Anthony Saia, station manager for KUOI 89.3 FM recently got to sit down with Dez Fafara, lyrical mastermind from band Devildriver. Check it.
Dez Fafara: How you doin’ bro?
Anthony: I’m doin’ great man. How about you? Where are you at right now?
DF: I’m in California. Sitting here waiting for a rainstorm. We leave in four days or five days to go over to Soundwave with Iron Maiden and Slayer. Otherwise, I have four or five days to just kinda kick it with the dog, the family and the wife y’know?
A: Dude, that sounds like the life for sure! So, you guys are going to be supporting Beast that comes out next week, are you stoked for that?
DF: Yeah man, it’s unreal. The feedback has been so positive y’know? You live in a bubble when you make art, man, I mean, we do. We go out to Texas and barricade ourselves in on acreage where there’s nothing to do except make a record. We were sitting on the thing for six or seven weeks and we started demoing and as soon as I started getting the demos together I was like, ‘Aw man, we gotta get in, we gotta make this record,’ and y’know then you start getting all this positive feedback after waiting about seven or eight months for the record to come out and it’s so appreciative when you work so hard.
A: Hell yeah man. I just got finished with the Dead to Rights video.
DF: What’d you think?
A: I thought it was great man, for sure – especially the chick that turns into the demon at the end.
DF: For sure man. Austin Redding, man. He’s a really cool director and when he hit me up there was this movie called The Viy or Spirit of Evil. It’s from 1966 and it’s a Russian fairytale. It’s a killer movie and a horror flick. One of my favorites and I sent him that and he bought a copy off of Amazon, watched it and was like, ‘Okay, I want to try and redo that thing.’ So that’s what that video is. A re-telling of that movie.
A: Righteous man, I’ll have to check that out. Killer. So, what can you tell me about the recording process with Beast aside from the seclusion you guys kind of went for?
DF: Well, we write while we are on the road and off the road and we are on the road pretty much constantly so, y’know, wrote a lot on the road. These guys write individually. Everybody plays guitar except myself. I just got my first guitar a couple months ago so we’ll see how that changes things. But y’know, they write and then they get together in pairs and head over to Mike’s house, my guitar player and he’s pretty much the one behind the computer. He’s the guy that demos everything. Then they give it to me and I work with one of my guys, a guy named Greg Weiss who I’ve done other projects with as well (High Desert Moon). We arrange the songs, split up the songs and do what we have to do to them. I demo them and send them back to them. Then we start the criticism and the critique part of it, which you’ve got to have big ears and a hard heart. You can’t be a softy and go into those meetings and everybody is critiquing what each guy is doing and fine-tuning it. The one thing to say about Devildriver is when we hit the recording process all the pre-production is done. We don’t need, nor want three or four weeks with a producer doing pre-production. I think it lends to much to what there vision of what the record is rather than the band, so we’re done when we go in and that’s the process.
A: Wow man. That’s some work! You guys had already worked with Mark Lewis on the Last Kind Words album with him as an engineer so when he stepped up to produce this record was it easier to work with him since you’d already had an established working relationship?
DF: Yeah man, definitely. I mean, that is why we got a hold of Mark Lewis in the first place. We knew that we wanted to work with Mark again after The Last Kind Words and it became apparent to me – not to take anything away from Jason Suecof but that Mark had done a lot of work and was really really in the mud and the mire with us on the Last Kind Words so we wanted to work him in the future and when we were working with Pray For Villains, the record that we’re currently touring on now, we knew that record wasn’t the record for Mark but it was more of a record for Logan Meyer to work on, so when I heard the demos for Beast we called Mark and he was in. Working with the guy is a pleasure too. He’s a workaholic. He’s in there 14 hours a day, pushing everybody. All the intricacies possible, all the technique, everything is him making sure that we’re pushing it to the ultimate ability.
A: Well, all that work certainly translates well man. Now, I have a question about track number 12, the 16 Horse Power cover. How did that come to be?
DF: First, it bears to say that first of all covers are a dangerous thing, man. I’ve only done a few in my whole career but me and Mike, we love 16 Horse Power and Wovenhand. I think that David Eugene is one of the most talented cats out there so that’s kind of our little pet project. Mike took the song and Devildrivered it, made it our own, and I started to demo vocals and as soon as I demoed the vocals a lot of vocals on the record are some of the demo vocals because it came out so good. It was such a good time. You could feel it and it’s really rare too that a cover track will make the record and this one, we didn’t even think about cutting it. It was already part of the repertoire back when we heard it with all the rest of the tracks. So that’s the story behind that.
A: That’s rad man. Wovenhand is great. I dig it. So, switching gears a little bit man. I know people have asked, and I’m curious because vocalists take care of their voices in different ways, how do you do it?
DF: I’ve got to get sleep. Everything else is secondary. I don’t booze after the shows so I can make it to the next day. Y’know, you’re paying hard earned money to come see me, especially in a horrible economy. You’re not going to catch me slipping. So I’ve got some rules. I’ve got to get some sleep, I watch what happens after the show and that’s pretty much it. You know, just take care of my voice.
A: That’s respectful dude. Coming from a guy like me who is paying to go to these shows, I don’t want to pay to see some dude who’s not taking care of himself –
DF: No, no. Even in the cases when it does blow out – and I’ve got to knock on wood here just talking to you, but in Europe I got horribly sick man, like ridiculously sick and it was like minus thirty out. We had eight more shows to do – and I finished all the shows but when I got home I had pneumonia but my voice didn’t really give out on me even though I was sick as a dog. So, that being said, I’m hoping that she stays true to me for the rest of my career [laughs].
A: Speaking of your career, looking back at your history, you’ve worked with some pretty prolific contemporaries like the late Paul Gray, Dino Cazeres and Andrea Kisser. What artists would you like to work with in the future or there some you’d prefer to stay away from?
DF: So many cats that I’d love to work with, man. It just goes without saying. There’s just a lot of talented people in the music industry so to name names would just be impossible. I have been fortunate over my time to work with some pretty heavy hitters and learn some things from them. I think that’s what its all about when you work with other individuals within the music industry is the learning process. Y’know? You might be working with somebody that doesn’t do your kind of music or somebody who does a different style of what your music is and then you get to put your spin on things and so its always a learning process and a growth. Always a good time when you get to work outside your band – that being said it brings something back to the table when you come back home to work with your band.
A: One of those heavy hitters was Ozzy, yeah? How was that in particular?
DF: That was unbelievable. That was in the Coal Chamber days. Working with a cat like that is crazy, he’s a legend but getting to know him was even better. He’s a really down to earth individual. He’s a family guy. He’s everything you guys see but, y’know, he can cook a mean breakfast and he’s a nice guy. Me, I’m still like a kid on the outside looking in with what I do, I mean, I really am and so every time I’m sitting next to somebody like that, working with them I just think to myself – I pinch myself to check to see if they’re still there like, ‘You’re still here? Alright, cool. Pay attention.’ [laughs]
A: That’s great. [laughs] So, when I found out that I had an opportunity to do this interview I asked a few of my friends who are also fans of yours if they had anything they wanted to ask you. They all came up with the same question, which I kind of already know the answer to, but they wanted to know if there will ever be a Coal Chamber reunion show at the bare minimum?
DF: You know? I wouldn’t ever count anything like that out. I mean, but at this point – people need to know this right: I left Coal Chamber because they were all on meth. So every night I went on stage, I was feeding the monster money. They were taking all the fame and all that money and they were killing themselves. When I left the band, they had nothing so they ran out of money, they ran out of drugs and now they are all clean off of hard drugs, which is amazing. So I talk to them about five-six times a year. We’re all friends. Meegs has come up on stage with Devildriver and we’ve done “Loco” in Pasadena and it was a good time. So, I wouldn’t rule anything like that out. But I will certainly say this, that nowhere in the near future is that going to happen, y’know? But you can’t rule out the future. I don’t have a crystal ball, I have tarot cards and I’m not about to do that reading and ask that question ‘cause I myself don’t even want to know. All I know is that when I started Coal Chamber I was in love with it and I was in love with the music. I was in love with everything until my friends starting killing themselves drugs and then I had to bail. Now I’m proud that I did because they’re still alive and now you can even talk about ‘Hey, will anything ever happen with them again? Well, they’re still alive so who knows.’
A: For sure man, you never know what tomorrow brings.
DF: Nope, you never know.
A: Wow man, that’s heavy but I’m really glad for them too. Let’s switch gears if you don’t mind. Reading lyrics, like songs like “Dead To Rights” off the forthcoming record, how do you build your lyrical structures and things like that?
DF: Well, I love arrangement. It’s really easy to stick to a cookie cutter formula y’know, like verse, chorus, verse, chorus and we really didn’t want to do that and on Beast specifically we messed with all the arrangements. I mean the song “Blur” is so out of the pocket different and I like to mess with arrangements a lot. It’s a fun part. Lyrical structure is fun to me as well. Pray For Villains I wanted to step outside myself. I’d never wrote from a third person point of view and so with Pray For Villains that’s what I did. I wrote from a third person point of view. I almost wanted to get to the core of the structure. What it was like for say, y’know I’d come out of the box and say someone like Johnny Cash to write, ‘I show a man in Reno just to watch him die” and then people attribute that to his life, like, his whole career they think that he did this. And so I figured, how do you write like that? That’s what I explored on that record. On this record I couldn’t do that. I was in the heat of the moment. Everything that I had written for Beast, as soon as I got the demos I threw out and I wrote everything just on the spot, right there to the core, where I was going with my life in the point in time. It was a watershed year this year. Got rid of a lot of people business and personally that were just vampiric and not bringing anything positive to the table and that being said I was in a moving process with my family during the making of the art so I had to leave the recording sessions which I’ve never had to do before. It was just a trippy time and now, looking back, I think it fueled the record. I mean, for sure. You listen to this thing and its visceral, its volatile, its like a kick in the teeth all the way though. So, y’ know, you never want to go through terrible times but I tell you what, music can definitely get you through it.
A: For sure man. I’m looking at these lyrics and listening to these songs I and I can just see and hear the aggressiveness of this thing. What it just the timing of the thing?
DF: Yeah man, it was the time. I haven’t felt like that since my early 20’s. Y’know I was just so fed up with so many things and so much going on that it was just watershed. My drummer said it best when they interviewed him, ‘And they said, y’know, what’s going with your vocalist? And he said, ‘Dez has a lot to get off his chest’. I think that being said, that’s pretty much it and everyone around me knows who I wrote about and what I was writing about which is good. I’ve managed to scale down my life to now my really immediate family and my really close friends and my band and its really helped, y’know, to just keep people at bay. You gotta realize what we do, we’re surrounded by people 24/7 and sometimes that can be extremely draining especially when they are bringing around influences to people that are not that positive. Y’know, you’ve got to watch yourself on that and that’s what I’ve done this year. And its definitely reflected in that record, man, lyrically. It’s totally reflected in that record.
A: Yeah man, for sure. Let me just say – and I don’t know if anyone has told you this yet – but thank you. Thank you for being able to take all of that put it out on a record and share it with the world. It means a lot.
DF: I appreciate it man. Y’know, I had to go within and I have to get it out somehow. I couldn’t go out to the back of my house and scream, they would have called the cops on me. I’d have been back there screaming for days. It was really cathartic for me too. [laughs] One question I always avoid: ‘What this record cathartic?’ Its like 15 years of being asked that I probably laughed about 15 times. But now I know exactly what people are talking about. It was cathartic and here’s the thing too man, when I was young and now, music has been the refuge. It’s been the shelter. It’s takes everything away from me and if I can give somebody that by doing music and giving some sort of empowerment, some sort of strength and stuff y’ know what? I’m so with that. Y’know, for me that’s more powerful than anything y’know, to be able to give somebody empowerment – that’s what music gives me to this day. I’m not the kind of guy that can just sit around and watch TV all day. Unless its something decent [laughs]. Y’know what I mean?
A: For sure! Alright man, just really quick a couple more questions for you: How many tattoos do you have in total?
DF: God, I could never count but my back is almost wide open and I’m getting ready to do that probably within the next couple weeks. Everything is done except some of my legs and can I count? I don’t even know man, they’re blending together. I’ve been getting tattoos since I was 15 – which I’m not advocating [laughs] but it is what it is and so I’ve got a lot of work and if you do get tattooed young you’re going to have to do what I’ve had to do. I’ve had a lot of cover-up work on stuff that was either horrible or just stuff that I don’t want to remember. Watch names, that’s one thing I learned with time and that’s all I’ve gotta say.
A: And are you going to be work with Paul Booth again?
DF: Paul did my left hand. He did me and Lynn Strait, God rest his soul, from Snot the same day at Ozzfest. He did my hand and he did Lynn’s left hand. He’s an incredible artist man and his painting are just off the charts. People should definitely check out his websites and things like that. And he’s an incredible guy. He’s such a nice dude. It does take a lot of time to get in to see Paul but we were all backstage together and the chair just happened to be open so I did that and then we went on stage about an hour later.
A: Dude, that’s crazy!
DF: I know! My hand was about as big as a baseball.
A: Alright man, well, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you, take care. Have a killer time in Austrailia.
DF: Definitely man. Hopefully we’ll see you out at the shows.