DEVILDRIVER guitarist Mike Spreitzer spoke to Metal Wani about the band's upcoming outlaw country covers album, "Outlaws Till The End", which is tentatively due in early 2018. The disc will reportedly contain versions of thirteen tracks by some of the best outlaw country artists, including Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Paycheck. Produced by Steve Evetts, the album will feature appearances by nearly two dozen other high-caliber guests, among them Glenn Danzig, Randy Blythe (LAMB OF GOD), Burton C. Bell (FEAR FACTORY) and guitarists John 5 (ROB ZOMBIE) and Mark Morton (LAMB OF GOD).
"The whole country covers record was the fastest record that we've ever done," Mike said (hear audio below). "Neal [Tiemann, guitar] and I rewrote… We did the rewriting process and then actually did all the guitars and bass for that record in two months. We just cranked it out really, really fast. But it came out way cooler than I ever expected it would be. It's a cool record."
Regarding how the idea for a country covers album came about, Mike said: "Dez [Fafara, DEVILDRIVER singer] was poking around the idea of doing a covers record for a long time, and then he had an idea of doing a covers record of just punk rock songs that we would do in our fashion. But I kind of had flashbacks, when he mentioned that, of us doing the [Revolver] Golden Gods Awards a few years ago when we were on our 'Beast' record cycle. And we performed 'Dead To Rights' and then we did four BLACK FLAG songs at this awards ceremony. We did one with Jamey Jasta [HATEBREED], one with Max Cavalera [SOULFLY, SEPULTURA], Dez did one, and then this guy Mike that's a professional skateboarder that used to sing for BLACK FLAG did another song with us. And it just wasn't very much for me. I mean, I respect punk rock, but I just didn't feel there was enough material there for me to work with. I mean, some of the songs are, like, a minute-and-a-half long. I don't have as much love for punk to do a whole record out of it. I don't really have that much love for country either. But there are some songs I like, and I do really like all the songs, the originals, that we did on our record. But just listening to the songs and picking it apart in my head, going, 'What can I possibly do with this to make it sound like DEVILDRIVER?', I felt like country was a better option for us to go. And I know Dez has a big love for country music."
According to Spreitzer, the success of DEVILDRIVER's cover version of 16 HORSEPOWER's "Black Soul Choir", which was featured on the Fafara-fronted band's "Beast" album, was a factor in the group's decision to pursue a country-covers record.
"A lot of people don't know that ['Black Soul Choir' is] a cover song, 'cause a lot of people haven't heard of 16 HORSEPOWER, but it's a very obscure song that I think came out very good," Mike said. "And [AWOLNATION's biggest hit] 'Sail' [which DEVILDRIVER covered on 'Winter Kills'] isn't a country song, but I put it in the same category where you're taking a very non-metal song and making it metal. And the same thing with 'Black Soul Choir'. Whereas we've done 'Wasted Years' and 'Holier Than Thou' by METALLICA and IRON MAIDEN and covered those songs, and it's just kind of, like, "Whatever. You made a metal song metal.' I think I've listened to those songs ['Wasted Years' and 'Holier Than Thou'] maybe once or twice ever since we left the studio, but 'Sail' and 'Black Soul Choir' are definitely things that I hear a lot more feedback from fans."
Spreitzer, who joined DEVILDRIVER in 2004 and has since become the band's primary songwriter, said that metal fans who are not into country music should find plenty to like on "Outlaws Till The End".
"A lot of the songs that we picked for 'Outlaws Till The End', whether you're into that type of music or not, you've heard these songs," he said. "It's got a little something for everyone on there. It's gonna sound familiar, but more in the vein of DEVILDRIVER. I mean, everything is heavy as hell."
"It is a covers record, but it's done completely in the vein of DEVILDRIVER," he confirmed. "A lot of people are, like, 'Wait a second. You guys are gonna try to do a country record?' It's, like, 'No, no, no, no, no. We're taking country songs and turning them into heavy metal songs.' There's a big difference. We're not a country band by any sorts."
DEVILDRIVER is continuing to tour in support of its latest album, "Trust No One", which was released in May 2016 via Napalm Records. The follow-up to 2013's "Winter Kills" was once again produced by Mark Lewis (ARSIS, THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, WHITECHAPEL, DEVILDRIVER, DEICIDE, SIX FEET UNDER) with assistance from Jason Suecof (AUGUST BURNS RED, DEICIDE, DEATH ANGEL).