Monday, February 16, 2009

Devil Drive - a chat with Dez

Combating his studio schedule and personal hygiene routines, I was finally able to get Dez on the phone so that we could chat for a bit about the new DevilDriver album and the creative process. It is apropos that the newest album, which as yet has no title, is being recorded in the city streets of Los Angeles, not too far from the childhood home of Dez and Santa Barbara, the collective birthplace of the band. The band, comprised of Dez Fafara taking lead with vocals, Mike Spreitzer and Jeff Kendrick teaming up on guitars, Jon Miller heading up the bass, and John Boecklin beating the drums and adding the occasional guitar part, managed to sit in the studio and produce a follow-up “fifteen song” album smoothly and easily. There has to be a trick to it, right?
After recording the past three albums on a ranch in the welcoming and non-judgmental arms of the countryside, Dez took this album to a studio in the city and didn’t “have a chance to get cabin fever.” Being able to stop and take a break from the creative yet demanding process of the studio was a blessing even though the recording this time around was without its typical obstacles and impediments - could have been the surroundings or could have been working with Logan Mader. Mader has worked with such metal scene attendees as Five Finger Death Punch, Demia, Gojira and several others, giving him the necessary and required in-studio skills to tackle the musical creations of DevilDriver and company.
Don’t be expecting a “Last Kind Words” part two because “you’re not going to get it. [DevilDriver] continues to drive [them]selves and define [them]selves and figure out what the experience of DevilDriver is.” It is not done with the intention of keeping fans interested or guessing; it is simply a natural progression as the band evolves and continues to diversify their influences and underscore their musical education. Dez feels that the “people who have been behind DevilDriver from the start are going to be really excited about it.” He adds that he states such things “with confidence and a little bit of cockiness” and coming from this usually humble individual that is saying a lot. If the release date was up to him and there was no business side to take into consideration, “it’d be on the internet tonight”. But we don’t want Roadrunner Records to have his “ass” for leaking his own material, now do we?
Listening to a combination of “outlaw country and blues…metal as well” makes the influences of the album difficult to “nail down”. It is also an apparently great mixture for fifteen songs without one that lends itself to being a B-side. So it’s a good thing, and perhaps a savior of sorts, that the band “is looking to put out two albums at one time: one with the standard amount and one with three or four other tracks with an hour long making-of DVD.” It wouldn’t be fair to just “make a song a B-side just because it’s an outsider to the rest.” All songs should be given equal consideration, especially since the diversity of a seemingly mix-matched song could add to the listening pleasure and experience of the record.
Though he has three, soon to be four, studio albums under his belt, Dez still feels “really fortunate to work with some cool people.” And when this list includes names such as Ozzy Osbourne and Nikki Sixx, it is no wonder that when he “says it out loud, [he’s] still a kid full of wonder.” Hopefully this album will fill past, present, and yet-to-be DevilDriver fans with wonder. The release date is not yet set in stone; however, Dez has been “saying June”, but just the other day July was uttered. The date might not be solid, but Dez is convinced the finished product of the album will be. So keep your ears and eyes open for the definitive date. Until then await the presence of the “energy of [Dez’s] hometown” recorded for your own pleasure…despite the absence of humility for one day.

Authority Zero - in line at the Roxy

Watching the line grow and serpentine down the length of Sunset Blvd, one is forewarned that this is going to be an intensely chaotic and high-energy event. The four members of the band, a familiar and veteran icon of the punk music scene, come and go throughout the crowd – their identities hidden under beanies and sweatshirts. Weaving expertly in and out of groups of fans, Jason finds me by the side entrance to the Roxy, where I am awaiting the other band members – whoever can be pulled away from their offstage duties. We exchange pleasantries and my accompanying photographer snaps some shots. I’m told to sit tight and enjoy the show until after the set and people filter out of the venue’s doors. A task I can execute with ease – watching Authority Zero, no matter the circumstance or venue, is always a treat.

Authority Zero: comprised of Jason Devore belting out vocals, Zach Vogel strumming riffs on guitar, Jim Wilcox pounding at the drums, and D.J. Dean Farmer holding up the low-end of the equation on bass, takes the stage accompanied by a mixture of howling and clapping by the sold out crowd at the Roxy in the music-drenched city of Hollywood, California. Hailing from the sun-scorched landscapes of Arizona, the band tried on a different kind of light: the searing, searching spotlights of the stage. If the alcohol splashing out of the beer-gutted and balding man’s cup next to me or the bouncing ponytail of the clean-cut dressed female in front of me are any indication, Authority Zero doesn’t fit the pigeon-holed, strictly punk in appearance, stereotyped audience anymore. That’s quite the accomplishment: to be able to bridge a gap between genres and connect those to whom your music appeals.

The band has gone through some lineup changes, but amazingly “has managed to stay friends” says Wilcox as we sit in the green room at the Roxy. Aside from a manager and the occasional band traffic, Wilcox, Devore, my photographer, and I are the only ones taking up the space. We talk about the trials and tribulations of being in a long-lived band and the rewards of surviving that struggle. “We’ve been around long enough to see it all come back around,” says Devore of the music trends that resurface. And if you watch album sales, one can quickly see genres reliving their popularity of the past. Authority Zero is seeing people, old and new fans, once again becoming enamored with their particular brand of punk that is fueled by bold reggae undertones. Keep at it long enough and it all becomes worthwhile.

With three studio albums under their belts, the band continually keeps fans interested. A fourth in the works - currently with no release date and no working title in place - there will be yet another track listing of songs to whet the palates of music gormandizers whose taste and preference lean more towards the creative offerings of Authority Zero. But can you blame them? Devore’s melodic vocals stand out and stand true on any airwave with their crisp range and impeccable pitch – even live the vocals don’t stray far from what the studio produces.

Watching the audience get what they wanted out of their tickets: an electrifying show that possessed the power of the songs spinning on the recorded CD, proved, yet again, that Authority Zero won’t be going anywhere (but up) anytime soon. Authority Zero will always have “One More Minute” with the droves of fans that follow the progress of the band and that make it possible.