DevilDriver's Dez Fafara: "The Earth Knows How to Purge Itself of Brush and People"

Dean Karr
DevilDriver wants to drive you to the brink.

"We play more shows a year than any band out there right now, unless you have a residency in Vegas." --Dez Fafara, vocalist of DevilDriver.

Upon reading that, there are probably a dozen bands most people would list off the top of their heads -- and probably none would be heavy metal acts.

But as we all know, metal is a genre where most bands have to work twice as hard to get recognition, which includes touring. And nowadays, DevilDriver has been carrying that reputation on their shoulders.

The act's brand of heavy metal delivers outside-of-the-box surprises while sticking to the band's signature groove-meets-melodic death metal style. From Ministry to Johnny Cash, their influences cover everything that's heavy and purposeful. The name "DevilDriver" even fits that description perfectly: it refers to the bells that Italian Wiccans used to drive evil forces away.

The band has been surging forward in its mission -- and thriving. In 2012, DevilDriver left their long-time label Roadrunner due to a range of issues. Then they signed on with Napalm and released their sixth album, Winter Kills, in 2013, and the album has garnered the band's best chart numbers to date.

When vocalist Dez Fafara -- also the vocalist for Coal Chamber -- and I first started chatting, I did not think the conversation was going to lead to climate change, his philosophy about releasing records and the band's seventh album, as well as the prospect of a new Coal Chamber album.

But Fafara is one of those artists that exceed expectations when it comes to cognitive insight. Of Portuguese and Sicilian descent, his life has always had a mixture of influences and importance of passion and devotion. He's insistent on "never making the same album twice" while never straying from old-school style. His father and late uncle were child actors on the Leave It to Beaver television sitcom. His wife has appeared on the cover of the second Coal Chamber album, and his three sons (one of which, Tyler, inspired that same album's "Tyler's Song"), and another one, Simon, added backing growls to DevilDriver's third album before he was even in his teens.

This is a band that is about the details and solidified their longevity in the metal scene from the first album -- fitting, since the members' musical talents fit together like heavy metals on a periodic table.

Up on the Sun talked with Fafara about the epiphany of switching labels, dealing with California wildfires, DevilDriver's daily writing, and the future of Coal Chamber.

DevilDriver is scheduled to play the Marquee Theatre on Monday, May 19.

So did switching from Roadrunner to Napalm records disrupt the creative writing process for Winter Kills at all for you guys?

Dez Fafara: We had the record predominantly written before that decision was made, but I think it was imperative that we moved on. We had been there for some time; I myself had been there you know, almost 20 years. I just felt it wasn't a priority to them, and it seemed a lot of the metal acts weren't a priority to them. Especially the bands that helped build the label, like myself and Machinehead, etc. It was just time to go. As far as the process going smoothly -- absolutely. We found a partner at Napalm that not only was completely involved in the process of the approach of the record, but also very involved in the process of hearing the music and giving me feedback. And that was very important. When we sent the record to the label for the first time, I was getting bombarded for like 48 hours by the people there who loved it and how they wanted to get behind this band. It's like any relationship. Eventually you just wake up and say look man, it's better if we just part. And I'm glad we did. I found a great working partner in Napalm Records.

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