For 25 years Dez Fafara has been one of the most enduring figures in the world of metal. Whether it was introducing the world to the darker side of things in the 90’s with Coal Chamber or bringing the heavy back with Devildriver, he has endured and remained throughout. Not one to rest on his laurels and let things coast, he has made a career out of pushing the envelope and constantly striving to push himself as an artist, so it should come as little surprise to anyone that Devildriver’s soon to be released new album is a full-on Outlaw Country covers album. We here at Rocksins were lucky enough to have a chat with Dez to discuss the inception of the new album Outlaws ‘Til The End, what it was like working with Members of the Cash and Williams families on the project, as well as other metal luminaries. We also talked about where Devildriver goes next, him potentially relocating to the U.K and his thoughts on the band’s upcoming appearance at Bloodstock.
So we need to start at the beginning. Where did the idea come from to do a country covers record.
Dez: I’d heard these songs heavy in my head for like 15 years, maybe 20 years. I just knew this thing needed to be put together, there are these two genres and they needed to collide. What I had to do was explain to the people in the UK or the EU that if you come over here backstage or on a tour bus, when we have these heavy metal barbecue’s you’re going to hear Slayer into Johnny Cash, then that into Pantera then Willie Nelson, and no one turns a head like “Who put that on?” it’s just rolls like that, and it’s always been like that frankly, since I’ve been coming up, so over here it needed to be done, and for the UK and EU audience it’s a strange thing, whereas over here it needed to be attempted and attempted correctly, with the guests that we’ve brought in from all different genres as well.
What was it that took this project so long to come to fruition.
Dez: I had to find the time. I had to find the company to get behind it, which was Napalm Records, I had to get the guests onboard and eventually it was going to 3 years between records because we’re working on something really special and I’m a guy who likes to get a record out every 2 years, so let’s just go in and do a covers record, it will be nice and simple, no, this thing turned into a 3 year monster, we were heading towards insanity, money ran out halfway through and we still kept plugging through, it was unbelievable. It really was a labour of love to get this thing done, and I can’t wait for people to hear it.
I have to admit it is one of the most fun albums I have listened to in a long time. I wasn’t really sure what to expect the first time I put it on, but it’s a total blast from start to finish.
Dez: Thank you very much man, I’ve been hearing a lot of that recently, and that’s good because when you do a project like this you hold your breath, it is so unique you don’t know how it’s going to be accepted and we did this for ourselves and I did this for myself, so when you do put something forward and it gets accolades it’s always appreciated.
With the songs on the album, how did you go about choosing those particular ones. Were they personal favourites of yours or ones that you thought would translate well.
Dez: First of all this thing is called Outlaws ‘Til The End, so let’s pick the Outlaws. Once we get that we’ll dial in the songs, so it’s gotta be (Johnny) Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie (Nelson), Hank Williams, the guys who broke it open, who made it on their own mark, their own dime, once we had that then we started thinking about songs. Like Ghostriders in the Sky, not written by Johnny but arguably enough one of his biggest songs, Willie Nelson has a million of them, so which one do we want, I love Whiskey River, and I wanted to make it a black metal kinda tune so we did that, so once we got the guys and the songs to back them, then we brought in the outside sources, Neal (Tiemann, Guitarist) brought in Thousand Miles to Nowhere by Dwight Yoakam, Mike (Spreitzer, Guitarist) brought in Dad’s Gonna Kill Me, I brought in Outlaw Man by The Eagles, are The Eagles Outlaw Country?, are they Outlaws? arguably enough, take a look at them, they are always wearing cowboy boots, the whole get up, their photoshoots are always in saloons, their biggest influence is The Burrito Brothers who huge country fans, I could give everyone a music lesson right now (laughs) but we don’t have time. That’s how it went, we picked the essential guys, the essential songs, now we have those let’s bring in some outsiders that we definitely think are outlaw in their own right, outlaw is those musicians who aren’t skewering their art for money, their not using 5, 6, 7 writers outside of the band to write their songs for them like a lot of the bands are doing right now, a lot of the heavy metal bands people are following right now are not bands, they are glorified radio rock bands who have 10 writers writing their tunes, and it’s so far from the original place where musicians started that I wanted to bring it back to where it started from.
In terms of guests on the album you John Carter Cash and his wife, as well as Hank Williams III as well as the metal guys like Randy Blythe, Burton C Bell and Wednesday 13. So firstly how did you pick who you wanted to be on the album and then how did you decide what songs they would be doing.
Dez: I asked people what they wanted to do, and gave them choices, but I also had ideas picked for them. The guest list just kind of went along, I didn’t want to do this thing without Randy or III, everything else kind of came along. We got in touch with John Carter Cash and that was amazing, and we actually flew out to the Cash Cabin in Nashville, I tracked some of my stuff in the Cash Cabin and watched Ana Cash track some of her stuff and she has an amazing voice. I got to sign the mantle at the Cash Cabin, it’s the Mantle that Johnny Cash had over the fireplace and I got sign next to Willie Nelson and Chris Cornell, that was an unbelievable life moment. I think the thing to take from that is when I pulled up to the Cash Cabin, the first hour or so all John wanted to talk about was his love for heavy metal, showed me photos of when his father took him to him to see Ozzy when he was 10 years old, and all I wanted to do was talk about Outlaw country and how these Outlaws had inspired me and how they had done their own thing, and they didn’t bow to radio or the monetization of their art, they had never skewed their art for money, just whatever came to them came to them, it was a real like-minded meeting, so that is how that went down. There were other guys that I’d talked to, Glen Danzig was the first person that I had asked because he’s a long time friend and I admire Glen a lot, he was my first tour ever with Coal Chamber back in the day, he said he could definitely do it, so we moved forward the record, but then he got tied up with The Misfits shows and doing some other stuff in the studio, and then other cats came along, I knew I had to have someone from punk rock and Lee Ving from Fear is one of my all time favourites, Fear was my punk band when I was a kid, I was wearing a Fear shirt when I first ran away from home, o to have him on it was incredible. Wednesday 13 I brought in because I needed someone from that gothic rock genre, Brock Lindow from 36 Crazyfists is kind of doing his own thing, he bridges the gap between alternative, punk and all this other stuff so the guest list was important and it kind of came together on its own as I asked people, that’s why we slapped the Vol.1 on it because when this thing was done I had so many people call me to say they would have been on it if I had contacted them, so we slapped the Vol. 1 on there last minute.
I’m glad you mentioned that because I was going to ask about the Vol.1 on the cover. Is that a Vol.2 already done or is there one potentially in the works or has it been left open-ended to revisit one day.
Dez: No, It’s not done. Look man, this thing was intense to get done, I told my wife four months ago that I didn’t think it was going to get done, the logistics of it were insane, I always try to say to bands listening to this, if you want to bite something like this off then just have fun, because this was logistically a nightmare. I don’t know when vol.2 will happen, I’m just going to let vol.1 ride right now and we’ll think about vol.2 way down the line. This whole thing was an artistic shot in the dark, just us doing something that had never been, and never been done properly, let’s do something organic and different and really shake up the status quo, and let’s have fun too, let’s give the people a record this summer that they can put on at their barbecue and it’s not a normal average record by your favourite band, or whatever Devildriver is to you, it’s just something fun that is full of guests and it’s got some really great tunes on it man.
From a songwriting standpoint, how did you approach the process. How did you go about retaining the initial vibes of the original songs while also adding that Devildriver flavour to them.
Dez: Well definitely they were going to be Devildriver, because they were written by Devildriver guys, but we knew that we had to keep the structure of the tune, so if you are familiar with the country genre and familiar with these songs, when you hear these versions then you could recognise them, they needed to be recognisable so even a dong like Whiskey River that is me and Randy doing our highest screams, you can still understand that is Whiskey River by Willie Nelson, that in part was the most important thing, then, of course, groove them up, get them moving, give them some vibe, you’ve gotta give them some groove, that’s Devildriver’s trademark.
Have you discussed any plans to tour the album just doing songs from this album, or will songs from it be put into Devildriver sets when you play. Will it just remain a recorded effort and the songs will remain unplayed live.
Dez: You know, we’re just not sure. At first I started saying this thing was not built for live unless I get a lot of the guests to come up and do the songs with us, this was just built as something for people to have between records from Devildriver, now the more I think about it, as we enter into places like Nashville and into L.A where Lee Ving might be, we may go away and do some of those songs live, so we’ll just have to go ahead and wait and see , we’ve been talking about that pretty fervently in the last week because we leave for tour in mid July for a week of dates here and then in August we do Bloodstock and about 18 dates in the UK and Eu, so we’re very excited about that, so we’ll see what songs we’re going to be adding and what we’ll be doing. This thing literally was built for people to gravitate towards while they wait for the next Devildriver record.
You mentioned coming to the UK to play Bloodstock again. One of the things you said last year at Download was that you were considering potentially relocating to the UK for a little while, is that still something you are considering.
Dez: Well, my wife and I have always loved the UK and we’ve got so many friends there, and I feel like my career was built-in Los Angeles, and the UK, I’ve said it numerous times in my 25 career if you’re accepted in L.A, New York and the UK, if they don’t just stand there with their arms folded then get ready to be embraced by the rest of the world and you should have a long career if you keep track of what you’re doing and you do it right, and if you give the fans what they need.We’ve always been fans of coming to the UK, with that said our kids are just coming to the point where they are old enough now where we might be able to relocate for 3 months, 6 months or a year at a time, so we have discussed that actually, so we’ll see as and when that comes to fruition, my wife has lots of ideas actually, maybe we could go stay in Amsterdam for 3 months, maybe we got live in the UK for 3-4 months, she is a big fan of London as am I. I feel like my career was built there, once you play shows in England and you do things right you should stay on track
The track Another Night in London is a testament to that.
Dez: Yeah, I wrote Another Night in London because of the way I feel about that city. I’m an extremely private person, I’m into my family and I’m into the stage and that’s really it, so I go from the bus to the stage then back to the bus. When I’m in the UK, after shows I’ll go out for dinner or off to a club, if someone is going to the Crowbar I’ll go even though I don’t drink anymore, because it’s the UK and I feel like it’s my home, or when I get to the venue Rock City in Nottingham, I feel like I’m at home, it’s the same thing with London, any time I step foot in London, it feels like home and that’s just something to be said for the English people for making me feel so wanted for all of these years, and I’m so appreciative of it.
So what is next for Devildriver. After touring will you take a break and then start work on the next record or have you not really thought that far ahead yet.
Dez: We just finished last week drums for 24 songs, my band starts tracking a double record on Tuesday for a staggered release, the first double album of my career, you kind of get the feeling that I’m doing bucket list shit (laughs) A covers record which I’d never done, a double record which I’ve never done and a concept record which I’ve never done, so I’m ticking off some bucket list items, and I think people are really going to love what we’re doing, the music is unbelievable, we had more pre-production on this record than we’ve done in our whole entire career, so by the time we’re going in the recording process it’s almost like we’ve been playing these songs live for months and months, that is highly unusual for any band, so I’m excited to see what’s coming, I start vocals in January and February of next year, look for a new Devildriver next year 100%. We’re going to try to start releasing new album every 18-24 months minimum. I have no idea why bands wait, and I say this in every interview because it’s kind of like sticking the knife in people and I love it, but why are bands waiting 3 or 4 years to put out a record, are you so over what you do? are you lazy? or can you not write, like what is happening, so I kind of put my middle finger up a bit and my fist both together, and I tell bands starts picking it up, when I was younger you got a record a year, people are wondering why rock and heavy metal in the United States is completely falling off, it’s because a kid goes into high school and in his first year of high school he falls in love with them and he gets a record from them, then he doesn’t get a record from the band until he graduates high school, of course, he’s going to fall away from the music, and fall away from that band, so we need metal bands now to be timely and to come with it in a fruitful timely manner, and start pushing the genre,and that’s what Devildriver is doing and we’re really going to kick it up over the next 3-6 years you are going to see us coming with a new record every 18-24 months minimum.
The More Devildriver the better.
Dez: It’s a lot of touring, we’ve been talking to everyone in the UK that we talk to, and we’re developing plans and we’ve got a lot of stuff in the works, so the next 10 years in Devildriver is going to be nothing but work. There’s been a little bit of downtime this year which has been fantastic, e needed to kind of sit out in a little bit and be in the states, obviously, we needed to get this work done as well. My guys are going insane and I’m going crazy, I can’t wait to get back on the road, get ready we’re coming.
I honestly can’t wait for you guys to come back, so I can see you play some shows, and hang out again.
Dez: Bloodstock is going to be insanity, that thing is close to sold out. Vicky (Hungerford, Festival Organiser) is doing amazing things with that festival and we’re so proud to be invited to that and it’s so cool to see what she’s done with that over the years, it’s becoming one of, if not the premier metal festival. Look for Devildriver, and I hope everyone who reads this comes out to that gig because we need everybody in that pit man, we need everybody coming out to see what Devildriver does to the UK. we’re definitely going to come there and slam it.
In closing do you have any final thoughts.
Dez: Final thoughts? do everything 110% in your life or don’t do it at all.
Outlaws ‘Til The End Vol.1 is released on July 6th on Napalm Records.