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DevilDriver - Stepping up as a team
It has already been a while ago since DemonDust and I went to Amsterdam to interview Dez and John of DevilDriver. We sat back in some überrelaxt (NOT!) plastic things that were supposed to be chairs to have a chat with the guys about all kinds of stuff, of course including the well-known DemonDust trademark question about Arnie and Sly. Here’s the result of that conversation. (We’re sorry for the sometimes short answers but there was quite some rumour in the background so not everything is clearly taped.)

How are you?

John: ‘Good! We’re glad to be here.’

Soon your new album will be released. What can people expect from it? I mean, what’s the difference between this album and the previous ones?

John: ‘It’s heavier.’

In what way?

John: ‘This one is more complex than the other two. It’s more technical and there are more guitar solos. It’s us on 10.

Dez, last time you told us that you were inspired by the story-telling songs of Johnny Cash, do you feel like you’ve grown lyric-wise since The Fury Of Our Maker’s Hand? If so, in what way?

Dez: ‘Yeah most definitely! The whole band has grown. We’re tighter as a unit and we know exactly what we want. A lot of bands nowadays use these parts with clean vocals and we just knew we didn’t wanna have any of that. We wanted something really raw and stripped-down and that’s why we thought it would be a good idea to give the press the raw version of the album. So that you can hear the progress together with us until Andy Sneap gets a hold of it and then it’s gonna be fucking crazy.’

You’re about to embark on a US tour with Dimmu Borgir, what do you expect from that tour?

John: ‘It’s gonna be a good time. We’ve toured with them in the past. I mean, not directly but during Ozzfest you know. It’s gonna sell out every night and there’s going to be 2,500 – 3,000 kids every night.’

Dez: ‘It’s a great bill. You know, Kataklysm is on the bill too. It’s just a great way to start promoting our new record.’

So Dez, you even sing about wine on the new record in the song ‘The Axe Shall Fall’. Why this love for the beverage?

‘Yeah, I sing “watch while I drink my wine”. My explanation: I’m Italian, haha!’ 

The organ at the end of ‘The Axe Shall Fall’, how did you come up with that?

John: ‘Well, the owner of the studio always told us how he used to jump in on sessions with his organ and we were not completely satisfied with the end of the song anyway, at least he wasn’t, hehe. So I was like, come on, you play something then!’

Dez: ‘It’s actually a pre-World War II Hammond B-2 organ that he said he used to play when he was a kid. He’s probably about 86 right now. So he played a couple of chords and we immediately thought: “Oh my god! Push and record!”’

John: ‘And what you’ve heard is probably not even what’s going to be on the final production ‘cause he did some cooler stuff. He did like 6 or 7 takes.’

Dez: ‘We thought it would be a nice ending of the album, it’s not just like Bam! The end. There’s actually something you can ponder about for around 1 or 2 minutes you know. You get in another mode.’

So where does all the technical stuff come from?

Dez: ‘We all listen to different kinds of music so that all comes together you know. All the guys in the band bring forward the best they can at that moment and those technical parts came by too. We just wrote it all together you know, like I had to rewrite a song a couple of times just because not everybody was feeling it and the other guys did the same thing to make sure that the best effort comes out. We really stepped up as a team.’

At that moment we notice the bandage around Dez’ middle finger and DemonDust decided to ask what had happened.

Dez: ‘I was playing with my hundred pound Doberman. He’s nine months old and he ran by me and I grabbed him but he ran by me and my middle finger snapped like a twig. I had surgery and now there’s a big pin in it. So I may have to deal with it on tour. I’ll try to take the pin out early but if it gets fucked up I gotta go for another surgery. Right now it seems like it’s never gonna really work correctly again.’

Damn! That was a bad dog, haha!

Dez: ‘No, it was really my fault. He was running like a 100 mph and I grabbed him. That’s just studid!’

Yeah, what were you thinking?!

Dez: ‘”Stop!” Haha! And he was thinking “Go!” This is what happens when worlds collide.’

Exactly one day before the release of your new album, you’ll be playing at the Fields of Rock festival, anything special gonna happen there as a sort of release party?

Dez: ‘Well, we’re gonna play some new songs too man. Like two or three tracks. If we get more than forty minutes we’re definitely gonna play more than three new songs.’

But are you planning on doing something special for the release during the show?
John: ‘We’ll figure something out.’

Dez: ‘Yeah, right now it’s a couple of months before the release and everything is just starting to come together. We don’t know if we’re able to do something like a release party because we leave in April and we’re not gonna get home until Christmas. Though, we’re thinking of planning some release parties in different cities where the album gets played you know. People can just go there and listen to the album.’

So, last year at the Graspop festival, what the fuck was that with that circle pit man?! That was sick! When it was over I actually heard you say: “Wow! Way better than I had expected!”

Dez: ‘Yeah, way better! And this year we want more of the same stuff going on.’

Yeah, this year people are gonna die in there!

John: ‘Are we playing in the same area this year?’ 

We don’t know man. But you guys seem to have this energy going on with every show that connects with the crowd and everybody goes fucking wild! Where does this come from? I mean, bands like Chimaira and Machine Head have the same flow but with you it’s way more extreme.

Dez: ‘Well, each individual member is connecting with the audience in their own way. That’s what you see you know. You don’t see “just that guy”. You really see a band that loves what it’s doing. That wants to give all its energy whether it’s playing half an hour or an hour and a half, we always give a 110 percent. I think that’s what you’re seeing. What you’re witnessing is honesty. If that comes across well you get a fucking massive circle pit, haha!’

*Here some small conversation about Devildriver’s tour with Lamb Of God in Europe starts. Not really clear on tape but it basically comes down to the fact that the guys in DD appreciate LoG for taking them on tour through Europe. That was like one of their best tours ever.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to write this question down! How disappointed were you when the Venom tour got cancelled?

Dez: ‘Pffff…I mean, I’m wearing a Venom shirt right now man! But that tour wasn’t really cancelled. The thing is they didn’t really come up with a date and then finally we committed to a tour and then they said “Ok, now we’re gonna tour.” And we’ve heard rumours about their singer actually being critical on our band that we didn’t do it and stuff like that but the fact is that we were already committed to a tour so we were like “Yeah, whatever!” Still, we’re thankful for them for asking us to go with them, it’s a huge honour for the band and we’re sorry it didn’t work out! We’ve got agents and managers and other people that control our destiny.’

There’s this DVD called: “Metal: A Headbangers Journey”. It’s a documentary I think every metalfan should check out at least once. The question the documentary is based on is: “Why is metal music consistently stereotyped, dismissed and condemned?” Why do you think it is that way?

John: ‘Well, for someone who doesn’t like metal it’s probably very irritating to listen to this aggressive style of music. I mean, someone who likes metal may hate hiphop you know. And there’s bands that really look like clowns you know. Middle aged men wearing some kind of panties and stuff like that. So if you don’t know metal you’re like, “What are you? Are you guys clowns or something?” But if you do know metal you’re like “Holy shit, that band is awesome!”

Dez: ‘Metal fans are often dumped down you know. They’re seen as dumb people but in fact I think they’re the most intelligent, creative people in the world I’ve ever met man.’

John: ‘If you look at those eighties videos you see drunk guys shouting “Metallica!!!” And if someone asks them, “Why Metallica?” They’re like: “Cuz I drink beer.” That’s when you’re like: “Wow, metal is stupid!”. But I’m not stupid, neither is he (points at Dez). We’re smart, haha!’

So, this is the fourth time you get interviewed by You always tell about your love for Holland but what exactly do you love about Holland? Can you name any particular items?

Dez: ‘First of all it’s the home of our record label. The people who gave me a life about 10 to 12 years ago. Furthermore I like the culture, the people, the architecture and the feeling in the city. The canals and stuff. I’m from America and it’s about 200 years old there man. I’m sitting here right now looking at a building and I have no idea how fucking old that is man! You just always know where you’re at and Holland has always had something special for me. And no matter what, you can get here in the middle of the night with a bus full of people and they get out in the pouring rain and everybody disappears. And they won’t come back till the next morning. Nobody will say where he’s been but they all have this big smile on their face you know. It’s just a good place and it’s always treated me well.’ 

Ok, here’s the best question of the interview. In movies, who do you prefer? Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone? Why?

John: ‘Someone asked me this already man.’

Oh fuck, is that true? Someone is stealing my question then!

John: ‘But ehm…they both made about two or three good movies and they both made tons of dumb shit.

Dez: ‘I would have to say Sly ‘cause now he’s back with this new boxing movie. That’s just great. But Darth Vader will kill ‘em all!’

*Here we get to speak about all kinds of movies and stunts, spoken lines and stuff like that. All really funny to hear it back but you’ll probably understand that’s something you have to experience yourself to even understand what it’s all about. Let’s just state that we had a very good laugh about all this.

So, anything to add to this interview?

Dez: ‘The album comes out in June, go pick it up! Thanks for getting behind us! Fucking get in the pit you fucking pussies!’

Thanks goes out to John, Dez and Roadrunner Records for arranging this interview.