Dez Fafara Discusses Upcoming DevilDriver Album ‘Winter Kills’ + More
We had the privilege of catching up with the rock frontman and he spoke all about the new DevilDriver disc ‘Winter Kills’ and the meaning of its title. He also talked about the lead single ‘Ruthless’ and DevilDriver’s enduring power for well over a decade.
Talk about the album title ‘Winter Kills’ and what it means to you.
‘Winter Kills’ for me, winter kills off everything and then everything comes back and blossoms. That’s kind of how I feel with us and this new venture, with Napalm Records, this new record, where we are as a band, where the songs are – it just feels like a new beginning. It feels like winter killed off everything and now here we come again. I’m extremely stoked about the record, I haven’t kept that in at all, I haven’t been excited about a record like this in a long time.
How did the process come about for choosing the album’s title?
It was just about where the band was at. I was writing the lyrics on the road, we were recording in the winter time and it just kind of came to me. Also a real weird coincidence – long story short, my wife and I practice magic religiously and I was doing my own thing in our room and I came back up that night to her and I told her that I had a vision of the record and what the record should be.
I said that I wanted to call it ‘Winter Kills’ and she broke down in tears and said, “That’s really strange, my deceased mother, that’s the first movie that she ever did.” My wife’s mom was a young actress and she did a movie called ‘Winter Kills’ so there was something going on there, as well. It’s really strange but nonetheless kind of warm-hearted.
This is the first DevilDriver record on Napalm Records – how was it working with the new label and how was the recording process overall for this album?
It was just amazing. When we first got this together and talking with Napalm Records, I hadn’t felt that much energy in the room in years. I felt passion from them, I felt that they were in love with the band and the music, they knew the direction that we wanted to go in. Even though I had a good run at Roadrunner Records, I do feel the last two or three records they kind of just put out, I didn’t feel the passion there, I didn’t feel them get behind it. It’s not to talk smack, it’s just to say that it feels really good to be in a house that’s warm and to sit by the fire again.
Talk about the album art, it’s a photograph by Dean Karr that’s hauntingly beautiful and bold.
Dean Karr, a legend and a great friend of mine and I’ve worked with him in the past. When I called him and said, “I’ve got this idea,” he ran with it. We needed a skull and so he borrowed a skull from [Limp Bizkit’s] Wes Borland actually – he came out here and we went to a lake called Lake Skinner. I knew that I wanted the whole thing shot, I didn’t want it digitized and I wanted it shot by Dean.
We spent the whole day not only doing band shots but shooting that skull, putting the horns on it, shooting it in different locations and different things. Just working with the guy is magic because he is a close friend and I really admire his artwork.
How does one go about asking Wes Borland for a skull?
[Laughs] Wes is close with Dean and we wanted a real skull, we didn’t want anything fake. He knew that Wes had one, he called Wes and he loaned it to us which was really cool. We took care of it as well, we placed it in many locations.
The album shot in particular is on the edge of the lake and it was when the sun was coming in around six or seven o’clock, twilight hour and it was perfect. We wanted something that lended itself to what winter would look like if it killed. [Laughs] The whole day was perfect and that really is how the record has been going, the writing and the recording, it’s just got this really cool flow to it.
You have stated that “this is by far Devildriver’s most cohesive, powerful, groove-laden record to date.” What aspects of this album, and it being DevilDriver’s sixth disc, make it such a solid record for you?
There’s things I’ve never use when it comes to what I think records would do. I never say “This is the best record” and you have to be careful with that because then people feel like “Well what are they going to do next since this is their best?” I do feel like this is the most cohesive, we do what we do best, that Southern California groove sound like no other. We wanted to make sure that we captured that, it’s got a lot of big riffs, a lot of big hooks.
The band is very cohesive at the moment, we have our first and stable bass player in forever, that took a while to find the right guy. The writing process, the way that it went was incredible, we came straight off tour and the guys went in and recorded. It just felt like it was falling together and it all came together in a really beautiful way.
What inspired the writing for this record — talk about some themes and feelings you gathered for the lyrics.
The themes are everyday themes; I was on a real positive note on this record. I’ve always been a keep your head down in the wind, keep yourself strong, move forward kind of guy and it has that in the writing. Everything that comes my way I take it as a sign, there’s many emotions in this record and I try to touch on all sorts of different aspects.
Talk about the first single ‘Ruthless.’
It’s basically about when people try to hold your head under water and you get up for air and when you finally can, kick them in the face and get yourself right. It is about the aspects of life when you do need to be a little more strong and a lot more ruthless in order to keep yourself self-preserved.
I saw DevilDriver with GWAR last year and Coal Chamber with Sevendust earlier this year. As a musician, how did you balance the recording ideas you had for DevilDriver while touring with Coal Chamber.
I have fun working and they’re two different bands and part of two totally different emotions onstage. When you saw us with GWAR, I was writing and I’ve never done that, I wrote on the road and it’s really interesting to write on the road. I took three hours a day no matter what and sat down and wrote. I would get the band in and read tunes and get immediate feedback and it was great to do.
Then I took a break from that and went out with Coal Chamber and took my mind off of the DevilDriver thing for a while and got back into Coal Chamber world. Then I got back into DevilDriver. I like to work, I like to keep myself busy. I enjoy both of the bands and I enjoy how different they are.
The first time I saw DevilDriver was as a sophomore in high school on an Ozzfest date. The band has been a force for over 10 years – what keeps you excited about creating new music for DevilDriver?
I think we’re unique, we got our own sound. The band is called Southern California groove, we have a good time doing it. I live for the stage, I really do – that’s an important part of it. I live for going onstage before and after other bands. I still have such a drive compete and I think the rest of the band does as well. It’s not just play the music the best you can, it’s to really go off live and I think being ferocious live has that element of violence in the music and it’s fun for me.
Our thanks to DevilDriver’s Dez Fafara for taking the time to speak with us. Fans can pre-order the band’s new album, ‘Winter Kills,’ at iTunes.