“I needed some time with my family,” says Dez Fafara, the band’s vocalist, leader and sole constant through a revolving door of line-up changes. “In total, we took eight months off, but that was still long enough for people to be hitting us up online and being like, ‘Where’d you go?’ We were everywhere for so long, you forget what it’s like to not be around.” In his personal time away from DevilDriver, Fafara took up a side of entrepreneurial work, starting up a surf business with his wife, Anahstasia. “It’s called Sun Cult,” he says. “It’s been growing phenomenally, so I had to be at home to be in direct contact with my board-shapers and the team helping to design the surfwear going out under our label. My kids help run it, too.”
He also dispels the idea that he put DevilDriver on the back burner in favour of his original band, Coal Chamber, who reunited in 2011 and dropped a long-awaited comeback album, Rivals, in 2015. “I wasn’t just getting away from DevilDriver,” he explains. “I was getting away from everyone. The reason the Coal Chamber thing worked out was because they set it up with me where I was able to record all of my vocals from home, which meant both getting to complete the album and getting to stay with my family.”
The version of DevilDriver that you see before you in 2016 is one that is almost entirely different from that which recorded Winter Kills. A major reshuffling saw Fafara and long-serving guitarist Mike Spreitzer essentially rebuild the band from the ground up, resulting in a refreshed outlook and a sharper focus. “The vibe in the band was not very good,” says Fafara in a bluntly honest manner. “I hadn’t gotten along with our drummer, in particular, in a really long time. I kept it together, but eventually it got to the point where you just can’t tour or work with someone you don’t get along with.”
“I knew I had to get a drummer and a guitar player that were not only as good – if not better – than John [Boecklin, former drummer] and Jeff [Kendrick, former guitarist], that also had to contribute ideas,” he continues, discussing the band’s newest arrivals. “We ended up going with Neal [Tiemann], who is just a hell of a dude. He and I were working on a project together for a little while, but when the guitarist position opened up I told him that we didn’t need to do it anymore. ‘You’re joining DevilDriver!’ Austin [D’amond], too, is an absolute beast. He came into it knowing to put a real emphasis on the groove, and he was right on the beat. The energy levels really kicked up, and before you knew it we had 22 songs. We narrowed it down, and there we had Trust No One.”
Described by Fafara as “38 minutes of getting kicked in the face,” Trust No One is DevilDriver at their tightest and toughest-sounding; a rejuvenated look at the band that blends their relentless groove-metal stylings with some of the band’s wider influences, such as the early days of the hardcore punk movement (among Fafara’s many tattoos is a Black Flag logo). “I wanted to use a lot of punk rock voice patterns in my vocals,” says Fafara. “We knew from the outset that we didn’t just want this to be stock-standard. We knew we wanted to head into a different territory. We were able to work a lot of that out with our producer, Mark [Lewis], and I think that’s the sign of a great producer. I can sit on the tour bus and pick out who produced 90% of the music that gets played, because so many producers have a stamp. They have such an identifiable sound. Mark doesn’t do that. Mark puts your own stamp on your music, and he keeps the bond sacred by not sharing our secrets with the other bands he works with.”
With all the enthusiasm and liveliness with which Fafara talks about DevilDriver, one almost forgets just how long he’s been at it – indeed, by the time you read this, the man himself will have had his 50th birthday. Despite being almost twice the age of many bands that he shares the stage with, Fafara simply refuses to back down. “Any vocalist that’s on before or after me is getting Hell,” he proclaims with a cackle. “Age is nothing to me, man. I’m extremely active. I’m in better shape now than I was in my 20s. When I was younger, a 50-year-old was in a walker. He was done. Me? I’m skateboarding, surfing, touring and fucking my wife four times a day!”
Trust No One is out May 13 via Roadrunner Records. For more details, visit devildriver.com.