DEVILDRIVER Frontman DEZ FAFARA – “I’ve Laid Down A Lot Of Art, Hopefully It’ll Leave A Scar”

May 24, 2023, 12 months ago

By Aaron Small

feature heavy metal devildriver

DEVILDRIVER Frontman DEZ FAFARA – “I’ve Laid Down A Lot Of Art, Hopefully It’ll Leave A Scar”

“The material I was handed by the guys was extremely well done. And there was such an abundance of it, that’s why we came to terms with doing a double record,” begins DevilDriver vocalist Dez Fafara, talking about Dealing With Demons Vol. II, released on May 12, 2023 via Napalm Records. Dealing With Demons Vol. I was issued in October 2020; now the exorcism is complete.

Vol. II is unquestionably more aggressive than its predecessor. A fact which Dez elaborates upon. “Vol. II, there’s something about that record, and I didn’t really know it until after we sequenced everything and made the respective choices of what Vol. I and Vol. II were going to be. At first, in order to get that, we said to ourselves – okay, ‘Wishing’. It’s definitely a different track for us, where is that going to go? Once it went on Vol. I, we sequenced Vol. II. And I had plenty of time to live with that record before we released it. It was on ice for two and a half years, think about that. I’ve actually made sequence changes at least twice, or three times. But there’s something special about Vol. II for sure. A lot of songs were left on the cutting room floor. But we wanted it to be short and concise. I didn’t want any filler songs. That’s why respectively it’s 38 minutes and 36 minutes, Plus, Vol. I and Vol. II are meant to be listened to together. I didn’t want it to be an hour and 45 minutes to listen to both records.”

“Through The Depths” was the first single and video to be released from Dealing With Demons Vol. II. That song begins with a beautiful, classical guitar intro… then all hell breaks loose! DevilDriver almost becomes a black metal band. And ultimately, the song ends in the same pretty manner that it began. “You know, DevilDriver’s not held to the fire like most metal bands. We do what we want,” states Dez rather emphatically. “We can throw a song like ‘Wishing’ (from Vol. I) on there. We can open with something melodic as that and beautiful as that; and go into what we do. We do our own thing. I think the music for this record, especially what you just mentioned with ‘Through The Depths’, really speaks to the fact that we do what we do within what we do. And if people take to it, it’s a great thing. I think that’s definitely what’s happening with this double disc.”

In the video for “Through The Depths”, the band is seated at a large table covered with food, drawing parallels to The Last Supper. “What that video’s about is how we can all become an animal at times,” reveals Dez. “We can all become a demon at times. We’ve got to keep ourselves in check. If you let yourself go, we all have the ability to become Cain, or become Abel. That video showcases that. I think Vicente (Cordero – director) did a great job on that video. We had a great time doing it.”

The song “Through The Depths” contains the line, “Nothing lasts forever.” There’s also a song on Vol. II called “Nothing Lasts Forever”. “Yeah, it’s just a sentiment that runs throughout the record; time is of the essence. Get on with it. Do what you need to do. If you need to tell someone you love them, you better do it now. You don’t know if you’re going to walk off the curb and get hit by a truck at any given moment. Basically, if you’ve got something you want to do, get down to it.”

Time is a reoccurring lyrical theme throughout Dealing With Demons Vol. II. In “Nothing Lasts Forever” Dez sings, “Time does not stand still.” In “If Blood Is Life” he declares, “Time… it waits for no one, time… it’s worth taking, time… cruel and misleading.” “Bloodbath” contains the phrase, “Ride your time here.” And “Mantra” bestows the fact that, “You’re living on borrowed time.” The subject of time is obviously of great importance. “It is, actually. I’ve lived my life well. I’ve done everything I wanted to do, and taking advantage of time is something that people need to learn how to do, really. And do it well. So, you’re going to hear that running through the double disc for sure. Plus, it’s a double record with a concept, which is basically, go and face your demons right now. Everybody has them – you, I, your next-door neighbor. We all have them.”

All of these lyrics were written prior to Dez becoming seriously ill with Covid in 2021, which left him with heart problems. At one point, he actually thought death was imminent. Fortunately, in 2023 Dez is feeling much better and performing live again. That medical scare caused him to regard time as incredibly precious, even more so than before. “Oddly enough, when I read these lyrics back from this record, it’s as if someone knew what I was getting ready to go through, to be honest with you. Yeah, prophetic comes to mind for sure. My wife was telling my friends to call me to say their goodbyes. I’m lucky I’m here. I’m lucky that time spared me. A lot of people lost family, and I made it out the other side, thankfully. I think what helped me is my wife said, ‘What will get you through this?’ This is at a point when I was living downstairs in my living room, couldn’t even navigate my stairs, couldn’t walk across my street to get my mail without sitting down for 20 minutes. ‘What will get you through?’ I said, ‘I want to record one more song. I want to sing one more song. I want to go on stage one more time.’ That’s what got me through. Time, music, all of these things are surrounding me.”

“If Blood Is Life” contains a line that’s a little different from the rest of the album, “You’re the one that I miss the most, now you walk as a ghost.” The question must be asked, do you believe in ghosts? “1000%. I’ve seen my share of spirits. I’ve been in my share of houses that are incredibly haunted. My autobiography, when it comes out, is going to tell some incredible stories of my childhood and stuff that I’ve been through. Absolutely, I do believe that there’s dimensions all around us. I don’t believe that your spirit just leaves this plain. Maybe, maybe it leaves this plain for good. But I do think that we have the ability to revisit this plain. So, for sure, I believe in spirits.”

Dez’s autobiography, co-authored by Joel McIver, is due in September via Rare Bird. Titled Loco: Chaos, Calamity, And Coal Chamber, this book is only part one of his life story. “Yeah, number one is done. And number two is just started. You’ll get a slight taste of DevilDriver at the end of the Coal Chamber book.” Reflecting upon the process of writing his memoir, Dez confesses, “I’m a guy who never really looks back. I’ve always looked forward. There is an old saying, if you don’t know where you come from, you’ll never know where you’re going – I don’t believe in that. I just believe in, never look back. Don’t look back, keep looking forward. This was a time, and a chance, for me to look back. We touched on a lot of subjects. Joel was a huge part of this, obviously. Like he’ll tell you, ‘These are your words.’ He’s the one that compounded them.”

“We did hours and hours and hours of interviews. I would say, three times a week for three hours at a time; it was pretty incredible. He took me back to some places that maybe I didn’t want to go. But I’m such a private guy. I’m probably one of the most private guys in this whole business, to be honest with you. I think now is the time to share with people who I am, and why I am who I am. That’s all based upon my youth and how I was raised; when I left home, scrapping for food, and sleeping under bridges in LA. There’s a massive story there. My wife is the one that said, ‘Listen, you need to tell people why you are who you are, and why you are so private as well. Let’s share some of your life with them.’ So yeah, it’s a two-book deal. It’s going to be really kind of a tell-all. And I’m not slinging mud. I’m just going through my life, and you’ll hear about some stuff that happened along the way. And a reason why I think very positively all the time. It doesn’t matter, you can kick me in the face, and I can find something positive about it.”

Returning to Dealing With Demons Vol. II, the song “It’s A Hard Truth” beckons the query, what is the hardest truth you’ve ever had to face? After a brief pause, Dez admits, “That life will eventually end, for everyone. For you, for me, for our loved ones, for everybody. That’s a hard truth. So, use your time wisely. I mean, you can hear what this record is about. It’s about taking on your demons, it’s about realizing time. And yeah, what is the hardest truth? The hardest truth we all face is that we’re immortal in a way, but we’re mortal. When I say we’re immortal, I mean that our spirit will go on; but we are mortal. That’s the hardest truth right there, that you’re mortal, you’re going to end.”

As a musician however, Dez’s music will always live on. Long after he’s gone, DevilDriver’s songs will still be here and continue to be enjoyed. “I don’t know what I will be in history. I just know that I’ve laid down a lot of art, hopefully it’ll leave a scar. Hopefully when I’m gone, it will be here in the annals of metal. But again, I tend to look forward and not look back. I really can’t compare myself to anybody. If my stuff stands the test of time as a piece of art for people, then I’ll be grateful. If not, I did what I liked in life, and I think I laid down a significant piece of my heart in my art that I do. I surrounded myself with good players, I’m very lucky there. And players that were different, that did things different. You really can’t say that either one of my bands (Coal Chamber or DevilDriver) sounds like anyone else, which is fantastic. But I thank you for that.”

Speaking of players, there’s been some significant member changes in DevilDriver over the last year. In July 2022, bassist Diego “Ashes” Ibarra departed, and that opened the door for Jon Miller to return, who had previously been in the band from 2002 – 2011. Last year also saw the introduction of rhythm guitarist Alex Lee and drummer Davier Perez, replacing Neal Tiemann and Austin D’Amond respectively. It’s almost like a whole new DevilDriver now. “Well, when Jon decided to come back, him and I had a five-hour conversation. Knowing he was going to come back, that’s obviously why Ashes was let go. It wasn’t like Ashes left and then I brought in Miller. Miller decided to come back. I called Ashes, I said, ‘Miller’s been the original bass player. He’s gone for 12 years; he wants to come back. I love you.’ As a matter of fact, I just saw Ashes over at Sick New World (in Las Vegas), he helped Coal Chamber on stage. So, we’re very tight friends.”

“Then my drummer, great guy, decided to stay back and work at a rehab clinic that he went to. He was dealing with some of his own issues, and when he got through those issues, they asked him to stay back and help people get well. So, he stayed back and managed the clinic. I can only applaud that! It wasn’t like he was leaving cause he didn’t like the situation, or I kicked him out cause I didn’t like him. He’s now staying back to help people get better. Alex coming in was a wonderful thing. Neal was with us for a while… Neal was always a great guy, great player; but in my mind was never going to be the forever guy.

He stayed to do a couple records with us, he was great to tour with. But I was really looking for the forever guy that was going to see me out. I don’t know if see me out means another year, or five years, ten years – I have no idea. But I needed to find my guy, and Alex was that guy. All of that going down in one fell swoop – yeah, definitely a new DD.”

“I can tell you now after touring with them and doing the co-headline Cradle Of Filth run that we just did, it’s firing on all cylinders. And you can see it when you watch the YouTubes of the shows. I applaud Miller coming back in. He got his sh*t straight and came back into the band, which is great. I applaud Austin staying back to work at his rehab clinic and help people with their troubles; and I applaud him for his time here. And I applaud Neal for his time here. One of the greatest things we did with Neal was the outlaw country record, the covers record. That was hellbent made for Neal to do, and it was great to have him on board. He’s the son of a rancher, the guy wears cowboy boots everywhere he goes. It was great to do with him.”

“But, working with Alex, I can see now the future a little bit with DevilDriver. I’m hearing riffs on the bus, and songs being sent to me – oh sh*t! This is going to be insane. Plus, we have Miller back who wrote the predominant amount of the first five, six records. He’s a massive writer on The Last Kind Words, and The Fury Of Our Maker’s Hand. The guy’s a great writer! So, having him back in, I can see where this is going to go. And I can tell you now, the next four or five records are going to be intense! And we’re going to try to get them out every 21 to 22 months. If I could, I’d get a record out a year, but that’s almost impossible to do. When I was young, you got a record a year. Otherwise, you thought your band died. If KISS didn’t give me a record a year, it was like, where’d they go? So, for me, I’m on a roll right now. I was writing the other night until four in the morning. There’s something happening right now this summer, where I’m just writing my ass off, and everybody’s doing the same thing too. Mike (Spreitzer – lead guitarist) and everybody.”

Currently, there are no DevilDriver tour dates announced. There have been rumblings of a second leg of the Double Trouble Live package with Cradle Of Filth. “That’s in the works. It’s definitely going to come to a town near you in October. There’s going to be three legs: that first leg we did, this next leg will be in October, and there’ll be a third leg all through the east coast proper, and then through Canada next year. And we’ve got offers to bring it to Australia; we’ll see.”

In closing, Dez tantalizes fans with the following nugget: “I’ll be in the studio in November / December recording… let’s just say something… that I’ve been working on for about five years. I’m charged and ready to get in the studio.” When pressed about the possibility of a solo album: “It’s music… that’s all I’ve got to say. I don’t know if I have time for a solo record right now; I’ve got the music for it. I’ve got like 18 songs for a solo record that was done for me by a really bad-ass writer out of New York. So, it’s been kicking around for a minute, but I can’t take my finger off of DevilDriver or Coal Chamber at all.”

(Photos by Jeremy Saffer)

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