Coal Chamber – Interview

Coal Chamber

An interview with Meegs Rascon (guitar/backing vocals), Rayna Foss (bass), Mike Cox (drums), and later B. Dez Fafara (vocals)
by Scott Hefflon

I’m taping this interview over the top of the Bloodhound Gang interview I did last month. You both cover “The Roof is On Fire,” released, roughly, at the same time. How do you feel about this?
Rayna: It’s not even the same thing. Ours is a lot heavier.

Mike: Ours is serious. And we did the whole song. It wasn’t listed as a song.

Meegs: It’s part of “Sway.” We use it as a long intro, but the rest of it is an original song.

Is “Loco” your pick as the first single off the record?
All: No.

Meegs: We chose it as the first song on the record, it’s a good opener. It’s gets really heavy after the dramatic build up. It’s spooky and kinda eerie, then goes into the heavy riff.

Are all the sounds going on in the songs production tricks, or did you use samples?
Rayna: If it sounds sampled, well, it’s not.

Meegs: Most of it’s guitar pedals and overdubbed production. But I can pretty much get the full sound of the record across on stage.

Rayna: If you see Miguel (Meegs) tap-dancing on stage, you’ll know why.

What about vocal effects? Can you answer even though, ahem, the singer agreed to stop by later?
Meegs: We were there while he was recording. There are a few effects, a bit of chorus…

Mike: He used a bullhorn to record “Loco,” but everything else is pretty much live.

Meegs: Live, it’s all dry, no effects. But in the studio, he used a few effects.

And he’s able to pull that off without sounding flat?
All: Oh yeah. You’ll see.

What would be your pick song off the album?
All (at the same time): “Oddity,” “Loco,” or “Bradley.”

You must get the Korn comparison a lot, both for sound and style, how do you feel about that?
Meegs: We take it as a compliment. Korn’s a great band. People have to compare us to something, I guess. We also get White Zombie and Marilyn Manson a lot.

Mike: It’s the new style of heavy music, so that’s OK.

Any comparisons you thought were way off base?
Mike: Crowbar and Nine Inch Nails. We use no samples. Nothing.

Meegs: And Crowbar: maybe the guitar sound…

But that’s like comparing both of you, and everyone else, to Sabbath. Not to mention all you guys are, ya know, little.
Meegs: Yeah, we’re a small band, and they’re big.

This is your first full-length release, your first record of any kind really, and your first band, both collectively and separately. How’d it happen?
Mike: I was a male prostitute, and, um…

Rayna: Mikey was our first audition for a drummer. After we heard him, we canceled the rest.

Meegs: It’s your typical “how the band formed” story. I placed an ad, Dez answered it, then Rayna, then Mike. It’s not that I formed the band, but the ad was the seed that started it all.

Rayna: We used to have a song called “Seed.” Then it turned into “Sway.” Then we added “The Roof…”

Who came up with the band name, and what’s it mean?
Mike: Take a guess.

Um, is it the furnace on old trains where the guys shoveled coal to make the train move? Sometimes the shoveler would fall in and burn to death, eventually they all died of black lung. Is that it?
All: No.

Oh. Then what is a coal chamber?
Meegs: It’s a cold, dark place. It fits the imagery of our music. Potential energy. Heavy. Under great pressure…

Rayna: It can turn into diamonds.

Mike: Edit that shit!

Any song(s) in particular that really stand out as over-the-top experiments? Twice as fast? Half as fast? Twenty minute bass solos inspired by moving documentaries on PBS?
Rayna: All of our songs are unique and individual. They’re all different, they’re like children to us. They each have different characteristics, and they’re each very special to us.

(Appreciative pause.)

Why did you start your tour before your record was even out?
All: To get the buzz going word-of-mouth, to build up…

Rayna: Because we weren’t doing anything else.

Des, now that you’re back, why did you want to get the band on the road so quickly?
Des: All of us were living in a one-bedroom place with a pitbull and another girl, eating Top Ramen, so it was just time to go.

What’s the pitbull’s name?
All: Poobah.

Mike: It’s so trained, it’s like Rin Tin Tin.

Do you even have a copy of your own record?
Meegs: We had one copy of the advance, but we gave it away to a band we’re friends with the first night of the tour.

Mike: Now we don’t have any.

How’d you get signed to Roadrunner?
Meegs: We sent copies of our cassette demo to Dino from Fear Factory, Ross Robinson, the producer of Korn, and Monte Conner at Roadrunner. We negotiated for about a year, then signed. We’ve known Dino for years. He’s our neighbor in L.A., and we’ve known Ross for about the same amount of time.

Who produced the album, and what else have they done?
Meegs: Jay Gordon and Jay Baumgardner. They’ve never done a full scale record before, only demos and stuff, and the record came out way better than we’d expected.

Mike: Way better. Jay Gordon is amazing.

Meegs: We recorded at Energy Studios, in North Hollywood, where White Zombie, Green Day, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Johnny Cash recorded albums.

Dez: We used to run into Johnny all the time.

Meegs: Rick Rubin was next door to us.

Let’s talk about L.A.. Korn is, pretty much, from L.A. too, right?
Meegs: Originally, they’re from Bakersfield, about three hours north of L.A. But they relocated to Orange County, about 45 minutes to an hour from L.A.. They were doing their thing at the same time we were doing our thing. We were similar and used to see each other’s bands play. We never played together though.

Des: Our demos were circulating at the same time…

Rayna: But we had a little “set back.” Had a little time off.

Des: That wasn’t my fault, that was um…

All: So how ’bout this weather we’re having, huh?

Yeah, so, um, I notice a certain consistency going on with black nail polish.
Meegs: That’s Rayna’s doing.

Rayna: I paint their nails while they’re sleeping.

Des: She painted mine in the shower today. I mean, well, I was in the shower.

(Random, chaotic clarification amounting to loud, indecipherable hemming and hawing.)

What about your “image” as a band?
Des: Dead.

Meegs: Small.

Mike: We’re all midgets.

Rayna: We don’t think about it, we just are.

You also have a new manager, huh?
All: Tour manager.

Des: When we went out with Godflesh, we went out by ourselves. We needed someone who was honest, and could follow through a schedule. Someone on it.

Mike: Mobie One Kenobie.

Des: Moby ain’t his real name, but he lives up to it, if you know what I mean.

Des, I wanted to ask you about your perspective on the band getting together.
Des: It happened very quickly, and we’re all very happy with being in a band together. Hooking up with Meegs has been like finding a girl you can fuck for the rest of your life. She’s your girl. She’s the one. That’s not to say he’s my bitch, because I’m more his bitch, if anything.

I don’t know how much you want to relive past mistakes, but what happened with “the break” you took?
Des: I strongly recommend against giving up what’s most important to you to please someone else in your life, and if you do, don’t descend into drugs and alcohol so deep that no one can pull you back out. A knock came on the door from Miguel, and that probably saved my life.

Obviously you resented the fact she made you give something up, and you wound up hating her and yourself.
Des: The first day I went into studio to record the vocals for the album, she put the dog in the car and split. When she left and took Willie, named after Willie Nelson, with her, a friend of mine got me a pitbull puppy we named Poobah.

Are those black eyes real, or is that make-up?
Des: At the moment, it’s make-up. I’ve actually been getting a lot of sleep lately. I want to look like how I feel, and since she left, I feel dead. If my eyes are all sunken and red, then that’s it. If I need make-up, then I’ll use make up. If I feel really alive during the day, I won’t wear any. But that doesn’t happen very often.