Never judge a book by its cover! Yeah I know, everyone’s heard this damn age-old adage before, but to actually live it out is something quite different from speaking it aloud. For me, it was during this interview with DevilDriver frontman and all-around Metal visionary Dez Fafara, that the truth behind this book cover theory couldn’t have been more apparent. You see, I was admittedly a tad nervous when I scored this gig. I mean, I’ve done a shit-load of interviews with big-name bands, but this was Dez! I got to the Kool Haus in Toronto, where that night, DevilDriver would ultimately rip everyone a new A-hole, but beforehand I had to “endure” Dez. I was intimidated about meeting this Metal God, but within minutes of having met the dude, I knew I was way off base. This guy might look like he would eat your children if he got the chance, but when it comes right down to it, he might very well be the nicest man in Metal I have ever been privileged to meet… I mean this guy even called his wife just before hitting the stage, talk about morals and integrity. That being said, here’s what Dez and I jammed about in the comfort of his Satellite Radio-ready mega tour bus….
Ok, a Devil Driver is the name witches give to the bells they use to drive away evil when they are casting their spells. How or where did you decide to go with this concept for the band name?
Dez: I’ve always liked to evoke emotional thought, provoke some sort of emotional response in anything I do, lyrically or with band names. My wife found it in a stregetia book which is an Italian witchcraft book by Raven Gramasci and it just seemed to be perfect, DevilDriver. It sounded evil but it’s not… I was like that’s perfect, let’s run with it. And we had a list of about two hundred names before that and nobody could pick a name while we were doing the record so it’s just, we needed a name and that came about.
In late June of 2005, your second album, The Fury of Our Maker’s Hand dropped. How do you personally feel about this album and how are your fans and the press reacting so far?
Dez: Great, I think the album is doing exceptionally well, it’s a total step up from the second record, due to a new guitar player and everyone writing now, not just one guitar playing saying this is my music. And I’m really happy with it man, it’s exactly where we wanted to go and we’re only going to go further on the third and the fourth ones.
The sound on your second album is much tighter and more diverse than your self-titled debut. What were some of the things that you did differently to encourage these progressive changes?
Dez: The main thing is my drummer and my bass player, also guitar player, so now I got four people playing guitar, once we got rid of the one guy who wouldn’t play well with others basically. And that’s where you hear the growth and that’s what I chalk it up to… is surrounding myself with good people, good musicians and I’ll always do that man in the future.
Not only has this most recent album seen the evolution and growth of your music, but the lyrics have begun to evolve as well. What was the reason that you switched from your trademark “non-linear” lyrics to the newer more coherent and pertinent “story telling?”
Dez: Just a step within myself and personal growth just like anything else, and um, I’ve kind of grown up lyrically in the public eye, so it’s good to make it grow and make a step forward. And I knew I kind of had to reach down inside myself and give people what I was really feeling.
What was the reason you went with the album title The Fury of Our Maker’s Hand? Are there any specific themes or issues you’re trying to convey?
Dez: Uh, I can’t really pin it down to one thing other than a conversation I had with a guy when we were making the record out in El Paso, uh who was extremely religious. And after the conversation I had with him, The Fury of Our Maker’s Hand just seemed to be really perfect, yeah.
Having fronted the hugely successful band Coal Chamber in the past, what do you feel are the major differences with this new group’s chemistry and teamwork?
Dez: Oh right, ah, a huge step forward. Coal Chamber is an eclectic group of people and we didn’t always get along. This team works well together and anybody who doesn’t work well with the team or work well with me, won’t be in the team anymore, thus the other guitar player departing. So I think this lineup now is solidified because we all know how to travel well together and they all know what’s coming up which is massive touring for the next fifteen years. Ah… we get along, haha, that’s the answer.
I know it might be too early for you to tell now, but do you have any inclinations as to what kind of a direction you might go in on the next DevilDriver album?
Dez: It’s going to be more riffy, it’s always going to keep that groove and that hook because that’s what we’re all about, but it’s going to get even heavier and it’s going to get deeper and a lot darker I can tell you that, that’s for sure. It’s going to go away from the emo, screamo, sing songy metal that’s coming out right now, it’s going to go way away from all of that. That’s all I can say.
I don’t want to talk about your past too much, but are there a good number of Coal Chamber fans, like myself, who naturally progressed to DevilDriver with you? And what do they think of the transition?
Dez: Yeah I mean, uh, I see Coal Chamber shirts every night and it’s a good thing, it’s my past, I was there for ten years, I had a good time until the end and then musically it wasn’t working for me and that’s why I left. And, some of them came with me and some of them didn’t so the more heavier side, the people who liked the heavier side of Coal Chamber, not the more eclectic, really weird side which there was a lot of, those are the people who moved forward with me. And I’m glad to have them on board, and come on, let’s go.
After what is now more than a decade of musicianship, where do you continuously find your drive and energy when producing music?
Dez: Today I’m a bit tired, I haven’t had a lot of sleep, but I love what I do. I love to talk to people, I love to meet people, I love to go on stage every single night. Traveling from city to city has always been in my blood and it’s something I can’t stop. I sit on the couch for like a week and I’m going nuts… I mean after four days I’m going nuts. So you gotta put a microphone in my hand! And the experience of what I do can never be relived. Not sex, not drugs, not anything can relive getting on stage every night, so I’ll keep it up as long as you have me.
On August 8th, 2005 on the official Backmask website, a message was posted that you guys graciously donated your old rehearsal studio to the band; I believe it was Mike more specifically. How did this come to be and do you guys know Backmask frontman Shane McPhee well?
Dez: I know Shane extremely well, one of the coolest guys in the world. We switched studios and they needed a studio so we put them right in there man. He is one hell of a guitar player and you gotta understand where we come from in Santa Barbara. It’s very small, all the musicians know each other and we’re cool with everybody. So they needed a studio… so there you go.
Although undoubtedly fun, touring can no doubt be a mad tiring ordeal, point in case today. How do you and the guys like to wind down at the end of a long day?
Dez: Wine down exactly! A big glass of wine is all good you know, that’s what I do… kick back after the shows, go meet people, shake hands, make sure that everybody… that you touched their hearts… you go give them the same that they gave you when you were on stage. And then after that, go grab a glass of wine, come in watch a movie, same thing you would do when you’re at home.
How did you guys come to be added to this bill with Trivium and In Flames and how has the tour been going overall?
Dez: We made good friends with In Flames when they took us over to Europe, great band and really cool guys. You know, I just met Trivium when we started the tour, great guys too. Been hanging out with the Zao guys every night, the singer Dan has become a great friend of mine, he’s one of those guys that when I’m off the road, we’ll for sure keep in touch. In Flames asked us and here we are and they just asked us to go over to Japan with them too in October and they set attendance records over there, so it’s going to be good. I can’t wait to do that.
And this tour itself?
Dez: This tour is amazing, sold out every night. Every night sold out and everybody’s hanging out… there’s no egos on this deal, uh, we’re hanging out over there, they’re hanging up over here, you know? Trivium was barbecuing in the beginning, a little cold weather out to do now, but you know… when we’re on the west coast…. And the In Flames guys have been getting drunk with my boys every night, it’s just a good time you know, it’s what a tour should be, everybody getting along and no bullshit.
Other than continued touring, which is inevitable, what lies ahead for DevilDriver?
Dez: Record after record after record, mad touring, until this thing builds. Everybody has already been asking me why we’re not headlining, why we’re not stepping it up; I feel that with Coal Chamber, for three years we opened for everybody under the sun, I mean Sabbath, Pantera, you name it. I think that this band needs to do that and we’re almost at the end of that run now where we’re just opening up for every band under the sun. When that happens, then we’ll take that jump and move to a whole other level.