Dez Fafara (Devil Driver) – interviewDez Fafara

Dez Fafara (Devil Driver) – interview
Dez Fafara – Devil Driver

Dez Fafara’s Devil Driver released Dealing with Demons Vol. I back in 2020 and are just about to release the second half of the double album Dealing with Demons Vol. II. As usual, Dez has been up since 5am working on music, business, his book, and countless other things. He kindly made time to talk to us about what life has been like in-between those records and how it feels to finally get Vol. II out of the door.


LTW: Hey Dez, thanks for making the time to talk, how’s things?

“Things are doing well. Thank you for asking. I am happy every day that I wake up and take a breath, I’m healthy, knock on wood, families all great, businesses are running well, and the record is getting insane reviews. Dealing With Demons Vol. II has been sitting on ice for two-years, so great to finally start letting people hear it!”

One of the things that you’ve mentioned in the press is that Dealing with Demons is one of your most personal and literal albums. You have a reputation of being a very private person, so I’m curious what encouraged you to be so open about your feelings on these two records?

“If you follow my career and you’ve heard any interviews in the past, I don’t really speak about what the songs are about. Because if you listen to a track and you think it’s about a breakup and you relate to it, I don’t want to tell you it’s about skateboarding or whatever.

There were a few reasons behind the record. I’m getting on in years and there were a few things that I always wanted to do. One was to record a covers record, which we did with Outlaws ‘Til The End, Vol.1 and another was to record a double album, which is where Dealing With Demons came from.

It felt like the right time to do Demons, we had a ton of great material, and I had a lot to say. We’d been through a lot as a family with the ranch almost burning down and a ton of personal issues, so that combination of material and stuff to talk about all just came together on these records. It’s about dealing with sobriety, being stabbed in the back by your best friend, the demon of temptation, you name it and it’s on here somewhere.

When we started, I had 25 tracks that I thought were good enough, and then the band came in with another 10 or 15 tracks that were great too. We knew that it was as good or better than anything we’d done before, and we wanted to use as much of it as we could.

I then had to face down our label. We were contracted to do one record of 52 minutes or something, but I went to them with this idea of doing a double record instead with each being 35 to 40 minutes each. My idea was that the albums would be listened to back-to-back, so couldn’t be too long. The label loved the idea and really got behind it.

We wanted both to come out closely together, but we went through so much as a family with Anahstasia’s cancer surgery in 2019 and then the pandemic. I got Covid in late 2021 and ended up in intensive care and damn near died, I was even calling the Coal Chamber guys telling them to get in touch. Luckily, we’re through most of that now, Anahstasia has a clean bill of health and I’m getting stronger bit by bit. But here we are, two years later and Dealing with Demons Vol. II is finally about to come out!”

Have your recent adversities changed your outlook on life and music?

“I’ve always been a guy who’s been very humble, and appreciative of life. So, I don’t know if it changed me all that much.

Looking back at my Covid experience, I went out to my gym to just see if I was still signed up, walked around the gym because they moved some of the equipment, came home and 48 hours later had 104-degree fever and was on death’s bed. My wife is driving me to a makeshift clinic and a guy in a hazmat suit is grabbing me out of the car and his first words were take this one in first. I knew it was bad at that point. I think it’s given me more drive to get things done right now, don’t wait, never wait. If you have an idea, go do it!

We’ve always been busy as a family; we don’t sit still much. There is always something going on with one of our businesses, bands, writing or painting. This morning I was writing in the studio all morning before doing this interview, I don’t sleep much so need to find things to occupy me. Actually, that reminds me, we have my Autobiography out over the summer, you should have a read!

So, no I don’t think it’s really changed me all that much, I just don’t wait anymore, I get things done right now!”

I think you answered this a little already, but over your career you’ve always been busy, there is always a project or a business going on somewhere. What drives you to continue to create?

“I suffered in school a great deal. I didn’t want to learn social studies; I was terrible at math. Funnily, I’m pretty good with math now because I had to be for my businesses, but back then it wasn’t my thing. I loved art class, I loved English and wanted to be a writer. I’d much rather sculpt or paint than listen to someone explaining something. They didn’t diagnose this back then, but I’ve since been diagnosed with ADD, which answered a lot for me about the way I was as a kid and the things I do now.

My parents had me on Ritalin and a lot of those drugs, which help you fit but they really screwed with my brain and my love of art and being creative. Getting off those drugs and finding creative outlets saved my life really.

I was a real problem child though, I didn’t sleep much, my mom would find me downstairs, wide awake looking for things to do at 2am. That hasn’t changed much to be honest, it still drives my Wife crazy that I don’t sleep much. These days I use that time creatively, or in the gym but you can only run so many miles before you get tired!

I guess the answer to the question is ADD though. ADD is, why we covered Sail from AWOLNATION because when I heard it and they’re talking about ADD. I really wish I’d written those lyrics “Blame it on my ADD, baby”, its genius, that’s why we just had to cover it with Devil Driver.”

ADD sounds almost like it’s your superpower?

“You’re the first person to say that, but I think you’re correct. I think that if you can get to grips with your ADD, you can use that to your advantage.

It’s hard for parents with an ADD kid though. I was off the wall, I never sat still. When my book comes out, there’s a story in it of one of my elementary teachers, who tied me to a chair for the afternoon. He’d probably be in prison if it happened today.

But here’s the thing with ADD, you can’t sit somebody in a room with white, fluorescent lights buzzing above and then talk slowly to them about maths or history and expect them to sit still.

If you’re reading this interview right now, use this in your life, trust me, some of the wealthiest, happiest people I know in my life have what they have because they have ADD, not just monetarily. They have a happiness about them. If you can find an outlet, something to use your time on, your ADD will keep you moving.”

I want to take you back a little bit to Dealing with Demons if I may. What was the writing process like compared to your previous records?

“So, on a regular record, you know you’ve got to record maybe 13 songs. We knew we had to record more than double that. One of the things that I said to everybody is don’t get consumed with the amount of work, if you have a song, let’s just do it. Don’t try to think if it’s going to be on the record. Don’t think if it fits the vibe of what we’re doing, just keep writing and moving. The song Wishing came out of that conversation, which is released on Dealing with Demons Vol. 1 and it’s got clean vocals and stuff very reminiscent of Sisters of mercy or Bauhaus. We might not have done that song if we weren’t in that frame of mind.

I was raised on Punk Rock, Gothic and Psycho Billy Way before metal and I didn’t want us to leave songs out because they didn’t fit, I wanted us to record what came to us and decide what went on the record later. Before we knew it, we had 25 to 30 tracks to listen to. Of course, then we had to have the difficult conversation about what to cut. We’re all artists and nobody wants to see their stuff not get used, but we all had to go through that. At that stage, it came down to the tracks that we all loved really. One other thing we did was that any songs that we cut, we agreed never to use that material again, it’s not coming up on B-sides or whatever, that stuff is gone.

The other thing was how to sequence a double record, I changed the opening track three times I think, which meant our poor mastering engineer having to go through it repeatedly.

Something else I want to mention here is about the perception of the band, everyone knows that Devil Driver is my thing, I run this ship but with any ship the crew will mutiny if there’s no democracy. I let the band have full control over the sequencing on the records, when I finally saw both records together, I had zero changes. In fact, I only had a few real things that I was dead set on, I wanted to choose the record opener and I wanted to make sure that we had an energetic track after Wishing. The whole thing worked out perfectly.”

Your fan base seems to have loved every change in direction and experimentation that you’ve made so far. Like you mentioned, even Wishing, which was a lot slower and cleaner than most of your songs seems to have gone down well?

“We’ve not been held to the fire like some other bands. A lot of bands, if they add something like even clean vocals or what have you, their fans revolt.  We’ve not been held to that so far. What I see in metal are bands releasing record after record catering to their brand, keeping it Coca-Cola, catering to their fans. As an artist, that’s not really for me, that’s not what we do.

Even back with Coal Chamber we’ve been able to do what we want, and the fans come to it, so there’s something natural about those records. Even within devil driver, there’s a huge progression between, the first, second and third records to where we are now. We’re just doing what we’re doing and thankfully our fans are coming along with us, which is fantastic. We’re incredibly lucky to be able to do that.”

I love that people struggle to define your sound. How would you describe it?

“Here’s a story, I was getting tattooed the other night by a 19-year-old. He said I saw your name down on the list for today and I checked out some of your stuff, what kind of music is it? And so there I was, staring down a kid who’s not even half my age and I’m explaining to him that we just do our own thing, we don’t really care how it’s labelled. Although, having said that we used to use the hashtag groovemetal back when we started but now so many others are using it, I’ve started using the tag darkgroove instead, which I think describes a bit better?”

Finally, I’d love to hear a little about your influences?

“I grew up on early punk rock and new wave as a kid. I love bands like Echo and The Bunny Men, Sisters of Mercy, and Bauhaus. I loved Psycho Billy and Blues too. It felt like every band that came out of the UK at the time. Mike Spreitzer my guitarist is a huge lover of industrial metal, so if it sounds like Ministry and Skinny Puppy, he’s all over that. We’ve got a lot of influences as a band.

If I can come back to the 19-year-old who tattooed me the other day, I was explaining to him that we’re not the fastest or heaviest, we just do our thing. We talked about a ton of great heavy bands on the scene now that are incredible too, bands like I Prevail and Lorna are absolutely crushing it. We’re so happy for them, but we’re just doing our thing over here.”

Dealing With Demons Vol. II is out on the 12th May via Napalm Records.

Devil Driver: Web | Facebook
Coal Chamber: Web | Facebook


All words and by Neil Johnson. More writing by Neil Johnson can be found at Neil’s archive. Neil is also on Instagram as @jonnokid and is also the co-host of The Monster Shop on Louder Than War Radio(LTW’s Metal Show).

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