"We’re gonna go prove it to kids right now, go fuckin’ tour and show em’ what we’re fuckin’ made of.”
While chatting with Jon Miller of Devildriver, the wind was blowing in the background. Maybe that was a sign showing that Devildriver is ready to blow away the competition. He feels very strong about the bands chances to make a significant dent in the metal world. In between touring with Machine Head on the States Turn Blue To Grey tour and preparing for their latest release Fury Of Our Maker's Hand these are just two of the highlights this band has in store for you, the fans. Over a very short period of time, Dez Fafara has buried Coal Chamber with both of the bands releases and as Jon points out, this is their heaviest between the two. In this interview, Jon speaks about the music composition mostly being done by the rhythm section, himself and John Boecklin. He also points out that there were forty songs written and they narrowed it down significantly. Read on to find out more of what Jon thinks that Devildriver brings to the table.
Sharita: Thanks for doing the interview Jon.
Jon: No problem.
Sharita: Ok, what I was told is that you did a lot of the writing for the new album Fury Of Our Maker's Hand…
Jon: Well, John Boecklin and myself wrote a majority of the material. So basically, the rhythm section did most of the work on this one.
Sharita: What were some of your major influences you’ve had?
Jon: Well, the stuff I’ve written can go back as far as the days of early Metallica. A lot of the bands we got to tour with were some of my biggest influences as far as songwriting, as well. Opeth and In Flames are [two] of my favorite bands and we were lucky enough to tour with them on our first record. I also listen to a lot heavier stuff like Vader and Suffocation. [However], I don’t think we went into the realm of as heavy as we could get, I think that’s going to happen on the third record. But, we definitely stepped up a few notches above the first record. The songwriting is just a lot better so the songs are not as straightforward and they’re more technical.
Sharita: Great! I read on the website that Dez is doing a lot of storytelling on this record, could you elaborate on that?
Jon: Well, there are songs on the first record where Dez's lyrics are basically storytelling, I dunno if you’ve heard the first record…
Sharita: Yes, I have.
Jon: Like “Cry For Me Sky”, that’s basically Dez telling stories about his life. [As opposed] to Coal Chamber, I think his lyrics are a lot more understandable and he’s speaking in full sentences, and that’s storytelling I guess. He listens to a lot of Johnny Cash and I think that influences him [the most] as far as his lyrics go. Dez writes the lyrics and we write the music, that’s basically how it stands for [our process].
Sharita: Cool. I just listened to one of the tracks off the new album and it’s pretty heavy. You just said you wanted it heavier than that? (Chuckles)
Jon: I think we’re just gonna take it in steps, we’re gonna fuck around and see what we can do, you know? We might go slower on the third record [or] we might get five times faster on the third one but we’re all very happy with The Fury as far as all the songs go.
Sharita: Sounds awesome! I also read an article in a publication where Dez feels that he was very proud of the record and he feels it was really a collaborative effort or this release…
Jon: Oh yeah, the guitarists Jeff (Kendrick) and Mike (Spreitzer), they both have their own songs on the album as well. Mike wrote most of the first single, which is “Hold Back The Day” and Jeff wrote a lot of “Pale Horse Apocalypse”. As opposed to the first record, there wasn’t a lot of clean guitar playing on it and that’s one thing I definitely brought to the table. Like the intro on this record is something I wrote which definitely sounds nothing like the first. It will be a big surprise for fans of the band, who wouldn’t expect to hear something like that, which I think is cool. We’re definitely not spitting out the same record, it is something totally different and I’m really interested to hear what people are gonna say about it.
Sharita: I'm looking forward to it as well. What was it like working with Colin Richardson?
Jon: Colin Richardson is, hands down, one of the coolest guys I have ever met in my life. The entire recording experience we had with him in El Paso, Texas, was some of the best three months of my life and we're all really look forward to working with him in the future. He’s an amazing guy, totally patient, just lovable, and humble; the coolest guy ever.
Sharita: Sounds like he was the perfect match then. So, I read on the site that there were forty songs written and you cut twenty, but what did you finally narrow it down to?
Jon: Well, it got narrowed down to fourteen songs that were recorded; two of them are b-sides and there will be twelve songs on the CD.
Sharita: Forty down to fourteen, that’s awesome. So, lets talk about touring, how was the first show of the tour with Machine Head?
Jon: It’s going great, we played the first show last night in Flint, Michigan and that was the first show Devildriver has played in nine months. As a band, we haven’t played [live] since Ozzfest [during the month of] September in Florida. I thought we kicked some ass last night and so did Machine Head; it was killer. The show was sold out and I’ve heard a lot of the shows are already sold out for this tour. I think it’s a great bill and it will do really well.
Machine Head is a band we’ve all been listening to since we were fifteen or sixteen playing in a high school band covering songs off their first record Burn My Eyes. Basically, a lot of us in the band are getting the chance to play with a lot of our heroes, which is very cool.
Sharita: Very. You mentioned how the band hasn’t played live since Ozzfest, but you were supposed to play on The Subliminal Verses tour with Slipknot, Lamb of God and Shadows Fall, and due to some union constraints you had to drop off, how did you feel about that?
Jon: Well, I think that everything happens for a reason in life and for some reason we weren’t supposed to do it. I think we’ll tour with Slipknot, Lamb Of God, and Shadows Fall in the future, and I’ve met everyone in all three bands and they’re all really cool. We toured with Slipknot and Lamb Of God on Ozzfest last year and we had a killer time with them.
Sharita: And how was it touring with Opeth last year, how was that?
Jon: It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. You can’t ask to tour with cooler guys than them. That bill was also with Moonspell, and that was three completely different bands, from three different countries, and three totally different styles of music and it all came together great.
Sharita: Sounds like a good time. Is there a band that you’d like to tour with that you haven’t done so yet?
Jon: (Pauses) Metallica. (Chuckles)
Sharita: (Chuckles) Ok. Even the new one? You know how us traditional metal heads are we like the old one better than the new one.
Jon: Yeah, but Metallica is a band that made me want to pick up a guitar in the first place, when I saw Cliff Burton play on the Cliff Em’ All video. I said ok, instead of just listening to music, I actually want to go fuckin’ play it. So, to be able to get the chance to go out and play with Metallica, I could say I’ve done everything after that.
Sharita: Well said. You mentioned Cliff Burton, do you have any more bassists that you’re a big fan of?
Jon: Well, Alex Webster from Cannibal Corpse, he’s fuckin insane, bass players like that don’t come around too often. He was actually the background picture of my high school yearbook page.
Sharita: (Chuckles) Oh, cool, anyone else?
Jon: Bass players?
Sharita: Or guitarists.
Jon: Well, I think that James Hetfield is one if the best songwriters to walk the face of the earth. Jesper Strömblad and Björn Gelotte from In Flames, Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth, and I think Mark Morton and Willie from Lamb Of God are fucking killer; the guitar work in that band is awesome, they’re really sticking out over [everybody] these days. Those are some of the most throw down riffs in metal right now.
Sharita: Good choices. What about you in particular, did you play in any bands before Devildriver?
Jon: When I was fifteen, in high school, I played in a cover band with John Boecklin and Jeff Kendrick; we all grew up in Massachusetts and went to school together. We played covers of Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura and Pantera songs.
Sharita: Did you have a name for that band?
Jon: It was Area 51, it was pretty ridiculous. (Laughs)
Sharita: (Laughs) Ok, and are you self-taught or did you have lessons.
Jon: I’m self-taught, but one thing my parents made me do when I was younger, that gave me an ear for music, was playing piano. I took piano for five years and it definitely helped me a lot. If I could hear something and I want to play it, I could just jump on a guitar and figure it out right then and there within a minute or so.
Sharita: You kind of touched on my next question as far as self-taught as opposed to having lessons, do you think it gives you a lot of creative freedom?
Jon: Yeah, I do I think if you have no idea what you’re doing, you pick up a guitar, and you play something that sounds fuckin’ killer, that’s great, go with it. (Chuckles) That’s basically what we’ve all done.
Sharita: What about the others?
Jon: Well, I know Jeff…actually Mike was music major at the University of Santa Barbara so he’s had some music training. Jeff played in his dad’s ensemble in high school, but I kind of just picked up a bass or a guitar and whacked out some shit and if it sounded cool to me then cool. (laughs)
Sharita: Good answer. Can you give us a sneak peek into the set list you are playing on this tour?
Jon: We are playing a couple of new songs off Fury, I know we’re gonna play "Hold Back The Day", it’s the first single and I think that it’s appropriate. We’re also going to playing a couple of other ones and I know when we play Sounds Of The Underground tour in July, we’re gonna play a couple more.
In the fall, I believe we will be headlining a tour overseas and we will be playing a shitload of songs off the new record.
Sharita: Do you know who would be your support on that tour?
Jon: Right now what I’m hearing is a co-headliner with Candiria over in Europe. Nothing has been confirmed, but that’s the buzz I’m hearing.
Sharita: All right, should be awesome. Is the band preparing to do a new video?
Jon: We just shot a video for "Hold Back The Day" last week and maybe when we have some time coming off Sounds Of The Underground in August or so we’ll do another video. We’re definitely gonna do another one, maybe "End Of The Line", that’s a potential candidate for the next video, maybe the title track to the record. There’s a lot of good songs that we’re really proud of that could work.
Sharita: That's awesome. Any final thoughts on what the response will be to the new album?
Jon: I think that it’s gonna do well. I think it’s a better album than the first record and we’re gonna go prove it to kids right now, go fuckin’ tour and show em’ what we’re fuckin’ made of.
Sharita: All right, well thank you so much Jon or your time and I look forward to seeing you guys next weekend in Chicago.
Jon: Thank you, I look forward to meeting you as well.
Thanks to Dan from Roadrunner, Eddie the tour manager, and of course Jon Miller for a great interview.
Click Jon's photo to access review/photos of the band
during the Sounds of the Underground Tour or click
Here for brand new interview with Dez