Devildriver – More Demons AheadSunday, 28th May 2023
Back in 2020, Devildriver released the first part of a double album in the form of Dealing with Demons. At the beginning of the onset of COVID-19, and at a time where touring was not happening. It was up in the air as to when the second half of said album would be released. In the meanwhile, some line-up changes occurred in the band, as well as vocalist Dez Fafara having a very intense encounter with the virus. Now as things have been returning to normal, the time was right to release Dealing with Demons II, as the band has begun to hit the touring circuit once more. We caught up with guitarist Mike Spreitzer to get his thoughts on the album, line-up changes, and having to win over metal fans in the beginning of the band’s history.
Dead Rhetoric: How was the recent tour with Cradle of Filth? I know Dez is still having health issues from COVID and you had to cancel Bloodstock and that he isn’t doing any long flights this year.
Mike Spreitzer: It was a big success. It was one of the most fun tours I have done with the band. It was easy, it was fun, and it was nice to get back onto the road after a 3.5 year break. We are supposed to be doing it again later this year.
Dead Rhetoric: Additionally, line-up changes happened last year with Jon Miller returning to the band and welcoming Alex Lee and Davier Perez into Devildriver. How’s this latest iteration of Devildriver going?
Spreitzer: It’s a great line-up. I knew what to expect out of Miller because he and I have been friends since I was 19. Touring with him was what we needed it to be. He needed some time off to take care of some personal problems he was having. Alex and Davier couldn’t have been cooler to go out on tour with. They were just very easy, mellow guys. They are talented, driven, and exactly what we needed in the band. It was just fun – it did not seem like work.
Dead Rhetoric: Dealing with Demons I came out in 2020. The second half is now coming out in 2023. With the extra time for II to sit on, was there any tweaking to it between now and then?
Spreitzer: Absolutely no tweaking at all. We finished the mixing and mastering back in 2019. By the time 2020 came around, it had been done for months. I would say we had wrapped it up in April or May 2019 if I had to guess.
Dead Rhetoric: So is it nice to finally have the whole thing out there, as opposed to just the first half?
Spreitzer: Yes. We didn’t have any idea how long it would be until we released Volume II when we released Volume 1 – all we knew was that we would have to wait things out and when things got back to normal so we could go tour and promote the record. Rather than just releasing it to the public without any touring in sight.
Dead Rhetoric: Like you said, no one knew how long COVID was going to last for, especially at the start. Some bands did just dump albums out there. Do you feel that if you had gone that route, it wouldn’t have been appreciated as much – since you are releasing so much music without supporting it all?
Spreitzer: We recorded 20 songs and 19 are being released. I’m not sure what is happening with the 20th song. Down the road, I’m sure that it will get released at some point. But in releasing 19-20 songs all at once these days – I don’t think it’s the best idea. It’s too much material for people to absorb at once. The idea was to release them maybe 6 months or a year apart. But it didn’t end up happening that way. But we always knew we would release them staggered. It’s just too much.
Dead Rhetoric: Given that it’s now a former line-up that is releasing this, is there any urge to go through and make more material with the new, current line-up?
Spreitzer: Yeah! I have been working on a new song today, before I started doing interviews. I’m going to get back to it once I am done. I am really excited to see what Miller comes up with. He was always one of the better writers in the band. Everyone wrote in the original line-up, but Miller had a tendency to write things that everyone liked, like immediately. When John Boecklin would come to the table with something, it would take some convincing to get me to see the light, as well as my material with the other guys. That was Miller – when he would come up with something, we would want to start working on it immediately.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel is special about Dealing with Demons II for you?
Spreitzer: I see it as one record, even though it was broken into two parts. I didn’t know what songs were going on which record until everything was mixed. I have my favorite songs on each, and this is literally a part two of a record so you are going to get the same vibe as the first one. It’s more of the same. But it’s still a great record in whatever way you look at it. We didn’t put all the best songs on the first part. There’s a story to be told from start to finish on both.
Dead Rhetoric: The band did the country inspired album as well as the double album now. Do you feel more comfortable going outside of the usual boundaries at this point in your career?
Spreitzer: To an extent. I’m not going to start working on an industrial song for Devildriver any time soon. When I sit down and write for Devildriver, which is a bulk of the music that I write, and have been for the last two decades, I throw a lot of stuff away that I don’t feel would be appropriate, until I find stuff that everyone likes and that Dez would feel an urge to write vocals to. You just glue it together until it feels right. It usually takes me a few weeks from sitting down and picking up my guitar, coming up with ideas, adding drums to it, listening and arranging it, playing it in my car over and over again. That’s actually where a lot of changes take place – in my car. I hear a lot of people are the same way. Listening to it in my studio is one thing, but when I get out of that environment and I’m in my car, I get ideas as well as I find out where the fat needs to be cut. Or that something needs to be added, like a solo or lead.
Dead Rhetoric: You were saying that you toss out something if it doesn’t sound like Devildriver. Do you feel there is some sort of vibe that Devildriver has that makes a song work for the band?
Spreitzer: You’d be surprised – I don’t have any sort of formula that I follow when it comes to writing for Devildriver. I just sit down with my guitar and whip my fingers around until that little spark goes off in my head. If I get excited about it, then hopefully other people will get excited about it too once I piece it together. I try to mix things up. Even today, when I was working on something, it dawned on me that it sounded like something I have written already. So I throw that away and start over.
Dead Rhetoric: I would imagine that gets harder as a band sticks around for longer.
Spreitzer: It does. It can be very easy to repeat yourself, which I am sure I have in some way. But that’s what it is about. Coming up with something from nothing. It sounds like Devildriver, but at the same time, something that Devildriver has never done before. That can be difficult.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that people are less jaded about the association between Coal Chamber and Devildriver nowadays? I know there was more of a separation at the start of the band. I remember there was that elitist, “That’s the guy from Coal Chamber, I’m not going to listen to them” kind of attitude.
Spreitzer:Yes, definitely. When Devildriver started, Dez really had to get away from Coal Chamber. He was known as Dez from Coal Chamber. They were heavy into makeup. They had a particular style going on, that all of a sudden in the early 2000s, had become a dirty word. Nu metal wasn’t cool anymore and no one wanted to be affiliated with it in any sort of way. Now it seems to be coming back and people are embracing it again, which makes it funny. But yeah, people did not want to like Devildriver because of Coal Chamber, for some reason. Even though I thought that Coal Chamber ended on a real high note. I always thought Dark Days was the best record they released before they broke up.
I would say that it took about 5 years. About the time we released The Last Kind Words. The first Devildriver record, I almost look at as kind of a hybrid, with a little bit of Coal Chamber vibes mixed in with what Devildriver would become. It was like a transition for Dez. When we released Fury [of Our Maker’s Hand], people were like, I was kind of into the first record but now I’m really into these guys. When we released The Last Kind Words, it was like, we have proven ourselves. All you haters, we aren’t going away, and I think by then, a lot of people that did want to like us, had started to see what we were doing.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s that jaded sense, which I am sure is in other styles of music listeners too, that given that metal fans are like, “I can’t like this thing if it was popular…”
Spreitzer:I think our live shows had a lot to do with it. We weren’t an easy band to follow. We spent a lot of time opening up for other bands before we did our first headlining tour. We went out there and did our best to prove ourselves. The more that people out there that talk shit about you, it gives you something to prove, that you need to prove them wrong. I think we all kind of felt that and wanted to convey to everyone that we were a different band. We were not Coal Chamber part II, we were Devildriver.
Dead Rhetoric: I think that the whole ‘putting in the work’ piece pays off. I know I saw you guys a few times in the early days as support and realizing that there was something cool there. I will admit, I was one of those people 20 years ago that was kind of meh. It’s cool to see that shift though, like you said, with The Last Kind Words, that Devildriver was definitively it’s own beast.
Spreitzer:I’d like to think so. Pray for Villains I think threw everyone for a loop. I think they were expecting Last Kind Words part 2 and they got Pray for Villains. I don’t think we were received as well as we would have liked to when we initially released that record, but over time I think it became a lot of fans’ favorite for some reason. In my own mind, I always kind of compared it to Mechanical Animals by Marilyn Manson. I was expecting Antichrist Superstar part 2 and when I heard that album, I wasn’t super disappointed, but I was a little worried that after this long wait for a new album when I was like 15-16 years old, I didn’t get what I wanted or was hoping for. But over time, it took about a year, that album grew on me. I would say that I like it better than his first record.
You never know what is going to happen. When something is released and it isn’t what you expected, but there is something that keeps you listening to it and eventually you see it from a different point of view.
Dead Rhetoric: With your time in the band, is there anything that you are most appreciative of being able to take in with Devildriver?
Spreitzer: I have always appreciated the fact that I got to join a band with someone that was already established in the music industry. Devildriver, while we suffered for a while in an RV, but every time we planned a short tour in a van, it would end up getting canceled. We were young and stupid. I was 23 years old when I joined Devildriver. I was a dumb kid that didn’t know shit. I just knew how to play guitar. It was nice to go out with Dez, who already had a good decade in the music industry and watching him doing his thing cut down on my learning curve. When you have someone who has been doing it for so long, you can just observe things, like how to be on stage, how to conduct yourself properly on tour without being a jackass, and watch your drinking. We all did stupid things anyway, but I am very thankful that my first tour with this band was opening for In Flames in Europe and the 2004 Ozzfest. My first recording experience was in a beautiful studio just outside of El Paso, Texas and I got a little spoiled very quickly, and I’ve always appreciated that I got to jump into the band when I did. It wasn’t at the very beginning, but it was close.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you remember about that Ozzfest?
Spreitzer: I went to Ozzfest in 1999 as a fan and once more in 2000. When I went in 2000, I had fun seeing the band, and I was glad I went because it was the one time I got to see Pantera. But I promised myself that I would never go again. It was too hot, too long of a drive, I would rather see a band play in a club. So I promised myself I would never go again, unless I was playing. Then four years later I was playing it. One moment that sticks out a lot was watching Rob Halford fill in for Ozzy in Black Sabbath in New Jersey. Ozzy got sick and there were a lot of rumors that day that Black Sabbath would have to cancel. They had a few options for people who could sing, but obviously Rob Halford was there and was the best vocalist on the whole tour. Wow, I watched the guy – as if already being on tour with Black Sabbath with all the original members wasn’t enough. Little things like that happened throughout the tour, it was a good time. We had a lot of fun.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s an interest you have outside of music?
Spreitzer: Surfing. That’s pretty much it. My two favorite things to do on earth are surfing and playing music. I had some other hobbies, but skateboarding has gotten a little bit too problematic with possible injuries – breaking fingers or arms. I was into wakeboarding for many years, but it takes up so much time. It’s like a whole day event. You set up the kite, drive to the beach – its like doing everything in reverse: surfing I wake up early and I go for a few hours and come home when it’s time to work on music. Over time I have narrowed it down to a few things.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your plans for the rest of 2023?
Spreitzer: I haven’t seen the routing yet, but we have another tour in the works with Cradle of Filth and after that I am going to keep working on new songs and hopefully we can start recording another album again next year.