By Eric Mackinnon
Zippo Encore Stage
Sunday, June 11
Black and death metal bands can only dream or wish of penning a track with lyrics as dark and heavy as the likes of country legend Johnny Cash says Dez Fafara.
Citing Cash and other outlaw country singers are the inspiration for both himself, and many other metallers, the Devildriver mainman chatted with The New Rock Times of a forthcoming country album – jam packed with guest appearances – and their Download Festival slot later in just a couple of weeks time.
“Tour buses in America are full of rock bands listening to outlaw country and western songs,” smiled Fafara. “A lot of country singers look up to the metal guys and celebrate them.
“And we celebrate the top outlaw country singers just as much as we celebrate the likes of Ozzy Osbourne or Rob Halford from Judas Priest.
“The lyrics are heavier than anything in metal. For example the lyrics in ‘I Shot A Man in Reno Just To Watch Him Die’ couldn't be heavier and it is far heavier than anything any black metal band or Pantera have done.”
Devildriver has always been a band which pushed boundaries says Fafara but recording a country record and paying homage to country music outlaws was a natural move for the metaller.
“I wanted to do this record to pay homage to these outlaws,” he continued. “For example when I sing ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ I sing it heavy to myself and I hear it heavy.
“That is one of the tracks which will be on the finished record and to give you a taste of what’s to come - I went to Johnny Cash's cabin and I spent some time with his son John Cash Jnr and his wife Anna Cash. Both of them sing on the track with me and Ryan from Lamb of God is going to come out to surf with me and he is going to get on the track too.”
Between 15 and 20 guest artists will collaborate with Fafara on this new project of passion but there has been so much interest in the album he says he has had to shut up shop now on any new collaborations.
“All the artists who appear on the record are all A-List level, Grammy nominated level guys,” he insisted.
“It is crazy how many people are calling me up about this project and already I have had to turn away four or five guys.”
He went on: “It is not coming out till next year but news of the record leaked out in a magazine and it is actually worked in our favour and as a result so many other artists have gotten involved.”
The catalyst for dipping Devildriver horns first into the country genre came, says Dez, as the band had planned for a two-year gap between their last record ‘Trust No-one’ and their follow-up leaving Dez with a plan to fill the interim.
“We like to push our own boundaries and while no two records are the same we have our signature Devildriver sound,” he says.
“People always hit me up and ask if we will ever do a ballad or sing with clean vocals or sing something so heavy you can't make out what we are saying. I just tell them we leave ourselves open to absolutely anything creatively and no doors are closed.”
Turning the conversation to matters closer to home, our home, and to Donington Park, I ask Dez if he approaches a festival set like at Download any differently to a club show.
“What we try to do is take that small atmosphere of 600 to 1,000 people to the big stage at festivals and grab all those people in front of us. It is the same in a club but in reverse and we try to take all that huge energy from a festival into a club,” he says.
“But for me the most fun of all at a festival is meeting guys. Getting off a tour bus and seeing 100 bands you might not have seen in a year or more and crews you used to work with. I'm a crew kinda guy, that's the blue collar in me, and I tend to hang with the crews a lot.
“If friends of mine are in a band playing I will try and see them or else if it is a band I've never seen but have heard good things about I might but often at a festival I'm doing press, or trying to get something to eat or there is a bus call to another festival.”
Catch Devildriver on the Zippo Encore Stage at Download on Sunday, June 11.
“See you at Download,” adds Dez, “And to anyone who has ever been behind Devildriver - thanks so much.”