Geïnterviewden: Dez Fafara (zanger) / Neal Tiemann (gitarist)
Interview afgenomen op: Alcatraz Hard Rock & Metal Festival 2016
Label: Napalm Records
Sinds 2001 is Dez Fafara bezig met zijn band DevilDriver. Doorheen de jaren bracht hij verschillende album uit met steeds die kenmerkende groove sound die DevilDriver maakt, waarvan ‘Trust No One’ het meest recente is. Dez en de nieuwe gitarist Neal stonden ons te woord na hun optreden op Alcatraz Hard Rock & Metal Festival.
Did you enjoy your show at Alcatraz? What did you think of it?
Dez: Incredible! We had a fun time, it was a little bright and early but ok. We would prefer to be playing with pyros and a lot later to set the whole place on fire. Had a great time though, a really incredible crowd and I find the whole festival put together so well and so well run and that’s always a pleasure.
Let’s talk about the touring life. How do you experience touring? Is it easy or sometimes hard?
Neal: For the most part it’s quite easy because at this point this feels like this is what we meant to do. Of course we are away from the wives, the dogs, kids, not necessarily in that order…
Dez: Dogs, wives, kids?
Neal: It’s a give and take, you know (laughs). I can’t imagine not doing it.
Dez: I do love touring. Neal is married, I’m married, happily. Neal and I both have Great Danes, that’s how we met. So being away from our dogs is a terrible thing. You can talk to your wives and hear them, but you can’t do that with them. But I really do love touring and Neal does, too. Also the rest of the band thinks so. We’re here to promote a record which had an incredible debut all over the world, so for us it’s going out to make it work, right? We are a working class kinda band so we’re out there doing our thing.
Do you think it has become easier these latest years in comparison to the old days?
Dez: What is easy? If I wake up in the morning and I get food and find a place to take a shower, I’m very good. Have a good show, that’s what it’s about. Luxury… I don’t think luxury and heavy metal go hand in hand. We’re not staying in 5 star hotels by any means. It’s no luxury. We could take luxury, I think we as a band prefer to just be on the bus and go hit it wherever we are out. You get in the rhythm and that’s what makes the band the band, that’s what makes us so good today because we are in such a good rhythm. We’ve been playing 70 minutes a night. Today they gave us 45 minutes so I only had to run half a mile, so it’s great.
How do you decide the setlist then if you normally play much longer?
Neal: At this point the band has been touring for much longer than I’ve been in it. There are certain songs that the audience needs to hear. You’re not going to see a DevilDriver show without Clouds over California. These things have to be in there and having now 7 records to choose from, the setlist almost gets decided already because you need at least 2 songs from each record that everybody likes and at the point, 7 records, that’s 14 songs. That’s more than we played today. Besides that, we look at what worked over the time and those that groove the best.
I was surprised by Before the Hangman’s Noose.
Dez: So fun right? Going back and taking that one out, real fun, thank you for mentioning that. It’s good to take one of those days out of the barrel and throw it in the bunch.
Neal: It’s my favorite one to play because of the reaction it gets.
Dez: Ah, unbelievable! I never thought that was going to happen. First of all, you have to know that the single that we released was Daybreak. Often when a new members comes in, he has to sit a bit back. That was not the case. Neal wrote Daybreak. So it’s like a new member coming in and we release that song. Then My Night Sky, a collaborative one, was the second and people went crazy about that, like they’ve known it for years. For me it’s always been so crazy to see that… There’s no other word for it, crazy to see that.
Neal: They learn those lyrics faster than I did. I’m learning it as we’re playing it, but they already got it.
Dez: Neal is right. It means there is a need to feel, there is a passion for DevilDriver. So now we know that we have to come over a lot. The next couple of years we have to come over and really make our stake here. And we’re ready to do that now. As a band and with the music that we have already.
The new album has 10 tracks on it…
Neal: We recorded 12 I think. 10 and 2 on the bonuses.
Were there any others that you recorded but maybe did not make it on the album?
Neal: We did. I think we were up to 20 songs that we had written and that we decided that were cool. We recorded 13-14 songs, nothing more than that.
Dez: Oddly enough, some of the songs didn’t make it on the record thanks to us. There is a song called Shipsterned where the label was like, this is the single, and we didn’t put it on the record. So there may be some stuff that comes up again but we’re not one of those bands that makes a new record with whatever is left over, that’s not happening with us. But if there is a riff that’s so strong that you can’t ignore it, then maybe it’ll cross over.
So it seems that with the new label Napalm Records you get a lot of freedom.
Dez: Well, it’s a beautiful thing. When you want to be an artist and you have somebody doing the business and when you collide they are cool with whatever you want to do. We’re getting ready to do something very unique very soon and it’s a collaboration between that label and us that’s going to be unbelievable. It’s not going to be a new record of our own stuff, let’s just say that. There is some stuff going to happen.
Neal: It’s a secret! Don’t tell to much!
How would you compare the new album with the previous records?
Dez: It’s very straight. Have you heard every record? Then you know we have like a signature groove sound. But there’s so much of a difference between every record. You don’t know how that happens, you don’t try to make that happen, but it’s got to be, every record has to be a bit different or you fall into the category of a band who did 20 records all the same. You don’t want to do that, no. This band is full of guys who want to come out of the box, you know. If you are on our bus, you hear everything from outlaw country to blues to metal, to death metal, black metal, The Eagles, …
Neal: Frank Sinatra!
Dez: Frank Sinatra just now. For us that’s an important thing man. We’re not purists, that’s why people like DevilDriver because we don’t sound like anything else. That’s the most important thing.
*Dez lifts up his bottle of beer and says cheers, we follow the example, inspect the Jupiler Blue bottle and start a conversation about Belgian beers.*
Being active since beginning 2000, how do you look back on the evolution of the band?
Dez: Well, I’ve been doing it since 1993 and DevilDriver has been around since 2001. It’s been a great evolution, there’s a great camaraderie. There’s a unique love for what we do together. We’re feeling not only a friendship vibe but something special on stage, so hard to encapsulate or capture. And yeah, there have been some member changes, some have left us among the way due to drug abuse and this and that, but bottom line is that DevilDriver stayed intact, the sound stayed intact and the sound as a whole is more unique. Now we’re in a stage that is going to be something extremely special, the next 2-3 records are going to be absolutely incredible. We all had a good time recording ‘Trust No One’ and there was a lot to say on that record, lyrically. When you go into it riff-wise, drum-wise and the grooves, it’s an incredible record, and it’s my own band that I’m saying this of, well shit, we did a good job, I’m pleased with how the band is right now.
Neal: You should hear Austin play drums in the studio!
Dez: Austin is so fucking sick on drums. That dude is the sickest fucker ever. And he’s the coolest guy I’ve ever seen, too. He’s funny all the time. Neal and me, we are not jokers, you know, but we need a guy around like that. Neal and I are a lot more serious than the others but it is what it is… Am I drinking 3.2° beer?
Dez with ironic voice: We need beer that’s not 3.2 please! This is all bullshit! I’m from America! I wanna get bust! I’m over here, doing interviews, drinking 3.2 beer which feels like shit!
Dez: Here’s the thing, when you do festivals, you see so many people, so many friends, so many cool crews. You feel like a part of something special. Every festival we’ve hit, part of something special.
What are actually the plans for the coming months?
Neal: We first are going home for 3 solid weeks and then we’re going back out with Hatebreed as we did in the spring. We’re going away for 5 weeks I think.
*somebody brings Maes beer*
Dez: Haha, yeah man! Thank you brother, fuck yeah neighbor! See? So fun! Stuff like that, it becomes not a job at festivals because there are so many cool people everywhere and cool bands you can see.
So you’re experiencing festivals really differently than club shows?
Neal: Yeah, in club shows we tend to stay more in the bus. It’s the same every night, we get on stage, do our thing.
Dez: Neal and I are both very private people, extremely. So we’re either in the back lounge or in our bunk. We really met under very precarious situations. The 2 wives met because we both have Great Danes and then the wives want to bring the husband. And then we were like, shit, I have to hang out with this guy? I don’t know him. But we became good friends, I have a huge respect for him now. He’s a great musician and he’s a lot like me. Though we are very private, the other guys are very different. Our drummer is very outgoing and funny. We all kinda have a good time but Neal and I are as said very private people but that makes us bond, you know… That sounded so serious (laughs). I should call for the Jack Daniels of our neighbors next to me.
One final question, perhaps difficult to answer for you Neal, but the name DevilDriver, where does it come from?
Dez: It comes from the Italian witches, the Stregheria witches. They called their bells ‘devil drivers’, to drive away evil. So when the church came in, what was the first thing they took from the pagans? Bells! And they put bells above all their churches so when they rang the bells, everyone that was used to pagan culture would come in, give their money and their soul to something ridiculous. This is where it comes from, bells that ring away evil called ‘devil drivers’. It sounds metal but it’s very positive and something I found connected to.