INTERVIEW: Dez Fafara – Devildriver

DEVILDRIVER have been a staple of the modern heavy metal scene for years now. Through their groove-laden riffs, the band has become a huge player in heavy metal and 2016 may be the band’s biggest year. Riding high on the success of album number seven, Trust No OneDEVILDRIVER are back with a vengeance. Before a sold out show in Manchester supporting MINISTRY, we caught up with frontman Dez Fafara to talk about the tour, the reception to Trust No One and what the band has in store for the future!

So you are a couple of dates into the UK tour with MINISTRY, how is it going so far?

Dez: It’s been really fucking fun man! And touring with MINISTRY for me is like a dream, it’s one of those bucket list items. We cancelled some other shows that we did have in order to do this, I say doing it for the poster and being with Al [Jourgensen] and seeing the set that he is doing, it’s mostly old songs, it’s been fucking great man!

Has there been any stand-out shows in particular?

Dez: Birmingham was pretty cool last night, the thing is that all of the shows have been great for us so as far as stand-out, now we are going into the sold out Ritz tonight and London tomorrow, sold out, I’m sure there are going to be some moments to talk about later.

And in terms of the setlist balance, how much new material is going to be in the set?

Dez: Because it is only a 45 minute set only two new songs. Daybreak and My Night’s Sky, the ones we have videos for.

So then I guess it will mostly be the classic songs?

Dez: Yeah the stuff you have to play you know? Clouds Over California, I Could Care Less, the stuff you have to play.

Touring with MINISTRY, they are quite a different style to what DEVILDRIVER do, do you prefer that on a tour lineup? Having bands of different styles…

Dez: I do, what it reminds me of is hitting a festival. You hit a festival and there’s like 40 different bands and none of them sound alike, I think this is a good gig for people. They come out and they get a ferocious opening band in us for sure and then they get MINISTRY, they get the setlist they are getting, which is every song they want to hear basically. He’s at the top of his game right now, definitely on stage he is doing really well, so it’s just an honour. Collecting the posters!

With the tour being right in festival season, have you been surprised at the sheer level of attendance for these shows?

Dez: Yeah, the level of attendance has been good! It’s very difficult for bands when they come over during festival season to do off-shows, but our off-shows all through Germany were incredible! The attendance for these has been really good for sure!

With DEVILDRIVER as well, because it’s only MINISTRY and you guys, has there been any challenges being the opening band?

Dez: Nah not at all! We have our crowd, they have their crowd, their crowd totally get what we do and our crowd loves MINISTRY. We have our fair share, last night was an incredible night for us in Birmingham, it was fucking insane!

Your latest record Trust No One has been out for a couple of months now, have you been happy with the reception?

Dez: Absolutely! It debuted extremely high all over the place. It debuted at number 16 in the top 200, top 40 number 16 in the States, that’s our highest debut ever! But not only that but the accolades not only from journalists I know, but journalists I don’t know, have all been incredible. Everybody has said “okay this record is ferocious, these guys aren’t fucking around.” We aren’t trying to pander and play to the radio, and we didn’t just rest on our laurels either and do what we do, we expanded what we do. If you listen to Daybreak or My Night’s Sky, there’s some different stuff happening, it’s going to be interesting. I tell people, the next two, three, four records are going to be very interesting for this band.

I remember when we last spoke in April, you were very proud of the record just before it came out. Does that still exist now?

Dez: Of course man, I’m proud of this record and I’m proud of this band. This lineup is killing it, the funnest time I’ve had in Europe for ten years. Mike [Spreitzer, guitars] will tell you the same, everybody will tell you the same. The vibe has been incredible, we are up until four in the morning laughing our asses off, that’s what a band should be! Although there were lineup changes, it affected the music positively and because if you affect the vibe positively, you affect the music positively, everything is positive and that word is a big fucking thing in my life.

That leads to my next point, with Austin [D’Amond, drums] and Neal [Tiemann, guitars], are they now fully gelled into the band?

Dez: Oh yeah 100%. Within 10 minutes of being in my house, Austin was gelled with me already! And what people don’t know is that me and Neal were working together for almost two or three years on different songs and different stuff. We were going to do a side-project together anyways, from the minute Neal came over to my house, we like the same shit. We’re both sci-fi guys, we’re both recluses, both very private, both married, don’t give a fuck about the extra-curricular stuff that goes on in rock and roll, we just wanted to get the fuck on and write music and go on stage. He is a monster on stage and God willing that it keeps going like this because it’s so cool!

So would you say this has been your happiest time in DEVILDRIVER?

Dez: I can’t say that because I’ve had killer times with the older lineup. It just got to a point where you can’t hear complaints, you can’t things like that. When you are in the shit, that’s what we call it, when you’re in the middle of a two month tour and it gets to be a grind, you can’t hear whining. You have to get the fuck up and do your job, for instance we play in London, we leave for a 4am flight to the Ukraine, to Poland, then drive 150 miles into the Ukraine, get four or five hours of sleep in a hotel and then we go headline a big festival. We then fly out at 5am the next morning, so you really have to have your mind together, you can’t be dealing with tired guys or hungover guys. You have to be on the fucking money and do your job.

So what sort of preparation do you do for long tours?

Dez: Well I’ve got a treadmill downstairs in my house and I hit that thing all the fucking time. I’m lucky to have a pool in my back yard because I live in the desert in the mountains and it gets real hot. And then I just watch what I eat too as well, I’m a vegetarian.

So when you play the new songs live, how do you feel they have gone down with the fans?

Dez: Well it’s pretty incredible. Before we released the video for My Night’s Sky, or the video for Daybreak, we were playing those songs and people were fucking singing them! So, that’s a cool thing but it’s a strange thing. The songs are a month old and you’re digging in with them, singing them with us, you’ll hear it tonight man. People will sing My Night’s Sky tonight. That’s a connection. You think you choose that because you go “we will play these songs live” but actually, we decide to play it live because it’s fun to play live but people love them so they are connecting with them. So that’s just a connection that just happens.

So how much thought goes into the setlist?

Dez: Well it’s always a little bit of what we want because it is for us, but it’s also for them. In our 70 minute set we added some cool stuff. Stuff like Pure Sincerity, a lot of different stuff as well. But on a 40/50 minute set like this we’re going out for one reason; to beat their face fast and hard! I have no time to slow it down. Ruthless and My Night’s Sky are in there, those are your dynamic groovers, Clouds Over California is your anthem, I Could Care Less everybody sings that, Meet The Wretched brings the pit. There’s certain stuff we have to do.

When we last spoke you said you were already looking ahead to your next record after Trust No One. Has there been any more progress towards that?

Dez: Well we are going to do something really special when we go home, that’s not necessarily a new record. We’re going to do something really special in November and you guys will hear about it next year. It’s something that has never been done by a metal band that’s fucking cool and fun, I love breaking new boundaries and new ground. I love keeping people guessing, keep people on their toes!

Do you think that is important for bands these days? As a lot of bands do seem to get into their groove and stay within their boundaries, do you like to push yourself constantly?

Dez: I do like to but I think it just comes out naturally. I grew up on so many different kinds of music. Everything from psychobilly, to punk, to goth, heavy metal, you name it! We love music, with all of that comes this we’re making our own thing. It’s why people started calling us groove metal. There is always labels you know, I’m always wary of that because in my first band there was labels but at first I was like “wait, what? Hang on, groove metal, I’ll take that!” Who else is in this category? Nobody. Now, even in the United States, young bands, bands who have no record deal and they are just coming up they are hashtagging their social media as groove metal. So people are learning to boogie, that’s the essence of what we do, we’re not purists when it comes to metal. We want you to move, it’s as much as a r&b and a blues feel as it is a fucking heavy metal feel as it is a punk feel. Even a song like Nothing’s Wrong, two and a half minutes long, total punk rock influence has a rhythm to it that you can get into. It’s very important for me to have the rhythm and that groove. That’s why I got Austin here doing the shit.

So really just to finish up, you have this tour, what’s next for DEVILDRIVER after this tour?

Dez: Well we do this thing in Ukraine which is going to be really fun but it will be a fucking grind. By the time we get home I will be done for 48 hours, just sleeping! But then we have three weeks off and then we do Knotfest Meets Ozzfest which is badass! Then, we go out with HATEBREED for five weeks in the Sates, hitting all kinds of different markets, come off October 28th, fly home from New York. I get to spend Halloween with my family, I’m not missing that for anything! After that, we go into the studio in November, December, January and some of February and then we buck up and I do believe we have a headlining run back over here and mainland Europe in February or March. We do 70,000 Tons of Metal. We’re going to run really fucking hard, I don’t see us doing another self-titled, another new record of new songs, until way late next year and the following year. Next year we will come over for the festivals, I want to play Graspop, Hellfest, Download, you name it! We missed all of those this year and we’re doing the tail-end of a lot of festivals, which is cool, a lot of things I hadn’t done before! So yeah, we’re going to hit it really fucking hard.

Well brilliant, best of luck for tonight and the rest of the tour!

Dez: Thank you!

Trust No One is out now via Napalm Records.

Like DEVILDRIVER on Facebook.