Dez Fafara from Devildriver is quite possibly one of the hardest working men in metal. His band plays in excess of 200 shows a year and somehow find time to record a new album Beast due to drop in time for their slot on Soundwave. No stranger to the festival having played in 2009, metal fans will be sure to catch their furious live show.
Dez found some time to give me a call to talk about the new album, the personalities of people on the road, tattoos and how he cooks dinner when he’s home for his kids.
Music Feeds: Hey Dez how you doing?
Dez Fafara: I’m good man, how are you?
MF: Not too bad, where are you at the moment?
DF: I’m in the back of a tour bus in the mountains in Oregon on my way to Washington.
MF: So you guys are on tour at the moment?
DF: Yeah we’re on tour. We’re always on tour!
MF: You guys are coming out to play the Soundwave festival again, what’s your memory of the 2009 festival?
DF: It was a good time. I love the festival environment and playing festivals. You have a lot of bands and a lot of crews all on the same premises; you have bands flying the same plane, staying in the same hotel all hanging out. You get to hang out and see different forms of music as well and Soundwave gives you different forms of music so it’s fun. Plus I like checking out the local sites. I have a lot of friends in Australia so anytime we come down it’s always a good time.
MF: Soundwave has a killer line up this year, who are you most excited about seeing?
DF: I’m going to watch Maiden for sure! I’m going to watch Slayer, there’s a lot of bands on that tour I’m excited to see. I’m going to be bringing my family down this time and my kids are really excited to a bunch of the different bands as well. So looking forward to it.
MF: Do you get to take the family on tour much?
DF: I take my wife out frequently and I’m taking my kids out of school for everyday we’re out for Soundwave. It’s going be nice to have my kids and watch them live through my eyes (laughs)
MF: Thats got to be a pretty cool experience for them.
DF: Yeah they’re going to have a good time. They’re looking forward to it.
MF: Jon (bass player) isn’t making it out for this tour; can you give us a bit of an update there?
DF: Well, we had to send Jon home twice from Europe. Once he should of gone to rehab but after the second time…it’s a good thing we sent him home. On his birthday he OD’d and ended up in a hospital and almost died and I took it as time for him to get off the road and get himself well and get himself healthy. [To] Start looking inward at his life, where he wants to be in the future and take care of himself.
Out here living this lifestyle out on the road, there’s a lot of vampires and a lot of people who bring things around that can bring you down. Some are more susceptible to these things, others are not. I think Jon was and in the end of it, Jon needed to take some time for himself and get healthy and that’s what I’m doing.
The last thing we heard he had entered rehab but I’ve not spoken to him since. So I’m hoping that’s the path he is on and that he did in fact enter rehab.
MF: It must be heartbreaking to have to send a band mate home because of something like this?
DF: Well you watch it. You watch it progress but you try not to control too much. I have a rule of no hard drugs on this bus, no hard drugs in this band and if your lifestyle starts interfering with the shows and the way we tour which is relentless, we going to have to talk. And that’s where it got to the point with Jon, I said “I don’t want you to die on this tour bus and it’s going to be on my head if I keep putting you around this lifestyle. You need to go think about self and get yourself well.” and that’s what he’s doing hopefully.
MF: Do you find, because you are on the road a lot, it’s hard to not succumb to some of these bad influences?
DF: It all depends man on your personality. You’re either type A or type B and by that I mean type A is very social, wants to be in the bar, wants to be backstage, wants to hang out and party all night with people. Type B is the very loner, isolationist. I just happen to be type B.
Jon happens to be type A; he’s a very social person. I am a recluse. I’ve probably picked the wrong job because I’m extremely shy, I don’t do well in crowds, I don’t go backstage, I’m not the life of the after party. I’m usually in the background with a little wine, some candles and some good friends. But that’s the world Jon got caught up in and I don’t think he was seeing his life for what it was and it started to become nothing but the bad things entering his system. We hope he returns happy and healthy.
MF: The new album Beast will be out pretty much as you guys are hitting Australia, tell us a little bit about the album?
DF: We’re really excited about this record. It was put together at a point in time when we needed to make this kind of record. We’re not the band to make the same record twice. We were only together 6 months when we made our first record (Devildriver). We have a large body of work behind us in a short time and Beast is just something to add to that. That being said, this record is a visceral, in your face record. It has a lot of volatility within it. I think that’s something that is definitely missing in the scene surrounding us at this point. Nothing is scaring me and this has volatility to it. We’re extremely excited by it. We’ve been playing few of the songs live the last few nights and they’ve been going over well. Everything is positive and thumbs up.
MF: It does sound like an in-your-face record. When writing the lyrics, are they personal because some of the songs seem to target certain people?
DF: Right. Well different times in your life require different art. You have a record like Pray For Villains that was where I experimented in third person writing as a lyricist. Someone like Johnny Cash could write a line like I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die and you actually think he did that.
With this record though, the time I was going through in life was a time I needed to get something very personal out. It’s a very connected record for me, very personal. Yes, pointing the fingers at certain people in my life and for some reason it’s been a watershed year for me. It’s been no secret this record has been hard to make. I had to leave the recording process multiple times. I had to my family because of wildfires and we were homeless at a time during the making of the record and you’re going to hear all of that.
It was also a watershed year, numerous people I’ve known in business for fifteen years and longer that were vampires and fucking their life up, I’ve put them aside. Friends who were bringing nothing around except for evil things so I’ve put them to the wayside. So that’s the kind of record you’re going to get on that level.
MF: Did you take a different approach to recording the tracks to this one then you have in the past?
DF: The approach is always the same. We start individually with riffs, then we get together and make demos, give them to me and I arrange them. I put my lyrics and get their feedback, I’m a very good listener and I take criticism well and we go back forth with each other until we feel like we’ve got the bulk of five or six and then we build the rest of the record around that.
With Beast we wanted something from start to finish to be undeniable so we were very careful in choosing our B-sides for special editions and what made the proper record. And in what order the songs would appear.
MF: As you mention earlier, you guys do tour a lot, and while you’re bringing the family out this tour, how do maintain the work/life balance?
DF: You need to live a ying and yang of life. That is how I live life. Ying and yang. It would be difficult if I was that type A personality I spoke about earlier, so it is easy for me to keep a home life. My wife knows the kind of person I am that I’m in the back lounge chilling with a few friends. But you have to home when your home. Meaning that if I’m home for nine days or for even a week, I shut my phone off and I’m right there for my family. I’m cooking breakfast, cooking dinner, skateboarding with my kids, I’m doing all the things a father should do. And I’m in touch with my family throughout the day every 25 minutes while I’m away so it’s that constant keeping in touch as well.
I have a very strong wife. I have a rock in her. She is my everything. Without her I wouldn’t have the nerve to be out here doing what I’m doing. It just goes to show behind every man is a strong woman, whoever said that first was right.
MF: One thing that has been curious is how do you look after your voice with all the shows you guys perform?
DF: I need sleep. I’ve got to get 6-7 hours of sleep a night or otherwise it’s going to go out on me. I abstain from any hard alcohol or drinking especially after the show, before if there’s going to be a cocktail to loosen myself up, that’s ok, but after the show there’s no sitting out the back partying out. I stay out of smoky rooms, cigarette smoke that is. I try to watch what I eat and try to stay healthy; I don’t stay up to five in the morning yelling, those kind of things!
MF: I’m impressed with all your tattoos. What’s your favourite tattoo?
DF: I’ve got a lot of different ones I’m attached to….well I’m attached to all of them! (laughs) The pumpkins on top of both of my hands. I love Halloween, it’s my favourite holiday. I’ve got a lot of work by some famous artists. Hanky Panky and Paul Booth. I’ve got the 66 on my neck that not only stands for my birthday but also for Route 66 in California. I’ve got a lot of faves.
MF: Do you have your next tattoo planned?
DF: I’m constantly getting work done. Every time I’m home I’m getting work done. I’m filling in a lot of work on me right now which is Mayan prophecy and Mayan calendar so I’m getting a lot of that finished off every time I’m through California by a guy called Reverend Mike.
MF: For fans coming out to see Devildriver at Soundwave, what can they expect?
DF: Pure energy. Pure 100% energy. You’re going to get something volatile, you’re going to get something unexpected. Be prepared for the unexpected.
MF: Do you vary the set list much from a festival slot to your own headlining shows?
DF: Most nights on this tour we’ve been doing hour and ten minutes and we won’t have that at Soundwave so you got take into account what you want to play and what the crowd wants to hear. We know what the standouts are for us live so we can only try and put as many as those in for that short period of time.
Having said that, I’m not that front man who talks a minute and half between each song. I rarely have anything to say so it’s song after song and that’s the way I like it, it’s keeps the energy going. We’re working on the set lists now and as it draws closer and closer we’ll really have it down when we get to Soundwave. I’m sure some new things of Beast is coming.
MF: If you were to make a mix tape Dez, what would be the first song you’d put on there?
DF: Revenge by Black Flag.
MF: I like that one, why would you put that song on?
DF: I grew up on it and it formed my life and it just feels real to me. It feels volatile. I keep bringing up that word man, that’s what I hang our career on. That volatility. When I used to go shows when I was younger I would have a pit in my stomach having no idea what was going to happen that night. And those were breakout shows and that’s the kind of realness I want from bands now. A lot of them are just going through the motions. Devildriver is definitely not one of them.