Their description is quite simple, really… “Pure Fuckin’ Metal.” I’m sold.
Opening up for the band at Rock and Shock in Worchester, Massachusetts many moons ago, I’m not ashamed to say that Santa Barbara, California 5-piece act Devildriver blew my group, and many others, off the stage without trying too hard. Gearing up to release their 6th full-length studio release, Winter Kills, on August 27th via Napalm Records, many a fan has been waiting for a taste of fresh blood from the group.
But fear not, young metallians! You don’t have to wait to get a feel for what Devildriver is bringing to the table this time around, because they’ve released a video for “Ruthless” which you can stream RIGHT HERE!
I spoke with vocalist Dez Fafara on the phone to get the low down on the new record, their touring plans for the second half of 2013, and what it takes for a musician to make playing Metal a career path.
D- This is Dez
G- Dez, this is Greg Allis calling from Syracuse, NY for Live High Five. How are you doing?
D- I’m doing great. How about yourself?
G- Doing ok. It’s pretty hot out here today, in the mid-90’s, but you’re in California, right?
D- yeah it’s gonn be 103 where I’m at today. I’m kinda out in the desert about 2 hours outside of L.A.
G- So, I can’t really complain too much and expect any sympathy from you. It’s pretty warm out here though.
D- Yeah, but you know what? Stay inside ‘til later in the day. The thing I like about days like this are that the nights are always beautiful.
G- For sure. I’m looking forward to the sun going down, cracking a few beers, and lounging on the porch.
D- My kinda guy! I like that.
G- Dig it. We played a show together once in Worchester, Mass. called Rock n Shock, and you guys played right after my band, Zombie Apocalypse, and blew us off the stage. You’re still going strong and have this new album coming out, and I wanted to get your take on it.
D- Thanks. We’ve had a lot of backing on this record and a lot of people saying ‘Wow!’ It’s always good to get feedback.
G- I think it’s gonna hit pretty hard and I’m expecting it to chart.
D- We appreciate it. We’ve been getting a lot of support for this record and have been working really hard. This thing is groove heavy and full of big hooks and huge arrangements. The whole record is very cohesive, meaning you can just push play and listen to it from start to finish. Devildriver records have a signature sound and a signature groove, but I think each record is definitely different, actually very different from one and other.
This record, I think, is one where we said ‘What do we do best? Let’s make sure we do it.’ Early fans called us a groove machine, and I thought ‘Damn, what a title to live up to.’ So, I started getting demos from the guys and said ‘Whoa… this is what the record is gonna be?! Awesome!” I had a great time writing it and had a good time recording it. The headspace in this band is amazing right now, and we’re on Napalm Records, which is a new label for us. We stayed on Roadrunner for Australia, we signed with Metal Blade for Japan, so that all a new venture for us.
D- Yeah, so everything about this release just feels good and feel like we’re in good territory and good water. And the response has been unbelievable, both from the people I’ve been doing interviews with as well as musicians that I’ve sent the record to. So, it feels good, man.
G- Dig it. It’s dropping on August 27th, so let’s talk about the recording process. Where’d you record, who was behind the boards, and how long did it take you to get everything ready for release?
D- Well, I started writing both at home and on the road. That was something different for myself. We had the demos, and a 2 month American tour coming up, so I sequestered myself in the background and wrote lyrics. I wish I would’ve done that in the past because it was a great feeling to get instant feedback as a writer. Every single night, I would call the band back and read them the lyrics to get instant feedback, and just to hear somebody say ‘if my guitar is doing this over that, let’s match it up,’ and it made more cohesiveness in the recording process.
We recorded at Audio Hammer Studios in Florida with Mark Lewis, and I recorded in my home studio here with Mark Lewis… I built the studio here and Mark came in, and we focused really, really hard. I sang the tunes as if I’d known them forever, and most of the record is a lot of first takes. I left most of the vocals single, and I’m just surrounded by killer musicians. It’s a more melodic record for us, and the drums are spectacular. That being said, it’s a very well rounded Devildriver record. For our 6th record, I’m extremely proud to say, and I’ve never said this in any other interview for our previous records, that it is our best work to date. I’m interested to even go further in the future and write records with these guys to see where we’re gonna go, because it’s only getting better from here.
G- Right fucking on!
D- I was really proud of the music when I got it. I they really strived for something better.
G- Nice! And you’re going to be doing a nice run of dates once the record drops… What are you most excited for when you get back in the road?
D- Well, anybody that knows me knows I love the road, man. You’re either built for it or you’re not, and I’m built for it. I miss the road. I’ve been home for 2 weeks now, we rehearse for a week, and then we go overseas to do festivals. I go to NY for a week to do press, then we get right into a co-headlining run for 2 months.
I’m most excited about playing new songs. It’s always exciting to play new tracks, and this record in particular I am excited to play the new tracks. We have a longer set time in the US, and we’re going to play at least 5-6 new tunes and start really introducing this stuff live to people. And eventually, I’d like to go out and do the whole record in its entirety.
D- I’ve never really wanted to do that over my career, but this record deserves it, and the feel around the camp is the same as what I’m saying.
G- That’s awesome! So, as you’ve said, you’ve logged some serious miles in your career… What do you guys do on the road? It’s a tough schedule, so how do you guys occupy your time between gigs? Any fun games/pranks/parties, or is it just grind?
D- Nah we kick back. We watch a lot of movies. We cook a lot, too. Our soundguy is a killer cook, so we bbq a lot when we can, watch horror movies, and just try to enjoy each others’ company. It gets funny and silly sometimes at night. It’s great! We get busy on social media. I’m on Twitter and Instagram, and we talk to people. Just the usual, man.
G- Cool. So, because we’re on the verge of the new album here, what is your favorite song so far that you’ve written off of the new album? Do you have a favorite?
D- Right now, it’s tough to say because the record isn’t out. I’m just living with the record right now. I do like a song called “Curses and Epitaphs.” It’s a slower song for us. And then again, I really like the song “Ruthless.” It’s the second track I wrote and the first track I recorded, and there’s just something there, like a real lightning in a bottle moment, that we captured on that song that we tried to keep getting on all the tunes, and I think we did.
G- And a bit more difficult of a question, but you’ve got a lot of recorded output and have been doing this for a while… If you could give one song to someone who’d never heard of Devildriver before to try to make a new fan, what song would you give them?
D- That’s a killer question!
G- Thank you.
D- Hmmm… I would give them “Ruthless” off this new record. If you’re a Devildriver fan, you’re going to freak out over this record. If you’re not a Devildriver fan, this one is gonna turn you around. And if you’ve never heard us before, pick up Winter Kills, listen to “Ruthless” and if you dig it, you might want to go back into our catalogue and see how diverse we actually are. We’ve got a signature sound and a signature groove on all our records, but all our records are completely different from the next. But I’d give them “Ruthless” and say if you like this and are moving your head up and down and grooving with it, check the rest of our catalogue.
G- Confidence in the product. I like that!
D- We’re just really pleased. We know we wrote a great record, but I’m really humble about it. When I stand back and look at the product, I’m amazed at how good the writers were and how tight the arrangements are. It’s an impeccable record. Mark Lewis as producer did an incredible job with everybody.
Most of the record is first takes on vocals, which is probably the most rare thing in this genre ever. Most dudes will sit there and beat the songs to death for 7 hours and stack it multiple times to make it heavy. We left it raw, and I hope people like it as much as we do.
G- Excellent. So, 2 final questions, and they may take a little bit of thought, but you’ve done a lot of touring and shared the stage with a lot of bands, headlined over bands, the works… Are there any bands you hope to share a bill with in the future, or if you could curate your own dream lineup to be on, who would you want to go on tour with?
D- Oh man… I’d start with AC/DC.
G- Good choice.
D- And I’d have to have some friends on there, so I’d put Slayer on there. Kerry and I are friends, and AC/DC, Slayer, and Devildriver would just be HITTING!
G- Give us one more, because that right there should happen!
D- Lamb Of God. Me and Mark Morton are bros, and he’s a good friend of my. I’d love that band on there, too. I like to tour with bands that have a good time, and those dudes like to bbq and hang out, so throw them on there and you’ve got a bill. Call a booking agent and have them put that together, because I’d be stoked!
G- (laughing) Hell yeah, dude! I feel like starting my own booking agency for that one!
D- Maybe someone can start up a petition for that one in somebody’s kitchen, because I’d be the first one to sign!
G- I’m with it, dude! I think everybody on that bill has gotta be a fan of the other.
D- There you go!
G- And to finish up today, you’ve seen the ins and outs and ups and downs, and it’s tough to be in a band, but the dream doesn’t die. There are a lot of kids who want to be in bands and look up to Devildriver for inspiration, so in your opinion and from your years doing this, what advice can you give to some of the younger kids out there that want to make it in the biz and be a pro like yourself?
D- You know what, don’t change. If it happens to you, don’t change. I still remember working on a construction site as a kid and listen to music and going ‘Man, I wanna do that,’ and I still look outside-in and get stoked on it. So don’t change. Stay away from the cliché stuff, the hard drugs, and stay away from ego. Don’t be a rock star, you know?
Play your hometown until you sell those clubs out, and then branch out. Try to find an agent that’ll book you some gigs. You always need a place to live, and that place to live is with a manager, so get yourself a manager and have a dude behind you who’ll help you find an agent and help you with a record label. Get yourself on the computer and get out there socially. Use those social networking sites and stuff.
But the main thing is get out there and enjoy yourself, man. Don’t get caught up in anything you think is a cliché rock and roll lifestyle. Think longevity. If you get into something as beautiful as music, you never want it to end, so you don’t want to kill off the dream. Doing hard drugs and drinking every night is going to kill off your dream. You want to be there for life. I’m a lifer and I try to make all the right choice. Of course, I’m human and I error, but I try to make all the right choice. That’s my opinion.
It’s cool that all over the world, there’re kids in a room, in a basement, jamming music. My 15 year old is a drummer, and that’s all he does. He drums all day and I’m really proud of him. He’s getting ready to go to DC for D-DAY, and he’s one of the few drummers that got asked to do it, so I back kids doing music.
It’s a shame that a lot of our public schools are taking it out and watching the arts dies because a lot of schools can’t afford it. It bums me out because we know music helps you expand your brain. It gives you something positive to do. So, get out there, have fun, and promote yourself!
G- Right on. I don’t know a lot of 60 year old quarterbacks, but I know a lot of 60 year old drummer! The music stays.
G- Well, Winter Kills is out on August 27th on Napalm Records. I’m pumped for it, and looking forward to catching you on the tour! Thank you very much again for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today, tour and travel safe, and we’ll see you soon, man!
D- Appreciate it! I appreciate the time and say hi to everyone out there for us! I hope you enjoy Winter Kills as much as we enjoyed making it, man! See you soon!
G- Right on!