DevilDriver – Interview with Jeff Kendrick

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Interview with Jeff Kendrick

April 4, 2014

Interview by Lee Carter

Ahead of their return to London as part of the European leg of the “Winter Kills” tour, I sat down with guitarist Jeff Kendrick to discuss the tour, label changes and music at Camden’s Electric Ballroom.

DevilDriver.1Okay, so tonight we’re obviously at the Electric Ballroom. Do you guys prefer playing the small, intimate gigs or do you prefer places like Wembley Arena which you did a couple of years ago?

Well I guess, the difference would be… I like both. Wembley Arena is obviously us supporting someone else, but London is a really good place for us to play. I think that as long you’re not doing the same thing every show, every time you come through that it’s cool. I think that both are equally great as long as there is people there getting into it, that’s really all that matters.

I mean you guys get fantastic following in the UK particularly. Things like Download you do really well. Why do you think that is? Why do you think you’re such a hit down here?

I think that just some, you know, bands work different places in the world and it’s just whatever the band’s done or sound. Probably some of, you know, Dez’ stuff with Coal Chamber has helped to get a few people into the band. I think it’s just kind of… The people of the UK are into it

So you mentioned not doing the same thing each time, so does that reflect in your setlist? How do you go about choosing what do, what you play each night and on each tour?

Well it’s mostly a tour, like, thing. We plan it out before. We try and play stuff off the new record which is important for every record and then, like, have a good balance of the other catalogue and whatnot.

So any particular live favourites from past albums; the current one, “Winter Kills?

I like playing “End Of The Line” and “Head On To Heartache”. There’s a lot of good songs.

I think both were in the setlist the other night as well. Looking forward to them! So what can we expect from you guys tonight as far as the show goes?

Heavy and it’s early! It’s at 8.30 on a Friday.

Is that to allow for some partying afterwards?

Oh yeah, of course. But I’m quite surprised it’s that early.

Yeah, that’s not normal.


Do you know why that is?

No idea. But I guess there’s more time to party afterwards, so it’s fun.

DevilDriver - Winter Kills

So “Winter Kills” has done really well thus far. Definitely a great album that I’ve listened to and it’s also your first on Napalm. So how is it in your new home?

They’ve been great. They’ve treated the band well. The new record’s sold more than the last one, or sold equal to the last one did. “Winter Kills” in three months sold more than “Beast” sold in twelve, so that’s good. It’s, you know, a far quicker pace and that’s a big deal these days because usually, like, every record it’s like “Well how much less is it going to sell?” So it’s not like “How much more are you going to sell?” it’s “How much less?” So it’s like trying to make the loss less, you know, with each band and like “Oh they only went down 20% instead of 50%” like it’s a success. It just kind of shows that the record business is in the toilet.

How do you guys try and combat that with less record sales? Do you try and tour more? Do you sell more merchandise?

Well, try and tour more. I mean the record model has always been kind of strange, too, because I don’t think anyone really understands it. In the end, the record label has the right to not pay you anything and you don’t really know, and you have to threaten them usually, with an audit. I think that it’s complete bullshit, but you need money to get a record going unless you’re funding it yourself and have good connections with people and personnel to get things done. It’s pretty essential

So you’d probably say that starting out, particularly with the current state the industry’s in, that that’s probably a little bit more difficult, perhaps?

Yeah, it’s quite difficult.

What would you suggest to people that are starting out, or bedroom producers?

Do as much as you can without anyone else’s help. Take it as far as you can go without, you know… You don’t necessarily have to get like a manager or this and that right off the bat. It’s like, you should try and get it to like people approaching you. That’s the smartest thing I could say.

So what was it that Napalm had over different labels that attracted to them to make you sign with them?

They’re going to make the band more of a priority. I think that that was the biggest thing. A priority.

Okay, so you’re in great company on Napalm – you’ve got bands like Deadlock as well. And you’re obviously in great company tonight with Sylosis and Bleed From Within. What were the factors that helped you choose those guys to bring along with you on this tour?

A big part was just like who was available. Obviously we’d love to tour with Sylosis considering they got injured on the last tour and they had to call it quits. And they’re a great band and it was just all those kind of things together.

Because you guys have got your own style of metal, your own style of groove and mixed with melodic death metal; does their styles as well bring a nice bit of a variety to the show? So not every band is playing the same style?

Oh yeah, it’s got to be like that. You know, I think the only problem is when there are too many bands on the bill. Which three is pretty, maybe even a bit light, should maybe four… But three, is you know… But if there’s like twelve bands is like exhausting. We’ve done that.

Ouch! Moving onto relaxing for after those shows particularly. What do you guys enjoy doing on your days off?

Read or… I have a side-business that I work on… And just kind of take it easy, you know?

So not too much partying?

No. I mean, we will have fun tonight but I haven’t been really drinking or anything and I don’t even really care that much anymore. I’ve been doing it for a long time and had plenty of good times and I’m just, kind of, trying to have an even keel lifestyle these days.

So you guys have been around… You’re first record came out in 2003, so you guys have been around for well over a decade. How do you keep things going? How do you keep things fresh? Do you source and listen to more music?

Yeah. Especially with metal. I think a lot of it’s, like, seeing what the really cutting-edge bands are doing because it’s obviously getting more technical and intricate. I think it’s important to be able to stay on top of that and see what people are doing.

Any particular bands?

After The Burial, Animals As Leaders… I mean those guys are, just, insane.

Will we be expecting any eight-strings on any future releases?

No, no! But maybe some of the elements. Maybe some of the rhythmic elements or technical elements of them because they’re great.

So things like the syncopated stuff?

Yeah. Those guys are really pushing it. I think it’s important to see who’s really pushing the envelope, you know? I think to go back and listen to certain bands without seeing what’s new… You’re kind of cheating yourself a bit.

Yeah. So apart from chatting to random journalists, what do you guys normally do to prepare for your shows? Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Just play guitar. Get stressed-out… Stretched, not stressed-out, stretched-out. You know, just get ready to do a… I try to never just, like, do something until like right before the show. You know, it’s like we try to put our head in the game at least like an hour-and-a-half, two hours before.

And what do you guys do apart from the partying that you’ve already mentioned that you may occasionally do, what do you guys do after the show apart from that thirty-minute cool-down period?

Just probably hangout. Like, you know, read or watch movies or… Just kind of hang out on the bus.

Just really, really chill out and let your hair down.


What’s in store for DevilDriver this year?

Well we’ve already started working on songs for a follow-up record and we’re just going to continue to tour and do our thing. It’s like always a work-in-progress towards something.

Are there any festivals that you’re planning on doing this year?

Not that I know of. No European ones, unfortunately. Yeah. Next year!

Okay, reaching to the end, would you like to say anything you’d like to say to the readers of Metal Rules?

Thanks for the support and we’ll continue to be around as long as you’ll have us!

Excellent. Thanks very for chatting to us today, Jeff, it’s been a pleasure.

You’re welcome, man. The pleasure’s mine!

Thank you very much.