2020 has been tough for everyone, but Dez Fafara has had more reason than most to curl up in a ball and wish the world would go away. Last year, the DevilDriver frontman suffered the double-whammy of his house nearly being destroyed in one of the wildfires that swept Northern California and his wife Anahstasia being diagnosed with cancer – and that was even before the global pandemic kicked in.
So when we asked him how everything has fed into his band’s first album of original material in five years, Dealing With Demons Vol.1, we expected an entirely justified woe-is-me tale. Instead, we got a full and frank 1015-minute reply that was heartbreaking, dignified and inspiring. One question, one epic answer.
This is how the converstion went…
How hard has the last year been, and how did that affect the writing of the record?
“I’m a glass half full kinda guy. Whatever hardship has been thrown at me over the years I’ve always looked at it and said ‘Okay, where are the positives and how do we turn this around?’. But this last year has been difficult. When you’re fleeing wildfires and someone is on a bullhorn screaming ‘Get out!’, and you’re looking back at your house and everything you’ve worked for, and you’re thinking ‘Everything is going to be gone, every piece of memorabilia is going to be destroyed, that’s hard.
“My son, thank god, he moved out and we had a place to go. I was lying on the floor in my son's house, watching TV and seeing the mountain four miles from our house just crumble, engulfed in thousand-foot flames, and I just said goodbye to everything, because it doesn't really mean shit. I got my family, my wife, my cats and dogs, all that other stuff doesn’t mean shit.
“So, I told myself that I was going to be happy, and that was how it was going to be. Then morning, one beautiful happy morning, my wife takes a phone call, gets off the call and she’s crying. She has cancer. So, I have to pull out of tours, pull out of everything, and be with her. I’ve saved the house, now we have to save you. And we did. After multiple surgeries, she has a clean bill of health, and it chokes me up even talking about it. It’s really hard to discuss, but I want to give you the real truth.
“That’s when it dawned on me; ‘What have I been chasing my whole life?’. I’ve been waking up on buses and in hotels all around the world, in Sweden, Germany, Japan, Australia, without you, and what the fuck was I doing this for?! Yes, to raise a family, to buy a house, to send my children to school, I know why I was doing it, but what the fuck is the meaning of life if I’ve got someone who I’m so in love with, who I’m so close to, who is my best friend, and I can’t see them? What the fuck am I doing?! So, now I’m not going any-fucking-where without you.
“We can laugh now because we’ve survived wildfire, survived cancer, we have got a fantastic double record, we’re gonna get a tour bus and we’re going to go out there together around the world, I’m going to walk her around all of the capital cities and great spots that I have found over the last twenty years... and then a pandemic hits, racial fucking riots, civil unrest, people buying out all the guns! What the fuck is this?!
“So, what’s important in life? I’ll tell you what: your parents, your family, your pets, your girlfriend, your closest friends. Nothing else means shit. And it made me come to a realisation, I have an entirely new view on life, why have I been running so hard, what have I been trying to achieve? I missed one of my kid's graduation and it will haunt me for the rest of my life, because I was in some shitty club in Idaho. Now I look back, I’m never doing that again. I say to younger musicians; take stock and don’t run so hard.
“Put the stress of releasing a new record, a very different record, into the mix of all of that and, yeah, it’s been really hard. But it really can’t and couldn’t get any worse, so, if I'm really honest, if the record gets panned, I don’t care. If it’s just the normal Devildriver that people want, then, fuck it, I’m done! This album is the best that we can be right now, and, this should be hammered home.
“The stuff that we’ve been writing, the stuff that comes in the aftermath of this pandemic, is going to be so fucking intense and is going to be so full of a range of sounds and influences and honesty, you just wait.”