Dear Chester, I only realised a few days ago that it’s nearly been a year …
“I’m a big stickler on getting a record out every two years,” says Devildriver vocalist Dez Fafara.
“I actually bag on bands who wait four, five, six years between records—I call them lazy—so I couldn’t very well just put any record out, I needed to put something else out, something different.”
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It doesn’t get more different than Devildriver’s new collaborative album Outlaws ‘Til The End: Vol. 1, a marriage of classic American outlaw country with modern heavy metal, and a big change from the groove metal outfit’s usual vibe. The album features monstrous collaborations between a host of metal and country personalities who come together over their shared love of some of America’s best country musicians. Lovingly praised as outlaws, these musicians sang it real and true, and didn’t give a damn as they did. Devildriver’s songs have been repurposed into heavy metal, and Fafara wasn’t complacent with his ambitions on this one.
When you look at some of the guest artists featured–36 Crazyfists’ Brock Lindow, Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe, Hank Williams III, and John Carter Cash, son of the great Johnny Cash, to name but a few—Devildriver are well and truly bringing the outlaw noise to heavy metal. “These are two genres that shouldn’t get together,’ Fafara says, “but somebody said to me ‘It’s like two school buses crashing but then the fire looks beautiful.’ I wanted to get four genres of people, punk rock, heavy metal, gothic rock and country all involved in this thing.
“What’s been great is everybody has a story about country [music]. Lee Ving’s mother gave him a mandolin when he was young and he played country on it. Same thing with If Drinking Don’t Kill Me– Wednesday 13 sang that and when I asked him to do it, he looked around like he’d been punked. He told me later that was one of his favourite songs growing up his whole life. There’s been a camaraderie I wanted to bring back to music that hasn’t been there in a long time.
I find myself explaining, mainly to the European audiences, you come to America to a heavy metal barbecue, tour bus, backstage, you’re gonna hear Slayer into Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash into Pantera right into Willy Nelson, and nobody bats an eye. It’s fucking normal here.
[ Dez Fafara ]
“Here’s the fact; these outlaw guys–Waylon [Jennings], Willie [Nelson], Hank [Williams], Johnny [Cash]—they’re like the Lemmy’s of their genre, this is why we play homage to them. I find myself explaining, mainly to the European audiences, you come to America to a heavy metal barbecue, tour bus, backstage, you’re gonna hear Slayer into Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash into Pantera right into Willy Nelson, and nobody bats an eye. It’s fucking normal here.”
The outlaw spirit is clearly one Fafara has easily adopted into his own character. He’s boisterous, confident–not that he wasn’t before this project came together—but this is a whole new confidence to match a whole new sound. The country songs of the outlaws of old speak to Fafara, they always have, and indeed, true country music is a universal language. “The lyrics, the stories are the most poignant on the planet,” Fafara cries passionately. “These guys cut their teeth, they were the first to tour, tour, tour, and didn’t skew their music for monetary value. What you have now is a lot of that, even the so-called heavy metal bands.”
Having anything but an outlaw attitude to music doesn’t sit well with Fafara. “I remember when Pantera drove 10,000 people, they wrote their own music, they made it on their own merits–that’s what these outlaw musicians–they never skewed their art and that’s a huge thing with me. My success came to me on my own merit. I don’t even know how to skew my own art! My whole life has been spent putting my middle finger up to what I think is art that skews itself towards monetisation–this thing is not skewed, it’s a work of love.”
“It sickens me,” Fafara begins, “and I will go on record saying this, that many of the bands out right now, they’re total bullshit! Writers that write their songs, people who dress them up, all of it. It’s pop that’s somehow crossed into metal. It’s sickening. For me the only accolade at the end of the day is those bands won’t go down in history, they won’t leave a scar because eventually people will see through that if they’re not already.
“If I see bullshit, I’m not just gonna walk past it and not cause a problem, I’m gonna say ‘bullshit’, so I think it’s up to me right now to spread this word, that even this record could have been monetised to the hilt if we went in and skewed the songs in order to reach a bigger audience. But I’m not trying to do that, I’m trying to reach my audience, the core audience. The audience.”