INTERVIEW: Dez Fafara of DevilDriver
SoCalMusicToday.com’s Chris Loomis sat down with Dez Fafara form DevilDriver prior to the bands final show of their fall tour on Sunday afternoon December 15 in Santa Ana to discuss the recent tour schedule, the new album Winter Kills, future Coal Chamber plans and his love for wine. A live show review and photo gallery can be viewed by clicking here.
Today is the last day of the current tour. This is ending about 2 ½ months (over 60 shows) for this run with Trivium. It looks like you have hit just about everywhere in the US with this tour. Looking back over the last 2 ½ months what are your thoughts on the tour?
Yeah it’s been killer. This whole co-headline thing has been really cool, we’ve flip-flopped closing on some dates and it’s just been a great tour.
Is it enjoyable to end a tour in California – nice and close to home?
Yeah it’s great. I drove home last night because we played in San Diego. That show was off the hook. I was home a little over an hour after the show hanging out with my kids, my dogs and my wife – it was a good time.
It looks like you are playing four songs live from the new album Winter Kills. How do you approach selecting new songs to play live . . . because they all are great songs?
It’s always a band thing but it’s a very difficult process especially on a new record and especially on Winter Kills because personally I would just like to play the whole record. But you can’t do that as people want to hear favorites from other records you know. But now I get when some bands go out and play the whole new record.
We get together and decide what will work best live and then you try them out. Like right now we play ‘Oath of the Abyss’ the first track on Winter Kills. That wasn’t really meant to be a live track but it’s going over really well.
We are also playing ‘Sail’ because we like to play the covers for a couple months after the record comes out and that is going over really well. I read twitter all the time and people talk to me and people have been asking us to play ‘Gutted’ so we are probably going to rehearse and play it for the next run.
Speaking of ‘Sail’ (originally recorded by AWOLNation) – how has that been going over live?
It’s going over fantastic. Some people are familiar with it and some people think it’s our tune which it’s not. We realized that covering stuff outside metal would be fun. I heard ‘Sail’ and I sent it to the guys and like five minutes later they mailed me back and they’re like “yeah let’s do this tune”. It’s working great live which I didn’t know if it would because we are just such a slam it home kind of band. But it’s good to slow it down and it’s fun.
How did the title of the new album Winter Kills come about and does it have any particular meaning behind it?
Well we were writing and recording during the winter first of all. There really are so many meanings and reasons for that title it’s actually hard to name a single reason. I came up with Winter Kills and I put it to the test with the guys and they were like “that’s a great title”. And I live in the desert so it gets extremely desolate in the winter . . . it just made sense to me.
How did the artwork for the album cover come about?
Working with Dean Karr – he’s one of the best. He’s created probably some of the most influential art pieces in metal history so working with him I just started throwing ideas around. I wanted to use a skull but how do you do that as everybody has used a skull and he was like we need to do something different. So we came up with a bunch of ideas and went out and shot it out by a lake by where I live and it just came out like that.
The short answer is when you work with great people you bounce ideas off each other and something will stick.
Winter Kills is your first album with Napalm Records after recording your first five albums with RoadRunner Records. How are things going with Napalm Records?
Things are going amazing. I was tired of being at that other label. I don’t think they cared about the band over the last couple of records and it showed. Just us releasing this record it debuted higher and it has sold more than the last Roadrunner record by this point. It’s done what Beast did in a year in 4 months – it’s incredible. We have a great team working with us; they let us hire the independent publicist we wanted to, the one we wanted to work with. It’s a nice change to see these guys really into the record. Like when they received the final record they were calling me all the time regarding ideas they just didn’t say OK thanks here’s the release date.
It was all new again so fresh and so beautiful. I am really pleased with Napalm at this point as they are a great working partner.
You played several summer festivals in Europe this year. What’s it like to play a show on the so called big stage in front of so many people?
You know 700 or 70,000 it’s all the same to me honestly. You take the energy of the smaller stage and bring that to the big stage and take that massive crowd of the big stage into the smaller clubs so they really both work hand in hand. But you kind of have to have both . . . if you are playing to 500 seaters your whole life it’s a bummer. It’s good to go back and forth. I really enjoy festivals because it’s like a summer camp. You are seeing all kinds of people you haven’t seen in a while – you get time to catch up with people, it’s always a good time.
Is there any difference playing small venues in Europe vs here in the US. I hear the fans are a bit more intense in Europe?
You could say that but the shows on this current run have been so intense I have almost wanted to shut down the show at some points. We have a very visceral attitude in this band which makes for a dangerous feeling on the floor but you never want to see anybody get hurt obviously but you do want it to be that visceral experience. When you go to one of our shows your palms are sweating because you don’t know what’s going to happen next.
Some of the tamer metal bands may not want it that way but I want everyone to go nuts and it has been up to this point.
Tell me about how important having a good vibe is in the studio when recording. I know you had recently built a home studio where you recorded Winter Kills.
I am away from home so much that I just couldn’t go away to record anymore. It’s unfair to me and the listener if I go “I have four more songs to track and then I’m done”. You don’t want to rush art; I did it at home so I didn’t have to rush. And coincidently I actually finished faster and more cohesively than ever before. Most of the album is first takes . . . I went in and 30-45 minutes later it’s done.
To answer the question, the vibe is the most important thing to me. You can tell by the lights and the candles in here that there has to be a vibe to everything.
How has new bass player Chris Towning fit into the Devildriver family?
He’s great; he’s great to live with a straight-edge kid who works out like a motherfucker. He’s a great asset live and he’s a really good person. When you find somebody you like to live with the way we tour – I’m all about that. We didn’t get to write with him on this record because we had most of it written already but it’s going to be very interesting for the next record. He’s kind of my secret weapon for the next one because Chris is a damn good writer and everybody knows it so I am looking forward to it.
You did some shows with Coal Chamber earlier this year. How did that go and is there any future plans for more Coal Chamber shows or new music?
No future plans at this point. They have been hitting me up with new music and we want to do a record but I am right in the middle of Winter Kills and that touring cycle with DevilDriver. I don’t believe in splitting yourself apart like that with two bands you need to keep yourself focused to give it all to one project.
I had a great time doing Coal Chamber and revisiting the music that made me who I am and gave DevilDriver its shot, it was just amazing. The crowds were really intense and I didn’t expect that in the United States and overseas I just didn’t really expect that at all. I am looking forward to doing something with them I just don’t know when . . . the timing has to be right.
In 1997 Coal Chamber toured with Machine Head and Pantera. Do you have any memories of that tour specifically any of Dimebag Darrell?
Yeah – God bless Dime. I wouldn’t really have a career if Pantera hadn’t taken me out around the world several times. The relationship I had with Dime, they were all like family to us. We would get off a plane and onto the bus and they would have all the Pantera tour shirts for us in all the right sizes, Pantera posters all kinds of stuff. We would get off stage at night and they would deliver bags of Taco Bell to our bus, they were just a great band to tour with. Dime was a great guy; his sense of humor was amazing. He would come wake our drummer up at 4:00 in the morning and dare him to drink beer out of a used ashtray for $500 and Mikey would do it pocket the money and go back to bed – just funny, funny shit all the time.
Everyone talks about his playing but he was an amazing guy and I am blessed to have been around him and to do all those shows when heavy metal was big and playing big arenas. Being around Dime was always an awesome experience.
Do you have any thoughts on the Grammy Awards specifically that Black Sabbath’s album 13 has been nominated in a few categories?
They deserve everything they should win everything . . . If they don’t, I am (and everybody is) going to be really pissed. The 13 album is amazingit’s a great record. Black Sabbath is really the fore-fathers of everything metal.
You have a wife and three sons. How do you balance being Dez Fafara the Rockstar vs a Dad and Husband?
Rockstar is a totally dirty word. I don’t have an ego until the stage comes and I have the microphone in my hand. Ying and Yang – it’s gotta be all about that. I tour hard and when I’m home I am with my family. When I’m home I don’t do interviews, I don’t do functions I just don’t do any of that. I am a total hermit and I like isolation as I always have. I have met probably four new people on this tour in ten weeks, I keep to myself. I don’t do the strip clubs, the bars the this or that. That’s what keeps my relationship together; my wife and I have been together for a very long time. My family is the most important thing to me so I keep that tight so I can keep my music and everything else going. I would leave music for my family if I had to.
I have read many times that you are a big wine drinker. How did that come about and are you a wine connoisseur or just a casual drinker? What are your favorite wines?
I love wine . . . I’m Italian that’s how it came about. I grew up with it always on the table. I can go to dinner and order a bottle of wine and immediately tell if the wine is off. This actually happened the other night and I said this wine is really off and the response was no it is not and I said go ahead and taste it and he was like Oh – I am so sorry . . . So I know wine. I love Sangiovese it’s my favorite grape. I just love it, I love cooking with it, it brings friends together it’s always on my table.
What’s in store for Devildriver in 2014?
Late February we do Soundwave in Australia which is like 60 or 70,000 people each day and I think there’s like five shows. Then we go over to Japan, it will be the first time I have ever been there in my whole career. Then we come home for like two weeks then go over to Europe for like a month then take a break before some summer touring. We also have fall plans for next year. I like to plan what I am doing for tours two years in advance that way I know what is going on in my life rather than going home and wondering when the next tour is going happen.
Dez it was great talking to you. Thanks for your time and all the best to you and DevilDriver in life and in music.
Thanks man, I really appreciate the support.