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Members include Mikee Cox, drums; Dez Fafara (born B. Dez Fafara), vocals; Rayna Foss-Rose (born Rayna Foss), bass guitar; MeegsRascon (born Miguel Rascon), guitar. Addresses: Record company--Roadrunner Records, 902 Broadway, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10010; 9229 Sunset Blvd., Suite 705, Los Angeles, CA 90069, website: http://www.roadrun.com. Website--Coal Chamber Official Website: http://www.coalchamber.com.
A self-described "spooky core" group, Coal Chamber emerged from the Los Angeles music scene in the mid-1990s as part of a wave of gothic- and industrial-inspired metal bands. Although the band shared a love of confrontational lyrics and driving guitars with the grunge bands that dominated the musical landscape at the time, its members also reacted against the down-to-earth image of most Seattle-based groups with theatrical stage shows, costumes, and makeup. As vocalist Dez Fafara told Alternative Press in September of 1999, "We're trying to forge ahead with a different kind of style, musically and looks-wise. If people are going to peg us as anything, we're the crazy band that says, 'Be yourself.'"
Coal Chamber had its origins in 1994 with two Los Angeles musicians, singer Dez Fafara and guitarist Miguel "Meegs" Rascon, who met through a classified ad in a local newspaper. The roommate of Farfara's girlfriend, Rayna Foss, soon joined the band as a bassist, though she had only six months of experience playing the instrument. "Every show that was considered 'rock music,' we were there," Rascon told Guitar One about the band's early days. "And eventually we started playing shows, we started hooking up with other bands, and before you know it, our shows started getting packed, and we developed a following." After a year of paying its dues on the club circuit and promoting itself with flyers and demo tapes, the band had a promising deal with Roadrunner Records.
Despite the group's optimism, however, the initial run of Coal Chamber was short-lived; after Fafara married his girlfriend, he left the group and it appeared that the deal with Roadrunner Records would be lost. But in 1995, Fafara divorced his wife, rejoined the group, and regained the deal at Roadrunner. The final piece of the Coal Chamber lineup, drummer Mikee Cox, joined the band in 1997, when he was just 19 years old. As Cox later told Drums!, "I went straight from high school to being on tour on a bus for two years."
The timing of the group was fortunate. After a heyday in the 1980s with bands such as Mötley Crüe and Poison, the Los Angeles metal scene was making a comeback in the mid-1990s. At a time when Seattle-based grunge ruled the airwaves and record-buyer consciousness was raised across the nation, Los Angeles concert crowds filled the metal clubs that lined the Sunset Strip. Coal Chamber quickly developed a friendly rivalry on the Strip with competing alternative metal band Korn. One of singer Fafara's fondest memories from the band's earliest days was playing a sold-out show at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go while Korn played a sold-out set at the Roxy in 1995. In an effort to differentiate themselves from the rest of the metal bands, however, Coal Chamber's members concentrated on creating a distinct image for the band, with outrageous stage makeup, numerous tattoos and piercings, and gothic-oriented costumes. The fact that the band also included a female member on bass guitar helped it gain a unique profile among the new crop of Los Angeles metal bands.
Coal Chamber entered the studio to record its self-titled debut effort, which was released in February of 1997 to generally good reviews in the metal and mainstream press. In a three-star review, a Q magazine critic even anointed the band "flag-bearers for the post-slacker, no-hoper generation." Without much radio or video play, however, the band focused on touring as a means to break through to new listeners. The group gained a new manager on one such tour, Ozzfest '98. When the tour began, Coal Chamber was a supporting act on the second stage. Sharon Osbourne, wife of headliner Ozzy Osbourne, decided that the group deserved a spot on the main stage and took on the act as its manager as well. The Osbournes served as informal mentors to the group, even inviting its members to their home in England to celebrate the singer's birthday. Meanwhile, the band contributed two songs to soundtracks in 1998: "Blisters" appeared on the soundtrack to The Bride of Chucky, while "Not Living" appeared on the soundtrack for Strangeland.
While its debut did not make a significant impact on the sales charts, the large audiences of Ozzfest gave the band greater confidence in its abilities as well as higher aspirations for the music it wanted to make. In the 1999 Alternative Press article written about Coal Chamber's second release, Chamber Music, Fafara said, "We needed to make a huge departure from the hip-hop-metal thing, so we jumped off the cliff while the train was still moving and came up with a new sound.... We're still heavy rock and roll, but I think we're giving people a little more in terms of ear candy, something a little more tangible to listen to." In an interview with the MTV website, Rascon echoed the sentiment: "I think we definitely created our own sound. This is like our defining album.... We've always wanted to stick to the darker side of music with these elements, and that's what we did with all the new sounds and keyboard sounds."
Fafara also polished his vocals for the group's sophomore effort, taking voice lessons to broaden his vocal range and adapt his style to a greater range of songs. "I never became a 'vocalist' before we made this album," he told Metal Edge. "I went to a coach, and he helped me hit these lows and highs like never before. I had never gone into those waters in the past." Continuing to serve as the band's primary songwriter, Fafara also concentrated on writing lyrics that turned away from the nihilism of many metal bands. "I like to think of myself as a storyteller, rather than a singer or songwriter," he told the magazine. "I think that we're a dark rock 'n' roll band with a really positive message." One track that showed Fafara's direction on Chamber Music, "Tyler's Song," was written as a message to his young son to persevere against school bullies.
The effort to diversify its sound was welcomed by critics such as a Washington Post reviewer who noted the band's "progress toward a more hospitable brand of musical pillage." A Los Angeles Times critic also approved of Chamber Music's move to "thoughtful strains of optimism that muscle their way through the cuts' grinding digs and lacerating rhythms, offering fans something more than a soundtrack for partying and destruction." The band's more significant breakthrough, however, came with a remake of the Peter Gabriel song "Shock the Monkey" with guest vocals by Osbourne. With attention from radio and video outlets for the song, Coal Chamber made further headway with a broader audience; it even gained a higher East Coast profile with a guest appearance on The Howard Stern Show with manager Sharon Osbourne. The troubled character of Mafia son Tony Soprano Jr. from the hit HBO show The Sopranos even sported a Coal Chamber sweatshirt as a sign of his teenage angst.
Married to Sevendust drummer Morgan Rose, Rayna Foss-Rose took a short break from touring in order to have a baby in 1999, making her the third of the band's members to become a parent. Fafara explained the impact of parenthood to the Los Angeles Times, saying, "Everybody is bummed and angry. But I try to give them something else lyrically, to base their life around, other than just pure hate. We all grow up, we all learn to hate. You look into a child's eyes and you want to instill something positive--something that can get them through that."
Hoping for a long career despite the volatility of the music business, Coal Chamber continued to tour almost nonstop and entered the studio for its third effort, Dark Days, planned for a spring 2002 release. As Fafara told Alternative Press in 1999, "Two albums, three albums, four albums, that's nothing to me. I think we're going to be the best band ever in five years."
by Timothy Borden
Coal Chamber's Career
Formed in Los Angeles, CA, 1994; gained following on Los Angeles club circuit; released first album, Coal Chamber, 1997; toured on Ozzfest '98; released second album, Chamber Music, 1999.
- Selected discography
- Coal Chamber Roadrunner, 1997.
- (Contributor) The Bride of Chucky (soundtrack), BMG/Sanctuary, 1998.
- (Contributor) Strangeland (soundtrack), TVT, 1998.
- Chamber Music Roadrunner, 1999.
- Album Network, September 24, 1999.
- Alternative Press, September 1999, pp. 65-68.
- Amusement Business, November 8, 1999, p. 6.
- Drum!, September/October 1999, p. 39.
- Guitar One, July 1999.
- Guitar Player, March 2000, p. 47.
- Guitar World, October 1999, pp. 38-40.
- Los Angeles Times, April 16, 2000, p. E1.
- Maxim, July 2000.
- Metal Edge, December 1999, p. 28-29.
- Q, May 1997.
- Washington Post, September 17, 1999, N17.
- "Coal Chamber," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/bands/az/coal_chamber/artist.jhtml (November 20, 2001).
Coal Chamber Lyrics
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