Music writer Joel Gausten has posted a brand new, 4,000-word interview with COAL CHAMBER and DEVILDRIVER frontman Dez Fafara at JoelGausten.com. The revealing and extensive discussion covers a variety of topics, including Fafara's commitment to balancing career and family, his evolving relationships with the other members of COAL CHAMBER and his personal struggles to overcome social awkwardness at the band's meet-and-greets. An excerpt from the chat appears below.
Joel Gausten: I talk to a lot of bands from the '90s who are now getting back into the groove and trying to see how things go in today's industry, which has obviously changed tenfold since COAL CHAMBER was active the first time around. But despite that, you had DEVILDRIVER through all these major changes that have hit the industry — from social media to downloading. What have been some of the biggest lessons or experiences you've encountered in the last decade or so in this industry with DEVILDRIVER that you hope to apply to COAL CHAMBER to maybe protect them from the issues that some of these bands are having coming back now because they don't have that insight?
Dez: I think the main thing is communication. Then, in both bands, we make sure we do our own thing. In DEVILDRIVER, we've done our own thing for 12 years. Only now in the last few years have people started calling us "groove metal" or "the California groove machine." I take to social media and I'm like, "Well, who else is in the 'groove metal' category, guys?" People come by and say, "Nobody, just you guys." That's a real killer thing. It's the same thing with COAL CHAMBER; it's like, 'Lets do our own thing,' It's why we didn't want to be part of some throwback '90s record; that's why we didn't want to do the nostalgic thing. We wanted to do what was coming out of us naturally now. So that will protect you; having your communication level open to the way it should be so you can talk anything out — both musically and personally. And then make sure that you're doing your own thing. If you're into a scene, by the time you're doing it and getting signed, it's going to be done and over with, so you might as well do something unique anyway and just throw it against the wall and hope it sticks. As an artist, that's what it's all about. Don't skew your music toward any media outlet. That's another thing I would tell artists. I hear it all the time: "Well, we've got to have our next radio track or we're done as a band. We've got to write a certain song that's got to be 2:58 or radio's not going to pick it up. In order to make this one TV show, we've got to cut a bunch of these lyrics and a bunch of this midsection, but we need the media outfit to help us to be the progenitor of what we're doing." It's, like, "Wrong!" Maybe it's because I was born in '66 or raised by hippies or the rebellion within me, but art doesn't work that way. It's the same way a painter doesn't say, "If I paint in these certain colors, I know I'm going to sell all my artwork at that show on Friday night." That's the guy I don't want to buy and hang up in my house at all. Be brave in what you do. Keep your communication open. Do something different and try to stand alone on your own merits. A perfect example would be "I.O.U. Nothing", the new song off of [COAL CHAMBER's latest album] "Rivals". I could have easily backed down the vocals a bit. It's hitting Active Rock Radio now, but is it going to go full bore Active Rock? Doubtfully, because I didn't compromise. I was like, "No, I'm not taking that midsection down a bit. It needs to be heavy like that; that's where the art stands." Just by the grace of the Gods, I don't have a label or anybody I employ around me who says, "You need to change that for commerce." We never skew our art for commerce or for the media. Those are the things that I would impart on new musicians.
Joel Gausten: This is not the easiest business in the world to survive in, let alone have the career you've had. Because you've got some traction now and some things in the rearview mirror, what do you see as the greatest key to longevity in this game?
Dez: My family and not thinking about this game. That's it. People say, "How do you juggle two bands?" I say, "I don't." I put my family first, then I give the bands the time that they need. I believe the reason I've had the career I've had is because I have the strong support of a wife I've been with for a long time, and good kids that I've raised right, and I'm a very private and reclusive person with a handful of good friends. I can count my close, close friends on one hand. I'm not a "backstage" kind of guy; I'm not a strip-club kind of guy. I don't get caught up in any of the stuff that comes along with being in a band. I really don't enjoy the, I guess, fame that comes from it; what I enjoy is touring and being in different places. I enjoy being on the stage and doing music, and I enjoy being in the studio. But a lot of the extracurricular stuff can really get to me. To give you an example, it took the band a while to convince me to do the meet-and-greets, just because when you put me in a room with more than 10 people, I split. I've been that way since I was kid. I'm socially awkward to the point of, "I'm outta here." And I'm still working on that, even later on in life. I hand it to COAL CHAMBER, because when we did those meet-and-greets, I'd come out after each one and go, "Hey, that was a good time." It's a good time talking to that one person and hearing that one story or hearing that kid say how he found out about COAL CHAMBER, so I'm learning to work through that. Those things are what's helped me in a business that just absolutely eats its own. If you want to go ahead and get into the music industry, I'm not going to tell you not to, but I'm going to tell you to have a very thick skin. You'll learn a few things about yourself and other people in the first year. Trust me.
Read the entire interview at JoelGausten.com.