With a few exceptions, time heals all wounds. Such is the case with Coal Chamber. After one of the most notorious, dramatic and violent breakups in metal history, the band reunited briefly in 2013 for their first tour in over 10 years. Even then it didn\’t look like there was much of a chance for a new album. However, enter 2015 and the band is back in full-effect with full touring plans and a new album in Rivals and singer Dez Fafara took some time to talk to us about the band\’s reunion and new music.
FRR: The new album Rivals is out in a couple of weeks here in the States. Everyone knows the story about the hiatus and everything but how does it feel to finally have Coal Chamber back together and going strong?
Dez Fafara: It feels incredible. A lot of people don’t know we started talking in 2006 just to get communication going, in 2009 we actually demoed a few songs together, but I think the songs were a bit of a throwback and none of us were in to that nostalgia trip or doing some early 90’s record, so it took until this time I think for all of the communication to be open, all the wounds to be completely healed. Also, of course, taking it around the world in 2012 was imperative that those shows did well, that all of us got along well, and we did.
I think that’s part and parcel, that’s why we’ve got a new record is because we had a good time on tour, you can only have a reunion once and the music I was hearing from them was mature. It was mature, the arrangements were mature, the riffs were mature, it sounded like a new sound, the textures and the sounds that Meegs was using were like things I haven’t heard before and it just made me want to be a part of it and I think the vibe first and then that’s why you’ve got the music, because the vibe was so good.
FRR: Musically it’s a bit different from what fans were accustomed to from Coal Chamber. It’s been 13 years so things are going to change. You mentioned you didn’t want to do a nostalgia record, so how important is it to you to have this inception of Coal Chamber?
Dez Fafara: Sound is a very important thing to me. I think when Coal Chamber first came out we were doing really our own thing, and out of that genre the bands that came, especially that first genre of bands that came within nu-metal, we were one of the only bands doing our own thing. We were doing equal parts goth, punk rock on stage and off, and heavy metal, and so all three of our records that we’ve done don’t sound the same, from the first one to Dark Days, so I wouldn’t even know what sound to repeat. Do you go and do the second record, do you repeat the third record, do you try to repeat a sound that you did in 1993? None of us want to be part of a nostalgia trip, some 90’s throwback thing.
So it was important that we were writing something forward-thinking and now after we’ve released the secured link and people are starting to give us feedback, it’s become very apparent to me that I’m glad that we waited, I’m glad that we took our time with this record, because what I’m hearing now is just overwhelmingly positive. A lot of people are saying “you stumbled upon your own sound back in the day and you managed 13 years later not to just stumble on or over your old sound but you’ve stumbled on to another new sound.” That as an artist, that’s one of the most incredible things to hear. That and seeing the live shows packed and the diversity of the fans, I’d say 70% weren’t even born when we came out, so it’s pretty incredible. It makes you feel good about what you do, for sure.
FRR: You guys toured the States back in 2013 with Lacuna and Sevendust, did that tour kind of confirm that this is a good idea and what you should do because the album came out just two years later?
Dez Fafara: Well certainly that helped. If you don’t know the stories, Coal Chamber toured more with Sevendust than probably, well, Pantera we toured a ton with, but Sevendust would definitely be second- we toured with them a lot. Going out on the tour that’s fun, I love the Lacuna Coil people, they’re just the nicest people and I’m Italian so I love it, I love being around them, so that tour definitely spawned it on. When we came off of that it was like, you can only have a reunion once, I mean, that’s what a reunion is, so where do we go from here? The music was so forward-thinking and was so tight and had such a different feel to it that I knew that vocally I would have an open palette to work with of colors that I hadn’t been using in years within DevilDriver which subsequently taught me different things to use also with DevilDriver ways to sing, it was just a real open process, an eye-opening process for me as an artist.
I would be totally remised to say, and this should be resoundingly clear for anyone listening or reading, but if you have a chance to get back together with somebody that you fell out with, a job that fired you rightly so, you want to walk back in and say “Dude, thanks for firing me because it made me get my shit together” or the girl the girl that you fell out with that you’re in love with, or the best friend you were friends with all your life and you stupid falling out at a bar and now haven’t talked in ten years, by all means reach out and see how good that can feel. I guess it goes both ways. It’s either gonna feel terrible, or you’re gonna love it, and it just so happens in the Coal Chamber world we are relishing in the chance to make up for lost ways.
FRR: I would assume the first tour that you did back together had to feel somewhat surreal to have Mike and Meegs with you again. At what point does that “holy crap we’re doing this again”
Dez Fafara: I think the point where I come home from rehearsal and my wife’s like “What’d you guys get done today” and I’d say “nothing but laughs” like, literally. Nothing but laughs and have food delivered, and hang out and laugh more. It was apparent to us the minute we held our instruments we could run through the set like it was yesterday- it was scary. So that first rehearsal was literally nothing but laughter and a good time and us just carrying on like kids.
Someone would say something that would remind you of the old days or why we fell out. Someone would make a little, we call them little bitch comments, someone would make a little bitch comment but like, do it as a pun like “Oh remember I used to say this” and it’s like “Oh my god, that’s right!”
For me it just was a point in time where I’m not the kind of guy who likes to live with regret. I’m an artist, I love multiple genres, and I wanted to do this so I didn’t live life with regret, what happens if we did, what happens if we didn’t do it. And it helped that they were writing killer music and they were mentally fucking ready for this. I mean, Meegs is married, Mike had a little baby boy a while back who is like the light of his life and he’s sober, so definitely if Mikey was not sober this would not be happening, and if it ever comes to an abrupt halt we’ll know why. So we’re all in support of him. You know, I’m watching these guys grow up and get mature and then I’m watching the music they write just be mature and fun, so yea, you’ve got a new Coal Chamber record coming May 19, I’m fuckin stoked!
FRR: How was it working with Al Jourgensen on this record? Talk about a legend.
Dez Fafara: Right. Good friend. Good long-time friend. He was living in Texas and now he’s in California, thank god, because I can go up to his house and go to dinner with him and stuff. Whenever we came through Texas we stopped by Al’s house. He started industrial music. There’d be no Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson or any of that if it wasn’t for Al. I think he’s one of the only guys that would get it, like actually singing on this record, because Coal Chamber, like I said, is equal parts goth, punk rock on stage, and metal, and he gets that.
He gets the darkness of shit and the heaviness and shit. When I read him the lyrics of the song and I told him what the song was about, “Suffer in Silence” about needing to explode and get it out and instead just keeping it in for years and years something that you’re supposed to say to somebody, and he was like “Oh, I get that” he came down, we had some really killer Italian food and drank some wine, and one of the most incredible things was listening to him get his signature sound in my studio, because all of a sudden they’re doing a bunch of stuff with boxes and he’s singing and all of a sudden it’s “whoop, there it is! There’s the Ministry vocal sound, it’s coming out of my house, my home studio!: And I’ve been fortunate enough over twenty years to work with some great [people], if you really dig in my background you’ll see how fortunate I am to be able to work with most of my heroes in the business.
But this guy was on another level, not only because it just happened right here in my pad, but he was so caught up in the moment. He refused to sing in my vocal booth because he hasn’t been in a vocal booth in like 15 years so he can’t be in one of those so he’s on this orange couch with black witchcraft stuff in the studio and it’s crazy orange and black walls, and here he’s like perched up with my Doberman, he fell in love with my Doberman that day, so the whole time he was recording my Doberman was kicking it with him, so it was very surreal but very cool, a very, very cool moment that day. I remember Meegs walking in and witnessing it and just looking at me and he whispered to me “Oh shit, there’s Al Jourgensen singing on our record” and he left the room. I was like “you’re not gonna stay here and watch this” and he was like “no I cannot stay here and watch this, I’m tripping right now!” it was real cool.
FRR: First US tour since 2013. Did you have a chance to play some of the new material, how’d it go over?
Dez Fafara: We did. We played “IOU” and “Rivals,” and the cool thing was we released them online so people knew the songs so everyone was singing them and the set at the time was “Loco,” “Big Truck,” straight in to “IOU” so it was like “here’s the first record and boom here’s the first song off the new record” and when you hear them played like that a lot of people came up to me and said “I didn’t realize how well the older songs held up” but obviously especially with the sound and everything we have onstage they hold up and they go back to back perfectly, because you’ve got the Coal Chamber signature sound behind it, but they’re such a step forward the new music, they just fit perfectly.
FRR: A lot of things have changed since the last Coal Chamber record. Releasing some of these songs online before the record releases, how have things like social media, in-studio updates affected the band now?
Dez Fafara: Of course, all of that. When we started touring you had to borrow twenty cents and pull the bus over to a payphone, so it’s all evolved. How it’s helped, it’s got us out to new markets, new places, and new people. You can get your music out there for people to hear it rather than just “hey I caught it on the radio today.”
I’ve got kids and if I hand them a CD they’re like “oh, thanks, this is gonna take a lot of work” you know what I mean? Like “I could’ve just downloaded this.” It’s the same way, like I used to sit up at night and listen to the radio to hear my favorite song or wait on MTV for my favorite shit to come out late night, like midnight on MTV, 120 Minutes would play some real crazy alternative stuff after midnight and I being a fan of all genres, everything from blues to black metal, back then you had to wait up or listen to the radio to hear your favorite shit and now you don’t and I think it’s cool. It definitely gets us out there.
And let me tell you, I’m a very, very reclusive, very private person. I have a handful of friends that I hang out with, and social media has helped me a great deal to get out and talk on Twitter, talk on Instagram, you know? I’m on Instagram all the time, on twitter all the time and if I would’ve had a chance when I was a kid to have Danzig just tweet me back or have Ozzy say something to me I would’ve been freaking out. And it gives you insight too. You can say to fans, “hey what do you think about this or that” and people come back honestly like “Man, I can’t believe it, that track is so badass” or “I love what you guys are doing with your stage show.” So I think it’s a good thing, definitely a good thing.
FRR: Especially a reclusive person with social media, you don’t have to go out, you can still stick to yourself
Dez Fafara: Absolutely. We do these meet and greets before the doors open at shows with 50 or 60 people and it took some teeth-pulling for the band to get me to agree to that, like “wait a minute, let me get this straight now,” you know? Because we don’t sit in a chair and you walk by us or whatever, we’re there in the room hanging out, talking, getting some one-on-one time with people.
It took me a while to agree to that because you get me in a room with more than 10 people and I split. I’m rarely the guy backstage, I’m not the guy you’re gonna want to take to the strip club or any of that shit. I in to hanging out with my family, my few friends, and going on stage, that’s really why I got in this is for the music and stage and not for any of that extracurricular, I call it bullshit, that goes along with it. Some people along the way said “you chose the wrong job because you’ve got to be a public person” but in essence not really. So social media helps me to break that bounds of “oh you never see this guy, what’s his gig?” Well, what my gig is when you look on Instagram and you see a picture of me cooking dinner for my kids that night you know where I’m at in my fucking head.” There’s no wondering. Now like “oh, okay, I get it. He likes to be home with his family when he is home”
FRR: You’re hitting the UK, Scotland, and staying overseas and heading out with American Headcharge
Dez Fafara: Actually American Headcharge is not on those dates now, The Defiled is on all the dates.
We leave in 2 weeks to do mainland Europe and the UK. London is already sold out right now, a lot of the UK dates are sold out. We’re going in to decent sized rooms, the next step up after these rooms is 4000-5000 seaters, so we’re looking to go over and organically start this thing. Go over in rooms that may be too small at 1800-2000 seaters and then go from there and build it. We don’t know what the fan base would be there. And I say all the time, we either struck a chord with people or they have a long memory, and I think it’s a bit of both. Especially when I look down and see the young fans, it’s crazy. I say kids and they’re 16, and they’re posting photos of themselves with tickets for the UK and I’m thinking “okay, this is badass”
FRR: There’s a lot of people who, when the hiatus started they weren’t old enough to see you guys.
Dez Fafara: Some of them weren’t even born! Let’s not mistake it, it wasn’t a hiatus, we broke up. We lived the life on stage that we lived off. I don’t want to glamourize it by any means because I don’t ant any band to fall into the lifestyle that we had on the road but off the stage, but we lived it and I think there’s something to that reality of things that actually captures peoples imaginations a little bit and makes them go “Well, hold on man, this band is the real deal, they even fist-fought on stage, so they lived it.” And it was a good thing that we broke up and now it’s an even better thing that we’re getting back together.
And I’m glad that we waited the time that we did. The music wouldn’t have been where it’s at, the relationships wouldn’t have been where they’re at and I think everybody mentally and physically for sure, even myself, we’re in better mental and physical shape than we ever were when we were younger. So it’s all about going out and giving people a quality performance and 110% on stage and making sure that we deliver a good record. The one thing that we did say was when the record was done and we listened back to the record and we didn’t like the record, that we would do all we could with the label to have them not put it out. So that was something that was just ingrained upon us that we were real serious about. That’s the only expectation is that okay it be good to the point where if it’s not we’re not gonna put it out. And after we all heard it it was obvious that we had come up with something special
FRR: This album stands right up with the last three records. If nobody’s listened to Coal Chamber this is a great place to start, and if someone’s a diehard fan they’re gonna feel right at home with this record- it captures it all! Thanks for taking the time to talk today and hopefully we’ll catch you on the record.
Dez Fafara: Yea, you’re more than welcome. I appreciate the support, I’ll see you on the road. Tell everybody to get ready for one hell of a record. If half the people I’m talking to actually go purchase this record they’re going to do something for this band that I don’t think many people thought would be done that A we’d never get back together B we’d write a record that was this good and C that there would be successful tours and everything behind it, so thank you for everybody that’s ever supported me in either DevilDriver or what we’re doing in Coal Chamber now. I feel blessed, I feel blessed in life, so thank you.