California metallers DEVILDRIVER have set "Outlaws Till The End" as the title of their album of outlaw country covers, to be released in early 2018. According to singer Dez Fafara, the effort will include thirteen "insanely heavy, swinging badass outlaw 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 include appearances by nearly two dozen "high-caliber guests," among them Glenn Danzig, LAMB OF GOD frontman Randy Blythe and guitarists John 5 (ROB ZOMBIE) and Mark Morton (LAMB OF GOD).
In a brand new interview with RockRevolt Magazine, Fafara described "Outlaws Till The End" as "so out of the pocket and so different that people are gonna be tripping." He also talked about how the idea for the record first came about, saying: "If you go on a tour bus in the United States with metal bands, you're gonna hear outlaw country — you're gonna hear Johnny Cash, you're gonna hear Willie Nelson, you're gonna Waylon Jennings — you're gonna hear these artists in the back, in the front lounge as much as punk rock. I go from BLACK FLAG to Hank [Williams] Sr. to Hank III to fucking Ozzy [Osbourne] in an instant; like, that's my playlist. I've always heard these songs heavy, so when I hear, say, 'Ghost Riders In The Sky', I'm always in the back listening to that, smoking a joint [and] going, 'What would it be like to fucking hear a heavy version of this?' And we'll start singing it back there heavy, and it feels natural to me."
Fafara went on to reveal that "Outlaws Till The End" will contain covers of songs from "only the best of the best and mostly only outlaw country stuff." He added: "The first song that we worked on was 'Ghost Riders In The Sky'. I went to Johnny Cash's cabin in Tennessee. I recorded with John Carter Cash and his wife, did 'Ghost Riders', and now Randy from LAMB OF GOD is gonna jump on the song. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of artists that are on this thing. It's twenty artists, but it's turning more into, like, probably twenty-five by the time… There's people calling me daily that are jumping on this thing. The most recent cat, and he's a hero of mine, and just to pick up the phone and see his number calling me in the morning makes my fourteen-year-old self fucking shake, Lee Ving from FEAR is doing two songs with me as well. So it's just become this intense thing that everyone in the industry is calling me, going, 'Wait a minute? What are you doing? Everybody should have fucking done that.' And I go, 'Well, we're doing a 'volume one,' which means there's a 'volume two' coming, so if we don't have any more songs slotted, I'd love to have you. And I've actually had to turn some people down that were, like, major fucking artists, just saying, 'We don't have room."
According to Fafara, DEVILDRIVER's decision to make a country covers album is consistent with the band's overall approach to things, which is to "do different shit. We wanna shake it up. I wanna have the metal purists go, 'Fuck that! I don't love country,' and then hear the record and go, 'Jesus!' 'Cause it's heavy as balls — beyond heavy as balls. Or the person who loves country that hates metal to hear it and go, 'Jesus! You guys did a fantastic job at keeping the fucking song alive.' 'Cause we didn't go in and massacre these songs — we kept them as they are."
Despite Fafara's enthusiasm for the project, he admitted that he has "no expectations" for how well it's going to fare once it is released. "I'm not thinking it's gonna come out and outsell everything, it's gonna do this and that," he said. "What it's really go do is shake up shit. What I really want is every other band that's out there on their tour bus to fucking listen to it, 'cause they're gonna, and they're gonna be listening to it in the back lounge before they go on, going, 'Holy fuck! We should have done this.' But you didn't. DEVILDRIVER did."
DEVILDRIVER guitarist Neal Tiemann told Guitar World about the band's approach on "Outlaws Till The End": "I think the point is to keep the memorable melodies and lyrics intact while providing and alternate and heavier music bed. It's easy to get carried away in one of our own riffs, so we've been sure to keep refocusing on the essence of the original material."
The project started out in early 2016 when Fafara was thinking about remaking punk classics. "I loved the idea of focusing on a single genre, but I felt that country was a better way to go, because the songs would give us more ideas to work with," explained DEVILDRIVER guitarist Mike Spreitzer.
Added Tiemann: "While the theme is centered in outlaw country, we're adding some numbers that go against the grain, rather than fit inside those genre barriers."
DEVILDRIVER's latest album, "Trust No One", 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, DEICIDE, SIX FEET UNDER) with assistance from Jason Suecof (AUGUST BURNS RED, DEICIDE, DEATH ANGEL).