Interview: Coal Chamber’s Dez Fafara Talks Nu Metal, DevilDriver, & New Album

Coal Chamber is an alternative metal band that formed in 1993. The group hit mainstream success with the release of their debut self-titled album and extensive touring within traveling festivals such as Ozzfest. After the release of two more successful albums, Coal Chamber disbanded as the members reached out to other musical projects. More recently, the band has reunited and will be releasing their fourth album, Rivals, on May 19th via Napalm Records. We were able to speak to frontman Dez Fafara about the reunion, upcoming album, DevilDriver, and nu-metal association. You can check out the interview below.

coal-chamber-tour Promotional poster for Coal Chamber’s tour with Filter, Combichrist, and American Head Charge

You’re currently on your headlining tour. What is it like to be back on the road again as Coal Chamber?

Dez Fafara (vocalist): The tour has just been spectacular. It’s been a pretty humbling thing after thirteen years to watch how this is going. All the bands have been really cool and on it. The package is really working and diverse. We’re just knocking out dates.

Can you talk about your relationship with these three bands you’re touring with?

Dez: I met the Filter guys at Soundwave in Australia. I was just at the bar having a beer and I ran into Richard [Patrick, Filter frontman] and we started talking for an hour or two. So the idea of touring got brought up because our two bands go well together. I didn’t really know the Combichrist guys at all until this tour but they are some sweet-hearted guys. The singer is just a really nice guy. I had to listen to their music to get acquainted with their material and I liked that they were doing something different. American Head Charge have been around for a long time and they have a new record coming so I was more than happy to bring them along.

Coal Chamber was broken up for a good 13 years. What were the events that led up to the reunion and decision to record a new album?

Dez: Well, Meegs [Miguel Rascon, Coal Chamber guitarist] came on stage in Pomona with DevilDriver and we did “Loco” together. So after that we discussed making music and decided to do a tour first. We were at Soundwave and he was listening on his headphones, so I asked what it was and it happened to be some music he was working on. It sounded incredible and something I wanted to work with. From there, it took a couple years for the record to get in progress.

coal-chamber-rivals Cover artwork for the upcoming album, ‘Rivals’

You’ll be releasing the group’s fourth album, Rivals, in May via Napalm Records. What can fans expect? Any surprises?

Dez: I did a track with a good friend of mine, Al Jourgenson, from Ministry. It’s called “Suffer in Silence” and it’s really badass. It’s a monster of a record and has a lot of different moments and elements in it. I used my voice differently than in my other projects. I can tell you what not to expect. Don’t expect a 90’s throwback record. After thirteen years, I don’t think we could do that if we tried. We put a lot of heart and soul into the album with the help of Mark Lewis as a producer. He manages to get different tones for every band he works with. I had a great time working with him and I think people are going to like the record.

And regarding lyrics, was there a specific theme you were hoping to convey in Rivals?

Dez: There’s a lot of positive content and story telling throughout these tracks. I tend to be one of those guys that see the glass half full and try to exemplify that through my lyrics.

Soundcloud stream for opener track “I.O.U. Nothing”

If you reflect back on the early days of Coal Chamber, were there any specific moments that really stood out as definitive or significant in your musical career?

Dez: The first time we sold out The Roxy. The promoters were so thankful that they had people going to shows again because the hair metal scene was dead. I think touring the world with Pantera, Black Sabbath, and the Ozzfest shows were huge.  I think the highlight for me now is the fact that we disappeared from each other for so long and now we’re back together.

Coal Chamber was initially labeled as a “nu metal” band. What’s your take on the genre? Is it a dirty word?

Dez: Not really, I don’t shy away from the nu metal tag. It was only a dirty thing when a lot of other bands started coming into what we were doing. In the beginning, it was like us, Deftones, Korn, System of a Down, and Static-X. But then, you had all these other bands come in that made the genre dirty. In reality, I’d like to live up to what it was in the start before all the other bands made it a household name. I’m going to be a gentleman and not list those bands who I’m talking about, but many people familiar with the genre know who I’m referring to. If you look now, many of the very popular metal bands sound like nu metal. Like Five Finger Death Punch sound that way. You see the influence everywhere. When we started off, we were mixing the sounds of like Bauhaus with Motörhead to make it more interesting. Deftones still have music coming out and it’s sounding great.

Official music video for hit-single “Loco” off self-titled LP

And then in 2002, your next band began. Was the transition to DevilDriver difficult or more a breath of fresh air?

Dez: It definitely was a fresh of breath air. If you listen to Dark Days by Coal Chamber, we already were going just a smudge bit heavier than we were in the very beginning. We certainly were changing to the influences that I listened to. I grew up on a lot of early Orange County punk rock and heavy music. For me, I really wanted to do something different and more extreme. I remember when I did the first DevilDriver record, the first thing Roadrunner Records said to me was that I had to go back and do something lighter for commerce. I just said I’m not thinking about commerce because I’m an artist and this is where we’re coming from.

What’s your current stance on DevilDriver? Are you planning on going back soon or is Coal Chamber your main focus for awhile?

Dez: DevilDriver is going in this year to record an album. We should release it next year and start some touring. Most bands take a year off between records to hang with their family. But for DevilDriver, we stayed on the road constantly and put out six records. It was just about time to step away from it for a year and do Coal Chamber. But, it’s gonna be great to be back with them and I’m ready for it.

Official music video for “I Could Care Less” from DevilDriver’s debut album

After this tour and the album release, are there any other plans for Coal Chamber?

Dez: We’re going over seas to do Monsters of Rock with Ozzy, which will be absolutely incredible. We stop over in Chile and Mexico City. Then we’re heading over to Europe for about nineteen days with a cool package. And we might head to Australia before I settle down to do the DevilDriver record.

What do you see for the far future of Coal Chamber? Is this your last record with the group?

Dez: Oh no, it’s been a great time doing this again. When Coal Chamber started, we were had this mindset of ruling the world. But now, we’re just having fun. I think we’re always going to work together. I’ll probably do some shows in the middle of the DevilDriver cycle next year. As long as we’re always having fun, we’ll definitely continue and do another record.