Dez Fafara Of DevilDriver And The Preaching Amp
DevilDriver is on the cusp of achieving legendary status. MIxing a fusion of blackened riffs, doom guitar lines, blast beat drums, shrieking vocals, this band has gotten slots on countless giant tours in the States, Europe and beyond. They have started pits the size of football fields and continue to release album after album to there growing fan base. I talked to vocalist Dez Fafara about this new era of the band, preachers talking through amps, and how much he loves his job.
Buick McKane: How are you doing today?
Dez Fafara: Good. Doing excellent. Love being in New Orleans. We woke up and they had a crawfish boil going on out here so everything looked good.
Buick: Great. Firstly, your bassist Aaron Patrick has pneumonia right now, so how’s he doing?
Dez: Well, they said he’s going to have to stay in the hospital another four days, and I guess they just found out he has some form of pancreatitis going on. So it just keeps deteriorating. I hope he gets better, man. It’s a bummer what happened. He’s been running pretty hard as well. He got back from Australia and I think it just all crashed in on him, you know. We’re all talking to him daily and I hope that he gets better. He’s a great guy, man.
Buick: Right, Well, your bandmates revealed last month that they had begun working on new material for a new album. Can you tell me about the progress?
Dez: It’s moving along. We usually put out a record about every two years. I don’t think this one’s going to be that quick. I think we really gotta find a sound. It’s going to be a very critical record for DevilDriver, this next record, because we are free agents right now, which means we have no record deal. We are talking to many, many different labels. We have to put out a killer record. So I want to take time, make sure it’s crafted. We’re just talking about now who we’re going to have produce and where we’re going to go with it. That’s about as much as I know. I mean, I’ve heard two songs that I don’t know about, and I’ve heard one I really, really, really love. We were all in the back last night writing to it. So once that starts happening, you start feeling the vibe of where the music’s going, I think this record’s going to be really killer and excellent.
Buick: Great. Do you think it’s going to go in a more different direction than usual?
Dez: It will always be signature DevilDriver, but we manage to make every record sound different, so I think that’s key. Are we going to take it too far out? I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening right now. Right now, we’ve got a really special vibe going with this one tune I heard. I think if it stays along those lines, it’s going to be something really special for the people who are fans of DevilDriver.
Buick: And all of your albums, except the debut, have had really great chart positions for a metal band. What do you attribute that to?
Dez: The debut would have done better if they didn’t release the best of Coal Chamber at the same time or same week, but record companies will have their way, wont’ they?
Buick: Do you think that metal could ever be a popular music?
Dez: You know, I think everything has its niche and it’s time and place. There was a time when rap was a niche, and the whole world wasn’t listening to it and now they are. Who knows what can really happen.
Buick: Last year you guested on Soulfly’s new album “Enslaved,” and it just came out this month. So how did you end up working with them?
Dez: We were coming in to Arizona and I got a call from Gloria and she said, “Max is in the studio and he’s got a song that he wants to do with you.” And I walked in and the only thing they really had for it, they had the music down obviously, but when they walked in after lunch, they had a preacher coming in through the guitar amp. And I guess they had taped that, so that’s what we went off of. He wanted to do something about snake charmers and this and that, and we sat together and wrote for about three hours. We wrote it from scratch together; I’ve got footage of it, it’s really cool. And just went in and recorded it. I’m really proud of the track and working with Max, he’s a great friend of mine, I love the whole tribe; the whole family is wonderful. They beat us to the punch every year with Christmas cards. But it’s an honor to work with the guy; he’s a total legend. And he’s very professional in the studio, and we had a great time. And working with Zuess [Chris Harris], the producer; that was immense for me too. He had my vocal tone dialed in literally in about fifteen minutes. I’ve never seen anybody do that.
Buick: So a preacher coming through the guitar amp. That sounds like “Spinal Tap” when they were playing at the air force base and the radio was coming through.
Dez: Yeah, well they walking in after lunch and just heard this coming through. “The blood of the lamb…” and all this stuff. Really hardcore preaching. And he said, “I really want to use that in a song.” So that’s what we went off of.
Buick: That sounds really cool. I can’t wait to hear that.
Dez: I also guested on the Cancer Bats new record. A song called “Bastards.” So I have a verse and a couple of choruses with him on that. That’s coming out soon.
Buick: Are there any bands you would like to work with?
Dez: That kind of stuff, you can never say, “Yeah, there’s these bands I want to work with.” It just happens. If friends call me and I’m around, cool, I don’t mind.
Buick: Cool. Well this is the second date of the Metal Alliance tour, and you played at SXSW last night. How was that?
Dez: Great, good show. Good first show, I should say. It’s always good to shake the cobwebs off, and then you play in Texas and people are barbequing and partying, and it was great. We went in and did an interview with Dre Beats, and they gave us headphones so I was like,” Ahh, the perks.” But it was really cool, we had a good time. The show was killer. All the bands we’re out with right now I really like. And they’re all extremely heavy. But in one way or another, they’re different from each other which is great. The band that’s impressing me the most on the tour is a band called The Wretched. To DevilDriver fans, no pun intended because we obviously have a song called The Wretched and our fan club is called The Wretched. Their band is killer. We sat in the back lounge here last night before the bus was going to roll and they were right beside us. We had the window down and were listening. Every song was song was just totally different and guitar harmonies and crazy stuff so I like that band.
Buick: That’s awesome. And you toured with this lineup in South America in January. What were the shows like down there?
Dez: That’s incredible. Just to get out of the van that they drive you from the hotel to the gig in, you need security because people are pushing and shoving; they’re going nuts. They want a piece of your clothing, it’s crazy. It makes you think what The Beatles went through. It probably sucked for them. But they love their metal down there, so we’re fortunate enough to be building a really big fanbase down there. The shows were absolutely just maniacal. I could hold the microphone out and they would sing every single word. The coolest thing the crowd does down there is they song the guitar melodies. They hum the guitar melodies as loud as they can, and it’s almost louder than the guitar at times. It gives me goosebumps.
Buick: Sounds like that would be a cool thing to record.
Dez: Yeah, I’d like to do a live show down there. It would be cool.
Buick: Great. And you’re also playing some really cool festivals this summer like Grasspop and Download.
Dez: Yeah, we have a lot of festivals this year. If you go on our website, we’re playing almost all of them. It’s one of the best runs DevilDriver has ever had. We’ve been working years, five records in ten years, to get to where we’re at right now. We’ve built our fanbase up one show at a time, and we’re real proud of that.
Buick: Do you prefer playing those big festivals or just regular bar shows?
Dez: Doesn’t matter. Like tonight at The Hangar, I don’t even know what this place holds. Maybe five hundred people. It’s going to be crazy. But Download is 110,000 people, that’s incredible as well. It’s a game changer; you have to define them and try to control them in a different way. That’s the only difference for me as a frontman. Otherwise, a show is a show, give one hundred percent if there’s one hundred and fifty people in the room or 75,000 people.
Buick: Are there any bands you specifically want to see at those festivals?
Dez: So many bands, I could name every one of them. I try to catch as much as I can. Like Download, I go walking around the tents where people are camping and hanging out. It’s a whole adventure for me. I like, not just getting backstage, but getting out with people and watching bands. We’ll see what I have time to do. I try to get as much press done before the show so after I’m cut free to go see the acts that are coming on after us.
Buick: Is there anything else you would like to say?
Dez: The keyword that’s obviously coming up a lot in this interview is fun. I’ll keep making music with DevilDriver, with Coal Chamber, with other people as long as it’s fun, and it’s just getting more and more fun every day for me. As long as it’s creative and fun, and the outlet is happening. It’s not filled with any bullshit, any drama, any of that. It’s just all a good time and creative, and that’s the way it should be. I love my job. When I’m home for more than five days, I go insane. My wife’s going to kill me for saying it, but it is what it is. I love my family, but I love the road. And I’m blessed to be doing what I’m doing.
Emily is an avid supporter of the New Orleans scene, often filming shows and conducting interviews with local bands to help promote their music. She also runs her own site dedicated to the New Orleans scene, Crescent City Chaos.
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