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Interviews : “You have to follow your own heart” – An interview with Dez Fafara (DevilDriver)

By on July 16, 2018

DevilDriver- Dez Fafara

Dez Fafara is one of heavy metals great survivors. Having led Coal Chamber to near the top of the nu-metal pile through the late 90’s, the band splintered in 2003 having already replaced foundation bassist Rayna Foss with Nadja Peulen. The harder hitting DevilDriver emerged from within Fafara’s considerable creative cannon around the same time Coal Chamber disbanded, and it is this outfit that continues as Fafara’s principle creative vehicle.

“This year I just told myself, ‘No more 280 shows this year’, you know? I’m only going to probably do about 40, maybe 50 shows this year max and that’s it. I’m in creative mode. I’m taking care of family, taking care of health, and just kind of getting back to what’s important”

That comment alludes to Fafara’s workaholic attitude. So how has he survived up to this point? He and his bands have certainly endured a fair share of trial and tribulation, however, Fafara has avoided becoming the type of subject matter that drives social media click-bait. How has he done it?

“I think I’m probably one of the most private people in the industry. I haven’t really met anybody like me I should say, like where I don’t really give a fuck about the fame or any of that. I just want to go do what I do. I love art. I love making art. I love playing shows live. If it can support my family, then cool. But I don’t get caught up in any of the other bullshit or any of the other drama, any of the other extra-curricular activities that I think ruin music, ruin musicians and ruin the vibe.”

Outlaws ’til the End, Vol. 1 is the brand-new studio offering from DevilDriver. Featuring cuts originally recorded by Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr, Johnny Cash and Dwight Yoakam among others. What is the inspiration behind creating an album of hard-hitting versions of material from country and western’s leading lights?

“You know what? I’ve always heard these songs heavy. Outlaw country, the genre itself, has the most poignant lyrics and storytelling on the planet. Those guys, Willie, Waylon, Cash, Hank are like the Lemmys of their genre. They never skewed their art for monetisation. Whatever came to them came to them because they did it in real time, real form… if you come to an American backstage heavy metal tour bus barbecue, you’re going to hear Slayer into Cash, Cash into Pantera, Pantera into Willie Nelson. Nobody bats an eye. Nobody even looks around like, ‘Oh, who changed the station?’, you know what I mean? You see guys with Johnny Cash patches next to Metallica. That’s just par for the course here.”

It might surprise many then to learn that Fafara found some resistance to the ‘DevilDriver as outlaw/ country’ concept. Fafara’s following statement pulls no punches, referencing his long tenure in the music biz doing things his way.

“I had Monte Connor, who signed me early on with Roadrunner Records, actually write me an email saying that he doesn’t think this is a good idea for DevilDriver, that it might be a better solo project, that he doesn’t think covering outlaw country for DevilDriver is good for the brand. That’s exactly when I pushed the fucking button on go.

That’s exactly when I was like, ‘Okay, go’, you know? This is a guy I highly respect. This is a guy who started my career. I highly respect him. But this is also the guy that told me my third DevilDriver record, The Last Kind Words (’07), was way too heavy and I had to go in and recut the vocals. I didn’t. I put my middle finger up to the record company when he said he had to think about commerce. I said, ‘No’, and now it’s a fucking fan favourite record of DevilDriver. You have to follow your own heart, and I think these songs needed to be done this way, man.”

Outlaws ’til the End, Vol. 1 is out now via Napalm Records.

About

Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith