Interview: Dez Fafara

It’s easy to forget sometimes that successful musicians are human beings – with all the press and pomp that surrounds them, it can be hard to see through the veneer of the marketing machine. While talking to Dez, however, I found myself on the phone speaking to the same down to earth and genuine man I had met almost a decade before; an honest and self-assured person who has seen his fair share of life’s troubles. What followed was not just the usual press junket affair but a frank conversation with someone who has come to terms with and conquered his place in the world, and who chooses to convey a message of positivity and growth through metal which is no less commendable than his real world views on music, faith and respect for his fans.

qmunicate: How’s it going?

Dez Fafara: Oh yeah, it’s going great man.  We just played with Ministry at the Blackest of the Black Festival and then in June we’ll be coming over to play festivals and some rock shows in the UK, and that’s gonna be fantastic. It allows us to play an open-air festival with Slipknot, Slayer, Lamb of God and Ozzy before we head off to South America then start an eleven week tour of the United States, so it’s really starting to book up now.

q: That’s great, you’re clearly very experienced at doing these now. I know a lot of my friends are going to see you play Download this year – how do you find the transition between playing venues and then playing festivals?  Is it something you look forward to?

DF: Oh definitely – I come from a very punk rock background, I love playing the smaller venues.  What you do is take the energy from the smaller venues and move it to that bigger stage; they kind of really work in tandem, as it works the other way around as well.  I mean, doing something like Download is so massive, you’re playing in front of 100,000 people, the next night you’re playing in a club with 600 people, shaking hands with them. I really love them both.

q: Are you playing any cities you haven’t played before?  I know you like to learn new things, are there any places you really want to see that you haven’t yet?

DF: Well, we just got back from South Africa, the shows there were fantastic.  I would love to play China one day and experience that. We haven’t been over to India or the Philippines either yet… We’re going to spend a whole lot of time next year trying to break into new places but we’ve also made a full commitment to tour Europe and the United States, then I’m going to take us over to the festivals the following year and headline in the UK at least twice.  It’s not that we have been keeping away, it’s just that we’ve not had the time this year so the headline opportunities have been very scarce. That’s why we’re making that firm commitment to come over to Scotland and other places that we haven’t been able to tour.

q: I think you just made a lot of people here very happy.

DF: We try not to miss out on places. If we do, it’s because the tour doesn’t allow it. Scotland is a place I have always enjoyed playing, our fans there have always been great to me and the band since they always come out to see us. They’ve always been a mainstay for me so I really try not to miss playing there.

q: Will you be playing tracks from all the records or will they mainly be from your most recent album Trust No One?

DF: Yeah, I think it’s just impossible to play everything so we want to try and play two or three songs from each record. We’re playing several new ones from Trust No One – even if a record has been out a year, you don’t go out and play sixteen songs, it’s just too much. We’ve even been talking about bringing out some stuff we’ve never played live before – you know, those rarer B-sides that people love to hear. We’ve also talked about doing a tour where we let all the fans pick the songs they want to hear through social media and making a setlist through that.

q: The guitars were sounding really awesome on that album. I recently read that you were learning guitar – how are you progressing and will there been a day soon that we hear you playing on an album ?

DF: Hah, probably not! Considering that I have only just learned my first power chord it’s a dubious task when you’re running two bands, three businesses, a household and being a Freemason and the Lodge. It’s been incredibly difficult to find time to practice!   

q: Do you still find recording your vocals and songs cathartic? And do you think the process has helped you progress as a person?

DF: Definitely, I think any lyricist would say it’s all about catharsis. I’m writing about me personally, the people in my life and the things I’ve been through; there are a lot of things I can connect with because I’ve been there – I ran away from home at 15, I’ve been to prison, I know what it’s like to be hungry, I’ve slept under bridges, I’ve stolen food. If I ever find myself unable to write all I have to do is close my eyes and remember where I used to be and songs come to me. What I try to do is write lyrics that give people a positive outlet.

q: You made a very good point there about how genuine your lyrics are and I think that’s the reason you connect so well with your fans.

DF: I really appreciate that man, I mean it. If they know who you are and where you’ve come from, that works for people. So writing for me is all about what can I share with people that will help them with their own lives.

q: Something that has always impressed me about your bands is that you always seem to have new and young fans at shows. Is that something you work on or does it just happen spontaneously?

DF: You know, we were talking about this the other day… It’s no secret that I’m not in my twenties and the guys in my band are younger than me, and our fan base is just as diverse.  When I look out from the stage, I can see fans who are 25 and younger, then at the meet and greets I see 40 year old guys with their 12 year old sons and that’s a huge blessing, it’s why our seventh record came out with the highest debut position we’ve ever had in the States and the rest of the world. Someone just said to me, “Maybe it’s that people see in you what they wanna be in life, they know all that you have came through and they see that you can turn it around”. I think coming back to your point, maybe that’s why the fan base is so diverse. They see strength and perseverance and I’d rather be that guy that tells you how it is, I’d rather be where I am because of all those things that happened, I’d rather be the guy that takes you somewhere else and gives you strength!  Music for me is power and here’s what you gotta say: “Life is a gift. Every day you wake up, it’s a gift”.

q: Do you still get that moment of pride when you see someone that young coming into music and coming into the metal community because they were at your show?

DF: Anytime I look out and see someone that young at our show I just think, “Well, that is badass. I’m gonna try to give you such a show that show that someone else is going to have to try real hard to beat that!”. I always try take the time to shake their hands and sign stuff. In the past when some of these kids would come up and tell me a story about how their best friend passed away, I would say, “Oh man, I’m really sorry”. Now I say to them, “Hey, you want to tell me about it? I’ve been there, let me tell you how I got through it”. It’s such an important thing. Years ago I met a boy who was 9 years old and now he’s a musician and his band kicks ass, he messaged me a few days ago to thank me for talking to him and for being an inspiration and to say that he’s hooked up with people from a record label. You never know who you’ll get to give that experience of having your life improved in a positive way to along the way and if you can say that you helped just that one person, I think you’ve done a good job!

q: I would think it must be so gratifying to see something like that happen and have such an impact. I always say to my own band that I would rather be someone who tried something than be in my 50s or 60s and say we didn’t.

DF: Exactly, and it’s not just because I’m in a band, it’s in your daily life. I always say to myself if someone really needs me I am going to be here, I am not going to fall short – and as humans, that’s where we fall short.  When we can give each other empathy, when we can give each other strength, we don’t we fall short, and with all that I have been through and where I am now, that’s always been a great pleasure for me.

[Gabriel Lennox]

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