for months and we just released “Ruthless” as a single. I’m hearing a lot of feedback from people I’m doing interviews with and other musicians hitting me up on text saying “hey man I love the first single, send me the record, you guys are on to something”. It feels good, it’s a good time right now.
Crypticrock.com- Yes the first single is very good. It’s funny you say people say you are on to something 6 records in and it’s almost like you found something new and that’s really special.
Dez Fafara- Definitely. I think every record has to be different. It’s going to have our signature sound, but it has to be different. You think it’s a backhanded compliment but to say my favorite record is Beast (2011)but this record doesn’t sound like it, or my favorite record was Pray For Villains (2009) but this doesn’t sound like it, that is the biggest compliment I can get that we made a record that doesn’t sound like a previous record. With that being said we’ll strive to keep up with that.
Crypticrock.com- It’s good to keep things fresh. Now this new record is your first on Napalm Records which is a European based label. The majority of the bands on the label are of European background and a lot of black metal, gothic metal, and death metal. Do you feel this is an opportunity to expose Devildriver to a new audience of metal fans?
Dez Fafara- Why I signed with them is the passion. They have business sense, they know the mathematics of it, but they are not bean counters, they do it with passion. I felt that from the minute I met Max the owner. I was just down with that label from the minute I dealt with them. I think they need a flagship in the United States, they definitely do. I am willing to hoist those colors and bring out the cannons for that label. They have been nothing but positive. Never in the last 3 records I’ve released with Devildriver have I received this much press and people working to get this record out there. It’s obvious to me that people are behind it. They’ve hired great people to work with, they really went out of their way to make sure the business side of it was taken care of. I remember those first emails they said “This is a monster of a record, you guys out did yourself, we are so pleased to have you on this label”. That being said we had all these songs in the can when we were shopping. We were talking to a lot of different labels and I just didn’t feel I wanted to give this record to anybody else who wasn’t going to be really down with the program.
Crypticrock.com- It sounds like a very positive environment right now and it makes for good music. You guys will be touring Europe come August and playing mostly festivals. How does playing massive festivals compare for you opposed to a club tour?
Dez Fafara- Club shows have that energy that I need actually to be an artist. Then you take that energy to the big stage and hope that it transfers. I do enjoy playing the big stage. I’ve done some shows in front of 110,000 people that were amazing, and frankly, I’ve done some shows in front of 250 people that was just the most killer night ever. I do enjoy both. I think you can take one and lead it into another. You can definitely use that club show vibe to take it to the big stage.
Crypticrock.com- It’s good to have a balance of both absolutely.
Dez Fafara- Yea I come from that punk rock ethic where I like to experience the fans right there and shake hands. On the new record Winter Kills the special edition has extra tracks which is cool, but you also get a live bonus DVD. When I say a live dvd I don’t mean we took out the most production and filmed the biggest show and that’s exactly what we are all about, not even. What we did was we stripped it down we took it to Berlin, Berlin is like NY and LA combined, if they don’t like you you’re done. We took it there and did it in a small club. We had almost barely any production, just enough lights so you can see. We brought in some cameras and did a down and dirty rock show that is right in your face. It’s unedited, you will see camera edits because there are multiple cameras but there is no over dubs, nobody went in to re-track their guitars or re-track vocals so it was perfect. Bands do that man, so they say they are giving you a live DVD and they’ll spend another week in the studio re-tracking this, re-tracking that. It’s like dude that’s not a live video. That being said I do like the club vibe. We took it a step further and put it on DVD for people. I think people are really going to enjoy this show because we had a really on night that night. They will get a couple of extra tracks on the special edition.
Crypticrock.com- That sounds excellent. It sounds like a really great bonus. It sounds organic and not over produced.
Dez Fafara- It’s a real raw DVD. I think that’s what we are all about. In that kind of environment we are like a machine. We had a great night that night, it could have gone either way (laughs). We had a great night that night and I think people are really going to enjoy it.
Crypticrock.com- That special edition definitely seems worth picking up. You’ve been involved in the metal scene for almost 2 decades now. You found the change of pace you needed to keep things fresh with Devildriver, but how difficult is it to keep your focus on metal and keep things continually fresh after all this time?
Dez Fafara- I think keeping it fresh is keeping yourself busy making art. Keeping yourself relevant just comes from doing something from the heart, then you will be relevant. I don’t think you can really put any thought process into that. It is a very organic thing in Devildriver. The band members have so many influences. From gothic stuff, to some of us our favorite artist is Billy Joel. All these influences actually seep into our music. That’s what makes it organic, real, fresh, and long lasting. The fact that we never made a record that sounds the same ever. If you know us you can tell it’s us but definitely everything is way different. That’s just important stuff to do if you are going to keep some sort of longevity, reality and truth in your music.
Crypticrock.com- Right, it’s good to expand and progress. You mention that everyone has different musical tastes. I’m interested in what some of your musical influences are?
Dez Fafara- I listen to everything from blues to black metal. From Black Flag to Black Sabbath. I really enjoy music. From the time I wake up in the morning to the time I go to bed I’m listening to tunes. I may fall asleep listening to Billie Holiday. I may wake up listening to Emperor. I love Motorhead, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, The Germs, Dead Kennedys, and GBH. I like a lot of punk rock. I totally love a lot of outlaw country music, Hank Williams III. Music in general gets me off. I love all classic 70’s stuff. I like a lot of things, I like The Cure, Depeche Mode, I like a lot of music (laughs). I’m a music lover, I don’t stick myself in one little spot in the house, I’m going to occupy the whole house, that’s what music is for me.
Crypticrock.com- It’s great to have a wide range of tastes in music. You never want to box yourself in.
Dez Fafara- Right it comes out in your music if you use it right. I always say to young bands to have influences but don’t let them show through too hard.
CrypticRock.com- Exactly. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Dez Fafara- Total fan of horror, not a fan of gore and slashers. I hate the Saw movies and shit like that, I am just not a fan of any of that. I do like horror, classic horror. I like the classic monsters a lot. I love Universal classic monsters. Dracula, Wolfman and all of that. I can watch those all day long, especially the originals. Even some of the remakes. I thought Gary Oldman was an amazing Dracula. I love this black and white Russian fairytale called VIY AKA Spirit Of Evil. It’s an incredible story, it’s really well told. For being as old as a movie as it is it’s incredible. I’m also a massive sci-fi guy. I love all science fiction from Star Trek to Star Wars. I’m geeked out on that too. I do enjoy horror, I just don’t enjoy the Saw movies and stuff like that. Too much of that stuff goes on in basements all around the world (laughs).
Crypticrock.com- Now it seems like you are an appreciator of the classics. With that said, what is your opinion on what the direction horror films have gone lately?
Dez Fafara- I haven’t seen the remake of Evil Dead. I haven’t seen that yet but I’d like to see that. Evil Dead the original is one of my favorite films ever. As far as remakes, sometimes remakes are great, sometimes people put out original movies that are just obvious remakes (laughs). That being said I do enjoy the genre it just has to be a particular kind of film.
Be sure to pick up the new Devildriver album Winter Kills August 27th check out Devildriver on tour this fall with Trivium, After the Burial, and Sylosis.
9/12: Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory
9/13: Spokane, WA @ Knitting Factory
9/14: Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
9/16: Calgary, AB @ Macewan Ballroom
9/17: Edmonton, AB @ Union Hall
9/18: Saskatoon, SK @ Odeon
9/19: Winnipeg, MB @ Garrick
9/21: Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
9/23: Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
9/24: Toronto, ON @ Phoenix
9/25: Montreal, QC @ Corona
9/27: New York, NY @ Best Buy Theater
9/28: Boston, MA @ House of Blues
9/29: New Haven, CT @ Toad’s Place
9/30: Philadelphia, PA @ Theater of the Living Arts
10/2: Silver Springs, MD @ Fillmore
10/3: Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
10/4: Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
10/5: Detroit, MI @ Harpos
10/7: Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore
10/8: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
10/10: Oklahoma City, OK @ Diamond Ballroom
10/11: Wichita, KS @ The Cotillion
10/12: Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
10/13: Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater
10/15: San Francisco, CA @ Regency
10/16: Los Angeles, CA @ House of Blues
10/17: San Diego, CA @ SOMA