Thrash & Burn: DevilDriver’s Dez Fafara

DevilDriver’s Dez Fafara on metal and medical marijuana.

Dez Fafara is the biggest pothead I know.

At least, that’s what his publicist said back in 2008 when she first contacted me about interviewing the tattoo-encrusted frontman of DevilDriver. The band takes its name from the ancient ritual bells used in Stregheria (Italian witchcraft) to drive evil away. After a little research, I discovered that, similar to myself, Fafara is a practicing witch—and, apparently, a pretty good one: The band’s songs have been featured on the TV show “Scrubs” and the hit video game “Rock Band,” and their latest album, Pray for Villains, debuted at No. 35 on the Billboard 200. Not to mention that last year, we nominated them for a High Times Doobie Award for Best Metal Artist. But this mere nod wasn’t enough for Fafara.

“Forget Rolling Stone and Revolver,” he allegedly told the publicist. “Get me into High Times.”

I agreed to interview him on one condition: It had to be in person. When I finally caught up with Dez outside NYC’s Fillmore club during last year’s “Thrash and Burn” tour, it was clear he understood why. Within 30 seconds of entering his tour bus, he’d identified me as a “brother of the left-hand path,” whipped out an impressive stash of about seven different strains and started rolling — eager to smoke me out and hear my “professional” opinions on each.

High Times! I came prepared. This is the Unknown Kush … I think it’s a sativa blend. It’ll wreck you. Whoever grew that knew exactly what was going on. And that Purple Dog there is unreal — it fuckin’ knocks me out.

Do you have a favorite strain?

The Church, out of LA. That’s the strain that I love the most. Love the taste, love the head—it’s just a killer weed. And I know the dude who invented that clone.

Do you remember the first time you got high?

I do. I was in seventh grade, and I was with a friend of mine named Tim. We were at his house while his mom was away, and we got into her stash. She had a little corncob pipe, and we packed it and got loaded as shit — that’s all I remember.

Which did you discover first, weed or rock’n’roll?

I kind of found them at the same time. I discovered my parents’ record collection and it was all psychedelic rock, so that influence probably had something to do with me smoking herb. I had ADD, and they had me on Ritalin for like 11 years, but when I found weed at like 15 or 16, I realized I could focus on that a lot better than the drugs they were manufacturing to put in my body. That’s when I became a head. My parents were heads anyway — they were growing weed when I was a kid. I got kicked out of my house at 16 for smoking weed even though they were growing it, so there was a hypocritical thing going on. But now we smoke together.

When did you discover High Times?

I first found High Times in the ’80s. My mom had started dating my stepfather — he had copies of Playboy and High Times sitting around, and I remember checking them out. It was the only source to see good bud, find out about places to get good bud. The photos are incredible. I’d be staring at a page saying, “I wish I had that bud here right now!” as I’m sitting there smoking “regs” because I can’t get any better.

Does weed help you with creativity?

With everything I do. I write all the lyrics and stuff, and I do a lot of art as well. As I said, I suffer from ADD, so I don’t think I could create art without something to help me focus, get me out there artistically. I can’t write a song without good herb — that’s for sure.

Do you smoke more in the studio or on the road?

I’m just a constant head. I wake up and smoke to get my head on straight. I smoke before I go to bed. I smoke several times a day, every day—when I don’t, it’s not a good thing.

What’s your smoking method of choice?

Clear papers. I’m not a bong guy, not a vaporizer guy. Since I’m a singer, I have a big lung capacity, so I take massive hits and it just messes up my voice. I started smoking with the clears, and I realized it was way better for my throat than wood-fiber papers. It’s like smoking out of a clean glass pipe. So yeah, clear papers are the way to go for me.

Is it hard to score herb on the road?

Some places … but I have friends all over the place that come bring us good weed. I’m lucky that way. We played a festival in Spain, and some guy who worked at the club got me Turkish hash. It was probably the best hash I ever smoked—like “tripping” hash. I fluffed it up and rolled a pure hash joint with the clear paper.

Have you ever grown weed?

I have and I do. I grow some pretty damn good herb. But I’m allowed to grow almost 50 plants because I have a legit medical card and I make edibles for myself. I try to obey the law—I don’t want anyone to blow it, because Cali is manifesting in such a beautiful way right now.

As a native Californian, how do you feel about the whole dispensary situation?

It’s unbelievable what’s happening — every state should be doing it. It’s a powerful feeling to see people being able to get their medical marijuana. I know the average head just wants to get stoned, but you only have to see someone who goes through anorexia, someone with cancer going through chemotherapy, or someone like myself who only gets three hours of sleep a night unless I get stoned, to know that they’re bringing medicine to the people who really need it. A lot of the man-made pharmaceuticals that they’re pushing on us are killing people. The government should get smart and come in and tax it, and you’d solve the budget crisis real quick in this country. I wish the rest of the nation would get with it.

Have you ever been busted for weed?

Yeah, I went to jail for weed twice: once when I was 20, and then again when I was 27. Not a good feeling. You’re in a car, you get pulled over, you get searched, they find weed, you go to jail, you have to call your parents or whoever you’re living with … it’s not a good thing.

Have you ever had a pinnacle moment when you said to yourself, “This is it … I’ve made it, I’m a rock star”?

Well,  “rock star” is a dirty word [laughs], but I’ve had several moments like that in my life. Traveling the world and playing stadiums with Pantera and Black Sabbath was a moment. Getting gold records with my last band [Coal Chamber] was a moment. Seeing the amazing tours that this band has done, doing Ozzfest — there’ve been so many of those moments that I’ve never looked at one and said, “This is the defining moment!” There can be no defining moment in such a huge journey. The destination is in the journey, you know?

If you couldn’t sing in a band, what other job would you like to try?

I’ve done a lot of things—I’ve been a bricklayer, carpenter … but right now, I’m looking into opening a dispensary. They just passed the ordinance in the Inland Empire, in Temecula, CA, where it’s going to be legal. That’s where I can see myself going. I’m trying to get that done by the end of March.

I thought at first that your song “Clouds Over California” was about weed, but it’s not. I have to ask … if you’re such a big head, why haven’t you written any songs about pot?

I don’t know why. This record was going to have one called “Five-Leaf Belief,” and it ended up being “I See Belief.” It just wasn’t working. If you’re gonna write a song about weed, it’s got to work.

One last question: Have you ever smoked High Times centerfold bud?

No, I haven’t.

Well, then … how about passing me some of those clear papers?

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