Interview with Dez Fafara vocalist of Devildriver
Written by Jeff Ramella on July 11, 2018
Devildriver’s Dez Fafara called into WMSC/Montclair’s The Metal Teddy Bear Experience to discuss the fresh new release, Outlaws Till The End Vol.1. The frontman discussed how the idea of a metal country covers album came to fruition and how other musicians were eager to be a guest on the record. He also expressed his concerns about the state of the music industry and how bands need to step it up, keep relevant and continue to produce more music. The vocalist talked about ice cream cake, making albums into movies and Star Wars in the Three Random Silly Questions segment. You can read and listen to the interview below:
Can you tell us how you got the ball rolling to make a country covers album?
Dez: Yeah, absolutely. I find myself really having to explain myself more to people in the UK, Europe, Australia or Japan things like that because if you live in America and you go to a heavy metal BBQ backstage, if you’re on the tour bus, you know that you hear Pantera into Johnny Cash into Slayer into Willie Nelson and nobody bats an eye. The kid with the big backpack that says Slayer, often has Johnny Cash patch as well. So in America, those outlaws come hand in hand. They’re like allowed to sit at the heavy metal table and eat. That’s just always been the way that it’s been. Every time I hear these songs, I’ve heard them heavy. The lyrics are the most poignant on the planet. The story teller is unreal. These guys are like the Lemmy of their genre, y’know, these outlaw artists. We decided to pay homage to it and they’ve been able to sit at the heavy metal table and eat and that’s the way that it’s been. I don’t like pop country or pop really anything. It’s never been my thing. Doing these songs, doing them justice, doing them the way that we did them heavy with the guests that we have, it’s never been done before. We felt the need to do it and pay homage.
You have a lot of guests on this record, “Outlaws ‘Till the End: Vol.1” You have Randy Blythe, Mark Morton, both from Lamb of God, Hank Williams, Lee Ving. You have so many people on this record, was there anyone who was left off?
Dez: There were a couple I asked that were too busy to do it. Corey Taylor (Slipknot) said yes and we actually had a song picked for him but then he got real busy with Stone Sour stuff. Danzig was actually the first tour I ever had, long time friend and I called him and he wanted to do it but he got hung up with The Misfits stuff and working in the studio on his own stuff but everybody else came to the table. There is a phenomenal guest list on this thing. Working with the Cash family was incredible. Working with John Carter Cash and Anna Cash–and I think for the listeners they’ll enjoy this story, but we pulled up to the Cash cabin in Nashville, it’s hallowed ground for music. Everybody from Willie Nelson to Chris Cornell just got done coming through there right before we got there and it’s pretty interesting. The first hour we were there, John Carter Cash wanted to spend the first hour just talking to us about his love for heavy metal and how its shaped, saved his teenage years. He showed me a photo of Johnny bringing him to see Ozzy when he was 10 years old and showing me a photo of that was really cool. I spent my time talking to him about these outlaw artists and how I enjoy their writing and their phrasing, the lyrics or lyrical content. It was a real meeting of the minds. I said to him, about half way through the project, I said, “Do you think your father would like this?” and without even waning he said to me “Of course. My dad already did it. My dad covered ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails. He covered ‘Rusty Cage’ by Soundgarden. So he did it the opposite way”. It was fantastic to work with all these guests and to watch them give 110% to this thing, never put their hand out for money. This thing was a labor of love to everybody. The logistics were insanity to get this thing done. I told our manager six months ago, I didn’t even know if this thing was going to get done. Money ran out half way through. I mean it became a labor of love for everybody involved and it really shows through in the music if you listen to the record.
So money ran out through the label or just in general for the funding?
Dez: Y’know there’s a budget for everything, right? If you’re going to go to a family picnic, you’ve probably got a budget and it’s the same thing with a record. The logistics of this thing just tapped it and we kept going and we kept going, we kept getting plane flights, we kept getting things that we needed to do to get artists on it. Even at the last minute, getting different artists on it that came up last minute but it was a true labor of love. I don’t think that anything in life that comes out good, comes from anything easy. That’s just always been my kind of thought. So this thing was a labor of love and I hope that people really enjoy it.
Did you ever think about doing a GoFundMe or a Patreon or anything like those websites?
Dez: No man. That’s kinda a thing that a lot of people are doing and I’m just- I didn’t feel like I wanted to do that. I wanted to get this thing done and get it on our own and if we had to come out of our own pockets to finish it, I didn’t feel like I needed to go to the fan base and say “hey, we need to raise some more money to get it done”. There’s times for that and you know, Devildriver’s never been the band to do that kind of a thing.
Speaking about all the guests that you had, you had Brock from 36 Crazy Fists on the latest track “Copperhead Road”. When you were getting all these guests, did you already know what songs you wanted them to sing on or did you pick songs together?
Dez: I mean, I had a feeling for people’s voices. Everybody on this thing has a really unique voice. From Randy to Brock, and I mean, Brock has got a real, real unique voice. It’s kind of hard to put him in any kind of category. I just knew that that song would be killer for him and I knew that he would kill “Copperhead Road”. I knew it. Just like the same way I knew Wednesday 13 would kill “If Drinking Don’t Kill Me”. So you just had to match the voices up with where it should definitely go. When I asked Randy to be on, “Ghost Riders in the Sky” with myself and John Carter Cash and Anna Cash, he was at my house for a week and we were surfing and I was getting ready to record, “Whiskey River” and I asked him “Hey man, want to be on ‘Whiskey River’ with me too?” and he goes “Let me hear it” and when he heard it, it was like a black metal tune. He jumped in immediately. Jumped in my studio at my house and we did “Whiskey River” with the highest vocals he has ever done and I’ve ever used together. It was pretty badass.
Do you have any favorites off this record or one that surprised you the most?
Dez: At this point, I don’t really have that but there is a track that I left alone with no other guest because I wanted it just for myself and that’s “Outlaw Man” by The Eagles. I’ve always heard that song heavy and I didn’t really feel the need to have any guests on that tune. It’s kinda the one that’s standing out in my mind because it’s just me and the band.
You mentioned how you had so many guests left over, Corey Taylor and what not, but you also said this was hard to make, the budget ran out. So do you think you’ll be doing Vol. 2?
Dez: I mean, we slapped a Vol. 1 on there only because we had so many phone calls right before we turned in the record from a lot of artists that said, “hey man, if you would have asked me, I would have been part of this” and I had no idea. Three of them were in the biggest bands on the planet, so at that point it was incumbent upon us and management to slap Vol. 1 on there just to see if Vol. 2 does happen. That being said man, I am NOT looking forward any time soon to starting something like this. This is for all the bands or like real fans of bands that are listening to this, like this thing was so hard to get done, if you really want to go try it, go ahead man, yknow? It was difficult.
A lot of bands have been doing anniversary shows or tours. Do you have any interest in doing a 15 year Anniversary show for your debut record or anything like that?
Dez: No man, I’m just…I don’t look at the rear-view. That’s part and parcel to keeping yourself relevant and keeping a career going. You don’t look at the rear-view and until it’s time to look at the rear-view and right now it’s not the time to look into the rear-view. We are releasing this record, (Outlaws ‘Till the End: Vol.1) We’re in the studio right now recording 25 songs for a double record that will be a concept– a double album concept record staggered release. So you’re going to get a release every 15-18 months from Devildriver, from here on out in my career. Part of the reason is that a lot of people are really saying “hey, a lot of people aren’t going to heavy metal shows anymore, heavy metal’s not selling, metal and rock are taking a big hit”, which is true. So, if you leave a plant and don’t water it…you water it every 4 years, 5 years, make a record every 4 or 5 years, don’t you think that plant is going to die? So, what I’m saying to everybody in the scene right now, if you make a record every 3, 4, 5 years, you need to kick it up, get with me, get it every 15 months to 2 years, start building this scene back up. All of us, all of us are responsible. So that’s what Devildriver is doing right now and I’m making a concerted effort to kick it up.
When asked about singles and EPs:
Dez: No, I think singles and EP’s are a total waste of time. They go completely unrecognized. You get one or two songs, three songs, they listen for a week or two and then they’re done. But for some reason, when the get a record of 7-8 songs, they live with it for a year, year and a half. It’s the craziest thing and you can see it in sales. Bands that released EP’s, you go look at sales, nobody buys them. You add 5 songs to that, it’s a record, everybody buys it. Why is that? It’s a strange, strange thing happening in music right now. But I’m staying way, way from the “releasing singles”, releasing EP’s. I’m staying away from that. That’s not where we need to go..at all. That’s not where we need to go at all. Everybody starts to need…make music, right? What’s the problem? Why can’t you create?…8, 9, 10, 11 songs once every 15-18 months, what is the problem? Why are bands having a hard time getting 12 songs out every 3 – 4 years? What is the deal? I can’t fathom it. I wrote two songs this morning before most people were awake. That is what a musician does. Yeah and I mean it’s okay man, I don’t mind stepping on everybody’s toes who’s listening to me right now because ya’ll need to kick it up. Ya’ll need to kick it up, we all need to help this scene, we all need to foster our scene, we all need to be part of our scene and to be part of it, you need to be kick it, releasing records, y’know? It’s the same thing for the newer/younger bands, they’re doing the same thing too, a record every three years. You think you’re going to get a career out of that? Nah. That’s why so many bands are like “oh, they came up. Where’d they go?” Well you haven’t heard from them. They released a record 3 years later, no one cared. Here’s the thing, kid goes into high school, freshman year, gets a great record, falls in love with the band, wears the t-shirt daily. Doesn’t get another record until he graduates? Don’t you think that’s ridiculous? That’s where we are at right now and I’m pointing the finger. It’s time to kick it up.
The Three Random Silly Questions Segment
- If you could take any of your albums and make it into a movie, which album would you pick and who would be the star?
Dez: I would pick “The Fury of Our Maker’s Hand” which is our second record. It has a lot of religious overtone and there’s reasons behind that that you can look up. But I would take that and I would use….Ryan Gosling would be good. I mean, you know why? Because I just watch the new, well newest, “Bladerunner” last night. Probably one of the most beautifully filmed artistic films I’ve ever seen. I mean just, if you want Sci-Fi, it’s unbelievably well-done and he’s in it. I’ve never really been, I don’t want to say a fan because I haven’t seen a ton of stuff with him but after watching him last night, like man, I’m a fan of his acting style.
- Is ice cream cake considered an actual cake or is it ice cream in the shape of a cake?
Dez: It’s ice cream in the shape of a cake and it’s mint and chip ice cream but I’m vegan so it’s going to have to be soy or coconut milk or something like that. Actually, Ben & Jerry’s makes an amazing non-dairy vegan ice cream. Like they nailed that.
- As of now, there’s a movement to remake the “Last Jedi”. Do you think the “Last Jedi” should be remade?
Dez: I don’t know, every time you try to remake a piece of art, is it going to come out better? I mean, when’s the last time you saw a remake that was better? I really have to think about that, you know? That movie just left me hanging with so much just, “huh?” A Jedi doesn’t leave, a Jedi doesn’t take off and hide. A Jedi fights. I don’t know man, I’m a huge Star Wars guy, Star Trek–I’m a geek. I have been since I was a kid. I’m a total loner, isolationist, completely private, Sci-Fi and music saved my life. So, when I watch that movie I was just like…”ugh really? Coulda done so much more”. Star Wars had more of a dark element to me that really is not being put in there and followed up too much but we’ll have to see. To each his own.
Last time, I asked you about Rogue One, if you were excited to see it. I’m assuming now you saw it. What did you think?
Dez: I think it was fantastic.Yeah, it was good. It was worth watching. I saw it in the movie theater and I rarely go to movie theaters. I mean, you can obviously see why. I rarely go but I went and it was fantastic man. It was great too, it was a Monday morning at like 9 o’clock and there was like one person in there other than me and my wife, it was great.
Well, we leave on Sunday and we have rehearsals on Monday in Nashville, which is pretty appropriate after doing this record, “Outlaws ‘Till the End”. We start just a week run, we’re going to do “Incarceration”, which is at the Shawshank prison, which is going to be fantastic. Then we play Wisconsin, USA , which is going to be massive. Got some off-shows with GWAR and then we are coming home to finish off the studio before we have a big August run that is overseas. Huge festivals in the UK, Germany, France, all about that. I’m working on trying to come out in the Fall time with Devildriver but we’re going to have to see right now. I’m putting together a package and we’ll see if it comes together. If so, plan on seeing us like mid October through mid November in the states. Otherwise, you won’t catch us until next year.