TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
Devildriver frontman Dez Fafara was interviewed for Tartarean Desire by Matthew Kirshner in New York City on February 15, 2006.
In all my time as an on-and-off-again journo-hack, I never imagined Iíd be sitting down with Dez Fafara for any reason whatsoever. I just never had a desire, Tartarean or otherwise. My loathing of Coal Chamber was beyond even my generally in-the-red levels for nŁ-metal and even after that band was put to rest, my skepticism was at an all-time high for his new project, Devildriver. The bandís self-titled debut was, indeed, a step above the former group in terms of heaviness, density and technical flair. However, it still betrayed a [general] simple-mindedness of riff, lyric and composition, and it didnít help that I viewed Dezís abrupt name-dropping of underground luminaries Emperor and Darkthrone as purely opportunistic bandwagon-jumping. I summarily dismissed it as wannabe death metal for nu-metal kids.
How delightful it was to me, then, to really warm to the bandís second album, The Fury of Our Makerís Hand. [Devildriver] also completely destroy in the live setting and my bandwagon accusations have [now] been shelved. Sitting down in the bandís RV several hours before one of those incendiary shows, Dez proved articulate, witty and glib, a real conversational treat. Though time constraints and prior commitments proved quite the bitch and we never did get a chance to [un]cork that bottle of Barbera díAlba and shoot the shit like pals, Iím sure his path and mine will cross again someday.
Iíll jump right in with a question from my editor Tony. Given that the initials from your last band were "CC" and the present one is "DD," should we assume that your next band will be "EE," like itís a little Morbid Angel thing?
Tell him that I enjoy his question, although we didnít know it was gonna work out like that. We had a list of probably two hundred names and we could not come up with one. And my wife was running through a book by Raven Grimassi, an Italian witchcraft author, on Stregheria, and found "devil driver." And I loved the name because it sounded evil but it means to drive away evil. Itís what the Italian witches use when they ring their bells -- they call their bells devil drivers. I was, like, "thatís perfect. That just so suits my life."
Gotcha. Well, I donít know how often somebodyís said this to you right off the bat, but I happen to have hated Coal Chamber. It just never related to me on a musical or lyrical level, but I quite like the new band. Why is that?
Well, with Coal Chamber, you either liked it or you hated it. We were an eclectic group of people, everything from goth to weird industrial to four-chord rock. It was a crazy mix of music, so, you know. The gold albums speak for themselves, it means some people loved it, but we werenít platinum, so maybe not everybody. Why you like Devildriver, I donít know. Maybe you like heavy rock more than you like eclectic stuff, which is what Coal Chamber was. We were a really out-there band. It took them ten years, man, to put a name on us. Then they called us nŁ-metal. Itís like, "wait," so...
Do you feel with this new band like youíre in essence starting over, like youíre regaining old fans or making a bid to gain different ones?
Any time you start over anything in your life, be it a relationship or a job, youíre always starting from the beginning, working from scratch and working up. Thatís what Iíve done with Devildriver. Thatís why we still havenít headlined in almost two years. Weíre opening for every band under the sun and then weíll go out and step out on our own when itís time.
Now, can you go through your musical development. What led you from doing [Coal Chamber] to doing this? Is it a matter of different band members, working with different collaborators?
Yeah, but also, in Coal Chamber I was the more heavy aspect of it. I was always the one listening to MotŲrhead and Mayhem and crazy shit. So, for me, even after the first Coal Chamber album, I would be going back to the bus with Immortal, Emperor and Darkthrone and, having to go out and sing those songs, I knew I wanted to move. Then how this happened was I moved to Santa Barbara, California and was having barbecues and little parties all the time. I looked at bass players, a bunch of drummers. It just eventually... when youíre hanging out with musicians, you get a band together and you start jamming and hear a real musician, so thatís what we did.
Having had the pleasure of experiencing Mastodon live a few times myself in Atlanta, I trust your fans are eager to see you once again. Is this the first tour in support of the new album?
Um, letís see, well, the record came out on August 31, so, yeah I guess it is really [our first tour for Leviathan]. We were on the Fear Factory tour and then Ė we had already recorded the record Ė came home, uh, went to Europe with Slipknot and Slayer, so yeah, this is pretty much the second half of the first major tour for Leviathan, so, itís um, itís going along great, itís really, yíknow, itís better than I expected for sure, especially touring with a band like Slayer. Yíknow, itís kind of hard to open for them.
The guys who are with you, theyíre not nearly as well-known, so how did you go about meeting them and assembling a band, and then, by turns, do you feel like you carry more of a weight, that you become a focal point?
Because Iíve been doing it ten years, I can be the main focal point, but Iíd like to make it a band thing. In the first year, everybody wanted to view it as a side-project and this other thing. So, Iíd like to consider it a band, but, of course, since Iíve been doing it for ten years Iím gonna become the focal point. How I started was, like I said, moved to Santa Barbara and over having barbecues and this and that, I met a bunch of cool people, got together and [am] doing a band with Ďem.
Okay, so now, two records in, tell me about the new record and how it differs from the [first] one. I know itís been out a while, but do you feel like youíre upping it a notch musically or in terms of intensity?
Most definitely. The first record was predominantly written by one guitar player which [annoyed] the others. And we kicked him to the curb. You have to understand that my bass player and my drummer [both] play guitar, so now you got four guitar players writing the second record, so itís gonna be better and it is better. Thereís more melody, itís more diverse.
Do you get that competition going on, pulling out a guitar and...
Yeah, most definitely, but itís less linear, something that had a true growth, and maybe if you listen from the first one to the second one. Music should always be like that, it should always be growing.
In addition to your evocative band name, which I always loved, youíre matching it with the album title, The Fury of Our Makerís Hand. Itís evocative and poetic. Where does it come from for you?
Raised heavily religious in many different backgrounds.
Umm, where about where?
Geographically and religiously.
Geographically in Southern California, but I went to a Baptist school, had a Christian Science mother. My stepfather was Catholic, my real father was Lutheran. I got into witchcraft. You know, religion is a great topic with me. As well as, you have your own maker and I have mine. Weíre both living in the daily fury of our own makerís hand. And that equals up to destiny. You think youíre gonna make it to the restaurant at twelve oíclock but they closed at 11:52 and youíre screwed. For me, itís all about destiny and thatís what that title means.
I am starting to see more of a similar approach to song titles and themes on the record, something like "Pale Horse Apocalypse." Where does that come from?
Uhh, another title of... look, metalheads are supposed to be like Beavis and Butthead. Thereís supposed...
And thatís never been the case for me.
And I donít think so either. I think that if these people are provoked in a right way Ė you can provoke an emotional response through lyrics Ė I will do it. And so I speak about very heavy things if youíre really reading the lyrics, and thatís where I go. Now, to tell you what "Pale Horse Apocalypse" is about would ruin it for the other guy who thinks itís about something else. So I never really do that, Iíll never tell the story of the song. I do try to get deep and I do try to go into some other aspects of life, or spirituality, rather.
So tell me about [producer] Colin Richardson.
Couldnít find a nicer guy in the world. His work ethic is unbelievable: in the studio at ten in the morning, out at three in the morning. He was the nicest guy Iíve ever worked with, his ear is unbelievable. It stands for itself, the records heís done before us.
Yeah, man, everybody. The tones that he gets are unbelievable. Heíll spend three days getting the drum tone, but when he goes to track those drums, theyíre immense. So we love him and weíd like to work with him on the third record.
Tell me [more] about yourself, where you come from musically, metal or otherwise. I was listening to Michael Jackson on the way down here, so nothing phases me. Iíll name-drop Kate Bush if need be.
Cool, you know what? I love Kate. Well, first of all, the band itself is extremely diverse musically. I, myself, have grown up on... I was raised by hippies so I grew up on everything from The Doors to Steppenwolf, right? Really got into Johnny Cash and Elvis and this and that. Found Kiss, found MotŲrhead, then, you know, found Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, GBH. Really found punk rock and was sneaking out of my house at age eleven with a shaved head going to punk rock gigs. So, music for me has been something Iíve loved all my life, man, and I canít give you influences other than everything. I love everything. Like you said, Kate Bush, I could sit and listen to her and then put on Venom five minutes later.
I didnít realize this about you and, to be truthful, I viewed a lot of these musical shifts and some of the interviews in which youíve mentioned Immortal and Darkthrone as suspect, given the fact that Iíd associated you with the Southern Californian Korn scene, and I hear you mentioning Darkthrone...
First of all, Coal Chamber was out before Korn, just to let you know...
Thatís true, I know...
Besides, [Coal Chamber] sounded nothing like [Korn]. They had no goth influence, they were all rap.
Maybe there was a little commonality in the [down] tuning, plus the Ross Robinson connection. Coming into Devildriver, though, I did so warily. But how deep does the black and death metal appeal go for you?
I donít know, itís the same thing when I say Johnny Cash.... Do you capture that in our music at all? You capture a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I mean, it really is a full meal salted and peppered correctly. I mean, too much black metal is no good. Too much death metal is no good. Too much thrash is no good. Too much [eclecticism], which I experienced in Coal Chamber, is no good. What I think we have is something extremely distinct, a style of music and even vocally [that] sounds much different from anything thatís going on right now. Especially not jumping on the bandwagon of the emo, screamo, hardcore thing. [Weíre] way staying away from that. A lot of the metal bands now are putting these big sing-songy choruses and everything else to appease their record labels, to make more money on the radio. Weíre not doing that. Weíre going to [continue to play] what Iíd like to think is an underground sound that the masses are maybe picking up on, and itís good. Itís a good thing.
What Iíd like to see, because your songsí foundations are rock-solid, is more guitar leads, things like that, given the talent of these guys. Do you see yourself moving in that direction?
Well, right now weíve got four leads on an eleven-song album, so there might be six songs on [the next one], but not every song is gonna have a lead. Do we need tons of leads? I donít know. I have surrounded myself with great guys and incredible players. They will tell me when a song needs a lead, but I wonít bend to the pressure of "well, if you donít have more leads, youíre not true this or that." I donít wanna be "true" anything, I just wanna be good music. Itís always been important for me.
How has your relationship with Roadrunner been? Were there any awkward moments when Coal Chamber ended and you moved on?
You know, I wasnít contractually bound to them. I called Monte Conner, he came out to Santa Barbara on a beautiful Southern California day and saw three songs and said, "Iím into it, letís do it." While I was making the last Coal Chamber album was when I was doing the demos for Devildriver, so I had already known for years that that thing was gonna disband and self-implode, you know, in fucking fame, money and drugs. It just imploded. [But] that label has always treated me great, man. Iíve had a home there for ten years. I have great relationships with people over at that label, or Iíd like to think I do.
Well, Monteís been there all along, just looking back on all the bands he signed in 1987, í88....
Yeah. And, you know, Iím there in some sort of way. Iíve been a stone in the wall Ė because Coal Chamber has gold albums and such and such Ė a stone in the wall of Roadrunner, to help them build that company in some minuscule way. I find that to be really cool, too, because what a great company. Look at the metal theyíve put out, man.
Iím glad to see where theyíve gone the last few years, away from the nŁ-metal and now signing bands that donít sound anything alike: Cradle of Filth, Nightwish, Trivium....
Yeah, but trust me, in ten years thereíll be a name for what Trivium is and what Nightwish is, and it might not be "nŁ-metal," might be "whatever metal," and thatíll be an ugly word too.
Oh, there already is. Itís amazing how many bands are labeled metalcore and they donít even sound anything alike.
There you go. We try to keep ourselves away from everything thatís going on. We donít want to sound like Killswitch [Engage], Trivium, [or] any of these bands that are doing kinda the sing-songy thing. We donít wanna do that. Theyíre good guys [and] thatís great music for them [but] thatís not where we want to go. I want it to be raw and weíll always keep Devildriver that way.
Many thanks to Jensen at Adrenaline PR for making this happen. Cheers, bro.
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