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JUNE 30th 2018

DEZ FAFARA EXCLUSIVE

 

I remember having a conversation with John Carter Cash during the recording of the album; I asked him “You think your dad would have liked this record?” He looked at me straight in the eye and said “Man, my dad covered “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails, he did this in reverse!” I responded “Oh shit! Of course he did! That’s right!” [laughs]  Dez Fafara Devildriver frontman is about to release an ‘outlaw country’ covers record reimagined as a metal record, sure there have been metal acts that have covered a country song, but an entire album?

“Man, it started off as a stopgap between records, but looks like this thing is taking off. I’m currently also working on tracks for the first solo record of my career. It will be a double concept album. I wanted for us all to be home with our families in 2018. We’ll see what ultimately happens.”  Fafar hinted at the possibility of doing some select performances and invite the musicians that performed on the record for some of the dates. Metal Titans caught up with Fafara for a chat to promote ‘Outlaws Till The End Vol.1’ which will be released via Napalm Records on July 6th. 

*Fafara mentioned Rebel Meets Rebel, the interview took place on 6.21.18 the day before Vinnie Paul’s death.

Interview By: Ruben Mosqueda

Metal Titans: What’s your first memory of listening to a country song?

Dez: Oh man, I wasn’t the kid that came home from school and watched cartoons. I was the kid that came home and got into his parents’ record collections. I don’t know what exactly I heard first, but it was either something by Willie Nelson or “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers.

I didn’t differentiate it [country music] from stuff like; Steppenwolf or The Doors, I just saw it as music. I think it was at that point that I formed my relationship with music and not being a purist; to me if it’s good music it’s good music. Even today I don’t care what genre something is; if it’s good, it’s good.

Metal Titans: Something has happened over the years; artists aren’t so ‘cautious’ to talk about music that they like. I think between the mid-80s well into the 90s there’s no way that a rock or metal artist would admit to liking ‘country’ music.

Dez: I think that still goes down now! [laughs] I say this, because I ask people all the time; “Hey do you like country music?” They’ll say ‘Nah man, I hate country music!” So then I’ll say something like; “So you like Johnny Cash?” And they’d say “Oh, I love Johnny Cash!” Then I say “So do you like Willie Nelson?” And they’ll say “Oh, I love Willie Nelson!” Then I think to myself “So you hate country?!” [laughs]

Metal Titans: So do you think that’s because when people think country now they think of acts like Florida Georgia Line or Luke Bryan? So essentially everything that is under the ‘country’ banner gets lumped together?


Dez: Of course it I does. I agree with you. I think there are parallels between country and metal. Like if you say I don’t like metal and you’ve listened to a black metal band, there’s sub-genres within; metalcore, nu-metal, power metal, thrash metal, or doom metal and so on and so forth. You might not like Cradle of Filth but you might like Pantera or you might like Black Sabbath all of which are metal.

Within ‘outlaw country’ Willie [Nelson], Johnny [Cash], Hank [Williams] and Waylon [Jennings] they were the Lemmys of the genre. They never used their music for monetization, they never skewed their art to get on radio to receive accolades; they came out how they came out and all of the accolades followed. Listen, for years I have always thought that this music should be done ‘heavy’ I have always heard it heavy. I’ve always found that this needs more explanining to European press that to American press; if you hop on a tour bus, you’re going to hear Johnny Cash right in there with Slayer, Pantera and then Metallica and no one bats an eye. I think country has alway gone hand in hand with heavy metal; that is ‘outlaw country’ because that ‘Georgia Line’ is ‘pop country.’ I can’t stand pop country, there’s like a dozen songwriters on those songs! [laughs] Like with ‘Georgia Line’ are they writing all of their songs?! Probably not! [laughs] If I’m wrong, come after me! [laughs]

Guys like Johnny Cash either wrote their own songs or they chose appropropriate songs that were ‘outlaw-ish.’ “Ghost Riders In The Sky” one of Johnny’s biggest hits wasn’t written by him but it was in the ‘outlaw’ vein and sound. In my opinion, these two genres needed to crash together, we were the band that needed to make it happen. In a time in heavy metal when it’s ‘not cool’ to say that you like country music; I say fuck you! I do what I want and this needs to happen.

Metal Titans: Was ‘Outlaws Till The End’ always meant to be a Devildriver album? What I mean by that is did you initially envision it as a solo effort, then got the band on board for a band effort?

Dez: It was always meant to be a Devildriver record, but interestingly enough a guy at the label said that he didn’t think this would be a ‘good move’ for the ‘Devildriver brand.’ He suggested that I do this as a solo artist because he feared that by doing a record like this it would ‘fuck our brand up.’ So he said “Don’t do this [record] for the brand.” That’s when I decided, well cool then, well I’m going to do it and I put my best foot forward to making this happen. I don’t like hearing ‘can’t’ or ‘don’t’ any of those words! [laughs] I’m excited that I was right, because from talking to the press and fans they’re anticipating it! I’ve been reading a lot of comments online from people that have been waiting for someone to do this right.


Metal Titans: Metal fans are surprisingly open minded to a degree; they accepted Rebel Meets Rebel and Hank III. How do you think ‘Outlaws Till The End’ will be received by fans? Do you think this might open some doors to pick-up some fans that might no otherwise be Devildriver fans?

Dez: I would hope so. I remember back when I heard the Rebel Meet Rebel record, I liked it. It wasn’t done ‘heavy metal’ enough for me; they took the light route but they were really on top of it. Man, traveling with Pantera that’s where I found a new level of country music; I mean you go on Vinnie and Dime’s bus and you’d hear heavy doses of David Allan Coe. Hank III recently said in an interview that ‘Outlaws Till The End’ is what he had envisioned about doing himself but he’d never been given the support or ability to do. I’m just so grateful that Napalm Records gave me the opportunity to do this. Now having said that, I had a guy at a club two nights ago, in Dallas send me a flyer of a show where 5-6 local acts will be playing outlaw country! [laughs] So I’m like “Shit! Here it comes we’re ‘genrefying’.” So who knows maybe this is the next thing? I hope so because there’s no more poignant story telling than through outlaw country lyrics. You take those lyrics and you pair them up with a heavy beat and you have something that is just fanatical! It would be great to have something like this to get in the face of pop music and contemporary country music. You know that country music has gone completely pop. Forget that! I’ll follow guys like John Carter Cash and Hank III to their deaths, but stuff like Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean?! Forget about that shit!!!

Metal Titans: Take us into how you made the song selections? It’s safe to assume there will be a second volume as this is noted as ‘Vol.1?’

Dez: Yes! Man, I had this huge notebook of songs that I wanted to record. I selected songs from the outlaws; Hank, Waylon, Willie and then we can bring outside stuff that was written from other writers. I mentioned earlier how “Ghost Riders” was a signature song of Johnny’s and other songs like that, then I brought on “Outlaw Man” by The Eagles and “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” by Dwight Yoakam. So it was bring in the core guys then bring stuff from outside like why did The Eagles “Outlaw Man” fit the genre? Well, because their biggest influence was The [Flying] Burrito Brothers and they always sounded country and they always tried to look country with their cowboy boots and stuff.

Metal Titans: Have you cut the second volume of this collection as of yet?

Dez: No, not yet. There will be more, or at least that’s our intention. ‘Volume One’ was slapped onto the title at the last minute by my manager; because we had a bunch of people call asking why we didn’t include them on this record. If you can believe this four of the people that we heard back from are from four of the biggest bands on the planet! [laughs] I’m not going to say who they were because I want to get them on the next album. So two days before we turned in the artwork we slapped ‘Volume One’ to the title, because ‘Volume Two’ will definitely happen but not anytime soon. This was meant as a release in between Devildriver records, so I imagine the next installment won’t see the light for at least 2-3 years.

Metal Titans: Randy Blythe from Lamb of God makes an appearance on the album, interestingly enough they too just released a punk-core tribute album [Burn The Priest ‘Legion:XX’]. How did he come on board?

Dez: We’re close we’re more like family than friends; he comes to my place and stays with my family. We’re in business together we run a company called Suncult; which is a surf, skate lifestyle apparel company which is about ready to launch. You’ll be seeing a lot of it very soon so keep an eye out for that. I didn’t have to twist his arm to get involved; I remember I was talking to him about recording vocals at the Cash Cabin  for “Ghost Riders In The Sky” with John Carter Cash and Ana Cristina Cash he said “Alright then, I’m in!” [laughs] So later on he came to my house and we went surfing and I was talking to him about getting ready to record [Willie Nelson’s] “Whisky River” and asked if he’d like to be a part of it. When he heard it and heard that it was a ‘black metal’ take on the track he was all in.

Metal Titans: I love that you included some Dwight Yoakam ; who really is probably the closest thing we have to Elvis. How cool is that guy? And Hank III, the antithesis of what is ‘country’ in 2018.  And Steve Earle who I absolutely loved until he flipped on us and became Neil Young!

Dez: Dwight's really cool! What can I say about Hank III? He’s fantastic. If you know the genre you’ll know the core songs, I think there’s something on this record for everyone. I have been hearing a lot of great feedback on The Eagles track! I’ve done about 120 interviews and I don’t think that everyone I talk to likes the same track everyone gravitates toward their favorite song on the album; that gets me excited! Like you said you like “Copperhead Road” by Steve Earle, it’s good that we’re making people happy. I think that brave moves need to be made in the metal world and right now, I don’t think anyone is doing that. Nobody does anything out of the box; the industry is getting convoluted with bands that all sound the same.

Metal Titans: Dez, your house is on fire and you can only grab five country records, what records would those be?

Dez: I would go for my Johnny Cash collection which is huge! Wait, I think I’d have to grab a best of from Waylon, Hank, Willie, Johnny, stuff like that. I think I would have to grab some Hank III, he’s an outsider that I really like. It’s funny there’s people who drive trucks, have country stuff on their trucks, homes and listen to country music and I’ve asked them if they like Hank III and they respond “Who?!” I say “Hank III, Hank Williams’ grandson,” they’re like “No, I’ve never heard of him…” I don’t get it? These people haven’t heard of guys like Hank III or Wayne ‘The Train’ Hancock but they’ve heard of Florida Georgia fucking Line?! [laughs] That’s not a country guy; that’s an ‘armchair country’ guy. [laughs] Someone that I think is really cool is Jamie Johnson, I tried to get him on this record but we couldn’t make it happen, we’ll have him on the next one. Love that guy’s music.

Metal Titans: Well, since you brought up Jamie Johnson what would you have him perform on?


Dez: I’d love to do one of his songs called “The Eagle.” I’d do his own song, kinda like we did on this record with Hank III and “Country Heroes.” I wanted Hank III on it because he’s got some voices in him that most people haven’t heard him do before and I’ve heard them. I wanted that for this record. He thought it was kind of weird to perform on his own song, but I thought it worked very well.

Metal Titans: Man, now you have me reminiscing how great that ‘Straight To Hell’ record is. You can put that album up against any rock or metal record and it will hold its own.

Dez: Right! You know, that album never got any love, Curb Records didn’t promote it! What’s the Grand Ole Opry doing? Don’t get me started on the whole Hank Williams thing...seriously?! They wouldn’t let Hank [Sr.] play there?! You know they won’t be asking asking Hank III to go up there anytime soon to jam on some outlaw music. It’s fucking ridiculous.

Metal Titans: At one point Coal Chamber were managed by Sharon Osbourne, you covered Peter Gabriel’s “Shock The Monkey.” Who suggested that song to cover and whose idea was it to approach Ozzy about a guest vocal?

Dez: Man, that was a last minute thing. We were in the studio in L.A. getting ready to record and I’ve always love “Shock The Monkey” and I found out that Ozzy was a huge Peter Gabriel fan. I asked Sharon if she thought if we could get Ozzy to sing on it? She said Ozzy was interested, she invited me over for dinner. I’m having dinner at their home, we’re talking about the song, two days later he’s in the studio cutting his parts for “Shock The Monkey!” [laughs] The song then makes the ‘Chamber Music’ record, it gets released and makes mainstream rock radio and the rest if history. [laughs]

Metal Titans: What did you learn during the time you were being managed by Sharon [Osbourne].

Dez: Oh man, I learned a lot. I learned enough to open up our own management company called The Oracle Management over 2 years ago. If you look at out website you’ll see that our roster has grown we have everyone from Jose Mangin [Sirius Radio], Wednesday 13, Combichrist, [producer] Ross Robinson, a new band we’re working with Amigo The Devil. What we learned from Sharon is many, many things but my wife who I met during the time that Sharon was managing us, learned so much and that’s why she is currently the COO of The Oracle Management. The ‘business’ aspect of things is what we really learned a lot in watching her handle that aspect of our career. The other thing is that Sharon never let anyone fuck with her! [laughs] I think we have a little bit of that over here too! [laughs]

Metal Titans: Your father and uncle were both actors, they were on ‘Leave It To Beaver,’ I believe. That’s a trip because that’s one of the shows that I would watch as a kid, which helped me learn to speak English.

Dez: Yeah, I didn’t grow up with my father or his side of the family at all, but it was interesting learning about them later on. I found out that my father’s side of the family were actors, writers, directors and musicians. It’s a real trip. My father [Tiger Fafara] played ‘Tooey’ [Wally’s friend] and my uncle [Stanley Fafara] was “Whitey’ [The Beaver’s classmate]. My father has an incredible IMB profile; he was on every episode of Leave It To Beaver and was Lassie, all sorts of stuff. I can’t tell you how incredible it was to meet my father later on in life and get to know him and find out that his side of the family is in the industry? That’s wild. I learned that his mother and father made all the early costumes for Jimi Hendrix and all these other musicians in the 60s.

It must have been part of the genetics?! [laughs] I had a separate life, I had a terrible homelife; I had stepfathers in and out of my life. One committed suicide and another beat me to the point that my mother thought he’d killed me. I eventually ran away from home. I was wearing a Fear t-shirt, that’s why it means so much to me to have Lee Ving on this record and that’s why it means so much to me to have him on “The Ride” and doing the spoken word on “The Man Comes Around,” because he helped get me through my childhood. When we were tracking the album I couldn’t believe I was sitting there with him, I kept thinking “This is incredible. I have Lee here recording on my record, the guy who’s t-shirt I wore when I told my parents to go fuck themselves!” [laughs] I wish I would have grown up with that other side of the family, I think I would have absolutely had a better childhood. I think that whatever adversity you work through in life makes you a better person and I think that’s why I have the life I have now and why I have the work ethic and drive that I have now.

Metal Titans: What’s your greatest accomplishment to date?

Dez: I’ll give you a few. Raising a family successfully, keeping a marriage together for over 20 years and watching my three sons get into their 20s and becoming great men and an asset to society. What more could I ask for? Musically? I want to leave a scar when I leave! [laughs]


Devildriver:
https://www.devildriver.com/

https://www.facebook.com/devildriver/
https://twitter.com/devildriver

Dez Fafara:

https://twitter.com/evilriver

Suncult:

https://suncult.com/

The Oracle Management:
http://theoraclemanagement.com/