Jul 10, 2009

Dez (Devil Driver) - Interview 2009

By Bob Suehs

www.rocknrollexperience.com

An Interview with Dez from Devildriver

7/10/09

Dez is an interesting guy....to look at him, he's a heavily tattooed guy who looks like he might be a total drill sergeant, he comes off slightly intimidating, hardcore & angry when he's onstage, but offstage, the man is a very pleasant, articulate, smart, very driven character who's artistic beyond belief, there's quite a few sides to the man that you would never suspect if you didn't chat with him & take a moment to get to know the man behind the music.

Dez fronted Coal Chamber for several years & when that project fell apart he started Devildriver. Devildriver is more "hard rock" oriented in it's nature & with it's current cd, in my personal opinion, the cd is more progressive, musically, than anything Dez has done in the rock genre so far. It's interesting when you do interviews, because sometimes you do ones that are just super bland, if your subject isn't willing to talk then it can be brutal at times...trying to pull answers out of an un-willing subject is never a fun thing, but when you connect, bond, & have a good conversation with the person you are interviewing, then look out, because you'll get an amazing interview, you'll find out many, many facts that no one else has really gotten the subject to explain before, & with this interview, I'll admit it, it's one of my top 10 personal "best" interviews I've ever done....I interviewed Dez on the phone while he was as his home doing press for the new Devildriver record, he was in a good mood, very talkative, & I actually walked away from this interview feeling very accomplished, mostly because this interview covers alot of territory, there's topics that haven't been addressed before & on a personal level, I understand where Dez is coming from, I learned what drives the man to succeed & create & be original. The interviewed started off simply with:

Rock N Roll Experience: On a musical level, I think the new record is the best you've ever done, the guitars are superb, your vocals sound amazing & the band kinda went in a progressive way in some spots.

Dez: Well, I feel like we've always been progressive all along, most bands have like 5 or 6 years before they release the first record & with us it was like 6 months before we released the first record & the 2nd record came out a year & 1/2 later, so as we grew together we kinds came together & got exactly what we wanted, the 2nd record is a little scattered for me & artistic, but it was still cool, the 3rd record was all out metal to the floor but needed some more diversity & ups & downs & I think this one we found a sound that could define us & probably take us for many more records to come, so I appreciate the compliment.

Rock N Roll Experience: So why did you use the "devil owl" on the front cover of the new cd?

Dez: I'm a huge fan of owls, I collect owls, My grandfather used to collect owls, it's also the villain & hero theme, I needed an icon to work with that, we did 3 record covers with the last guy so it was time to get away from that, I think the owl is feared & revered in cultures all around the world so it just said everything that I needed as well as, I love it! When I was writing the record there was a massive owl outside in this Eucalyptus grove & all he was doing was hooting all night & all morning & all day long, so it was a natural thing, ya know? He made me think of him constantly. I wanted something simple & graphic & real distinctive, just like the inside...this record needed that kinda graphic element rather than a bunch of band photos & stuff like that.

Rock N Roll Experience: What made you decide to get the "66" tattoo on your neck?

Dez: Well, I kinda ran out of space, I mean my face is done & everything else, so I needed to get a neck tattoo, plus, it's my birth year, plus it's a highway that is a real famous highway, I'm a huge fan of California & I've got stars & bars in it, so it represents the United States everywhere I go around the world...getting the American flag inside of it...when you come off of a plane in the Ukrane or in Russia, (laughs), it's pretty obvious that you're American, ya know?

Rock N Roll Experience: Did the "66" tattoo on your neck hurt when you got it?

Dez: I don't know, life can be painful, tattoo's are easy.

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Rock N Roll Experience: Which tattoo hurt you the most?

Dez: I don't know, my face is tattooed & that one just kinda jittered my jawbone a little bit...the stomach is pretty painful...I've got my stomach tattooed, I've got a bunch of stuff tattooed

Rock N Roll Experience: Are you getting anymore tattoo's on your face or is that it?

Dez: Who knows? Tattoo's are an evolving thing, it's one of those things where you may not get tattooed for a year, then all of a sudden you get tattooed for 12 hours straight & get your whole chest done & buying work & it just comes & it goes, but you never know....

Rock N Roll Experience: So there's no spot on your body that you wouldn't tattoo?

Dez: Ohhh yeah, there's a couple of spots that I wouldn't get tattooed on (laughs)

Rock N Roll Experience: You have a Nightmare Before Christmas tattoo, right?

Dez: I do...I actually just got that covered with a bunch of artwork because it goes over my chest piece, so it's null & void, but I had the monster from The Nightmare Before Christmas

Rock N Roll Experience: Would you do anything, on a music level, that's not metal or not rock?

Dez: Yeah...I just recorded a new native American flute record called "The High Desert Moon" & you can go to www.myspace.com/highdesertmoonmusic & check it out...I recorded it with a cat named Greg White & his father is extremely famous, he wrote "Rhinestone Cowboy" & tons of country hits, so it's got dobro...it's almost, & I live in the desert, so it's almost kinda like desert music & I've been playing Native American flute for like 3 years, I broke my right finger on my right hand & they told me I'd never have a good grip anymore & one day riding on the bus I stopped in New Mexico, picked up a flute, started playing it, & it totally rehabilitated my hand, it gave me another avenue for which to channel art through, it's a culture that I absolutely fell in love with, I do alot of different things man, painting, sculpt, whatever, I do alot of different arts....just like music, I listen to alot of different music, not just metal!

Rock N Roll Experience: Do you play any other instruments besides flute?

Dez: No, I sing, play the native American flute & arrange the hell out of Devidriver stuff, but I'm gonna pick up the guitar this year. I told myself I'm gonna do that, so we're leaving on the "Thrash & Burn" tour here in about 10 days & I bought a guitar 4 years ago & it's setting in my room, so I'm gonna take that with me, I mean I'm surrounded by guitar players, & I can learn 3 or 4 chords a day. I have a Gibson dobro.

Rock N Roll Experience: So will your guitar playing go from the country aspect of things since you have a dobro?

Dez: You know, I listen to alot of different music, I love the blues, so I'd sure love to play that thing with a slide & sing the blues...that would be killer! I listen to alot of old school sun house & Howlin' Wolf & I love old country, but....Old Waylon Jennings & Hank Sr. & guys like that I think..Wayne the Train, Hancock..that stuff to me, sometimes, is heavier than metal because it's so real in it's delivery, so it's the real deal in it's delivery & right now I'm not finding alot of inspiration because everybody kinda sounds the same in metal, so I'm listening to different shit.

Rock N Roll Experience: I totally agree that blues is a really raw, true, pure form of music.

Dez: It's where everything comes from & it is really raw & I really love that, so I listen to that alot, but I listen to all sorts of different music from blues to black metal.

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Rock N Roll Experience: That would be really cool, I'd love to hear you do something blues oriented.

Dez: I have alot of different influences, I mean with Coal Chamber it was alot of punk & goth influences, alot of gothic influences because I love bands like Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, Alien Sex Fiend, Specimen, shit like that, & then, other influences can come out in Devidriver...I never like to paint myself in any corner with art. I totally believe in doing art & letting it go...someone said the other day in an interview, "Are you really happy with this record?" & I'm never happy, I'm content, I'm content that the art got done, the art got put out, & now I can move on & then if I get more than content I will lose my edge that's constantly there with me as an artist.

Rock N Roll Experience: Al Jourgenson from Ministry has said that he's never totally satisfied with mixes when he hears the final product because he always wants to add & change things, but he's realized he has to just put it out & let things go sometimes or he'll never release anything.

Dez: Al is a good friend of mine & not only a hero, but a mentor, so I agree with him 100% & if you look at the things that he's done, he's completely progressive, I think people are gonna look back on that guy in 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now as being one of the leaders in what he does because he's an incredible artist, I admire him, I'm glad to call him a personal friend.

Rock N Roll Experience: I've been hearing Michael Jackson called a "genius" alot over the past 2 weeks, but to me, Al Jourgenson IS a genius

Dez: Right...well, "pop" genius & "underground" genius...one gets washed into the other by one from the masses or the underground isn't picked up by alot of people so the normal person that knows Michael Jackson is not going to know who Ministry is, that's the sad thing about art...Money is this world controls who see's it & who doesn't...the more money you put into the art, the more people who see it, all of a sudden you're a pop icon! Put that kinda Michael Jackson money into Al Jourgenson & shit, the world would also fall in love.

Rock N Roll Experience: Speaking of Michael Jackson...what are your feelings on that entire situation?

Dez: I think he did good art, but from what it looks like....he's a pedeophile & I've got children so I'm not down with it, but one can't judge...maybe someone was going after his money, maybe not...I think in the end, a whole bunch of ugliness tarnished a really great name, because if you really think about it, when he was a kid, he did those songs like "ABC" & all that, I mean, it's unreal! To think that the guy never had dance lessons in his life, & I hate to see the fact that he was all messed up o pills, because I'm a musician on the road & I see that ALOT!.....ALOT! So, it's sad...in the end, you can't really judge the man because who know, but I think some of the accusations throughout the years...not one, not 2, not 3, but numerous, then pay off's to people to shut up, things like that, that kinda uglied my view of him a little bit....but in the end, we all meet our maker & you've got to justify your actions...do you know what I'm saying?

Rock N Roll Experience: If I were truly innocent though, I'd fight those allegations with my last breathe, I wouldn't pay out a dime!

Dez: Yeah, but he had billions of dollars, he said that it was going to drag him through the mud..well, it already drug him through the mud so he should have seen it all the way through, that's the way that that goes...I guess my quote on that would be, "He was an incredible artist, but in the end his name was tarnished by so many things." Just as we all will be when we die, (laughs), there will always be someone to stand up & talk shit (laughs) It's funny...writers, artist's, poets, painters, it's all the same...as soon as you're not around, someone's going to say something shitty!

Rock N Roll Experience: Going back to the Blues for a minute, have to seen ZZ TOP on their current tour?

Dez: I saw them in Europe! UN-BELIEVABLE bro! I got Billy Gibbon's signature, he's so killer! I went out, bought their merch, I bought this gray shirt with 2 six guns on it that says, "Hell or Houston", it's great!

Rock N Roll Experience: Has being a father & having 3 sons changed your outlook on life at all?

Dez: I've gotta work! I've gotta work hard, I've got to show them a work ethic, & you've gotta be aware that you're being watched at all times! They are learning about how they are going to be men...they see work ethic, they see truth, they see friendship, friends around me, they see what they see & I think that's what will change you...you are not just living for yourself anymore...you can't go sit on the couch in the middle of the day with a bottle of Jack Daniels, do you know what I'm saying? It actually takes your life in another direction, you start thinking more about the future which is good...I was the whole live fast, die young, till I hit 30,, (laughs), then I became, "live long...prosper!" (laughs)

Rock N Roll Experience: I recently learned that your father was on the TV show "Leave it to Beaver".

Dez: Yeah man, he was not really in my life, he's still not, to this day in my life, but yeah, that was his gig...him & my Uncle Stan who's now passed away...they were Whitey & Tooey on "Leave it To Beaver" & my Mom had me & then they got divorced, so my Father is my Step Father, he's the guy that I get all of my work ethic & all of that from...he's a construction worker, so he still works his ass off day & night, loves Western movies, he's a hard ass, so it raised me to have that attitude in me & I think that's from him (laughs)

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Rock N Roll Experience: I remember seeing Coal Chamber the last time you guys played here in Maryland & it seemed like the band was falling apart.

Dez: Oh yeah, completely....you can't live with people when they are on Meth Amphetamines, I'm a wine drinkin', weed smokin' pretty mellow son of a bitch, unless you piss me off, so living with those guys was just not good...they were on meth & they'd be up 4 days in a row, all the time, & now, I'm glad to say I'm friends with them again & they are clean & sober & off of that shit for years, it took them years to get off of that & then finally come to me...it was a moment when, a really critical moment, probably about 2 years ago when Meegs came to the House of Blues in Los Angeles & Devildriver had a sold out show & he came in the very back & apologized to my Mom, my wife, & all of my kids & I like, ok, that's owning up, that's being a man, owning up for not only fucking my life up & his life up, but there's other people around too, there's wives, there's children, there's managers, there's record labels, there's people that invested time in you, so you just don't go & pick up hard drugs & go ruining everybody's life without some sort of consequences & now they are in their consequence & I'm in mine...my destiny was to move forward & I didn't know where I would go or how it would go, I just knew that I was going to keep on doing what I liked to do & I still feel that way...keep rollin' forward! Eventually, everybody in your life, when it comes to music, peal's off...it's gonna take a very rare dude, even the guys in my band now...it's gonna take a rare guy to hang in for another 20 years till I'm 60+ & still tour the way that I wanna tour, I think that's what happened to Coal Chamber, they couldn't tour anymore so they came off the road, they found drugs & I bailed out man, I had to get my own bus & that shit's expensive.

Rock N Roll Experience: So it was drug use that killed Coal Chamber?

Dez: It was the drugs man, it was often quoted that I left because they weren't going musically where I wanted to go....well no shit! They were on a brick of meth! You can't play music, you can't do anything but make weird sounds at that point! So yeah, both reasons...the music was falling apart, the relationship was just null & void, I was watching them destroy themselves, & then I realized that...wow, if I keep singing, I'll be the catalyst to bringing them money so they all kill themselves on drugs & I was thinking...I'm NOT doing that! And in the mean time, they can continue to make my life complete hell, so one night at a show, we got in a fist fight in Texas, onstage, & shit, I bailed out! I caught a red eye & I was 36 thousand feet in the air by the time they were packing up the gear & that was it!

Rock N Roll Experience: Was there actually a night that you & Meegs got into a fight & he hit you in the head with his guitar?

Dez: I don't know where that came from, he never hit me in the head with his guitar...first off, if you get hit in the head with a guitar, you go out cold (laughs), it was more like him, with the headstock of his guitar, trying to go after me one night & while I was singing, I didn't really get it, because it was part of our "Shtick" to get crazy onstage, so at first, I thought, wow, this dude's fuckin' insane, he's really going crazy tonight....& no, that wasn't it...he was up for 4 days & for some reason had it out for me & in the end he finally said, "I don't know why I went after you, I should have been pissed at myself, I was doing drugs the whole time." At that point, it's real difficult, you're best friend will steal your TV so they can get themselves some dope at that point. Most of the times, you won't have a turning point until you hit rock bottom, so you'll either hurt yourself, you'll hurt somebody in a car accident, you'll find yourself waking up in jail, you'll have something go on, I mean, with the amount of drugs Coal Chamber were carrying around the country, I mean, geez, if they would have gotten pulled over it, I don't know, let's pick a town...Oklahoma...they would have probably been in jail for 10 or 15 years, so you know, it's a difficult thing man..addiction...I'm addicted to many different things, I have a handle on many different things, I think that we as a culture are addicted to things...food, TV, fuckin' sex, not just the standard addictions, booze, this & that, ya know? So, that's what killed Coal Chamber in the end.

Rock N Roll Experience: Are you wearing shoes on the upcoming tour?

Dez: I gotta take a look at the stages...stages like The House of Blues, yeah, definitely...at the Ozzfest I didn't wear any shoes because I know those guys up there & what they are doing on those stages & I'm not gonna be stepping on any nails, but worst case scenario is I'll wind up stepping on something, them I'm fucked for the whole tour...I had a really bad right foot accident on the last run & it's been about 2 months now & it still has not healed, I tore ligaments off the top of my foot...I rolled my foot, stood up on the monitor, rolled it & I'd never had a really intense foot accident like that...I broke my foot when I was like 7 riding Moto-cross, but it was blown up like a balloon & I'm still walking a little funny, so as far as going without shoes, I don't know man, I might have to wear the KISS Van's High tops & fuckin' lace them up real tight.

Rock N Roll Experience: Which KISS shoes do you have?

Dez: I've got the one's with all the faces, I don't have the "Dressed to Kill" or the other ones, I like the one's that has each one of their faces on each ankle.

Rock N Roll Experience: So you're a big KISS fan?

Dez: Dude...massive!

Rock N Roll Experience: Converse put out AC/DC & Metallica shoes

Dez: Really...it looks like Vans are going to be doing a Devildriver shoe...I'm designing it actually, so I'm doing different designs right now, but they started in '66, I'm a kid born in '66, I grew up with Van's Tennis shoes, so the first pair is obviously coming to me & I'm gonna put them in a box on a shelf & go, "Look at that!"

Honestly, this was one of the best interviews I've done in quite some time, Dez was an amazing subject, he had alot to say & I can't thank him enough for being such a great interview & I definitely want to thank Amy for setting this entire interview up!

Devildriver are currently out on the road, check 'em out, check out their new cd, you won't be dissapointed!