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Evil Eye Productions

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DevilDriver is the new creation of Dez Fafara, former vocalist for Coal Chamber. After many successes and much turbulence, Coal Chamber decided to call it quits. During the last few months of Coal Chamber's existence, Dez hooked up with guitarist Evan Pitts and recruited a handful of well-rounded musicians from the local Santa Barbara scene to form this new "anti-radio" project. Rounded out by second guitarist Jeff Kendrick, bass player John Miller and drummer John Boecklin, DevilDriver was born to tread decidedly murkier waters than Coal Chamber dared. From the annihilation of "Nothing's Wrong?" to the groove-laden "Devil's Son", the band's self-titled debut mixes a concoction of death metal, black metal, speed and thrash that comes as a surprise to anyone familiar with Dez's resume. In this interview, Dez talks about his philosophies on life, his former band and his plans for a heavier future with DevilDriver.

METAL UPDATE: What are you guys doing right now?

DEZ FAFARA: Right now we're sitting down at a bar called Harry's bar. We're just kicking it, the whole band's just kicking it, we're actually just. . . not even drinking alcohol. We're just sitting down and having some iced tea and talking and getting ready to go into rehearsal. We're in rehearsal for [a tour with] In Flames, which is coming up real soon. We're leaving in three, three and a half weeks to go over to Europe and do two weeks with them.

MU: You guys call yourselves DevilDriver. That's defined as the bells witches use during rituals to cast away evil. It seems that your band would rather embrace evil than deter it. Why this name?

DF: You know, it works both ways. I think yin and yang in life is a good thing. The name really suited us, and driving away evil of any sort or embracing evil of any sort is a good thing. We like the name. It has a great sound, and it really describes what we are, which is just a really different band, a different kind of rock and roll band.

MU: The symbol on the album cover sort of looks like a Christian cross with a moon, can you explain that a little bit?

DF: It's an ancient symbol. It's called the Cross Of Confusion. It's been around for thousands and thousands of years. It basically means question religion, question authority, question everything around you, and as I was growing up. . . Well, I was just taught that while growing up, just to question everything.

MU: So you were brought up with the occult, or witchcraft?

DF: I was raised with many different forms of religion, but I've always had Italian witchcraft around me, most definitely, just because of my grandparents.

MU: The song, "I Could Care Less" is your first single, and it sounds kind of vengeful. Is it directed toward anyone in particular, or is it just a song about misanthropy?

DF: For me, it's just a statement of life, you know, it's like, hey I gotta do things my way, I gotta make myself happy, and those around me, and as long as I'm doing good to myself and those around me, then, you know, I could care less what everyone else thinks.

MU: The first song on the album "Nothing's Wrong" sounds very Crowley inspired. "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" is a direct quote from Aleister Crowley, is he an inspiration for you?

DF: Yeah, I love Crowley. He's one of the many people I read. I mean, I love Crowley, I love Anton [LaVey], he's alright. I like a lot of Machiavelli, a lot of those philosophers, so, you know, I think that their way of life - The Law of the Claw - should be it. . . An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Devil Driver band shot

MU: So would you consider yourself a Satanist, or an occultist?

DF: I'd consider myself an occultist, but the people that think there is a difference between white magic and black magic are all fooling themselves. There is just magic.

MU: You guys are signed to Roadrunner Records, and you've been on Roadrunner for eight or nine years, correct?

DF: Correct... I have been. I've been on Roadrunner for eight years, this band's only been on Roadrunner for eight or nine months..

MU: They are obviously very supportive of you.

DF: Very supportive, in the past, now and in the future.

MU: What's it like to be on a label with so many other great artists?

DF: I really respect that label, and all of the artists on that label. I can't wait to hear the new Slipknot album, and a lot of the bands that came out previous to that. I think the new Machine Head is great. I heard they just signed Cradle Of Filth, which I think is a really cool band. Dani's a very nice guy, he's a gentleman. I'm very pleased to be on that label, and the relationship is mutual.

MU: Having been a part of the nu-metal scene, what are your thoughts on that scene now?

DF: You know, I was part of a scene that eventually got tagged at the end, and that's why it failed. I don't like pigeonholes or tags, and as soon as that tag started to come along. . . What I think of as nu-metal is a lot of the crappy bands that are coming out now on the radio and shit. I don't put what I did, and the few of the other bands that started that scene, pretty much, I don't really categorize it that way. But in the end, that scene got watered down and solidified into something, you know? That was a tragedy for everybody.

MU: What do you think about Ozzfest having all heavy bands on it this summer?

DF: You know, I love Ozzfest, and I think it's going to be a great bill this year. I respect all of the bands that have been on there, and I respect the Osbournes and the Ozzfest a lot, so, you know, it's going to be a great summer.

MU: Do you think the nu-metal scene, the scene with Linkin Park and rap metal bands, is dying?

DF: See, now that's what I consider nu-metal. It's Linkin Park and those kind of bands. I don't consider it, you know, old Coal Chamber, or even Korn for that matter, I don't consider any of that stuff nu-metal. I consider bands like Linkin Park and all the rap metal kind of nu-metal. Do I think it's dying, or whatever, I have no idea. I don't think about it. I don't want to think about it. I'm involved in a whole other thing that is anti-radio, and is going to bring the artistry back to metal by not trying to do something that's directed toward the radio. Once you do something that's directed to sell, you're automatically not being a true artist. So, in DevilDriver, we're trying to give you guys true art, true music from our heart, and we don't want to pander to radio or anything anybody else does.

MU: Do you find it much more difficult to be in a band that is directed away from the radio, as opposed to something that's more radio friendly and getting station airplay.

DF: Yeah, most definitely, you know, most definitely. I mean, if you're going to be in a heavy metal band nowadays, you better have some balls, you better have some guts to do it because it's going to be a difficult lifestyle. I enjoy it. It's something that I belong to, and have for many years, and I love what I do. I get to meet new people, and travel around, you know, even doing this interview, I get to meet somebody new, so it's always cool for me.

MU: Going back to Coal Chamber, you and your former bandmates' relationships have kind of gone up and down a lot in the last few years. Is that all water under the bridge now?

DF: You know, Coal Chamber's just had its time in the sun, and I appreciate what we've done, and I think we did a lot of great things. We've toured with a lot of great bands, we got to do a song with Ozzy, we toured the world and we got to meet a lot of cool people. I just think it's had its day in the sun.

MU: So did you leave Coal Chamber for the band not getting along, or was it for creative differences?

DF: There were so many differences in Coal Chamber, not just us not getting along, and creative differences, but all sorts of other differences. The point is, I just walked into that job one day and said it's time to clock out. It just wasn't making me happy anymore. That's the bottom line there.

MU: Sevendust supposedly wrote the song "Enemy" for you. . .

DF: (interrupting) I don't even mention anything about that.

MU: As I'm sure you know, some people in the media, behind your back, of course, have nicknamed you "Coco the Clown." What the Hell is that supposed to mean?

DF: I have no clue, bro.

MU: How did going on tour with Superjoint Ritual and Morbid Angel fare for you guys?

DF: That was amazing, I mean, I love Superjoint. They're great guys, individually, and I think their band is one of the best heavy metal bands out right now. Touring with Morbid Angel has always been a dream, so watching those guys every night was killer. The crowd reaction was really cool. People took us in and took us under their wing, and we thank everybody for that.

Devil Driver CD cover

MU: So the fan response was pretty good?

DF: The fan response has been amazing. To this band, the fan response has been absolutely incredible. Every single tour we've done. . . We've done some tours with some pretty diverse bands, everything from Superjoint to Morbid Angel to Opeth and Moonspell. It's been very diverse, and it's been cool. Everyone's accepted it and is taking it in. The pits have been, you know, like blenders.

MU: How did you land the Opeth tour?

DF: We knew a bunch of different people, and Opeth picks the bands, and we're just honored to be on with that band. I think Opeth's one of the best live bands I've ever heard. They were extremely nice guys, Mikael [Akerfeldt] in particular, very cool, very well-read and I honor those guys.

MU: Was there a big difference between the Superjoint / Morbid Angel tour, and the Opeth / Moonspell tour?

DF: Yeah, a huge difference. I mean, the difference between Opeth and Superjoint is. . . Well, way diverse crowds. You just have to go out and do your best, and hope that people see what's going on.

MU: DevilDriver did Headbanger's Ball a few weeks ago. I think pretty much right after the Opeth / Moonspell tour. You guys looked exhausted.

DF: We were all exhausted, man, we were all exhausted for that Headbanger's thing. A touring band never should look too chipper. Then again, if you look at all the other bands that did it too, boy everybody else. . . Everybody that's on tour looks like they need to go home for a week. (laughs)

MU: How is the songwriting approached differently with this band than Coal Chamber?

DF: In this band, we sit and we jam, you know? Coal Chamber never really did that. We sit and we jam together, and we work on songs, and it makes the unit tight like that. As well as, I take the songs home and work on them myself. With Coal Chamber it was much different. They would just bring me music and say, "This is the music and this is the route that we're going," and if I would say, "Well, I think it should be this, or I think it should be that," they would say, "Well, this is the music, write lyrics to it." So, it's very different with this band. I want to keep it heavy, but at the same point, it's not like anybody would turn in a pop song because everybody is on the same page with what we want to do musically. You know, we want to get heavier even. I think our next album is going to be extremely brutal.

MU: The production is really great on the album. It sounds really crystal clear, yet it's got that brutal sound to it, almost like old school death metal - kind of like a "best of both worlds." Was that sound intentional, and was it because you used two producers?

DF: We just wanted to get something big and full, and thank you very much for that compliment. I mean, working with two producers was very cool, but also the gentleman that mixed it. . I mean, it's a menagerie of all of us that got that sound and we're really pleased with it, so thanks.

MU: You've said before that DevilDriver is your own creation. Do the other members of DevilDriver get their input?

DF: Of course. I don't play any instruments, so when it's time to do something on the drums, it's time for the drummer to go to work, you know what I mean? So obviously they all get their own input, definitely. Not only that, I have a lot of different players that can play different instruments. My drummer is a really amazing guitar player, and my bass player's a really amazing guitar player, so, it's like I've got three or four guitar players in my band. Actually, I do. I've got four guitar players in my band, so everybody can come up with riffs and come up with ideas. And like I said, I want to keep it heavy, but it's always gotta go through me. But no one's gonna bring the latest pop song to me anyway, I mean, everybody's gonna bring the most brutal shit to outdo everybody else, so it's really cool. It works out great.

MU: I was really impressed with your vocal performance on the album, you use highs and lows in the best places. Was there any doubt as to what approach you were going to take with the lyrics or vocals?

DF: No, not really. I had all of these different styles, but I just couldn't really use them with Coal Chamber because it would be too over the top. So, I had to wait for something like DevilDriver to use them and I was really free, vocally. I just wanted to give it my all, so if there was a high part, I would do it, or a low part, I would feel it.

MU: Are you going to come out with a different approach on the next album, or are you going to use the same formula?

DF: Well, I'm going to get more brutal, man. It's going to be less linear, more brutal.

MU: But still with the catchiness?

DF: There's always going to be a hook in what we do. I firmly believe in having a catch and a hook in what we do. Some of my most favorite bands are bands that I wish would put a hook in their songs.

MU: When you guys play live, is it intimidating to be playing onstage with such great musicians?

DF: It's great for me. I love it. I feel like, finally, when I look behind me I've got musicians of the caliber that I, you know, I want to be playing with. I think that Coal Chamber were great players, I just think that these guys are playing the style of music that I love, so, you know, to each his own.

MU: You met guitarist Evan Pitts in a restaurant after he had written his number on a napkin and told you he wanted to jam. How did you meet the rest of the guys in the band?

DF: Pretty organically, uh. . . I keep using that word, because that's totally it. I mean, basically just in the back yard barbecuing, hanging out, finding out who wants to do what. My drummer was my second guitar player at first, and so we had to tell him quit playing guitar and go back to drums. We all got together and started jamming. It was a good time.

MU: Are you all from Santa Barbara?

DF: Yeah.

DevilDriver band shot

MU: How did you start out, musically?

DF: Hmmm. . . That's a good question. I started out jamming with a band when I was fourteen, fifteen years old - punk bands and shit like that. I just found music to be a really good psychiatrist for me when I was growing up, and still, a much better psychiatrist as I'm getting older. A fifty dollar microphone is going to save me about five hundred dollars in psychiatry bills.

MU: What would you consider DvilDriver's genre to be?

DF: God, I couldn't pigeonhole us if we tried, man. We're so influenced by death metal, black metal, everything that is metal, that I don't think you'll ever be able to pigeonhole us. What I would say is, we're good, all-American heavy metal.

MU: You can definitely hear every aspect of death metal, black metal and thrash on the album.

DF: Yeah, definitely, and that's always been my thing, even with Coal Chamber. I didn't want to do anything that was pigeonholed, only it took them eight years to pigeonhole Coal Chamber into what is called nu-metal, so maybe it will take them another eight or ten years to pigeonhole what we're doing. But, you know, we're going to stay constantly changing, so I don't think anyone's going to be able to do that.

MU: I suppose that's a good way to keep up with critics.

DF: Yeah, that's my thing, you know, everybody kind of rolls with the changes. Like. . . Even like the "Coco Clown" comment. If you looked on at pictures of most of my favorite artists, you can find a photo or two where they ain't looking too fucking cool, you know? So, my bottom line is to keep moving, keep moving forward and keep doing something that's relevant. I'll always do music, as long as it's relevant, you know?

MU: What is your target audience with this band?

DF: Anybody that likes heavy metal, man. If your twelve years old and your parents are letting you listen to it, cool. If you're in your forties, and you're shaving your head and growing a goatee, and your going to heavy metal shows, then I want you too. We want everybody. I'm not into just this demographic or that demographic, everybody that listens to heavy metal's gotta listen to DevilDriver, and if they do, I think they're going to like what they hear. They're gonna get some heavy shit with a good hook. Something that. . . You're going to put it in your car and you're gonna drive real fast, and that's what I like.

MU: Do you prefer to perform in clubs or arenas?

DF: I like to play in clubs because you get to touch people's hands and you get to be right there, and it's easier to go out and meet the fans afterwards and sit out by the bus. When you're playing in arenas and stuff, you know, often times you can't meet those people, and I like to shake hands. But when you play bigger audiences, in arenas, that's cool too, because you get to play in front of a lot of people. Either way, for me, I just love to play. I mean, the bottom line is, for me is, if I'm sitting in a hotel or I'm sitting at home, I'm unhappy, man. I like to be onstage every fucking night. I've got a really strong work ethic. I was grown up and raised with it, and it just won't stop. I mean, I believe in work, work, work - continuously. That's why DevilDriver came about so fast, after Coal Chamber's last album, the 'Dark Days' album, you know, DevilDriver was out less than a year after that because I just, I can't stop working.

MU: Is the song, "I Dreamed I Died" based on an actual dream?

DF: Yeah man, I woke up about three-thirty in the morning, man, had a fucking dream, and I was sweating like a motherfucker. And [my wife] Anastasia, she was like "What's going on?" I went out in my living room and wrote it. It was like a dream that I died, but I still, I wasn't ready to go, I was like, "I've got so much more to do." It was at that point that the fears and everything came into what was going on.

MU: Do you have any new material written yet?

DF: We do, we have four songs written, and everyone of them is just, I mean brutal. It's way surpassing what we're doing right now, I will tell you that. It's way more technical, and it's really fucking heavy. We're using alternate tunings, and we're really fucking with our sound, so it's gonna be cool. It's gonna be really cool. It's gonna definitely be in a direction where the fans want to see us go, which is probably even more brutal.

MU: Who are your influences, musically?

DF: Musically, man, my inspiration for lyrics are humans. (laughs) Musically, man, I listen to everything. I was grown up on everything from old punk rock to fucking Motorhead, you know. I love all music. I listen to everything from Billie Holiday to fucking black metal.

MU: What bands are you listening to currently?

DF: I'll tell you right now, my favorite band in the whole world right now, and I just can't stop listening to it - like, I go to the gym in the morning - I tell ya, I listen to Grimfist. They're my favorite fucking band and I want to tour with them.

MU: What literature has the biggest influence on you?

DF: I read a lot of philosophy, man. Like, I read a lot of Machiavelli, um, you know, I read a lot of just different stuff. I finished a book just now called The DaVinci Code which everybody's reading. I just read a lot, and I find that it's good for the brain. It's better than watching TV. I'm not really a TV guy. I watch movies. But fuck, I read a lot.

MU: I read in an interview on your website that Phil Anselmo got you into more underground / extreme metal. I think he's made quite an impact introducing a lot of underground bands to people who would otherwise never hear a word about those bands or that sort of music. What kind of influence has that specific kind of music made on you?

DF: It's made a huge impression on me, obviously. In '96, when I got turned onto that stuff it was difficult for me to sing "Big Truck" on fucking stage, and then go back onto the bus and play Emperor. But Philip himself has just been a great friend, a great ally and a great inspiration. I praise that man. I give that guy a lot of respect, and if there's one person I would take a bullet for, one of them would definitely be Philip. He's been such a great guy to me, and actually, everybody in Superjoint is so cool and so down to earth. Everyone from Joe Fazzio to Hank III to Kevin Bond - all of them. It's good to run into people that are cool, that are down to earth and cool. Philip's always been that way with me. We did our first tour with Superjoint and III comes up on the RV and brings a big ol' bottle of moonshine, you know? It was awesome. Just to know that all those people are down to earth and they're all such cool musicians too. It's a good thing for me, man. I don't like to meet people with rockstar attitudes. It's no good.

MU: What are your plans after touring Europe with In Flames?

DF: You know what, man? We've got some really, really, really huge stuff coming up this summer. That's what I can say. We've got some really big plans coming up for the summertime. After In Flames we're going to do six or seven dates with Slipknot over here on the west coast - Slipknot and Superjoint - so it'll be a good time. But for this summer - we've got some really big plans coming up. I just can't say anything right now.






Interview: Travis Loutsch [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
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