Devildriver released their latest album Trust No One a year ago and are still touring the album around the globe. Ahead of the bands return to European shores for a series of festival dates, a run that includes a much anticipated show at Download, we had a chat with frontman Dez Fafara to talk about Trust No One and its follow up album, life on the road, his work ethic and how it has helped his career in music, tattoos, hardcore punk, advice from Danzig, working with Ministry’s Al Jourgensen and much more in a very entertaining and informative talk.
You released your a test album Trust No One last year, how has it been received so far?
Fantastic! As soon as it came out, the fans were behind it. It’s got to be said that it came out as our highest debut in the United States. Our highest debut, basically in a lot of places all over the world. The critical acclaim from the press has been massive but the fan base has just really rallied around that record. We worked extremely hard on that record. We realised that it was going to be a very important record for us and we had to really come through for the people who had stood behind us since 2002 and that thing came out very strong so we’re pleased
How is the new material going down live?
Oh so well, The song Daybreak, the new single has been great. We’re also playing My Night Sky live and that’s been coming across fantastic. That’s a very diverse song for us and people have been taken along with that.
What’s your favourite song from the album to play live?
You know, right now we’re only playing Daybreak and My Night Sky. Over the course of the time, we’re probably going to add one or two more but I can’t tell any difference between those two! The fanbase is loving them and I’m loving them both. My Night Sky is kind of a different approach for us and do playing that song live is a great time.
Are you working on a new album at the moment?
That’s why we have a little time off right now. We’ve done some one offs and our next show that we have in May is with Danzig and Ministry, after that, the following month is one offs only and we’re playing Chicago Open Air, we’re playing with Slipknot, Slayer and Ozzy. We’re home because we’ve been in the studio and we’ve been working on something for close to a year and I think it’s going to be fantastic. It’s not an original full length but it’s something thats coming out that has never been done. There’s over twenty guests on this thing. Most of them are legendary, Grammy award winning artists and it’s just going to be spectacular and that’s why I’m actually home in the spring in California which is a rarity for me. I’m on tour most of the time, especially around this time but like I said, we’re working very diligently on something fantastic.
When can we expect this new material? It sounds as if it’s going to be very special.
You know, probably next year, the thing with this is its not the kind of record that, usually when you go into record an album, you usually have a release date before you start recording and this is not that kind of a project. The music is already done, when I’ve done with vocals, when all the artwork is done, when the photos are done, the we’re gonna be talking about a release date but you’re definitely going to see it next year, and it will bridge the gap between Trust No One and the next record so there’s not a three year wait between original material because that is the worst for me. I’m a massive music fan, when my favourite bands, which I have a a ton of that I love and I listen to, make me wait three, four, five years for a record, I can’t understand it. When I grew up, you got a record a year from your favourite band. We’re turning into something like as well, I do believe that the next record will be a double record and a staggered release by a year do that people will not have to wait. We were having the conversation of, hey this record came out last year and it did well, when’s the next one coming out, well, right now! A year later, and we want to return to roots like that as well.
It’s been almost fourteen years since you released your first album, it must make you feel proud that Devildriver have the longevity and have constantly evolved in that time?
Definitely. Look, we’ve outlasted a lot of bands, people tried to put us in this new American heavy metal scene and try to give us different monikers within different scenes but the fact is, we’ve got seven records. Every one has a signature sound that is very different from one another and they couldn’t come up with a moniker or find a way to categorise us so our fans started calling us the groove machine or the California groove, groove metal and that solidified and landed some great idea there that even Spotify last year emailed us and all of our listeners and out groove metal as a category now for metal, they put that at the top of it so there’s definitely something different thats happening and we’ve always tended to stay away from the sound of other projects and make sure we have our own identifiable groove, our own identifiable sound.
How did your recent Bound By The Road tour with Death Angel, Winds Of Plague and The Agonist go?
It was great, that tour was fantastic and let me tell you, Death Angel are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met on tour. If anybody ever gets the chance to meet them or talk to them, they should, they’re the nicest guys ever. The tour did very well, we did a lot of dates on that. We crossed in and out of Canada, covered the United States and it was fantastic.
The title of that tour is very apt for Devildriver, seeing how much you’re on the road. Do you still have the same passion for touring now as you always have?
Oh 100% and that’s probably why we’ve outlasted a lot of people man, you’re either built for the road or not and I absolutely love it. If you don’t like going into a truck stop at three in the morning or going without showers or home cooked food, if those things mean something to you, don’t become a musician haha! What means a great deal to me is playing live every night, I really enjoy playing live every night, I do enjoy the touring lifestyle. Having a crew with me, our crew are a bunch of pirates and it’s just a fantastic thing to be doing almost twenty five years later when I’ve seen a lot of bands come and go. I attribute that to a work ethic that I gained a long time ago in my youth. My fathers a contractor, I was on the construction site at five AM, I know what it’s like to work all day long and be tired and I think it’s that ethic, that blue collar work ethic that keeps Devildriver going and also keeps a connection between me and my fans, people that have followed me, they know my life, they’ve read about my life, they know I ran away from home at fifteen, slept under bridges and stole food to eat, they know I’ve been to prison, they know these things and so it makes you want to follow an artist who speaks from their heart like I do lyrically and in interviews, as you’re hearing now I’m very nonchalant and my life is a caveat for everybody else to go ahead and hear about and maybe they can get some strength and some uplifting, positive perseverance type feel out of my lyrics or even what I’m saying right now in an interview.
Where are your favourite places to play across the globe?
Oh man, you know I answer this question all the time, anywhere there’s more than a hundred people that are willing to cheer me on to be honest with you but we are now starting to break open new markets. We just got back from South Africa for the first time, that was fantastic. The shows were absolutely just phenomenal and there are other place across the world I have not been that I’ve probably got to wait for tensions to calm down. Israel, Turkey, Egypt, even China right now. We’ve just got a Russian tour that’s been brought to us but I think we’re gonna hold off on that for one second, there’s a lot of crazy tensions going on with bands having problems when they’re going in and out of there. Unfortunately, the places I do want to go and play that I haven’t been or haven’t been a lot, I can give you a for instance, last time I was in Moscow, I had such a good time, I tattooed Devildriver in Russian on my arm. I want to return to those places but I want to make sure there’s stability between the countries and everything else before I do.
As you mentioned, you’re doing the Blackest Of The Black festival with an incredible bill with Danzig, Ministry, Suicidal Tendencies and Corrosion Of Conformity, you must be looking forward to playing that?
Most definitely. We got the call, a month or a month and a half ago. It was about eleven o clock at night and Glenn called me personally and said hey man we want to have you on this thing. What people don’t know is that Glenn Danzig was my first tour ever and when I was in construction with my father, I used to listen to that first Danzig record over and over, daily on the way to work and back and wonder what it would be like to play in a band so to be friends with my heroes and my idols for all these years and for him to invite us is just a pleasure and an honour.
You’re also playing the Download Festival in the UK and also across Europe on selected dates this coming June, are you excited to coming back over for these dates?
Very much so, we have been doing so much touring everywhere else that I don’t want to forget the place that made me, and I’ve always said if you can make it in New York, the UK and basically LA, you can play all over so I’m definitely looking forward to that show. To come to Donington, I mean it’s an iconic festival, I’ve known it as such since my infancy in the beginning of Coal Chamber, it’s always been something iconic to do. We, of course, hold the record over there for circle pits and people participating in our music so we’re very much looking forward to it plus when we come over for festival season, we’re doing Download Paris and Hellfest in France. We’re one of the only bands that’s allowed to do that at this point, so I think both those promoters get behind Devildriver and allowed us to do both of those things and it’s going to be a great run.
What’s your favourite festival to play?
Look, Download is definitely up there, there’s a lot of great run Festivals. Hellfest is one that’s amazing, Download is one. Graspop is also one of those ones that’s run amazingly. All over the world there’s festivals that are really run great and that’s what you want as an artist. You want it to be run well, meaning if I’m going on at whatever time I’m going on, there’s not another band playing and everything has to run on time and when those festivals do that and they all run on time like clockwork and the band are having a good time, that’s just a fantastic atmosphere to be around.
You’ve toured with so many great bands from Cannibal Corpse to Slater to Goatwhore but who have been your favourite bands to play with?
Gavin, I’ve been very fortunate to share the stage with so many people and so many great bands, it’d be hard to really pull one of those out man! You know, it could be a smaller band that nones ever heard of but touring with them was such a great time or a larger band that I’ve looked up to all my life that I’ve toured with and finally got the opportunity to share stage with so its kind of impossible to name a band. Let’s just say I’ve just about played with everybody and I’ve met just about all of my heroes and most of them have been cool. There’s the old saying, you should never meet your heroes but I’ve been fortunate that when I’ve met the legends that have guided me to where I am now, most of the have been really cool and I feel fortunate for that.
What music are you currently listening to at the moment?
Right now what I’m listening to a ton of, is a lot of old punk rock. So a lot of Germs, Circle Jerks, Fear, Black Flag, Exploited, Dead Kennedys, The Partisans. Just a lot of old punk for some reason, like the last couple of weeks that’s been my go to. Otherwise I found this unknown band called Kavakon and its like, I can’t explain it! It’s like destination music, a Martin Denny Tiki vibe its a strange kind of music but it’s absolutely killer to kick back and listen to so that’s what I’ve been jamming on.
It’s funny you mentioned that about listening to a ton of hardcore and punk rock, you got the name Dez from Dez Cadena from Black Flag at a gig and you were into hardcore punk at a young age. What are some of your memories of that early American hardcore scene?
Oh yeah, look I’ve got a Black Flag tattoo so my earliest memories of that were that I had a relatively difficult youth, there was a lot of domestic abuse in my family, I was a runaway at a very young age and punk rock was my everything. Without punk rock, without those voices behind me, it would be probably impossible for me to have made it this far to where I’m at now. What I remember about those times and it’s probably where you get the volatile aspects of Devildriver and the volatility of our shows and you get some promoters who just won’t carry the gigs because it may incite a riot and it may be a little too insane for the promoter at the club but that’s where I get that from , that early punk rock scene. Back then, when I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old lacing up my boots, going to a show, you didn’t know if the cops were going to rush in, you didn’t know if there was going to be fights, you didn’t know what would happen but it was a very ferocious time in Southern California definitely and it was a unique time and I loved that feeling of going into a gig with butterflies in my stomach, like I don’t know who’s going to be here and what’s going to happen and I’ll tell you, we like to take some of that vibe to the stage with Devildriver and for sure bring that vibe into the clubs that we do.
What were some of the best punk and hardcore shows that you have seen from that time?
When you see a band like the Crumbsuckers, it doesn’t get any better you know! That’s a hardcore show! Back then, hardcore and punk rock, now what is called hardcore was actually punk rock, it’s a different scenario now, it has its own unique form of dress, it has its own unique form of cadence on the vocals than punk rock did, they’re very much symbiotic so that being said,when you see Minor Threat when you’re younger, it doesn’t get any better.
Will there be any further material from Coal Chamber at all in the future or was the Rivals album you did a one off?
I don’t know, you don’t put anything on that. We don’t have any expectations on that. It took us thirteen years to do a record and go do a tour that took us around the world, almost all the dates were sold out and as of now I seriously doubt that will ever happen again. It’s come around to be great, it needs to be said that theres no problem with the individuals I don’t believe, with each other, there a problem with the individuals themselves, they need to get their shit together. When you wait twelve years and then you find out, no, not everyone’s got their shit together, it’s time to put it away gain and that’s just where it’s at at this point and we waited thirteen years to come back together and then, what? We put out a great record and stuff was sold out everywhere but now, what are we going to do in the future, I really don’t know if I see anything h happening. That being said, I had a long conversation with Glenn Danzig at eleven o’clock at my house when he called and he said “listen man, when I left the Misfits, I was doing Misfits songs and Samhain with Danzig“. When Rob Zombie left White Zombie he was doing a White Zombie songs with his own thing. I could name a million artist that left their band and played their hits after. Danzig said to me why have you run from Coal Chamber, why don’t you play their songs with Devildriver and at that point I said to him “that stuff was meant to be be played with two guitars, real heavy and real tight, maybe we’ll start doing that and I talked to guys in Devildriver about adding two or three of the Coal Chamber tunes that I felt we could play and my guitar player Mike, the first thing he said was, the very first thing was “please tell me we’re going to play Fiend?” So that means they’re embracing it as well and I think now, both of those things will come together. You’ve got Coal Chamber fans that haven’t heard Devildriver or won’t come to a Devildriver gig, you’ve got Devildriver fans who won’t listen to Coal Chamber or won’t come to a Coal Chamber gig and now I’m going to put those two things together and we’re going to see what happens in the future. We’re going to do it on some select, special dates only.
You worked with Al Jourgensen on the last Coal Chamber album. How did you hook up with him and how was the experience working with him?
Well, we’re good friends me and Al. Al before that Coal Chamber record was going through something personally and business wise that he called me with and I greatly helped him out. Obviously he’s a legend, man and he’s amazing idol of mine, I grew up listening to him and as I said before I’ve been fortunate to not only meet the people who are legends to me but we’ve become friends and they’re cool and Al is definitely one of them. Every time I was coming through Texas, I’d stop the tourbus at his house. I called him and said its been thirteen years, we’re doing this Coal Chamber record, the only guest I want on it is you, I’ve got the perfect song, what do you want to do and he drove out to my house one afternoon and we had Italian food and he laid some stuff in my studio and it turned out wonderful. There’s bucket list things happening in my life right now, obviously I’m not twenty so I have people that I want to work with, things that I want to do, it’s why we’re doing the record we’re doing now, it’s why I’m working with all the individuals I’m working with now and this things is because I’ve got bucket lists in my life and I’m ready to start filling them. Working with Al was definitely one of them. The guys a legend, what else are you going to say, you can’t have industrial music with Al Jourgensen and Ministry.
You’re well known for your array of body art, you’re one of the first musicians that I knew of that had facial tattoos back when it was something of an outsider culture, how do you feel about the rise and rise of tattoo culture in mainstream society?
It’s crazy you know, when I first got tattooed I was fifteen years old. Then it was only if you were a biker or in jail, they were the only people, real outsider people were getting tattoos. I had my nose pierced before I saw anyone basically and I feel it’s just so cool that it’s opened the door and someone at the bank has facial tattoos and his arms are sleeved and it’s no big deal in society. You can go get a job, you can go about your life. Yeah, when I got a facial tattoo, it was unheard of at the time, tribal people were doing it but it was unheard of and now to see it become popular with kids in their twenties with their face completely tattooed, that’s beautiful to me that people are no longer judged on their tattoos or even their sexuality or any of that. It’s all kind of come full circle and people have been able to just love people for who they are and let them express themselves however they want. If they want to wear a red shirt, cool or if they want to tattoo their face, cool. The outside of an individual is not what makes the inside whatsoever. Just to tell you that, I don’t know how many people in suits I trust really you know really because they’re afraid to show themselves maybe, so there you go!
Which one of yours is your favourite tattoo?
It would be wife’s name man, I have my wife’s name and I have SoCal for Southern California on my right hand just to always remind me where I’m from and whe I’m going back to, her.
And finally, what have been some of the highlights of your career thus far?
Phew, that’s going to take a book and about an hour of conversation! I’ve been very privileged in my life to keep myself, probably one of the most private people in music, for sure in metal and I think I’ve been grateful to share the stage with all of my favourite artists, I’ve collaborated with guys like Ozzy Osbourne and Max Cavalera, you can go down the list with those I’ve collaborated on songs and records with. I think that in itself is just something so positive in my life that I feel grateful every day, but then again, you don’t understand but I’ve never gained an ego from this. Most singers have a massive ego about them and what they do and I really have not. I’ve maintained the complete person I was before I entered music. I live in a blue collar area, I’ve raised my kids not in private schools even though I could have, they’re in public schools and I’ve maintained who I was before I came into this and I think that’s what’s made me not only last but I always look at every day as an option. Every day as something cool and I never get jaded, I never go, you know, oh god we’ve got to go overseas and play festivals, I don’t want to get in a bus! I hear a million bands say that and then I see them a week later at those same festivals and I think to myself, man you’re not doing you any service and you’re definitely not doing your fans any service because they can feel that you don’t want to be here. I’ve always wanted to be here, I wanted to do music since I was ten years old. The first words out of my mouth when my mom found out I got tattooed at age fifteen were, don’t worry about it mom, I’m going to be in a band my whole life and of course I got my ass beat just for saying that but look where I’m at now and it’s my mom who has the gold records hanging in her house, not me! I feel grateful every day for whatever’s going on in my life and I think if I keep on putting my nose to the grindstone, keep putting out real art that’s come from my heart and I keep my senses, my wits about me and I don’t get that massive ego that affects most people in this fucking industry, it’s gonna be all good and it’s gonna work for me you know.