We can't have been the only ones who raised an eyebrow when Dez Fafara. frontman with metal heavyweights Devildriver, announced the band were reworking some outlaw country classics with a bunch of their friends. Well, having heard the album and having been suitably impressed by what was created, we had a chat to Dez to find out more...
Hey Dez, thanks for your time. The new album Outlaws 'Til The End is out shortly, can you tell us how it came together? Dez: "Well, I'm a stickler for bands producing an album every three years and it had been two years since the last Devildriver album. I can't stand these bands who take five years to produce an album. It's like "what the fuck is up with you?" - so, I came up with the idea to do something fun to keep fans going until the next Devildriver record. Let me tell you though, it became far from fun. We ran out of money, it was a logistical nightmare. Let me tell you, I'm not looking forward to Vol.2 [laughs] - an album like this is basically a way of digging your own grave."
"Having said all that, this album needed to be done. I've been explaining to a lot of UK and European people that, here in the States, if you go on any heavy metal tour bus or hang out at a heavy metal BBQ you'll hear Slayer then Johnny Cash then Pantera then Willie Nelson. We all look up to those guys."
You've got an impressive list of people involved. Did you have a specific hit list when came to choosing who you wanted to collaborate with? Dez: There were two people who I definitely wanted on the album. Hank III and my good friend Randy Blythe. I also wanted to do something with my longest friend Glen Danzig and he was really into the idea but, when it came to it, he was too busy with the Misfits and the Elvis stuff he is working on. I also wanted to work with Corey Taylor and he was really up for working on "Copperhead Rd" but all his time was taken up with Stone Sour.
Anyway I knew once I'd got John Carter Cash and Ana Cristina Cash then I wanted different genres of music on the album. So there was heavy metal, the outlaw genre, goth so we got Wednesday 13 then the likes of Burton C. Bell and Brock from 36 Crazyfists and finally Lee Ving from FEAR.
Check out Devildriver's collaboration with Brock Lindow of 36 Crazyfists on "Copperhead Road"
Did it work how you wanted it to? Dez: You know, it was a bit of a guessing game really. I basically sent the track to people without my vocals on it then would ring me up asking what they were supposed to do, what it was supposed to sound like. I basically said to them to put their own twist on it then they would send it back and I would add my vocals to it. Let me tell you, when I got Burton C.Bell's track back, well, I hadn't heard him sing like that since the first Fear Factory record. I called him up and he told me that it was just him channelling his true self.
Given how you said it was a difficult record to make, is there anything you would do different if you did this again? Dez: I don't know if there is anything I would do different. I will say it didn't become a fun record to make. Would I do another one? Well, I did put Volume 1 on the end of the title but that doesn't definitely mean there will be a Volume 2. When we finished this record I had so many people getting in touch asking could they be on the next volume and I'm talking some absolutely superstar bands. So, it'll be hard not to do a Volume 2 down the line but it was the most difficult record to make. After about six months I said to my wife that I wasn't sure if I could do this and she pointed out that no art is made easy. If it was it wouldn't be genuine. Art is supposed to be difficult to create.
Do you have a particular favourite on the album? Dez: Well, "Outlaw Man" is possibly my favourite - when I was deciding who I wanted on each song then that song was always going to be my song. "Ghost Riders In The Sky" is another favourite - I got to go to Cash Cabin and work with John Carter Cash and Ana Cristina Cash and things like that, well, they stay with you.
What is it about the Outlaw Country genre that excites you? Dez: You know, I'm a fan of all music and I remember being the kid that came home from school in fifth, sixth, seventh grade and I wouldn't watch TV, I'd go and look through my parents record collection and listen to stuff like Steppenwolf, The Doors and Willie Nelson. To me it was the poignant lyrics and the story telling that really got my interest.
Like I said though I love all music really not only heavy metal. In fact, I'd say I have more in common with stuff like Bahaus and Black Flag than I do with someone like Metallica even though I love it all. Someone said to me that listening to this record was like watching two schoolbuses crash but, when you looked at the fire, it was a beautiful thing to look at. This is a record that needed to be done. I wanted to do these songs but give them the ferocity and the violence that Devildriver's music has.
Given that Devildriver's music is particularly brutal, how will these songs fit into your set when you come to tour? Dez: I don't think they will. They're certainly not built for that, that's for sure. I'm not sure if we'll even do them live. We've only just even started talking about that. Who knows? If we come to a town and there are guests there who could come and do them then maybe.
Check out the video for one of Dez' favourite tracks "Ghost Riders In The Sky"
That being said, what has the reaction been like from Devildriver fans? Dez: "The reaction so far has been unbelievable. Monte Connor, formerly of Roadrunner Records who signed me, signed Slipknot, he told me that it wouldn't be a good idea then he couldn't believe it when he heard it. People automatically think it won't work but then they get it once they hear it and everyone says the same thing. This record needed to be done, it needed a band to think outside the box."
So, given your attempt at the world's biggest circle pit at Download a few years ago, will you be attempting that again with an outlaw country song? Dez: [Laughs], don't think I couldn't. At the end of the day these are metal songs and I love seeing an insane reaction from crowds. You know, in some clubs in the States, they won't put us on because the crowds are too violent. I love seeing that crazy reaction from the pit, I love Download, I love Bloodstock. I'm sick of all this hearts with hands shit that the metal scene has become. That isn't metal. Fuck, metal is still violent, it's still visceral, it's still a place for rebellion and where you can stand up and speak out. The bands out there have all become too PC with all this hearts in hands bullshit. Fuck that shit!
Okay Dez, thanks for your time, just to finish who would you say is the ultimate heavy metal outlaw? Dez: Lemmy! There is no other answer how can there be? He never fuckin' skewed his art so any success he had, he did it on his own. One of the things I've been rallying against in interviews recently is this fuckin' idea that these huge superstar metal bands are real. They're not, it's all bullshit, it's not true. By that I don't mean it's not true metal, I mean the whole thing is fake as fuck. These bands have like five or six songwriters writing their songs for them. All this active rock stuff. It's bullshit. People like Lemmy and Ozzy didn't skew their fucking art for radio coverage or to monetize it. Don't get taken in by this bullshit that is filling America, it's fake. Lemmy, Ozzy, they didn't skew their fuckin' art for sales, they're the real outlaws.