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INTERVIEW: Dez Fafara – Devildriver

DEVILDRIVER have been one of modern metal’s most recognisable names for years now. The band have been at the forefront of groove metal and now, three years since Winter Kills, the band are preparing to drop album number seven; Trust No One. We caught up with frontman Dez Fafara to talk about the new album, it’s lyrical messages and musical drive. We also find out how the band have developed in the three years between records and we can reveal that the band are already writing for album number eight!

It’s been three years since Winter Kills, how has DEVILDRIVER developed in that time?

Dez: Oh in such a positive way, it’s been unbelievable! We’ve had over two years to sit and write a record, we’ve regrouped with new members on drums and on guitar that have contributed to the record in a great deal. We’ve evolved our sound, if you’re a DEVILDRIVER fan you know that none of the records sound the same, but this one has a evolutionary grit to it that I love. The band is well and good, I just got back from a two day video shoot and my face hurts from laughing so much! That’s always a good thing.

The record definitely feels like it has a new energy and I feel that this is because of the new members [Austin D’Amond (drums), Neal Tiemann (guitar)]. What did they bring to the band?

Dez: Well I feel that the drums are incredible! The kid really nailed it and he has a sense of groove that undeniably is what DEVILDRIVER is and what we needed. The main addition to the band would be Neil on guitar and he basically replaced a departing member that had a lot of problems with other members due to lack of contributing to songs. Over the whole career. The difference is that Neil came in with 12 songs, usually you bring in a new member and you’re like “dude you need to sit out for like a year and a half”. But it wasn’t like that, we let everyone come in with what they have and the first song that we released, Daybreak, was Neil‘s. A lot of people didn’t know that I was working on a side project with him for like a year and a half before he joined, so I already wanted to do something with him and then the opportunity came for him to be in DEVILDRIVER.

So with every member contributing, do you feel this album is the best product you’ve put out?

Dez: I mean look, it would be so cliché so say “yeah this is the best!” I never want to say that. What I want to say is that if you are a DEVILDRIVER fan you know that all our records sound different. You can not compare Beast to Pray For Villains, you can’t compare Winter Kills to Trust No One. What we wanted was an aggressive sound and a really aggressive record, vocally understandable though so that you can get with it. We wanted something groovy and heavy, and we also wanted to make sure we distance ourselves from anything that is going on in any sound or in any scene. The way that we did that was that we altered our guitar tones and everything else to really come up on something that is fresh and new. Someone was doing an interview with me right before you called and he said the same thing, “this thing has so much fucking fire and you can feel it”, I think when you have members that come in and want to be part of a project, that want to get on a midnight flight and play four hours later and they’re hungry, you can feel it. The only analogy I can give is that I know 100 bands that tour together that hate each other. You can feel it. You can feel it backstage, you can feel it on the records, you can hear the record and it may be touted as the best shit and then I listen to the record because I know the band and I’m like “huh, they hate each other!” It’s fucking obvious and I don’t want to be in one of those bands, so when you get new cats and it’s been a very long time since we’ve had new members in this band, you get that new feeling!

Going back to what you said earlier about following the scene, do you feel that with Trust No One it was just about making the album you felt was right?

Dez: Oh 100%. What I will say is that many bands now make the same record over and over. That is a problem for me as an artist. I paint, I sculpt, I never make the same over and over, so why would you do that on record? I never want to do that. This thing has a life and a grit and a sound, all on it’s own. We’ve been living with it, it’s awesome to share it with you guys. Up to the last two weeks I didn’t know what people were going to think, but now it’s very apparent. 10/10s and I can name a shit load of magazines are praising it. That, for me, feels so good man. As an artist you live in a vacuum of what you do, until you share it out there and people have really taken to this record. I’ve been really honest with the struggle of what it was like with the old members and how long I hadn’t gotten on with my drummer, since like the second record. I think people enjoy that honesty. So that’s where I’m at right now in my head.

Does that transcend with the lyrics at all? They seem really personal, there’s a lot of issues about trust and vengeance…

Dez: There’s everything in this man! You can hear songs about betrayal and anger. For What It’s Worth is the first love song I ever wrote and it’s heavy as balls. If you read the lyrics you can tell I’m telling you how it is; for what it’s worth I would move heaven and earth, even kill at will, be still my beating heart. That’s to my wife of 18 years, there’s all sorts of things! This record, as personal as it is to me and the things I’ve been through the last couple of years, parting ways with musicians, people in business and parting ways with personal people who were bringing negativity in my life. I’ve watched my life expand in the last year and a half and I think this record is more a mirror to what society is right now. I, as an artist, want to shine a mirror to all of you listening to music and have some sort of viable thing to say about society. These songs speak to exactly what is going on around the world and to many people’s personal lives.

And with the lyrics touching people, do you feel that this is the best way to motivate people and reach out to them?

Dez: I was asked to give a word to explain this album lyrically and it’s empowerment. That’s what aggressive music has always been to me. When I was young and I was listening to punk rock and metal, aggressive music was the only thing that took me out of my shitty existence as a kid, I had a lot of violence in my life when I was younger. That music is what got me through so I’ve always wanted to be that kind of a band for people. It was very important lyrically to be poignant and to be very literal with this record. If you are a DEVILDRIVER fan you know the song Clouds of California but people don’t know what it’s about. Am I talking about clouds, like literal clouds, am I talking about marijuana smoke, what am I talking about? These lyrics and this record, you don’t really have to ask me what it’s about, I made a joking comment to my wife two months ago before we started doing press. We were having some beers out back and we had a funny moment, I said “if anyone asks me what the title, Trust No One, means I’m going to hang up on them”. She laughed so fucking hard and that’s why the record is called Trust No One, so you don’t have to ask me! Where as Winter Kills, Beast, Pray For Villains or The Fury of our Maker’s Hand, you’re going to ask me what the fuck the title means.

So it’s straight to the point…

Dez: Totally dude! It came from when I came off the last Winter Kills tour all I did was listen to punk rock, real punk rock. Like GBH, THE SEX PISTOLS, DEAD KENNEDYS, I can go on forever! I started noticing a lot of metal people wearing punk rock t-shirts and it’s like you’re not putting that in your music! And that sucks! We wanted to come forth with something that was aggressive and metal but definitely had a punk influence. If you hear the patterns I am doing vocally against the riff patterns you can catch that early punk rock stuff.

So it’s almost like a musical nod to what has come before but still striving you forward as a band?

Dez: Well I think it’s a leap forward for us, because the way it came together with the members, I wouldn’t say a nod to backwards, more like a nod to the front. A nod to let’s get it heavy, let’s keep straight and lets keep it street. This record is a fucking street record. From the heart, in your face.

And really to close this off, what are you hoping to achieve with this record?

Dez: Oh definitely. The hope for any record is for people to pick up on it and for sales to do well. That’s the business model. I think for what DEVILDRIVER is and the next two to three records, that’s where you are going to have to watch us. We had a conversation as a band and Mike‘s already writing, I’m already writing. We are already having conversations to where we are going a year and a half from now and I think this is the time to watch DEVILDRIVER. The next five to ten years, shit is going to kick off!

Trust No One is set for release on May 13th via Napalm Records. You can pre-order the album here.

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