By Carl Begai
More often that not, band biographies are loaded with show-off information and adjective-tweaked factoids meant to sell the artist in question to the press. Makes sense if a label or management is pushing a new signing, but it comes off as trying to sell snow to an Eskimo when the band has been around for over a decade and has seven albums to choose from. In short, trying to sell a veteran and altogether successful band’s new work on hype rather than substance is insulting to the folks behind the music. This is particularly true of DevilDriver and vocalist Dez Fafara, who launched the band in 2002 after carving a path into the distortion-driven music scene with Coal Chamber beginning in 1993. He’s quite content and able to to let his music do the talking, as on the new DevilDriver album Trust No One.
“I think I’m still around because I’m a no-bullshit guy,” says Fafara. “I don’t have time for the purists in music or any of that. People who know me, that are close to me, they appreciate the guy that I am because I don’t have the time to bullshit you.”
Thus we leave it to him to describe DevilDriver; the only overview that really matters in the end.
“Every single record has a DevilDriver sound and a signature groove but they’re very different from one another. Beast is very different from Pray For Villains, and Trust No One is very different from our last record. People can’t pin us down and I think that’s a good thing. They started calling us groove metal and I thought that was too broad a term, so they started calling us the California groove machine. It’s like, ‘Okay, I’ll take that…’ (laughs).”
A nifty little stamp, sure, but it still reeks of desperation on the part of the media or management as trying to put DevilDriver in a convenient little box.
“Sometimes you have to go with monikers because some people need a tag,” Fafara offers. “Long ago when I started DevilDriver, I wanted a signature sound and I knew I wanted something different. I’ve got my ear to the ground, I hear what’s going on in metal, and I see a lot of bands putting out the same record. There’s been hype and critical acclaim behind records that I listen to and I’m thinking ‘What..? Why?’ For me it’s like ‘Let’s do something different, let’s stand out,’ and I think on Trust No One – especially on the new album – that we’ve done something that’s our own. We’ve upped the sound and I’ve definitely upped the players within the band, and it has become a monster.”
Trust No One is proof, at least in Fafara’s eyes, that change is a good thing. In 2014 the band said goodbye to founding members John Boecklin (drums) and Jeff Kendrick (guitarist), who were replaced by Austin D’Amond and Neil Teimann respectively in 2015 while DevilDriver was on hiatus. Bassist John Miller was also let go, leaving Fafara and guitarist Mike Spreitzer to rebuild the band from the ground up.
“We had time off before the Australian tour and the one Knotfest show we did, and I called our drummer John and laid it out. We hadn’t gotten along in years, I was tired of the late night drama, and I thought it was best if we part ways. He agreed that it was because music is supposed to be a good time. Jeff… you can’t knock anyone that gives 10 years of his life on the road, but musically he didn’t offer much the whole time he was with us. The band members were fighting inwardly regarding him and his lack of output when it came to music, so we sent him on his way. And we asked John Miller to exit the band due to his alcoholism. It was time to clean house. I brought in Ashes (session bassist Diego Ibarra) because I’ve known him from other bands, and he’d a great guy. Doesn’t drink or do drugs, just one of the sweetest guys and a shredder on his instrument.”
“Mike and I knew we needed to create DevilDriver again. It had to be 10 times better than it was, we knew we could make it better, and we did. I think the new guys did a phenomenal job. We had a very long time to write. We made six records in 12 years, we toured the world harder and played more shows than any other band on the planet, and you can put that in writing. I’ve had people do the math and hit me back and tell me I’m right. I think we needed a break so we took one, and it was really cool. Mike got time to go surfing and build his studio and take time writing, I got time to find these new members and take time with them. The first single ‘Daybreak’ was brought in by Neil, and he’s a shredding fucking guitar player. He brought in something like 12 songs in two weeks. It’s inspiring right now and everyone that’s talked to me is just over the top about the record. It makes me feel good.”
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