Dez Fafara (vocals) & Neal Tiemann (guitar) – Sunday 18 June 2017
« We’re always working, always writing, you know. I don’t think there’s time to look in the rearview mirror» – Dez Fafara
How’s been your day so far?
Dez: Wonderful! I love coming to this festival. It’s run so well and we’re waiting to play tonight. We’ve got a great stage and we’re playing with Slayer tonight. We’re going on at 17:30: it’s a great slot for us and we’re very excited. Hellfest is one of my favourite festivals. And this is Neal’s first time at Hellfest.
Neal: Yeah, it’s a big one I’ve been looking forward to!
Dez, I had the opportunity to interview you for the first time in 2011. I remember that you were reading a book about the freemasons at the time. I’d like to know whether you liked that book and what book you are currently reading.
Dez: I’m a freemason actually so, yeah, I liked that book a lot! (smiles) And the book I’m currently reading is a book of Johnny Cash poems that was printed after his death and that his son John gave to me. I brought that up with me. It’s called Forever Words.
Trust No One was released one year ago. Are you still in the spirit of defending that album or your mind is already switched to the next one?
Dez: It’s a great way to put it.
Neal: We always think about the next step. We’re never quite satisfied. Of course, Trust No One means everything to us and we’re still touring on it but we’re talking a lot about making a new record. We even have songs written for another album.
Dez: We’re always working, always writing, you know. I don’t think there’s time to look in the rearview mirror. We’re definitely still touring on Trust No One – that was our highest debut in 7 records with critical acclaim all over the world.
As there’s been a quite a few changes in terms of line-up over the years, I was wondering whether DevilDriver was a one-man-band or a real band…
Dez: Well, I mean, I had a very first guitar player that was with us, did one tour with us and just decided he didn’t want to tour anymore… Since then, I haven’t had changed for 13 years. So, have you had a job for 13 years? Have you been married for 13 years? Have you had a girlfriend for 13 years? Most people say: « Nope! ». It’s a long time. I had a drummer that I parted ways with. We didn’t get along well at all for years and years. And I had a guitar player leave that hadn’t written a song in 6 records. So I brought on Neal who’s a writer, a guitar player and I think the change was very positive. Other than that, we haven’t had a change in almost 15 years, no real line-up changes besides that. I don’t know many bands who stay for 13-14 years with the same line-up, you know…. (smiles) If you don’t get along with band members, you need to change. It needs to be a positive experience: making music, travelling, playing live shows. It has to be a positive experience otherwise, it’s no good.
Apart from touring and recording, are there any other plans in sight?
Dez: Touring and recording is really it. Going home to finish the recording stuff, got Chicago Open Air with a lot of huge bands in the US in July. Then we’re going on a headline run in August. And then going out with pretty big bands in the Fall in the US.
You just mentioned Chicago Open Air…. There aren’t many European style festivals in the US. How come?
Dez: They’re starting to be now quite a lot of them. It’s good to see that they’re bringing the European mentality over to the US. Festivals are a great way for people to come and see a ton of bands, you know. I think it’s important.
In 2011, we also talked together about the Coal Chamber reunion shows. When I asked whether this could become permanent, you said : « I’ll have a date with the lady, have a glass of wine and decide what to do next ». My question is : how was the date ?
Dez: The date was good for one night but i don’t want to date her again.
But you are to play some Coal Chamber songs with DevilDriver in the future, right ?
Dez: We will eventually for certain shows because I’m not gonna wait for 13 years again to play the songs. I cannot take anything on the road unless it’s 110%. The other members need to straighten themselves out.
First time I saw you was on June 20th 1998 as part of the very first Ozzfest in Milton Keynes, England. Are you a bit nostalgic about that era. I mean the state of the music industry at the time…
Dez: When I do look back on that… It was a very unique time in music. All the bands sounded different. Everybody had their own sound. I think it’s starting to happen now as well. So I look back on it as the time that made me, who I was as a musician and I has a great time, you know. But I’m not looking backward now. I’m looking forward. Maybe I’ll look backward one day when I start writing a book but definitely not now.
Let’s go back to the festivals issue. Some bands tend to focus on playing festivals only while some fans won’t go to club shows anymore so as to save their money and spend it on festivals. Does it mean that festivals are killing touring?
Neal: I don’t think that at all. I mean I think for us and a lot of bands, the little club shows are the life part of it. We take the energy from there and we take it to the big stages. And then we bring it back to a club session. That’s why the kids are still coming up and see us. I think we’re not the only ones at all.
Dez: We’re going to do a lot of dates in France next year. We’re gonna come up for a lot of shows. We’ve committed to 16-18 weeks up here in Europe : that’s a lot for an American band, to come over. France, the UK, many areas, are DevilDriver’s strongholds. We don’t want to let that go by just doing festivals. So that’s the question, right: now, we don’t want to just do festivals. We wanna do headline shows as well, do club shows because that’s where we come from.
Does DevilDriver do VIP meet & greet packages in the States?
Dez: Yes, we do.
European fans don’t seem ready for that though. Having to pay extra money to meet the band sounds wrong to many of them. Is it something necessary evil bands have to do now ?
Dez: Basically, it’s very private. If you wanna meet me, you’ve got to come to a signing, to a meet and greet. That’s how you’re going to meet me. Because I’m from the bus to the stage then to the bus. You won’t see me backstage or at the strip club. Never done that. That helps the band as well: we’re hanging out for an hour, having a real conversation, becoming friends and then you’re helping the band get down the road by paying for meet and greet. Otherwise, if you want to meet DevilDriver, how are you going to do it? After a show, do you expect us to go walk through the crowd and meet everybody? You’d have to have security, etc. You know what I mean? It’s a very difficult process. So it gives the fans a chance to meet us and a chance for us to meet them. I think it’s a wonderful thing. You’re becoming friends with a lot of people. They see you as a real person, not this rock star thing because they got to talk to you. At a signing, I sign, you shake my hand and then: next, next… What’s that? If you really want to meet band members, that’s the only way to do it. If you wanna meet Ozzy, how are you going to do it?
Neal: It feels like the ticket prices are a little higher here than they are in the States. If you’re paying this much for a ticket, you don’t necessarily want to pay another 30€ to do that…
Dez: We make sure to do low price tickets in the States. Say you pay 50€ for meet & greet package. But you get a t-shirt – so that’s 25-30€ usually. And then you get a backstage pass to meet all of us, then you get a poster signed by all of us, and you get a photo with the whole band. Actually, it’s really cheap and it works out. I think it’s a great way to meet the band. Bands should do it over here too but tickets are already so expensive in Europe. I don’t know why…
To conclude, please finish that sentence for me: « I’ve never told that story before and I probably shouldn’t but… »
Neal: I’m just thinking about things I can’t tell you now!
Dez: If we never told it, there’s probably a reason! That’s a good question though! (laughter)
Many thanks to Elodie & Charles (HIM Media).