Balancing Family Life And Making Art: An Interview With Devildriver

Devildriver 2Devildriver is armed with a new album (Winter Kills), a new record label in Napalm Records, a new bassist, and a fresh perspective on the music industry as they enter their second decade as a band. Led by indomitable front man Dez Fafara, the band is poised to make an impact on the scene in 2013 and beyond with their new music and some major tours lined up.

This is you third time working with producer Mark Lewis. What do you like about working with him?

I like the guy; he’s a really good dude. He’s totally professional. He shows up on time, knows what he’s doing, and knows how to get the best out of you. I worked with him on the Last Kind Words and Beast and now on Winter Kills. He just seems to know our sound, and he knows how to keep our sound our sound. Which means he’s not going to impart what we use with other bands, and keeps us away from what other bands are doing as well. So we can make sure to keep that special thing that Devildriver has. That way we don’t sound like anyone else. It’s been now.. six records when this one comes out. Almost ten years and people have a hard time putting us is any kind of category. We’re kind of a square peg in a round hole, but over time our fans started calling us the “California Groove Machine” and I felt like that was a good title. If you’re going to have to give it a title, that was a good title and I felt like on this record, on Winter Kills, we specifically had to live up to that. It was a hard title to live up to, I mean you got to make sure. And we did on this record. Winter Kills is groove filled, hook-filled, very tight arrangement, a very cohesive record, and I’m excited. The players behind me, really, really played their ass off and I think that this is our best record. I think that if you’re a Devildriver fan, you’ll get into this one, you’ll love it. If you’re not a Devildriver fan, this one may turn you around, and if you’ve never heard of us, this is one to listen to, and you may want to go back in our catalogue to see where we’ve come from, and how we’ve changed. Every record is different. They all sound different, but with our signature sound. And that’s a difficult thing to do, but we managed to do it.

I felt like the last record had a death metal tint to it. This one seemed to have a more straight up hardcore feel to your vocals. I really appreciate your clarity and annunciation.

Thank you. I think it needed that. You needed to be able to understand what I was saying as well, as we didn’t stack a lot of the vocals. A lot of the bands out now are stacking 4-5-6-7 vocals over a verse, 4-5-6-7 vocals in a whisper, and all these other tracks to be heavy, but we stayed true and we stayed raw and I think that’s what really made this record great. We got a lot of first takes. Most of the record vocally is first takes. Most of those first takes were left singular, with maybe a word doubled or something here or there in order to make it stick out in the listeners’ headphones. If they are in headphones, to make it pan from ear to ear. Otherwise, we left it real raw and real kind of unproduced; except the presence is there. Because the sounds and the tones are there, so it’s really full. I think what you’re hearing, you know when you mentioned hardcore; I don’t have much of a hardcore background. I like The Crumsuckers and a few other bands from back in the day but I did grow up on early Black Flag, and Circle Jerks, The Germs, GBH, a lot of punk rock; so you’re hearing kind of a visceral quality in there that’s making you think hardcore. We’re going to make you think punk rock, but the thing is there’s so much groove in this music, that you put that kind of a vocal over a groovy hook, with hooky lyrics, and it just turns out to be the quality that is Devildriver. It was a good time recording it, and I was extremely focused so you’re catching a lot of little’ lightning in the bottle’ magic moments when you’re listening to it. It’s not four hours in the studio to get one track. Like I said, it’s all first takes, and I think when you get that feeling out of a record, people are gonna to hear it and they’re gonna feel it. So we hope people feel it with Winter Kills.

You’ve been with Roadrunner Records forever, basically. So this is your first time away from Roadrunner. What made you decide it was time for a change?

You know I think it was beneficial for both of us. I think the label and I came to the same conclusion. A lot of people were leaving the label; a lot of people were getting let go, a lot of people that worked me and signed me; getting let go. A lot of the bands were getting let go. I didn’t feel the passion there. I felt like on Pray For Villains and on Beast, especially in the United States on Roadrunner, they didn’t really pay attention to it, and that bummed me out man. You need to have passion within the people that you work with, and that work alongside you and I just wasn’t feeling their passion anymore. Napalm Records, I feel their vibe I feel their passion for the music. They’re a great business partner. We still have Roadrunner/Warner Brothers over in Australia, and we signed with Metal Blade in Japan so we have good working business partners with this. It’s difficult for me because, I’m artistic and I don’t like the art to be turned into a commodity, but you have to at a certain point in order to get out there and tour and reach certain goals. You have to have people, that if they are going to do that, they are not just numbers people, they got some kind of passion behind them and everyone that I’m working with now on the business end has a lot of passion for the music. So I’m pleased to be with all these new business partners. It’s a new venture, it’s a new record, it’s a new bass player, it’s a new feeling for us, and we’ve definitely captured a record that’s going to back all that.

I noticed you are very, very active on Twitter. I enjoy when you ask people to ask you any question and people start asking you every random thing, serious or not serious. You give very concise and matter of fact answers, and I appreciate your honesty.

Let me tell you something. I’m a hermit, I’m a loner, and I’m an isolationist. I’m completely socially awkward. You’ll never find me at the strip club or backstage doing the whole “hang out party thing”. My hands started getting sweaty if I’m around more than fifteen people; I just want to bail out. A perfect example is that I was just at an awards show less than a month ago, and as soon as I was done playing I went straight to my bus and put on a movie, instead of going in and hanging out with all the bands and everything. It’s just too much for me. I prefer the isolation. The solitary and I prefer to just do my art and make music. That being said, I did take a job where I have to be a little social and got to be out there and on the road. Well it (Twitter) gives me an outlet. I’m able to talk to a mass audience or talk to people where I don’t need to put myself in a social situation, because that just doesn’t work for me anymore. I kind of bent to the rule where I just do better in some kind of isolation, with a few friends and not in big groups. So social media gives me an outlet I can post pictures on Instagram of my family and my dogs give people a bit of insight of what I do when I’m home. I’m a normal cat; I live a blue collar working class life. It’s how I grew up on the job site as a construction guy, and I remember that and that’s what’s going on with me but Twitter and Instagram give me a way to talk to people and not have to get out of my zone, which may be the back of the tour bus, or on my couch at home. Who knows?

You have a family now and I know a lot of people have a hard time being on the road and whatnot. How do you juggle the band with the family?

Well I’m a different kind of character. I never let the Ego, or the Id take over me, so I never became that rockstar that all of a sudden got a cocaine problem, left his wife and kids, crashed his car on the freeway, flipping off the cops. I stayed humble and kind of normal and I never bring any of that home to my family. So the way you balance that is you make sure your home between tours a little bit for a couple of weeks between tours and my wife, we have a three week rule: where if I go out for more than three weeks, she comes out to wherever I’m at. We don’t spend more than that apart from each other, but other than that, my life is pretty normal at home: cooking for the family, whatever. Gardening with my wife and swimming with the kids, and on the road I live the same way. I get up and try to find some place to stretch out and do some yoga, try to get my head together, and then I do the shows, and I go right back to the back lounge with a few friends some of my crew, watch movies and I stay away from all the rock and roll cliché bullshit, really. Anyone who knows me knows that that’s the definite truth. I’ve been on tour with bands before where I’ve been on tour with you for six weeks, and I’ve never met you, but it is what it is. I’m out there to do a job and do my gig, and I just don’t want to get caught up in any shenanigans. It’s the way that it goes. So the way I balance my family and my art is I make sure to keep my family first, and my art never intercedes, or anything around my art never intercedes.

Omar Cordy

Devildriver – Facebook