Dez Fafara wants you to know that he hasn't done things the easy way when it comes to building the career of his band, DevilDriver.
Fafara started his current band after his stint in Coal Chamber, a nu-metal band that rose to prominence with its gold-certified debut album. But Fafara felt the other members of Coal Chamber were making a mistake by going for a more commercial sound on their subsequent two records. By the time of their third album, 2002's Dark Days, Fafara had already decided to start DevilDriver and create music that he found to be more challenging and inspiring.
Still, Fafara acknowledges the fact that some fans suspect he left for other reasons — most of which relate to his ego rather than the artistic ambitions he says actually prompted his move.
"You've got all of these people that were into Coal Chamber, and we sold a fair amount of records around the world, I mean, a couple of million around the world," says Fafara. "All of a sudden the singer left and they don't know why. They don't take the time [to find out why]. They just think well it was singer-itis and he's just going to do his own thing right now.
"But it wasn't like that," he insists. They [the other members of Coal Chamber] found methamphetamines and they found speed, and they found those things to be more important than making music, having camaraderie and doing the road trips. So I left."
As DevilDriver's singer and lyricist, Fafara says everything he and his band do is motivated by their music and the desire to earn their own following rather than ride on the coattails of his former band's successes.
"I could have really hung my hat on the Dez from Coal Chamber thing," he says, "really went out and only headlined and put certain bands on underneath us to create a draw and probably would have built this thing, not in seven years, but in two years."
Instead, Fafara says he went in the opposite direction, avoiding more radio-friendly gestures that could have made DevilDriver easier for the average metal fan to digest.
The group's recently released fourth album, Pray for Villains, tends to support his argument. On songs like "Pure Sincerity," "Back With a Vengeance" and the title track, the group offers up intricate, pummeling beats and plenty of grinding guitars, with Fafara's screamed and frayed vocals ratcheting up the intensity. There's little attempt to soften the group's decidedly jagged edge.
Fafara says the overall intent is to express himself honestly and passionately while working with his bandmates — guitarists Michael Spreitzer and Jeffrey Kendrick, drummer John Boecklin and bassist Jon Miller — to give the songs intriguing arrangements and unexpected twists.
That intricacy has forced the musicians to raise their game, particularly when bringing their new songs to life on stage.
"Each individual player has to kind of stand up to their own test on different songs," Fafara says. "If you're going out to play a show, you want to have it dialed in."