There’s a lot that cognac and country have in common: it’s about taste, and texture, and a fine vintage almost always trumps the newer stuff. Spend some time around Dez Fafara and it’s a fair bet you’ll get a generous dose of both. Lower those eyebrows. Sure, the erstwhile Coal Chamber frontman may have been the one-time poster child for the musical excesses of the 90s most maligned and oft-misunderstood musical development, but he’s long-since grown his hair and, as it happens, grown into the role of shamanic frontman of the riff-tastic Devildriver, a band that makes frequent appearances alongside words like ‘crushing’ and ‘ferocious.’ Those sweaty shows, infamous for their bone-snapping circle-pits and frenetic pace, seem like a million miles away from the shrine-like oasis to be found at the back of his tour bus.
Right now we’re tucked behind London’s Electric Ballroom rapping about freemasonry, Aleister Crowley, the joy of perils of big wave surfing, and his favourite poisons. As he’ll explain, there’s a point in life when your palate begins to register more than just sweet or sour. He offers a generously-poured glass of Hine, a tongue-prickling blast of rocket-fuel that can’t be sipped too slowly. He’ll proudly describe the vast stores he has back home.
California’s a long way from Nashville, you know.
“True, but I grew up on a construction site,” he says. “I was a bricklayer working with my father, working from four or five in the morning and country’s what dudes listen to. I know what it is to get up with the sunrise seven days a week. That’s why we tour as hard as we do. I don’t believe in days off.”
He spies a copy of Country magazine that’s been brought for just the occasion. “Dolly fucking Parton, man,” he grins. “I’m a huge fan. My old manager if responsible for her comeback, and something I got from her is that she writes every morning. Get up and write: it could be a song, or just a word, but always get something down. She is amazing. Jolene just destroys me every time. The pop country, the Keith Urbans – I’m just not into it, I can’t be that guy. If you want to talk about real country, you need to talk about Dolly, or Willie, or Waylon. There’s what they’ll allow on the Grand Ol Opry and the real stuff people shy away from, like Jamey Johnson who’s outlaw as hell. Taylor Swift? She’s glorified pop – let her do her thing, she’s pretty, she’s got a great voice, but… no.” Here then, is what Dez describes as the real shit over a glass of the good stuff.
Jamey Johnson – The High Cost Of Living
“Jamey Johnson isn’t mainstream, he’s an outlaw cat – he hangs with Willie and Waylon, and I got turned onto him by my lighting guy, Scott. He’s just doing his thing, but the lyrics are just tremendous. His whole band is really into metal, actually, they’ll be wearing these Lamb Of God shirts on stage, but this is real outlaw country.”
Hank III – Thrown Out Of The Bar
“I’m real good friends with Hank, I’ve known him forever, he payed bass for Superjoint Ritual when Devildriver did our first tour with them. The world seriously needs to know this guy. You go to a Hank 3 show and it’s ornery – you get people hootin’ and hollerin’, he’s really punk rock.”
David Allen Coe – The Ride
“He’s probably written every good country song you’ve ever heard, he still loves to play and still does his shows. He’s one of those guys like Willie Nelson who started out with short hair, as a writer, and when he went out and realised people wanted to hear his voice, too so he went out.”
Johnny Cash – Cocaine Blues
“I grew up with Cash, so when I started collecting vinyl the first thing I did was get a box full of cash. It’s the meaning of country. Live At Folsom has to be one of the best live albums ever. I must have spent five years on stage wearing the same Johnny Cash shirt.”
Willie Nelson – Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die
“Willie Nelson is one of the original rebels, and it’s brilliant that he did this with Snoop Dogg. I guess it could be a weed thing, or maybe it’s Snoop’s love for country and he gets off on the lyrics like I do. Willie’s been out there supporting farmers and other charities for a lot longer than it was fashionable.”
Winter Kills is out via Napalm records now.