Interview: Dez Fafara – DevilDriver: “I’m just a bricklayer who got lucky.”

DevilDriver (26)When DevilDriver come to town, you just know it’s going to be a great night. Fans have been queuing outside the Garage for hours now, and their excitement doesn’t dwindle. Unsurprisingly, this has been the cast at most dates so far.

“The tour has been great, absolutely,” says frontman Dez Fafara. “We’ve been selling out almost every night. We’ve been touring with two really great bands. I like Bleed From Within and Sylosis, it’s good to have a good package.”

The UK can be, as Dez himself admits, a make or break place for bands. “It’s like LA, New York, the UK – certain places that if you do well, you do well. Like in LA or New York where you watch shows people either stand around and not care or they really get into it. Here, we just happen to have a really great audience, I’ve been coming here for years with my other band as well and it’s kind of just been something that’s grown.

“Back in the day it was all about charting and now DevilDriver does well charting and seeing shows do well too. Even on a Sunday night like tonight there’s going to be a lot of people here it’s good to see.”

Their new album Winter Kills has been out about eight months now, plenty of time for fans to nestle it comfortably into their collections. “The response has been incredible,” he notes. “It’s been insane, but I’m very appreciative. If you really work on art like we do and you have people come to the table like we love this record it makes you feel good.”

With DevilDriver, each album shows growth, something fans definitely appreciate. “I think the real challenge would be making the same record twice. A lot of bands make the same record their whole career, but I don’t think we could if we wanted to. Like there are times we try to do this or that and it just comes out completely opposite.

“There are so many different genres of music we listen to, like I grew up on punk rock, everything from Bauhaus and Black Flag and Black Sabbath to blues to black metal. There’s so many influences within this band and each record has its own signature sound but they are all different from one another.”

When we asked a couple of fans for some questions, the same one came up every time: How the hell do you do that with your voice? Seriously. Every. Single. One.  “I started singing early on and it’s just something I developed on my own from listening to different influences,” explains Dez. “When I was younger, like most kids I had my tonsils out and I was in the hospital for three months months and they operated on me nine or ten times. They couldn’t stop the bleeding and it left scar tissue and things inside my throat. I like to think that this is my payback for that, you know. I missed almost a year of school and everything to go through that and it was hell.”

The success of DevilDriver’s latest record saw them snag #32 in the Billboard charts, which is a hard nut to crack for metal bands. “It’s different all over the world. Music has really fell off in the United States – bands are having a hard time at shows bringing people in, especially if you hit the stage more than twice a year you can have a really difficult time.

“Over here, however, it’s not changed. I mean metal is still a basic driving force with fans and kids at school. I attribute any success we have with really, really hard work and long time in the trenches like real work. We log more shows per year than any other band you would need a residency in Las Vegas daily to log more hours than we do!”

The chart position is a bonus for a hard working band, rather than a goal they had in mind. “You can’t aim,” Dez claims. “If you try to make something – if you try to make any art, paintings, sculpting music – for something you are certain to fail. If I know red paintings sell on the corners on Sundays and I just make red paintings, eventually I’m going to fail. We tend to make music for ourselves and we think that really shows.”

It certainly does, with their covers and collaborations being a particular highlight in Dez’s work. “That’s always fun to go out of the box and do something different or work with somebody else – it’s just a good time.

“There are a lot of songs [I still want to cover]. I’ve been wanting to do a full cover record for a long time, it’s just hard to get a label’s interest because they’ve got to pay publishing to those who wrote it. Eventually I may do like a crowd funding thing just so I can get me, all of my friends and the people I’ve known over the years together to get 14 or 15 covers down on a record and put it out.

“That’ll be fun. Get all my guys, all of DevilDriver and everybody I know and just have a good time at it. Like whenever we do covers it’s always a great time like Black Soul Choir or Sail, the songs we’ve covered, it’s like the weight’s off your shoulders and you’re having fun with it and you’re not worried about it. If it comes out cool if not we’ve just happened to hit the mark with it which is important.

“It was fun for DevilDriver to do the Golden Gods awards in the States and cover Black Flag songs. In terms of what else I want to do there, are tons of songs, but there wouldn’t be enough time to do all the covers I want! But it would be everything from punk rock to Sabbath – I would love to a cover of Sweet Leaf but like heavy as fuck.”

The fun they have with music is clear, but it’s one that gains a strong enough connection to have fans propose at their shows and signings, the latest being at Bloodstock last year. “It’s always something I appreciate,” he admits. “I’m just a music fan, I’m just a bricklayer who got lucky and I’m doing music for a living. I always appreciate people taking to our music or proposing at our shows.

“There’s a girl here who was waiting all day for photos and she has a DevilDriver tattoo and DevilDriver all over her. That lets you know you’re doing something right. I could be like ‘Hey, what’s up?’ and we just had a normal conversation like normal people. I’m just like everybody else. I’m just out here working – I’m just a working man. I always say if you can touch one person that way you can touch a thousand, so it’s important I think.

“Every night I try to get out of the bus and sign and it’s the same where they can’t believe that I’m coming out or they are going nuts. They’ll say ‘we can’t believe you came back’ or ‘such a great show’. What stands out is the person who holds appreciation in their heart for what I’ve done for the music DevilDriver create or the Coal Chamber fan. It’s something you can’t put your finger on – it just makes you feel good and that you’re doing something right.”

Moving onto the future, what should fans expect from the rest of 2014? “A lot of work! We finish this tour here and then we go home for about two weeks, then we’re out in the States with Whitechapel. I’m taking the first July and August I’ve had off in about 11 years and then September we’re heading out to Australia, hopefully with Whitechapel. I think we’re talking about going out with them and then just working up until Christmas.”

With a two year album cycle for the band, surely that’s on the horizon too? “We are writing now,” Dez says. “Do I think we will have anything out next year? I don’t know. It just really depends because you don’t want to rush it but I don’t want to make people wait three years for a record – that’s ridiculous if you’re an artist.

“I have kids, one of them is in High School and he said to me “Dad, if I’m a freshman and I get a record I like and a band makes me wait like 3 years, I’ll be a senior by the time I get their next record and I won’t care about that band by then’. I thought he’s right. When I was younger I got a record a year from everybody I liked from Kiss to Motorhead to you name it. They gave you a record a year, that’s just what they did. So I’d like to see a record out in the next two to two and a half years.”

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