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Interview: Dez Fafara of DevilDriver

After what seems like an eternity, US metal icons Devildriver are finally returning to Australia to appease their rabid legions. It’s been five long years since the band last headlined here and Dez and the boys are primed and ready to make up for lost time!

Armed with their latest release, Outlaws ‘Til The End: Vol. 1, and a back catalogue of face melting, circle pit inducing anthems, Devildriver in 2019 are as barbaric as ever and will be on point to deliver the goods in a big ole barrel of heavy metal moonshine! We caught up with Dez Fafara who filled us in on a very busy few years coming up for him.

H2Z: Are you happy with the response to the Outlaw album so far?
DF: 100% Man. The way it has charted, the way it is selling, the way it was received. Everything was 9/10’s and 10/10’s. It was something that had never really been attempted before, and when you start doing things with Johnny Cash’s son, John Carter-Cash and Randy from Lamb Of God, and myself on a song like “Ghostriders In The Sky”, and you are making it heavy and brutal, you never really know whats going to happen. That thing was an artistic adventure for us and it came out extremely well. Its given the people something to listen to in the mean time, before they get this double record thats going to come from us next year. It will be a double staggered release.

H2Z: Do you think that people realise that a lot of country artists were heavy without it having to be heavy metal?
DF: You nailed it 100% man. That’s why the outlaw thing really translates here in America. Say you are going to a rock show, and you are tailgating or whatever. You are going to hear Pantera into Johnny Cash, right into Slayer, right into like Waylon Jennings, and no one says a word, cos those guys were heavy in their own right. Go listen to early Hank Williams, for me there is nothing heavier for me. It’s brutal in its own way. So we thought combining that was great. Plus, I also hold a giant middle finger to anyone who wants to make mediocre art and skew their art, for radio or TV and all those things. I was told if we did this, and mixed country, that it would be bad for the Devil Driver brand, and that we shouldn’t do it. Those same people have now emailed, or come around, and almost apologised. They saw Billboard Magazine and Rolling Stone Country come around and do interviews on it, and it was a really big deal, and also a moving and shaking point for myself, where i realised I have done the right thing my whole career by not listening to anybody, and doing what I think is right.

H2Z: You approached Corey Taylor to be on the album. Unfortunately he couldn’t due to time constraints. What song did you have in mind for him?
DF: He really wanted to do Copperhead Road, that would have really been great. I love Corey, he is a great guy and I have a lot of respect for him. I was the one who took Slipknot on their first American Tour back in the day. I’m really proud to see what he has done in his life and in his career. Through major adversity, he kept Truckin’ On, which in itself is the real spirit of Rock ’N Roll.

H2Z: Will any of the songs off the album make their way into the set for the upcoming tour?
DF: We are definitely planning to have some of the songs join the set, maybe one or two. We have a really blistering set. I won’t be able to say a word for the first 8 or 9 songs. We have some throwbacks to the past, of my past, ill just say. There are going to be some unreal moments. We have definitely got something up our sleeves. This is the time to come and see DevilDriver. Its a proper headliner set and amount of time on stage. That being said with the upcoming double staggered release I am going to be on tour till probably 2023, and I am taking an extremely long time off after that. I have been running strong since 1995 from when I started touring with Black Sabbath and Pantera back in the day. I have never had a honeymoon, I have missed kids graduating from high school. I have missed birthdays. So, its about time for me to have a break and I have never done that. We will run real strong until then and we will then be coming off, so now will be the time to come and see DevilDriver, because if we do come back again it will probably be on the heels of opening for another band, and you won’t get a proper headlining set.

H2Z: It’s been 5 years, what do you remember from the tour 5 years ago?
DF: It’s a bummer that its been 5 years. We were supposed to come over with another festival that fell apart. It really sucked and affected the whole DevilDriver family. Thats why its been 5 years. Every time I have ever come down we have had amazing shows. I have been taken in there by everyone. I feel at home in Australia. For me its like coming back to a place where I am going to see a lot of great friends. I know the shows are going to be insane. We are ready and we are coming to burn it down, hard. I don’t think Australia has ever seen the Dez Fafara that you see now, which is Vegan for 5 years and sober for 4 years. I have dropped 40 pounds, I am running 6 miles a day. I am more ready now than I ever was in my youth. This is the way to take it to the people now, is to give them 110%. I am so pleased to bring this all this energy down to you.

H2Z: You mentioned you are now sober. If you could go back and talk to the old Dez, what would you say, and what do you think the old Dez’ response would be?
DF: No man, I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything I have done in my life has brought me to a circumstance of where I am now. What I would say is, any bit of trouble, or anything that has every happened to my life that was wrong, wether it be ending up in prison, or just anything bad, was a direct result of booze. I also have a personality that is not like a a lot of people. If you and I are standing on a cliff with a bunch of people talking about jumping, you will have already heard the splash of me jumping off because I have already gone. That kind of personality, mixed with alcohol has me riding on the top of the tour bus at 65 miles an hour down the freeway, which literally happened, and I could have been dead.So what I would say to my old self is “Just keep it in check a bit”. I didn’t stop because I had a problem with alcohol. I stopped because I wanted to be on it, and stay on it. I didn’t need it in my repotoire , I’m glad that I did and I am never going back.

H2Z: So you will be going out with Static X soon, playing Coal Chamber songs. Is that a deliberate move to coincide with them doing a more retrospective set?
DF: No, this was going to happen anyway. I had finally put to rest that I was never going to do anymore Coal Chamber shows, and I’ll be damned that made me who I am. I just wasn’t like Rob Zombie when he left White Zombie, or Danzig when he left his band. They all did their music. I kept that things separate out of respect to the fans for a very long time. Now it is just time to embrace that. When you hear it done by DevilDriver, with double kick and two guitars, its really tight. Its really a monster. “Loco” sounds like it could have been written in 2018 man, its crazy the way that thing sounds.

H2Z: Do you think creating space from that music allowed you to appreciate it more?
DF: Absolutely 100%. We also manage Static X. A lot of people don’t know that I found them back in the day, and turned them on to the person that gave then their first record deal. It’s an honour that they are going out and doing this in memory of Wayne, and we are doing a co-headliner, thought they will be closing in the US, which is a big deal for me as DevilDriver is big here, and it just so happened that I was going to do Coal Chamber songs, so it just worked out in everybody’s favour. All the shows for that 6 week run are all sold out.

H2Z: Thats great to hear the metal community are embracing the tour.
DF: Look, I am not 20 anymore. I am going to play the stuff I want to play. Thats just the way that it is. Here in the US, a lot of people have been hitting up social media, and have been extremely happy that I have embraced that, finally. They are happy they get to hear those songs. Its the person who is 35 and grew up on me, and its the kid that is 17, 18, 19 years old, that just got turned on to Coal Chamber, and he knows he will never get to see them live, so he at least gets to come and hear those songs.

H2Z: So thats all the time we have for today Dez, so lets finish up with this. Your favourite song on the Outlaw album, your favourite Coal Chamber song you will be playing on this run, and your favourite DevilDriver song to play live?
DF: From the album its “Whisky River” with me and Randy from Lamb Of God, we do a great version of that live. The track that means the most to me from Coal Chambers past is “Loco”, and we are going to be playing that. And for DevilDriver, fuck dude thats rough (laughs), I have never been asked that which is strange (laughs). You know what man, “Clouds Over California” means a lot to me, because of the headspace I was in and where I wrote it at the time, and obviously its our biggest viewed song. Its had like 20 million views. That one means a lot to me and especially being a California native, its the one!

H2Z: Thanks for your time today Dez, anything you wanna leave us with?
DF: We look forward to seeing you all, and if you haven’t seen us, we are 70% Punk Rock, and the rest is all groove, and we cannot wait to see you all.

DevilDriver will be headed our way in August with guests All That Remains. Dates and Venues below thanks to the awesome folks at Destroy All Lines

Hear2Zen Magazine
Hear2Zen is a "Non Genre Specific" publication that celebrates all things sensory.

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