When speaking to DevilDriver frontman Dez Fafara about the band’s new record Dealing With Demons I, one question crossed our minds was: how many demons does he have left? After all, Dez’s band has been putting out one crushing album after another for almost twenty years now, and have expressed his feelings on everything from suicidal thoughts to his work ethic. In response, Dez revealed that on this album, he finally confronted an issue that’s plagued him most of his life: his agoraphobia, a deep-seated tendency to shun social interactions, which has made his job as a master of ceremonies especially difficult.
“I’ve been on tour with bands for six weeks where they’ve seen me twice,” the vocalist told The Pit. “I’ll go say hello, but I tend to keep to myself, in the back with a book or up in the front with my crew and my band, hang with my family, my inner circle. The love of what I do was never chasing fame, money, security, any of the things that come from music in your mid- or top-level place. The thing I actually love is writing, recording, and playing live on stage. It’s all of the other stuff that consumes the life around me.”
For many, dealing with lifelong agoraphobia might be harrowing. For Dez, it was actually deeply refreshing, in part because life during COVID-19 showed him that maybe his desire to stay at home might be something he should take control of rather than struggle against.
“I’m a homebody, and I’ve been home for a year, the longest time since I signed a record deal in ’95 or ’96 or whenever it was,” he said. “And I’d never seen the sun come up. That was the thing — if you see the sun peeking up, you want to get in your bus and go to bed right away or your day’s going to be ruined. Now, I’m up at 4am, 5am every morning. My drapes are open, and I’m watching the sun come up every morning. I’m waking up next to my wife at two in the morning, holding her hand. That hasn’t gone on for 22, 24 years.
“The love is not going to leave me,” he continued. “I love writing. I’m writing now. I’ll never stop writing, I’ll never stop recording. I’ll never stop touring, just on the level that I did. We were really known for just being that band that was pedal to the metal, living on the road. I love pulling up to a truck stop at 3am with three or four tour buses and going in, get our shitty snacks — that’s the best for me. But that’s gotta slow down for me. Because I realized, I could’ve lost my wife last year. And I didn’t want to lose someone close to me while I’m not around. I want to be available. So I’m going to be available not just to my job — because I have seen success with my work ethic, I sleep four hours a night, I work very hard — but I’m going to slow down a little bit and take in some personal moments.”
It’s not just his own lifestyle that Dez thinks needs to slow down. Watching the world from quarantine, the singer has come to realize that his nonstop drive to succeed is one that millions of Americans feel on a daily basis. And maybe the uncertainty of life under the coronavirus can teach them all an important lesson: it’s okay to live for today.
“I just had this great podcast with Jamey Jasta, where I said, You’re like me — you chase the next tour, the next brand,” Dez explained. “People don’t realize that to keep a band going — or two bands, in my case — you’ve gotta do a lot of chasing. You’ve got to have a strategy. You’ve got to go for certain tours, certain festivals. You can’t sit out for three, four years — maybe bands like Tool can do that, but I’m not sure even they will come back the way they once were (I love their music so that’s not a dis, I’m just saying). You can’t just not go to work for two, three years, and expect your business to flourish. And this whole thing that’s going on in the world made me step back. And after the pandemic, when the violence really started erupting, it made me go, What is happening to society right now? Where are we all at? I’m in the middle of a record release, so I’m supposed to be jovial, having a good time, enjoying the record — but no, I’m by myself, at home, going Where are we going next? Just like everybody else.”
DevilDriver’s Dealing With Demons I is out now on Napalm Records.
Words by Chris Krovatin