Devildriver's Dez Fafara Explains New Album "Winter Kills"
Dez Fafara is very proud of Devildriver's new album "Winter Kills" (reviewed here) and he's not shy about sharing it, likening the album to a "killing stroke" that will make the rest of the scene stand up and take notice of the band.
"Winter Kills" drops on August 27th via Napalm Records, and now you can see what the frontman himself had to say about how this album was created, from song writing to artwork and onto visual representations like lyric videos.
In the full interview available below, Dez also talks about shooting a live DVD with no overdubs, the passion Napalm Records has for releasing the album, and how he hopes his lyrics can empower metal fans in the same way bands influenced him as a kid.
xFiruath: Hey Dez thanks for talking with me, what are you up to?
Dez: At home rehearsing for these oversea festival tours, having a good time at home spending time with my family.
xFiruath: I’d like to hear about the writing process for your new album “Winter Kills.” Tell me about how that went about.
Dez: I’m writing on a daily basis, and these tracks were probably written over a year. We wrote at home and on the road. That was different me, I’m usually a pretty solitary writer. I started here at home and wrote the rest on the road. It was interesting to write a record and then call the guys in at the end of the day to read it to them for instant feedback. It was a gratification that most writers should feel in their lifetime. We’re excited for this record because we worked so hard on it. We hope that people take to it the way that we are. I can’t wait to get this thing out.
xFiruath: You actually recorded this in your own personal studio, right?
Dez: We recorded at Audiohammer in Florida for the music, and then I recorded the vocals here at home. Putting yourself not at ease in an uncomfortable place can add to the art of punk rock or metal, but I found it was the opposite for me, it was taking away from my family so much being on tour and then going and recording for months. So what I did was made a home studio here. The producer rolled in with equipment. It’s got the vibe I was going for, I was searching for a certain vibe while recording and this place gave that. I’m pretty much a loner hermit, socially awkward kind of guy. I hate being in studios were there are other people recording as well. It takes me out of the headspace of creating the art. This way I found myself focused and it allowed me to focus harder than I ever have. You can hear it in the vocals, they were all basically first takes, but the instrumentation behind me is amazing, the band did a phenomenal job.
xFiruath: How do you feel the album differs from the last release or earlier albums?
Dez: Well if you know DevilDriver’s catalog you know that every record has our signature groove, but it all sounds different. We have our signature style, but every record is very much different from one another. “Pray For Villains” is very different from “Beast.” This record is a very heavy, groove filled with tight arrangements, massive hooks, lyrics you can sink your teeth into, riffs you can just absolutely drive your car over the bridge quick to. It’s cohesive for DevilDriver. We’ve made five records and we know that what we do, we do well, and we really honed in on that this time. It’s a focused album and I think start to finish people are going to enjoy it. If you are a DevilDriver fan you’ll love this record, if you aren’t a DevilDriver fan this one may turn you around.
xFiruath: You mentioned the lyrics a bit, can you expand on that?
Dez: I tend to get a little deeper than the next guy. It might be age. I write everything from the metaphysical to everyday life. I try to touch on subjects that people relate to and I try to give a little bit of empowerment and hope. That’s what metal did for me as a kid, was get me through some rough times, so if I can be that for anyone listening to my music, then there you go. The lyrics have a lot of empowerment in them, also I like to get a little bit deeper, so you’ve got to read the lyrics for yourself and take what you will out of it.
xFiruath: The artwork is fairly simple, but it’s pretty striking. Tell me about how it came together and how it’s connected to the album.
Dez: I came up with the idea alongside Dean Karr. Dean is the pre-eminent photographer in this business and he’s probably among the most top 10 recognized album covers you’ve ever seen. Pantera’s “Vulgar Display of Power,” Marilyn Manson’s “Antichrist Superstar.” Dean is a good friend. He shot the “Shock the Monkey” video back in the day with myself and Ozzy, so I’ve known him for a long time and wanted to work with him. Each time he’s been busy on those records he was doing, so this time he had time free. I came up with the concept, he started to deliver on it, before you know it we were out shooting together on the site. The concept is basically “Winter Kills,” but out in the desert. I love that desolate feel in the winter time, and then in the spring and summer everything blooms, the rebirth. I love the rebirth of things, I like starting new businesses. I like finishing something and starting the next one. That’s part of my character. “Winter Kills” can stand for a killing stroke, which I think this record is. Not only the scenes around us, but I think other bands are going to stand up and take notice of this record. From what I’ve been hearing from the musicians and people I’ve been playing it for, I could be right on that.
xFiruath: The deluxe edition also comes with a live DVD. What’s contained on that?
Dez: It’s us live in Berlin. When I say live I don’t mean we went and rented a huge production and filmed two nights and did overdubs. We just said let’s do this, let’s go to Berlin. It’s like Los Angeles and New York combined when it comes to crowds. If they like you they like you, if they don’t they don’t. Let’s bring in very little production, just enough lights so you can see what we’re doing. We got a bunch of cameras and filmed a 45 minute all-career DVD, meaning we used even previous songs from before we were on Napalm. We did no overdubs, completely live, in your face, what you see is what you see. That alone is like a huge feat. I’m tired of watching band DVDs were you’re going to film at the biggest show of the tour, go in and do overdubs to make it sound perfect. That’s not what punk rock is about to me, or what metal is to me. I need some rawness. I think people are going to like this DVD.
xFiruath: On the subject of Napalm, tell me about signing with them last year and how many albums is this deal for?
Dez: We signed for Napalm after being with Roadrunner for a long time and I thank them for what they did, but I feel like the passion was gone out of their house, in the U.S. especially. So we signed with Metal Blade over in Japan and stayed with Roadrunner and Warner Bros. in Australia. They are a great label and team. We signed with Napalm when my manager introduced me to someone who introduced me to the owner. I met that dude and with an hour I saw he had the passion. That’s what you want with a business partner. If you’re going to turn your art into a commodity, you don’t want it to just be a mathematician running numbers. You want somebody with a passion for the business who understands the industry as well. That’s Napalm Records. We signed for this one record and we’ll see where it goes. We have options and they have options. Bottom line if it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t we’ll know. Talk to me in a year. They enjoy the record and they enjoy the process of putting out a record, all the interviews we’re doing, you’ve got to be into it, and they definitely are.
xFiruath: I’d like to hear about putting together the lyric video for the song “Ruthless” that came out awhile back.
Dez: I’ve got direct input on that like everything in my life. We worked with Dan Burke, he did the early DevilDriver DVD following us around the world, so he knows us. A lot of artists don’t like the lyric video thing, but I get tired of going to some location and banging my head for nine hours and everyone trying to look cool. It just gets ridiculous. I wish I’d had lyric videos when I was a kid. Lyrics come up right there so you can see them. I told Dan what I wanted, and he’s a very intuitive guy. If you tell him you want something like this, before you know it you’ve got something in your inbox and it’s what you were looking for. I hope he goes on and does well for other people as well.
xFiruath: Lyric videos are becoming more of the norm lately, but will you be doing a full music video for this record?
Dez: I don’t know. We’re going to try to put out six to seven videos for this record, if not lyric videos then other things. We plan to shoot a video for “Appetite.” But do I want to go somewhere and bang my head for nine hours? I don’t know, we’ll see for this record. It has to feel right. “Ruthless” was perfect for a lyric video, and the song “Appetite” we have a video for, it has a great little story and it’s very original. Having something like that is more important than having the band trying to look cool for three and a half minutes. If you want to know what I look like, just Google me.
xFiruath: Do any of you guys have another projects active right now, or will you be making any guest appearances on other albums?
Dez: We’re very busy and focused on the new album, but this year I guested on the new Soulfly album. I had a wonderful time working with Max Cavelera, I love that family. To sit with him and do a song is going in the memoir book. I also guested on the Cancer Bats record this year. They are one of the best bands out there. I do have a side thing with Mark Morton of Lamb of God called Born of the Storm. What I’ve learned over the last few years is that I love art and I love to create and work outside the box. I think my ADD really helps me out with that. But what is essential is to stay focused so I never splinter myself out to where one project hurts the other.
xFiruath: Any final words?
Dez: I’m surrounded by amazing musicians and I’m stoked for people to hear this record. We worked extremely hard on it. See you on the road and get ready to get in the pit.
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