Dez Fafara is a man misconstrued. Written off by many as the “past it” former frontman of make-up clad, goth-metal outfit Coal Chamber, he seems to be finally loosing these chains of association following the release of the second album by his new band Devildriver.
musicOMH caught up with the man during Devildriver’s recent UK tour supporting Lamb Of God and discovered that there is a lot more to the facially tattooed musician than meets the eye.
It is a diminutive man in black who strides purposefully towards me and gives me a firm, vigorous handshake while managing well to hide the glazed, press-weary soul that lies behind his darting, deep set eyes.
Full of pride over the way that the new Devildriver record has been better received by the rock press than their debut album, it appears that even Dez is happier with Devildriver’s sophomore effort:
“Oh yeah, I always tell people now, ‘If you wanna get into Devildriver, pick up the second record – there are five or six real gems on that one.’ And it feels great to be able to say that!”
And the result of this?
“We are finally getting over the Coal Chamber thing, which is killer, and people are at last getting Devildriver for who we are, which is really cool.”
Sensing that it would be inadvisable to pursue the Coal Chamber “issue” further, I decide to direct my attention to the title of Devildriver’s latest opus – The Fury Of Our Maker’s Hand:
“Well, you have your own Maker, and I have my own Maker. What you believe in is your Maker – and we all live in the fury of our Maker’s hand. My life has been a storm, and some parts I feel have been apocalyptic, and so it felt like it would be an appropriate track and album title.”
What with this and the fact that Devildriver’s name derives from ancient prayer bells that were used to drive away evil spirits, it comes as no surprise to learn that Dez’s lyrics are littered with references to spirituality. In particular, there is an intriguing lyric from the aforementioned second album’s title track – “O my Maker I need a saviour” – that leads me to ask Mr Fafara if he is any closer to “salvation” since having penned these words:
“Am I still searching? Oh totally, I’m always searching! You can see it on the first Coal Chamber album sleeve where I thank Christ, which is what I grew up around, and then on later albums I thank “the light”. I’m constantly searching and therefore reading. Even now I’m reading some early Samaritan and Babylonian texts; I’m constantly going back and back to try and find the origin of what is spiritual. It’s an incredible, lifelong journey trying to discover what is what and who is who.”
All of this may come as something of a shock to those who thought rock tour buses were all about groupies and booze, but this educated approach to touring appears totally natural to my interviewee:
“It’s just what I’m into, you know. After the show my band and the others will probably go out to clubs, but I’ll go back to the bus and read – I enjoy it!”
He swiftly adds with a wry grin: “I think I’m alone in that though! I only drink wine these days, not any harder alcohol; I don’t do drugs any more or smoke pot. I don’t do any of that ’cause I wanna be focused, and be clear with what I’m doing. Early on I partook in every clich there could possibly be, and I think the excesses were great at times, but they can totally ruin a man if you don’t look forward past them, which I think I have done.”
The source of this strength to “look past” the excesses is something Dez claims began with an intensely spiritual upbringing:
“I was raised by a Catholic father, a Baptist stepfather and my mother was into Christian Science. I went to Baptist school… As for Christ, I believe in Him as being either a great healer or a great charlatan – I don’t know yet, I haven’t figured it out.”
Talk of impostors and pretenders naturally leads us to the darker side of spirituality, and its intrinsic link to the metal scene, where the Devildriver frontman has some words of caution:
“Obviously there’s a lot of Satanic influence in many metal bands, but I don’t think they really know what they’re dealing with. Especially if they’re dealing with guys like Aleister Crowley or Anton LaVey who are massive charlatans from my point of view…. But then he [LaVey] led a lot of people into something they could believe in. You find your power where your power is, and personally mine is in myself at this point.”
“I believe in an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. If you step on my toes I’m gonna kick you in the face, and if you walk by gently and say hello, I’m gonna say hello twice as politely and I’ll see you next time around.”
When asked where forgiveness might figure in this somewhat self-protective world view, it is a pensive man who replies after a moment’s reflection:
“I’m learning a place for forgiveness, but that really is easier said than done you know? Humans are a nasty lot, and it can be quite difficult for me to be around a lot of them at times, but you do what you have to in order to get by.”
“Getting by” is something I sense Dez Fafara knows more than just a little about. Having endured the turmoil of Coal Chamber’s dramatic success and downfall, and as he wanders off to prepare for his musical duties that evening, it is a reminder that he is now rebuilding his achievements one show at a time.