DevilDriver Reveal ‘Keep Away From Me’ Song, Detail New Album + Interview
DevilDriver are on their way back, announcing an Oct. 9 street date for the first volume of their two album set Dealing With Demons, a personal collection of music in which frontman Dez Fafara adheres to the album title in speaking openly about his life through music. To kick off promotion of the new record, DevilDriver have released the new song "Keep Away From Me," which includes a new lyric video that can be viewed below.
We also had a chance to chat with Dez Fafara about the new song, how it has taken on a more universal theme with the current global pandemic and discuss some of the themes of the video. Fafara also shares some insight on the Dealing With Demons I album (pre-orders here), including discussing a familiar name that's appearing on the record. Check out the chat and watch the video below:
I’m sure this is not the 2020 we envisioned at the top of the year, but “Keep Away From Me” sure feels fitting for the times. It’s even more reflected in the video as well. I know this record is about dealing with your own demons, but how has it been to see this song in particular take on a more
universal theme over the last few months?
I wrote this song in early 2019. It’s all about my agoraphobia, which I’ve had since childhood. I’ve never been comfortable around people I don’t know or large groups, so then to see it take on a whole new meaning while the world went into quarantine was actually very strange.
If you watch the video, you’ll see footage that takes the breath out of the room because it’s real and it’s now real-time video of what’s happening — which is terrifying, but you’ll also see people in the middle section of the song isolated or in small groups with smiles on their faces, painting a picture of hope and dealing with isolation — which is how I view not only what’s going on in the world today but my own disease that’s literally caused me to cancel plans last minute or simply not go to what most people would love to attend — like award shows, parties etc. — my whole life and career.
I simply am more comfortable around close family and friends and that’s how it’s always been. I’m very private and now the whole world is being forced to adapt and adopt what I’ve been going through my whole life, “self-imposed isolation.”
The video itself delves into some of the by-products of the situation we’re in at the moment, including censorship and the role of the media in disseminating information. In the climate we’re currently in, especially where people are viewing and paying attention to news reports more than ever, how important is it to be vigilant in seeking out correct information and not taking all forms of presentation at face value?
I was watching the news very closely in December 2019, and on Jan. 3, we started stocking up on everything from water to canned goods and ammo in case people turned on people, frankly. And, I mean we stocked up the family for a six month lock down — this was before there was even one case here in the USA. I was telling my parents, brothers and sisters, “Hey, this is coming, and it’s going to close schools, shut down work and the USA will be quarantined. Of course everyone thought I was insane, but now look; not so insane.
My point here is, if I didn’t watch the news, we would not have been prepared at all. So watching the news was a good thing. As this got more out of hand... then you start going down the fucking rabbit hole. You learn where the virus started or not, who had patents for the virus, who has patents for the vaccine, you go deeper and you start discovering a lot of things that you can either “handle” or “not." Meaning... if you’re going to listen to mainstream media and go down the hole on other sites, you better know how to discern the information and quantify what’s right from what’s wrong or it’ll just cause fear and panic in your life. So yes, take it all at face value then evaluate and surmise a conclusion. Occam’s Razor teaches that the most probable cause and smallest amount of assumption is often the correct answer.
So, take a look at the how, why, where and what, then draw your own conclusion about this whole thing and remember that no matter what you believe, just know you’re not in control of it. The only thing you can do is control how you plan, make moves or react to it.
DevilDriver, "Keep Away From Me"
Speaking about the song, you’ve mentioned that you’ve been “social distancing” for years and broach the topic of your own anxiety. How would you best describe what you go through in dealing with the world around you and do you have any pieces of advice for someone dealing with similar issues or are experiencing anxiety in this period where it’s not as easy to leave your environment.
For most, they will never know this feeling unless they go through it. It’s very difficult to explain, so let’s consider a scenario: I’m invited to a party with some very large celebrities, connections, record industry people in almost a “you have the invite we’ll see you there” type manner, simply because no one would be stupid enough to not go [laughs]. I get my suit from the dry cleaners cause it’s a formal dress affair, I take a shower, I’ve got a town car on the way to pick me up, my wife is dressed in a beautiful dress with her hair and nails done and ... 15 minutes later, I’m in Star Wars sweatpants and a black T-shirt sitting on my bed with my dogs and texting those who invited me some bullshit excuse or flat out saying, “Hey, thanks, catch you next time,” with no story behind it, simply because I hate fucking small talk.
I dislike talking to people I don’t know unless we have business to do or an exact topic, because it’s draining as hell, and in that scenario I would simply retreat to a corner of the room and try to find privacy. Then there’s the fact that some people get weird around me if they are familiar with my career or my history and it turns into a Q&A. So I would rather just not go.
My advice to anyone that goes through the same thing that I do is to “go with your gut” and cancel when you want to and show up when you want to, because forcing yourself to do things you hate or are uncomfortable with is the worst curse in life... truly.
Also, find like-minded people. My wife, Anahstasia, is a saint because she will roll with it, put on pajamas and put on music or a movie without throwing a scene, because she knows what’s coming. It’s a 50/50 “we’ll make it out the door,” so that’s important. Otherwise your life could be fucked if you catch hell every time you don’t go somewhere or back out.
The video ends with the message “Stand Together.” Admittedly, there are a lot of layers to what we all have to deal with. How important is it to be open and respectful to a variety of viewpoints during this time in helping to come together for a common goal?
It’s vital in life and in general to keep an open mind, listen to everyone, explore the possibilities in every circumstance and form your own conclusion, but, by all means, have an open ear. I’ve watched and heard it all from the deepest convos of it’s a “pandemic” to “it’s not even worse than the flu.” I’ve formed my own opinion, thus I’m ready for any circumstance and that’s either the world returning to normal, or the real shit hitting the fan with forced vaccinations and Martial Law etc. But, I’m not living my life around those scenarios. Instead, I’m merely preparing for the worst and hoping for the best — just as simple as bringing an extra hoodie or jacket when going out at night so if it’s cold, I’m prepared. I’m hopeful the world will return to the way it was so everyone can live life.
“Keep Away From Me” is part of a larger, two album set titled Dealing With Demons that is a more soul-baring and personal record for you. Why was now the right time to address the issues you want to lay out there over the course of these two albums?
This answer is simple. I’ve written about these topics throughout my whole career. Love, loss, betrayal, trust and the whole gamut of the human condition and emotion. It’s simply time to move on lyrically, and the only way to do that is to seriously address what haunts you personally and get that inner shit out on the table and confront it. “Keep Away From Me” was one demon — agoraphobia. Now I can move on and not tackle that subject matter anymore. Instead, I can embrace other bigger, broader, more metaphysical topics that I’m into and that surround my daily thoughts.
It’s one thing to put it down on record and have a sense of relief for getting something off your chest, but it’s another to get feedback on what you’re putting out there and have to revisit material nightly on a tour. How ready are you to share this material and with some of the subject matter perhaps being still raw, how do you deal with being in that mindset having to perform it nightly?
What you share with others gives them a window into your life. I’m intensely private but I’m also a public figure in many ways. I owe my livelihood to anyone who’s ever bought a record, has come to a show, or supported me, to be honest, and give them the straight talk. “Hey, this is me, this is what I’m about” and I’ve said for the last four DevilDriver records, whenever I’m asked about a song, I say, “You figure it out.” Not this time. This time it’s, “This song is about this, and have you ever felt that way?”
I’ll bet 98 percent of people will relate to every topic on this double disc and the second disc gets even more intense — trust that. By the time people hear the songs, and if they pay attention, they’ll know me and what I’m about on a deeper level, and maybe understand themselves better or see someone who goes through the same things.
Plus, you can’t take yourself too seriously. A lot of singers take themselves too seriously and they become the character the stage made and lose themselves. I’ve never been that guy, and when you do that, you’ll never bare your soul in your lyrics, in your art — instead you’ll stay protected and cocooned in your own weird “ego bubble.” Nothing is worse than that! Performing nightly, I get to get that all out. It’ll take doing a song a hundred times live for me to figure out if I’m going to sing it forever or drop it from the set forever, and then there’s the crowd reaction. If they react, then you’ve done your job and that song needs to stay, but if they don’t react then you know you didn’t connect and you drop the track! As far as the headspace to sing them each night, a good song is only delivered live well if it has real emotion behind it.
It’s always challenging not to fall into the same patterns and you’ve put it to the band to focus on what they want to sound like for the future. Has doing something like the outlaw covers album helped to give you some leeway to explore beyond what the perception of DevilDriver may have been prior? Yes, you have a sound, but each bit of boundary pushing allows you to be able to explore further for the future.
The Outlaw record was simply to say, “Fuck you — I can, and I will, and I have a record label that backs me to do what I want.” You only have to hear "Ghost Riders" with Randy [Blythe] from Lamb of God, John Carter Cash and myself to know we meant business with that record, and yes, art should be free! I’m going to sound like a fucking hippy, but if you’re not doing something different, pushing boundaries or breaking down barriers in your own art… if you’re not pushing your own envelope, and in this case the listeners envelope, then… you’re shit really, aren’t you?!
I know a ton of bands that make the same record over and over and it’s a terrible shame. Good things come from stretching your wings, and I’m lucky that people who know DevilDriver know that even though we have a “sound,” a “groove” to us, every record is very different, and that’s a good thing. It’s given us longevity. It’s why with every release — even though album sales are down across the board year to year — we still continue to go up in sales. Keep the listener hungry, then feed ‘em right!
Looking down the track listing, and I see a familiar name. How enjoyable was it to get Simon Blade Fafara on a track. Tell me about your experience with “You Give Me a Reason to Drink.”
Working with my son Simon, who’s actually working on his first record, was amazing. He’s got a bad ass low growl and a way higher scream than me, plus, he’s got his own style but can sound like me a lot of the times, and last time he guested on a DevilDriver record, he was nine years old — on “Fighting Words." So it’s come full circle with him and I. I do believe he’s going to have a very strong career because he’s no bullshit, man. He wants it heavy and fast and loud and he doesn’t give a shit about the pop side of things, which is refreshing to see him have that “I don’t give a fuck” attitude. Kid was raised with a giant sticker on the refrigerator that read “QUESTION AUTHORITY” — just so you know who he is [laughs].
When you speak to Simon, he looks right through you with a gaze of a 75 year old. He’s an alpha type personality and can handle himself in situations most 22 year old’s would crumble through. That song is very relatable — the times in your life where you’re just like, “Fuck this, give me two shots with a double beer back, I gotta get over this!” I’m sober now, but that’s it, man. Everyone has those moments, and the song refers to that demon in your ear — “Drink this, take that, and you’ll be ok when...” No, you won’t be. Instead, you should meet everything head on and bash it. That’s the only way to deal with life.
Finishing up, obviously we all are anxious to see live music again. What do you envision the return of concerts being and what are you looking for personally in terms of what you want to see before you’ll feel comfortable back performing again?
Two questions here. You won’t like the answers. I don’t see full club attendance coming back even next year in 2021. Meaning — quarter full, half full clubs maybe at best. There are too many people that do not want to get sick or risk getting sick and that’s gonna be the hurdle. I believe live pay-per-view concerts are the new thing until then, so bands can work and people can get live shows at least cast to the television and see their favorite bands.
What will it take for me to feel comfortable to tour again? I need to see it be “safe.” I need to know I can go out on stage or backstage and not get sick. I need to know there won’t be a DevilDriver concert where everyone’s in the pit there’s bodily fluid everywhere. Then two weeks later 100 are hospitalized or even worse, people die. Tell ya what for sure, meet and greets are done for the foreseeable future, and I really hate that, because oddly enough, I have really enjoyed meeting the people who support me, on my own terms in the venue, before or after the show. It gives you a good read on if you’ve changed lives or not. But sadly, those are done for the time being.
Our thanks to DevilDriver's Dez Fafara for the interview. Check out the artwork and track listing for the new album, 'Dealing With Demons I' (due Oct. 9) below. Pre-order information for the album can be found here.
DevilDriver, Dealing With Demons I Artwork + Track Listing
1. Keep Away From Me
2. Vengeance Is Clear
3. Nest of Vipers
6. You Give Me a Reason to Drink (feat. Simon Blade Fafara)
8. Dealing With Demons
9. The Damned Don't Cry
10. Scars Me Forever
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