Interview: DevilDriver

DevilDriver has been a staple in the global metal scene for over two decades and has constantly risen above genre stereotypes. Fresh off the release of their new album Trust No-One, Craig Roxburgh got to chat to guitarist Mike Spretizer about their failed South African tour, the possibility of another tour, the negativity surrounding modern metal and much more.
Let’s talk about your South African tour that never happened in 2008. There are many conflicting stories about why you ended up having your tour cancelled ranging from protests from religious fundamentalists to an incompetent promoter. What was the real story here? 
I’m still not sure what happened.  I’ve heard the stories about religious fundamentalists successfully getting the show cancelled. I heard about the promoter possibly being incompetent.  I also heard a third story that the ticketing agency refused to release funds to the promoter prior to us arriving in South Africa which was a breach of protocol.
Many local metal fans were absolutely crushed when the news broke that you wouldn’t be performing here, and many are still quite worked up about it as it definitely wasn’t the first nor last time that a metal band had their SA tour cancelled. Are there any plans to return to South Africa at some point?
We were all very disappointed about the cancellation as well.  I absolutely love playing new places all over the world.  I’ve been hearing things around the DevilDriver camp that we are going to try to come to South Africa soon.  I really hope it happens.
You may have seen stories earlier this year about religious fundamentalists causing a South Africa metal festival to be cancelled due to it being supposedly Satanic and furthermore that groups were trying to get venues to cancel the Behemoth and Rotting Christ tours for the same reason. What are your thoughts on the fact that in our supposedly liberal world that people are still exhibiting conservative ideas that are rooted in the anti-metal rhetoric of the 80s?
I think these people protesting the metal scene, so-called satanism, or anything anti-Christian is wasting their time.  All they are doing is suppressing art.  They are not saving or helping their community. We live in a world with many different opinions and ways of life.  Everybody should have respect for what others choose to believe or not believe, just as long as those beliefs don’t inflict physical harm.  If any one of these protestors sat down with us and had a real discussion, I think they would find that we are all good people with high morals that want to make others happy.  I don’t need a religion to tell me what is right or wrong.  I can figure that out simply by being human.
On the flipside, though, metal (and all forms of aggressive music) still remain incredibly relevant despite what people say as more and more teenagers turn away from the commercial nonsense of pop music to find musical solace in something with a bit more meaning. This is probably a weird question, but are you at all surprised that metal has managed to stay relevant in an age where the lyrical and thematic substance in music is often ignored?
Metal has stayed relevant due to the extreme commitment from the fans.  I don’t think there is another genre that has the same level of dedication.  Lots of people listen to music.  Most people listen to what they are given on the radio.  Metalheads have a different approach.  We search for it and crave it.  Metal is more of a religion to some people than just a musical genre.
You entered the studio to record your latest album Trust No-One with a few line-up changes. What led you to make these line-up changes and do you think it played a large role in crafting what is undoubtedly one of the best albums you have released?
The change is the band’s line-up was due to many different factors.  People didn’t want to tour anymore, some wanted to go their own route, and in some cases, certain people weren’t getting along anymore.  I ended up writing most of the musical content on the record with Austin and Neal helping out a lot.  It was always hard for me to write with DevilDriver in the past as compared to Trust No One.  I was given much more artistic freedom than in the past and didn’t have to fight to get my songs on the record.
Did Dez taking time off to make a new Coal Chamber album and to tour with the band have a big influence in shaping some aspects of the album and perhaps changing how you guys approached the album?

I welcomed Dez doing Coal Chamber.  He had talked about it off and on for years and it made me happy to see him reunite with his old bandmates.  It also gave me some much needed time off to spend with my family, surfing and building my studio.  It also gave me much more time to focus on writing.

In my listening to the album, I picked up on a strong punk influence when it came to your lyrical themes and how the vocals are structured. What brought about drawing on influences from punk rock for this album?
 Dez grew up on Punk Rock and it has always played a role in his writing as well as his stage performance.
I find it interesting that you used punk influence in your album. In most narratives by metalheads, punk is often regarded as being an inferior genre. Actually, metal is a very elitist genre when you look at how fans of the genre talk about the various bands that fall under its umbrella or rather how metal purists are viciously opposed to any metal band that gets mainstream success. What are your thoughts, as metal stalwarts, on how divided and negative the genre has become over the recent years?
I barely raise an eyebrow when people start trying to say what bands or genres are better than the other.  I like what I like, and everybody can like what they like.  I see it as a difference of opinion.  Take it or leave it.  Don’t dwell on what you don’t like.
Metal is incredibly saturated at the moment, yet you guys always manage to create something that is unique and entirely different to anything else out there. How do you guys manage to get that right when there is just so many copycats out there?
That’s an impossible question for me to answer.  When I write music, I don’t have a preconceived idea of what a song is going to sound like.  I just sit down with my guitar until I play something I like and turn it into a song.  Luckily, the songs we have written have been appealing to many people in the metal community.
Back when you guys were still going as Deathride, there were talks about incorporating things like a stand-up bass which eventually fell away. Any chance of seeing that make an appearance down the line?
The original bassist in DevilDriver played stand-up bass but was let go during the recording process of the first record.  I wasn’t part of the band then, but I heard it was because his playing wasn’t up to par.  That’s when John Miller was hired.
Thanks so much for your time and we hope to see you soon.

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