by Cameron Edney
– Guest Columnist –
Devildriver Return Killing Off Winter!
Devildriver, California’s groove machine is back, and has unleashed their sixth and most diverse album to date Winter Kills. Thirteen years after the band first formed Devildriver have grown from strength to strength, every album has becomes stronger, heavier than the last, crowd attendance has always been at record highs and the band still hold the record for one of the biggest circle pits on earth! One thing I have always loved about this band is that they really worked their way up to the top from the bottom, they opened up many tours never jumped straight to a headlining band, they won over crowds in the UK, USA, South America, Japan and Australia doing the hard yard and releasing albums worthy of playing for years to come! The bands ever growing fan base are going to love the new album no doubt and I am certain that the diversity shown on Winter Kills will also bring a new larger fan base to the bands door.
It’s been two and a half years since the band released Beast their most brutal offering by far and since then the band has been hard at work out on the road and demoing material for Winter Kills. As all fans are aware vocalist Dez Fafara returned to the traps with Coal Chamber for a run of reunion shows during this time also, and no doubt many fans were wandering what was happening on the Devildriver front. Some fans have been waiting for a little while now for the reassurance that the band would be releasing new material and let me tell you… Winter Kills is certainly well worth the wait.
The week before the massive Soundwave Festival Line-up was announced in Australia. I had the pleasure of catching up with my good friend and Devildriver vocalist Dez Fafara to discuss the bands brand new album Winter Kills, and the possibilities of heading back to Australia. Australian fans already now know that Devildriver will be returning to Australia in February as part of the 2014 Soundwave Festival Bill which also features Testament, Green Day, Megadeth and Motionless in White to name just a few. Here is what Dez had to say about the writing process for Winter Kills and heading back Down Under!
Hardrock Haven: Dez… Mate it’s fantastic to be speaking to you once again… how’s everything going?
Dez: I’m good bro, I’m home right now got another two weeks here then I got rehearsals for a week then we head overseas for some festivals; so anytime I get to spend at home with my kids, my beautiful wife and my dogs… it’s always a pleasurable day!
Hardrock Haven: Indeed it is mate! As always great to talk to you again for another killer album! This must be the sixth interview we’ve done now and there really isn’t anything new I can throw at you on that front but will say congratulations on Winter Kills… You must agree though this has to be the most diverse album you guys have released to date!
Dez: I knew we needed to step up the game. We know what we do and we know what we do well, we wanted to live up to the title that the Californian fans are calling us… the Californian groove machine, and we wanted to live up to that title. It has a ton of groove, a ton of hook and we wanted to concentrate on song arrangement. We wanted to make sure that the arrangements were there. We made the flow of the record and the songs very cohesive. Look, you’ve talked to me a lot of times and you know that over the last five records I’ve never said “this is the best one”, you’d be far from it as an artist to do that, but I will say right now I think we have done our best effort! It’s one of those records that if you’re a Devildriver fan you’re gonna love it, if you’re not a fan it may swing you in our direction, if you’ve never heard of us you’re gonna hear this record and go back and get into our back catalog. Winter Kills really did have lightning in the bottle.
Hardrock Haven: Mate as we’re all aware you have had a pretty solid and intense eighteen months out on the road doing the Coal Chamber reunion as well as some other things that have been happening in your life… How involved were you with the writing / creative process on the new album having had so much going on?
Dez: Obviously I was heavily involved with the writing for the album, from every demo to every arrangement. I wanted to get deep with this record and songs like ‘Desperate Times’ or even ‘Oath Of The Abyss’ the one that opens the album is all about a magical ritual that magical journey and one that I have taken. Given all of this I just decided to give a little more of myself… even more of myself lyrically on this record and I hope that people pick up on that!
Hardrock Haven: You can certainly hear that Devildriver tone, that sound if you will throughout the album, but I loved that I could pick up so much more this time around on other musical influences coming through. One main stand out for me was a Pantera style vibe to a few of the tracks.
Dez: I write all of the lyrics and I think what you’re going to find is a real punk rock live vibe with this record. We are influenced by many different bands you will here and obvious Pantera influence as we’re all Pantera fans. Within Devildriver, we all listen to such diverse music and everyone knows I listen to everything from Country to Blues and Black Metal. For us it was all about catching a swing, catching a groove, making sure the hooks were there and making sure the lyrics were accessible to people and actually moved you.
Hardrock Haven: Well for me from start to finish… I felt the album was quite powerful and diverse as I said, and I really think that’s one thing that I gravitated to most with Winter Kills and no doubt will have others doing the same!
Dez: Absolutely man we had a lot of magic, we had a lot of magic in the writing and lot of lightning when we were writing and recording. I remember when we first put the microphones up to record, to figure out the tone I was gonna use. We got the tone in about ten minutes, I couldn’t believe it! The first track ‘Ruthless’ I was done with it in twelve minutes everything was just striking us like that! Even down to the title… the title came about so strange. My wife and I were doing ritual one night, we went to bed, I woke up early in the morning and went back down into our ritual room and I started write. I used a practice on this record called automatic writing which is where I listened to the track about ten to fifteen times then I just turned the track off and started writing pages of lyrics. I came up with the song called Winter Kills my wife came down stairs I told her the title and she immediately started crying. The back story is that her mum’s passed away and my wife and her mum who was also a redhead shared the same birthday; and her mum was an actress, and one of the first movies she ever did was Winter Kills.
Hardrock Haven: Oh dude, what a trip!
Dez: Yeah what a trip is right man it was a “what the fuck moment!” It was a really strange moment, but the rest of the record really wrote itself like that. I used a lot of automatic writing where you go into a semi-tranced state you can’t have any music or any noises I was inside of a recording booth and you put yourself in this state of mind where you start writing… half of it will be scribble the other half will be sentences or words I put all of that together & it was creating songs for me.
Hardrock Haven: Dez I know you had a home studio built for working on this album, tell us more about that side of things and having the luxury of doing it all from home. Is it something you wanted to do all along or logistically did it seem like the best idea?
Dez: I just started realizing that after twenty years in the business, being away from home wasn’t lending anything to the record. I don’t think that misplacing yourself or putting yourself on edge a little bit or putting yourself in a non-comfort zone would actually add to your art, somehow make it more ferocious. It was actually killing the vibe for me and over the last couple of records man I realised I do better with my family and that’s just the bottom line. My wife and my family are my life, being here, being able to walk downstairs record tracks come out at night and have dinner with my family that was incredible for me! I was in a great head space. All of these songs were all first takes which is extremely rare. So everything that you hear was a first take, I didn’t spend five hours on one song, as a matter of fact if we didn’t get the skeleton of it within the first fifteen-twenty minutes I would bail out and we would start again the next day. That was something that I really wanted to capture with this record, those first takes, I also never demoed. I remember last time we spoke I told you I was demoing vocals for the last record… I didn’t demo any vocals for this record. The first time I spat the vocals out… that was it! I think that added so fucking much to the record dude, it really did!
Hardrock Haven: Obviously you’re about to hit the road with the new album, can we expect to see you back in Australia next year for Soundwave?
Dez: I want to get there twice next year. I would love to do Soundwave I don’t make a move in Australia without talking to my brother Aj. Aj’s family to me, I’d love to come down do Soundwave and I’d love to do a headlining tour next year that being said I’m about to go overseas to do festivals and we start running really hard, we’re gonna log some serious air and road miles on this record.
Hardrock Haven: And what happens with Coal Chamber at this point mate, obviously that will be put back on hold whilst the tour and album is pushed now, but have you guys spoken about the possibility of anything new for the future… more shows another album?
Dez: I think it was important, I think the way that thing ended, it was important to revisit it. We did it we bought it to Australia we had a great time; we did South America, the UK Europe we did America and America was absolutely incredible for us. I think we revisited it, we went out to dinner we had a nice kiss and it was wonderful. To use that analogy we walked through the door gave each other a kiss but I don’t know if we’re gonna date again. There’s nothing new on the books touring wise I am extremely focused on Devildriver.
Hardrock Haven: With the new tour in place you pride yourselves on being one of the best live bands around and I’ve seen you a million times now and can certainly back that up! Mate when are we going to see a live album from you guys?
Dez: That’s awesome that you would ask that, I did talk to my manager this morning actually about putting something out… I don’t know if we will get another record out in the next two and a half years, it will be too much I believe but between now and the next record I’d like to put out a live record… That being said, different companies own different songs and you’ve got to get those businesses all working together and then you have to get permission to release different shit, its fucked up business shit. On the art side I want to do a live record so badly dude, I really do. With the new cd you’re gonna get forty five minutes of us live in Berlin at a club show its purely live there’s no overdubs, what you hear is what you hear and man it is ferocious sounding. If you do pick up the extended version of what we’re putting out you’re going to get that!
Hardrock Haven: Dez we’re almost out of time but I wanted to talk to you about the bonus tracks on Winter Kills also I got a version with two extra tracks both most certainly album worthy. Did you guy shave a lot of material left over from these sessions?
Dez: That was a difficult process man, I wanted everything to be on the record but unfortunately for different outlets and everything else you have to put out B-sides. I don’t think those two tracks left over were B-side tracks at all they’re definitely album worthy, it’s just one of those things on a cohesive level of what works. Putting a song like ‘Tripping Over Tombstones’ as a B-side… it’s one of my favorite tracks. It’s a difficult thing for me when they say “okay, we need to put this as a B-side” but I totally get it. One outlet wants a certain amount of exclusivity and we try to give that to people we had enough tunes to do that so that being said everyone gets what they want and in the end, if everyone purchases the special edition anyways you’re gonna get forty five minutes of us live in Berlin you’re gonna get two – three extra tracks it sometimes comes with a t-shirt or whatever so you have to go for it!
Find the band online at http://www.devildriver.com/.