DevilDriver, Lamb of God, Fear Factory + Wednesday 13 Members Talk Outlaw Country Covers Album
DevilDriver's outlaw country covers album, Outlaws Till the End, is almost upon us. The band's frontman, Dez Fafara, spoke with Full Metal Jackie about the record and was joined by some of the album's guests: Lamb of God's Randy Blythe, Fear Factory's Burton C. Bell and Wednesday 13. They spoke about their connection with outlaw country music and how this approach fits within metal's confines. Check out the chat below.
So what are we doing here today? What do all these people have in common? There is a DevilDriver album coming out called Outlaws Till the End. It's a DevilDriver outlaw country covers album and all of these guys are on this record. Dez you have some amazing guests on this record.
Dez Fafara: Ah, thank you. We knew it was gonna be up to three years before people got another record from us. We wanted to do something cool. We wanted to do something out of the box, something that hadn't been done.
My love for outlaw country is the same for my love for punk rock. What I did is, I said, "I'm gonna get a bunch of guys that can respect this form of music and we're going to make it as heavy as all hell." So I just started calling buddies and that was it, man. People started calling me back. Burton was one of the first people I approached and then Randy was the second. Wednesday came in third or fourth and then we've got Lee Ving [from legendary punk rock band Fear] - we've got so many people on this record, [Johnny Cash's son and daugher-in-law] John Carter Cash, Anna Cash - some really great guests.
So each of you guys - are you fans of country individually?
ALL: Real country.
DF: And I think that's what this was about. People are like, "Ooh, country."
In the context of music and lifestyle, country and music and metal seem like polar opposites. What's inherently metal about outlaw country?
DF: Have you ever heard the term "raisin' hell?" [laughs] Wednesday and I got Carolina roots.
Wednesday 13: I'll never forget telling my mom — she found out I was listening to a Hank Williams Jr. record and she looked as horrified as when she found me listening to Shout at the Devil. She was like, "Oh my God!" She said that her sister, my aunt, went and saw Hank Williams Jr. live and on the second song he threw a chair and knocked her husband out. And I was like, "Yeah!"
DF: I think all of us love the fact that this stuff is real. Like Randy said it best, "real country." Like, outlaw country. These guys broke it. These guys broke touring. These guys were rebels, in cars, touring - doing show after show before we were.
Burton C. Bell: They were raising hell, they were drinking, they were smoking - they were having a great time.
DF: Lyrically you couldn't get anything more poignant than an outlaw country song.
Metal, especially extreme metal, can be perceived as a very insular genre of music. Why is it important to you to expose yourselves to other kinds of music?
RB: I've been talking about that a lot with Dez recently. I have a radio show myself, you know, and dude, I'm a punk rock guy. I don't come from the metal world. I somehow wound up in a metal band - but that's just the way it is.
I was talking to Scott Ian the other day for my show and I was - I interviewed, I'm gonna interview Burton later... I interview guys, a lot of times, from my world [the metal world] about their influences and I think people have this misconception, probably younger fans... because metal has become so codified in different subgenres and everything. Like this is thrash metal, djent, deathcore whatever. They think it's a self-contained sort of genre.
But if you look where metal comes from, like when I was talking to Scott Ian from Anthrax - I interviewed him about nothing but punk rock and hardcore. Him, the guys in Anthrax, the guys in Megadeth, the guys in Slayer, the guys in Metallica in the "big four" of thrash who created what we do - this extreme metal, were all, without fail, listening to punk rock.
BCB: Going to CBGB's to watch bands.
RB: And listening to other stuff too. I listen - if you look at Burton's band, Fear Factory, there's a lot of industrial influence there. I interviewed my friend Sarah from Youth Code the other day. They were an industrial band and I was talking about Fear Factory. They're great. I think if you just listen to one type of music you're myopic and you're limited and you don't have as much to pull from.
DF: Myopic. [laughs]
BCB: We've all gotten that over the years as we've toured, you tell a fan what you're listening to and they look at you like, what? But that's how we are - we all grow up being linear. We all grow up listening to all types of music that we've always enjoyed because there's something good in everything.
I think that's what's what's great about metal and having people in metal bands that are all fans of different styles of music because you guys all bring it together with whatever you create.
Dez: I grew up on punk rock and I grew up on psychobilly. The first band I was in when I was 15 was psychobilly bands.
RB: Even the grimmest of Norwegian black metal, like have you ever seen Until the Light Takes Us? That documentary? You look at like, what's his name? Fenriz from Darkthrone? He's sitting there talking about how much electronic music, electronic stuff he's listening to. He's not in there constantly worshiping Satan and listening to Cannibal Corpse or whatever. You know? You listen to different things.
Dez: He's not? Don't blow it for everybody, dude.
How big was the list when you started thinking about which songs to cover and what did a song need to make the final cut?
DF: It needed to be edgy. It needed to be classic. It needed to be outlaw, and then there was some other weird ones, like "Dad's Gonna Kill Me," that we're like, "Why is this here?" And Mike's like, "Because you gotta listen to it." And when we did it was like, it fits perfect. I think the song needed to resonate with people. And it had to be one of the ones I thought I wanted people to hear like "Whiskey River" or "Ghost Riders," "If Drinking Don't Kill Me." And now, "Dad's Gonna Kill Me" became one of my favorites, too. All the guys sitting here around me are the ones who laid down those tracks, so that's why I'm mentioning them.
And I wanted some punk rock cats, and I wanted — for me, it was just reaching out and see who would come to the table. And it was really interesting because the first guy who came to the table was actually Glenn [Danzig]. But he's so mixed up right now with all the Misfits stuff and everything it was impossible to get him in, but he was apologetic, and he was the was the first one to say yes. And the second cat that said that he wanted to do it but he was so busy right now, was Corey Taylor.
So there's a lot of cats that we reached out to as well, so there really was no A Team, B Team. It was like, let's reach out to all the cats that I dig, that maybe would want to do this or that would feel like doing it. It was interesting, man. Lee Ving calls me, first time, he gets on the phone and he starts singing. And he's like, let me sing to you right now. Let me sing you some Hank. And he sings some Hank Sr. And I mean, I have it all on video because I'm talking to my superhero. And he's singing me Hank. This is the first, I haven't even said anything but hello, I love your music, I'm glad you're going to do this. And he's singing to me. Unreal.
The record covers some iconic artists. Going into the studio, what was your method for not only reworking a different style of music but also interpreting those singers?
DF: Okay, the music was interpreted by the guys in the band and I think they did an incredible job. And they each had their own individual way of what they wanted to do and like, some songs that were introduced, like "Thousand Miles from Nowhere" by Dwight Yoakam, Neil [Tiemann] wanted to do that, wanted to have us do that song, but Mike [Spreitzer] was the one that was like, "I want to do that."
So it was really cool to see people attach themselves to certain songs. And then watching Neil call me and say, "Hey I just bought a pedal lap steel [guitar], do you like it?" I love pedal lap steel, it's so emotional. "How do we put it in metal?" He goes, "Like this, watch." And he did it. And he put it through this record. And it's incredible. So, I think it was a matter of interpreting it DevilDriver's way, give it groove. Obviously, a song like "Whiskey River" that's like that's black metal now, is a complete interpretation on our part.
And there are others that aren't a complete interpretation, it's just heavied up. We just wanted to give it crunch, give it groove and make it Devildriver style and have a bunch of fantastic guests and give people something different and shake people up and do something cool.
I signed a record deal with Roadrunner Records because Fear Factory was on Roadrunner Records. I knew Burton before I was in a band. People don't know that. Me and Burton, I've known Burton for I think, well now, almost 24 years. Almost 26 years I've known Burton. Burton is a superhero to me. That first Fear Factory record was a big influence on — I don't know if it was an influence on me vocally, but it was an influence on me, going, I wanna be a musician, and especially knowing him. So hearing him say that is a big compliment. So thank you. This thing has been a humbling deal.
BCB: For me, coming in with both of the songs, "Ghost Riders" was a bit easier for me to approach, a little bit more straightforward, but like "Whiskey River," the approach the musicians took to the song, dictated my approach.
DF: And I couldn't lay down the verses. I didn't know how it was supposed to be done.
BCB: Oh, it took us forever to figure out how to do it.
W13: It was a puzzle.
DF: It was a puzzle. A heavy metal puzzle. Dude, you killed your song. Oh my God, it's so good.
W13: It was my favorite song. It's so weird you picked me for that song. I was like, "Somebody told him."
DF: No, I never knew that.
W13: I told my band and they were like, "You're kidding."
W13: Yeah, that is my favorite song. If you ever come on our bus, anywhere, four in the morning, and you hear the George Jones song playing, you're like, "Man, leave Wednesday the fuck alone."
I've been looking at both of your Instagrams, Randy, and Dez, and it's clear that you guys have been out surfing today. Talking about DevilDriver and Lamb of God, lots of things come to mind, but surfing is probably not top of the list. What initially got both of you interested in surfing?
RB: He's been surfing a lot longer than me. I've been surfing about three and a half years. I always grew up in a coastal area, but surfboards were very expensive compared to a skateboard.
DF: Yeah, it's true.
RB: So I could get ahold of a skateboard a lot easier. But when I got this sort of cheap beach rental house to write my book, and it's a block off the ocean, so I was like "Ooh, I'm gonna — there's the ocean. It's there every day. I'm going to surf."
DF: As soon as you posted I hit you up.
RB: As soon as I posted something about — this is how we connected with the surfing things, as soon as I was just learning, paddle boarding and regular surfing, he's like, "Dude, when did you start surfing? We need to surf together." And then we talked for like a few years like we need to surf sometime. And so now, this is the third trip I've come on where we've been surfing around here.
DF: We're going down to Sant Onofrio and going over to churches, surfing the point. Going to Domini. It's been killer, man. It's been great. I mean everybody does something, right? Like every metalhead I ever meet does something. He's a truck driver, he does this, he does racquetball. He plays pool. He likes football.
I think, you know, I've been surfing since I was seven. And to watch Randy pick it up, it's a very soulful thing. Like, it's a very soulful thing. And when you find someone that's into that, it's badass, you know?
I have a surf company called Suncult with my family, and it launched, our soft launch was last year. We make boards and wax and apparel, and we're adding more every day. We recently just invited Randy to be a partner in the company as well, and he's been supporting us a lot. He has a lot to say, and he has a lot to say about the aesthetics of the brand and the boards and we just recently made him a custom board.
We do incredible work with handmade boards and stuff. It's branching out now to be more into a lifestyle company, and we're having another meeting on Monday, him and I with somebody up in L.A. regarding Suncult. But now it's ending up to become a passion, and I said, well you're traveling around the world, you're doing a book on surfing, Randy is. And he's sending me like he sent me -
Burt, like it's hilarious, like if you're a surfer, and you're sitting at home, and it's raining, which it was like two weeks ago, and I get this little video, it's like a minute and a half from Randy. And it's literally a minute and a half wave in Ecuador, and he's like talking. He's like, what's up? Like he could have read a story, that's how long the wave was.
DF: So we share the same passion for that, the same passion for surfing and the company, but also rock and roll. We love rock and roll. These guys do something like everybody snowboards or skates or does something
W13: Like toys.
DF: Toys, I mean, you know,
W13: GI Joe is my life. I could tell you all about it. Everybody's got something.
And we were talking earlier about country music and for metal fans looking to explore country, where should they start?
BCB: Hank Williams Sr.
DF: Right there, and then go to Hank III.
BCB: Hank Williams Sr., Willie Nelson...
RB: Porter Wagner's very good.
DF: Johnny Cash.
RB: Lefty Frizzell, I don't know if you guys know.
BCB: Someone's going to resonate with one of them.
RB: Waylon Jennings.
DF: Waylon Jennings 100 percent.
RB: He's probably my favorite.
DF: And then check out Shooter Jennings.
RB: Shooter's good. Definitely Hank Sr.
DF: That's outlaw country.
You've got a couple members of the Cash family as guests.
DF: Ana Cash, [John Carter Cash's] wife. She has the most incredible voice on "Ghost Riders," wait until you hear it. It is so haunting.
Thanks to everyone for the interview. Follow DevilDriver on Facebook and pre-order your copy of 'Outlaws Till the End' (out July 6 on Napalm Records) here. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show here.
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