DevilDriver have never been a band to say the same thing twice, and once again they break new ground with their upcoming covers album, ‘Outlaws ‘til the End.’ As the title suggests, the album covers some of the all-time greats of the Outlaw Country genre, from Johnny Cash to Willie Nelson, and even The Eagles. DevilDriver’s charismatic and outspoken frontman Dez Fafara had a lot to say about the album, with plenty of passion coming through in his voice.
“A lot of positivity is coming through for that record, man,” he enthuses. “A lot of people say they really love it. I think that’s the important thing there. We worked really hard on this thing.”
For fans unsure what to expect, Fafara elaborates on what the album holds. “The familiar parts will definitely be that it sounds like DevilDriver, it’s got a tonne of groove. It’s got our sonic sound to it. The things that will be maybe unfamiliar, is there’s a lot of guests on here. They may not be familiar with their voices. They also may not be familiar with the different takes that we’ve done, so say Whiskey River. That’s got Mark Morton and Randy from Lamb of God on it. That’s basically a Black Metal song, so if you’ve never heard DevilDriver do our thing, do our take on Black Metal, there you go. So there’s a lot of different aspects to this record that are going to be new and different to DevilDriver fans, but also going to give you what you’re gonna expect from someone like DevilDriver.”
Reflecting on what it means to cover these classic songs, Fafara continues, “You know, you’ve gotta keep the core of the song, so people understand that if they know the original Whiskey River, they can tell that it’s that song. Other than keeping the core, you’ve gotta change it. You’ve gotta make the dynamic your own. You’ve gotta make the dynamic DevilDriver. So that’s really what we tried to do, and the musicians took it upon themselves to say ‘Hey, this song, Whiskey River, it should definitely be in the Black Metal vein. We could go a different direction with this tune. Let’s do that.’ And they did. I was very, very satisfied when I got that song,” he says, with a great deal of pride evident in his tone.
Another standout track on the album is the haunting If Drinking Don’t Kill Me. “Ah, If Drinking Don’t Kill Me,” Fafara almost sighs. “It’s one of those tunes that definitely has a dark vibe on its own. On the original it’s extremely difficult, or extremely dark. As a lyricist, ‘If drinking don’t kill me, her memory will,’ it’s like a lyric I kick myself every day that I never wrote that. And that’s the part of Outlaw Country that I’m trying to show to people. Those lyrics are so incredible that if you put that stuff to Heavy Metal, it’s just badass. But you know, you put Wednesday 13 on that track, and it’s one of his favourite tracks. And from there it just fucking, you know, it really took over, it took on a new life. Wednesday said himself that he thought he was being punked, because when we asked him to do the track, first of all no one knew that he liked Outlaw Country, but no one knew that was his favourite track. His whole life, he’s loved that track.”
In terms of guests, almost all of Fafara’s wish list was fulfilled. “I didn’t want to do this without Hank III, I didn’t want to do it without Randy because he’s a great family friend, and I didn’t really want to do it without the Cash family. I really wanted to get John Carter and Ana Cash on this. I was very fortunate to have done so. And the humility that’s running through me just knowing that the Cash family is involved is… I take great pride in that.”
Of course, Fafara and the rest of DevilDriver picked up some new tricks in working with the Outlaw Country genre. “The fact that pedal steel works amazingly well in Metal is great. I think the fact that we found out that Neil has an incredible singing voice, and when he sings with me, it does something very special, and we’ll definitely be using that in the following records to come.”
As for the influence of Outlaw Country on heavy music in general, Fafara explains, “I mean, I really find myself having to explain it more to the UK or the EU audience, that if you come to a Heavy Metal concert, a Heavy Metal barbecue, when you’re on a Heavy Metal tour bus, you’re gonna hear Slayer and then Johnny Cash, and then Pantera and then Willie Nelson, and nobody bats an eye. No one’s like, ‘Well who put on that music?’ you know? And in the same way, when you ask people if they like Country, they say ‘No,’ and you say, ‘Do you like Johnny Cash?’ and they say ‘Yes!’” The bemusement is Fafara’s voice is quite audible. “So these Outlaw artists, they’re like the Lemmy s of their genre. These are why we’re covering them, this is why we’re bringing this to the forefront, and I think that I’ve never been one as an artist to walk on ground that’s been treaded over. I look down, I see footprints, I automatically go off territory, and go walking off ground and off the path. So that’s what I’m doing with this, and trying to do something that’s different, that’s never been done, and colliding these two genres the way that they should be done.”
DEVILDRIVER’S ‘OUTLAWS ‘TIL THE END’ IS RELEASED JULY 6th. PREORDER YOUR COPY HERE!