Latest release: Winter Kills (Roadrunner)Website: www.devildriver.com

Whenever he gets on the phone, DevilDriver’s Dez Fafara can never say enough good things about Australia, and today is no different.

“I always have such a great time in Australia, man,” he says, warmly. “I know I always say how much I love coming down there, but it’s true. It’s like a second home to me. But I never make a move about coming to Australia without taking to AJ (Maddah). He’s the man. He’s like my brother. He alway looks after me and my family and he’s the first guy I always talk to when we think about bringing DevilDriver down there.”

It was probably no great surprise then that DevilDriver was one of the names released in the first line-up announcement for next year’s Soundwave Festival, even before the band’s latest album Winter Kills had been released. The first to feature bassist Chris Towning and sixth overall, Fafara took a different approach to his contributions to the creative process than on other efforts.

“I decided that I didn’t want to spend more time away from my family than I have to,” he explains, “so I recorded at home in my own studio. It just gave me a more comfortable place for me to work where I didn’t have to be separated from them for these long bouts of time. I could go in there whenever I needed to and work for a few hours at a time, and then I could be at home spending time with the family. It just made, for me, the perfect work enviroment and made things more enjoyable and manageable for me.”

Fafara is a prodigious lyricist who tries to devote some time each day to writing. By his own admission he has “possibly volumes” of lyrical ideas that have come out of this habit, but none of them found their way onto Winter Kills. Instead, along with recording his vocals separately to the rest of the band, he also tried a  new method of coming up with songs.

“I did this thing on this record called automatic writing,” he says. “I would get the tracks from the rest of the band and then I would listen to one a dozen, fifteen times over, and then I would turn it off and just start to write. It’s almost like a trance state where you don’t even think about what you’re doing. I just found it to be a very comfortable, very natural way for me to write and to come up with some new ideas  and a whole new way of working that I think keeps with the whole theme of this record.”

After thirteen years, DevilDriver is striking out without founding member Johnathan Miller, who departed prior to the release of 2011’s Beast, and on a new label, Napalm – although they are still attached to Roadrunner Records in Australia. For Fafara, Winter Kills represents a rebirth, a new beginning for the band – the title is heavily symbolic.

Winter Kills definitely represents something new for DevilDriver. You know, every one of our records is like a new beginning for us. We’re always looking to strive for some new approach, something new to add. I think this is the strongest material we’ve ever done and to me the concept of Winter Kills represents that break, that killing off what we’ve done so that we can move forward. That’s kind of why I did the Coal Chamber thing,” he says, referring to last year’s reunion tour, “because I felt there needed to be closure so that I could move on from that, and so in the same way I think that this new record allows DevilDriver to move forward again from what we did with Beast, from what we did with (Pray for) Villains.”

Still, he isn’t averse to comparing Winter Kills to previous entries in their catalogue, suggesting that it has more in common with 2007’s The Last Kind Words than Beast, which he admits was “a pretty extreme record.”

“We made that when I was dealing with a lot of personal issues and I think that comes across in the pure aggression,” Fafara says. “There was a whole different vibe around this record and I feel that we’ve brought the hooky groove back that Last Kind Words had but also mixed it with something new. I’m pretty proud of the fact that no one’s ever really been able to pigeon-hole our band into a particular sound. We’ve done thrash metal , death metal, we’ve had a black metal influence here and there but we’ve never been pinned down into a category where you can just say, ‘Well DevilDriver sounds like this or that’.”

DevilDriver’s inclusion on the Soundwave bill was announced only days after Loud spoke to Dez Fafara, but with Winter Kills becoming Napalm’s biggest selling release almost immediately, the band has a busy schedule before they reach our shores once again. When they do though, you can expect them to be every bit as caustic as usual and to hear a good solid chunk of Winter Kills when they hit the stage.

“I would say that we’ll most likely have five or even six new songs in our set on this next tour,” Fafara says. “By the time we get down to Australia we’ll be well into the touring cycle so we’ll have our set pretty much worked out but for now I would say that this new material is so strong that you will definitely hear a lot of it when we get down. And you know we can’t wait for that.”

Catch DevilDriver at Soundwave next year:
22/2: RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD
23/2: Olympic Park, Sydney NSW
28/2: Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne VIC
1/3: Bonython Park, Adelaide SA
3/3: Claremont Showground, Perth WA