There’s been a lot said about Dez Fafara’s new project since the break up of Coal Chamber, but after a year of DevilDriver, I think most of the press who bashed the move is now biting their tongues.
The band has toured their asses off, making new fans at every venue and selling thousands of CDs with no radio airplay and not much promotion, relatively speaking. I’ve even see these guys hit towns in between stops on a major tour. That kind of determination will only get you one place — on top. And that’s where DevilDriver is headed in the underground metal world.
Dez took some time out of a busy morning to chat with us about the new album The Fury of our Makers Hand and what they’ve been up to the first year on tour. Read on and enjoy.
KB: First off Dez, I’ve got to tell this story. At Ozzfest last year in Denver we saw you guys open the second stage at 9:30am. I remember the date exactly because it happened to be my birthday, July 24th. We watched you guys throw down, then hung out in the Jagermeister tent all morning taking shots. It was such a fuckin’ cool day that had to be the earliest you guys have ever played a show by far!
Dez: Hell yea, earliest in my life. And did you see that crowd? I couldn’t believe the crowds that would wake up that early for Ozzfest. We had a great time; we’d rotate so that each band would have to play that early at some point. And we all would get 25 minutes or so. So that would give the crowd a good taste of what you’re about.
KB: Absolutely, and we all had such a blast. It was so surreal with one eye open and one eye closed that early. We all thought that was one of the highlights of the day.
Dez: Thanks man, we appreciate it.
KB: Reflecting on the first album and tour, now that you’re about to release the second, what have been the highlights of the last year?
Dez: Well, we’ve had one hell of a run. People came out of the woodwork to help us and friends of ours offered us tours. The first tour for three months was with Superjoint Ritual, and man, if you want to test yourself, go out with that band! After that we went out with Opeth, then Ozzfest, we went to Europe and played with In Flames, playing to four or five thousand people a night. We had such a run, I couldn’t pick out a highlight. I guess if I had to pick one, touring with Superjoint or Ozzfest, the Ozz boys have been such a big influence in my life. They managed me for like four years and I’ve done Ozzfest so many times. They always stick with me with every project that I do.
KB: Yea that’s such a good lineup to be on, so many bands and so much exposure each year.
Dez: …and I’m such a big fan of music in general, every day I’m watching every single band so I’m nothing but a fan, basically.
KB: You guys have had a lineup change since DevilDriver came out, Mike Spreitzer is now playing guitar. How is that working out?
Dez: There actually have been a lot of lineup changes since we first started this project, which was originally called Deathride. There’s actually only one original member besides me. Member changes have happened because of our touring schedule. Evan definitely split because of that. We have a brutal touring schedule; there are no hard feelings. Evan actually told us 24 hours before we went to Europe that he didn’t want to tour, so Mike stepped in, learned all the set, and played his first show with us in front of about five thousand people. I really got to hand it to the kid. He really doesn’t drink that much, but I walked back stage and he was taking a shot of whiskey. I laughed. You gotta do what you gotta do to loosen up, ya know? As far as the music goes, he’s getting better and better. I constantly surround myself with good musicians and have been fortunate to find friends in all of them. Mike really likes to be on the horse, he really likes to tour.
KB: So did he have a lot of influence on the new music?
Dez: He did on a few songs, but really didn’t have much time; we had most of it written by the time he came on with us. But the things he did contribute were huge. He actually wrote the single. For a guy who didn’t have much writing on the album, to write the single is a huge step. I was like “Hey, nice shot kid!” I really can’t wait to see what he has to bring to the third album.
KB: So I read somewhere about a near death experience in an RV. What the hell happened there?
Dez: Ah yea. [laughs] We had this RV with one of those huge awnings on the side, you know the ones that pull out to be like 20 feet long? It came open in the middle of the freeway in a snow storm at like 60 miles an hour and pulled us into a fucking semi truck, when that dude honked, I swear I heard the thunder of God, I thought we were done. The awning came off and went through another guy’s windshield and almost impaled the passenger. It was a scary fucking thing. We lost our brakes once in San Francisco too, things [that happen] when you travel as much as we do.
KB: Yea, this interview was actually supposed to be at the Gothic when you guys were coming through with Machine Head, but you were broken down in Texas.
Dez: Yea, that’s more of it, (Laughs) when you’re fuel pumps not working, you’re a done deal. It sucks having to miss a show, but shit happens.
KB: Getting into the music a bit, so far I’ve only been able to hear the three songs out on the web, End of the Line, Holding Back the Day, and Sin and Sacrifice. All three are badass, absolutely. Give us a little insight on End of the Line.
Dez: Well as far as the lyrics go, I don’t really like to tell anyone what it’s about because I like people to put their own storyline to it, but basically it’s about the feeling of getting up and getting moving, you know what I’m saying? This is the end of the line, let’s get moving now! I think that shows in my life, shows my perseverance in playing my music no matter what.
KB: I read too that you consider yourself more of a story teller on this album as compared to the first. How did you go about writing your lyrics differently this time?
Dez: Actually, what I meant was that I’m more of a story teller with DevilDriver than I was back on Coal Chamber’s first albums. I mean that I have evolved over the past ten years since the early days and I’ve grown as a story teller, probably mainly because I have had more life experiences to sing about now. When I was younger I wrote more round-about lyrics and you really had to figure them out. This one, I wanted to touch on exactly what I was feeling, really get down to basics so I could paint the picture. I think that’s what you’re talking about with story telling.
KB: So is Mike or Jeff doing the leads in Sin and Sacrifice? About a minute in, those leads are sick as hell!
Dez: No doubt, that part is actually one of my favorite parts on the album. There was a part of the Machine Head tour that we headlined because Rob got sick. We played that song live and every time Mike was doing that I just stepped back and said to myself “Fuck I love that shit.” I remember when we recorded that in El Paso, hearing him in his room with a full stack, writing and practicing day and night, day and night. It’s cool to hear what it came to after what he started with. I’m really happy with it, and that goes back to what I was talking about when I said I’ve been surrounding myself with great musicians, ya know?
KB: I know it’s kind of hard to go out expecting something out of a new project, but in the back of your mind, has DevilDriver done what you thought so far?
Dez: With any art or music, when you start expecting things, they never turn out the way you originally thought. Last year, I didn’t read any press. I just buried myself in what we were doing and went full bore. I surrounded myself with people who were playing what I wanted to play and they came up with the best shit they could. I think we came up with a better second album, which is important in a band’s career, and I think DevilDriver is going to have a long one. So as far as expectations go, the only one I have is the longevity of this band, and I think that’s definitely going to be it.
KB: Well man, I wanted to follow up with the interview we did last year since you have the new album coming out and I wantED to let everyone know that you will be on the Sounds of the Underground tour that will hit Denver on July 31st. What are you going to throw at us, man?
Dez: We are definitely going to play “End of the Line.” We are probably going to do three new songs live, or two it just really depends. There’s a song you really need to hear called “Driving Down the Darkness” that has one of my favorite riffs on the album. After that we’ll be barbequing and walking around saying hello to everyone, so all our Denver fans need to definitely find us and we’ll throw down.
Since this interview was done, I have listened to The Fury of our Makers Hand countless times, and it’s pretty damn badass. It is quite different from their debut self titled album. The noticeable difference is the speed and fluidity of the songs. All of the songs are faster paced, and both Jeff Kendrick and Mike have a smooth guitar style, resulting in a more a continuous riff flow compared to the bouncy and groove laced rhythms in the first tracks.
There are a few more old school metal bends and harmonics than I care for, but it doesn’t take away from the power of their engine. John Boeklin’s drum work is absolutely astonishing. He has really stepped up and will have a long career in the metal world if he keeps at it.
Probably the best display of his double bass talent is the song “Driving Down the Darkness” that Dez mentioned. He wasn’t kidding around. The song is sick as fuck and is becoming one of my favorite metal tunes to date. Jon Miller’s bass lines are steady as always, and Dez definitely has a lot to say and does it well.
DevilDriver will be on stage between noon and 3pm on Sunday at the Sounds of the Underground Tour, so don’t sleep in to late. This nationwide tour features some of the best metal and hardcore acts to hit the road and the recording studios these days, and to get 20 bands for 30 bucks is outright amazing! Props go out to all the bands and people involved in organizing such an event.