Coal Chamber

by Paul Gargano
February 1998

Coal Chamber on the cover of Maximum Ink in February 1998

Coal Chamber on the cover of Maximum Ink in February 1998

A decade ago, glam bands ruled Los Angeles. As big hair poked the ozone, the Sunset Strip resembled a drag show, and talent was judged by the quality of your groupies, not the integrity of your music.

No one was really surprised when the scene became a parody of itself, but they might be surprised if they took a look at the new breed of bands forging a path through the spoils of outdated leather and spandex. Say hello to Korn, the Deftones, and the latest heavyweights to take up prominence on the downtuned metal scene: Coal Chamber.

Frontman Dez, guitarist Meegs, bassist Rayna, and drummer Mike are a truly motley crew that have spent the better part of the last year on the road with OzzFest, Megadeth and Pantera. Along with fellow newcomers Sevendust, they will be crashing into the Barrymore Theater February 14.

As Dez attested in a recent interview, Coal Chamber is proud of its growing presence on the heavy music scene, the anti-glam to yesterday’s glam, today’s crackle to yesterday’s pop, and the crash landing back to reality for audiences that thought life was nothing but a good time.

MI: Your album was released a year ago this month, do you feel like things are starting to mesh a little more?
DM: Yeah, sometimes you have off nights, and there are on nights, but I feel the shows are definitely getting better. I’m really pleased with everything. We’re working hard, we’ve only been home eight or nine days in a year, and everyone’s still hanging in there. Sometimes we’re just like, “God, just give us one or two days off,” but since it never happens, we just keep going. It’s crazy.

MI: Where do you see yourselves fitting into music today? You’ve got a horrific image, but you’re far from shock rock.
DM:  We call ourselves “spooky core.” I guess that’s because there are so many downtuned bands from L.A., like Korn, the Deftones and Snot , and we had to come up with something to differentiate ourselves from those bands, so we came up with “spooky core.” As far as the makeup goes, who knows if we’ll even be wearing it tomorrow, it’s just one of those things that feels right inside of us right now. I’ve always put black eyeliner around my eyes and stuff, it’s kind of just a dark thing. It’s definitely not shock. You’re totally right on that.

MI: You mentioned Korn, and your sounds are familiar. Were they an influence?
DM:  I’m not sure if they influenced us as much as it’s an L.A., downtuned, heavy thing. Anyone that says they invented the downtuned style is just, whatever… It’s been around forever. I mean, Fear Factory uses it… Here’s what we’re really thankful for: We’re thankful for Korn getting out there, because in L.A. there was nobody getting signed, there’s no heavy metal radio station, there’s no real scene at all. I can remember when us and Korn were playing, us at the Whisky and them at the Roxy on Sunset, which are like 30 feet away from each other, both sold out shows, both not signed, and I’m thinking to myself, “What are people doing? Why aren’t they looking at LA?” So what we are really thankful for is that they got out with the downtuned sound and broke it for the market. That’s a really good thing, especially for us. When people say Korn, I always say, “Great, it’s great to be compared to a great band.” Plus, they’re great friends of ours.

MI: You emerged from the Hollywood clubs, which was where the glam bands were a decade ago. Is your anti-glam image reactionary?
DM:  For us it was. When we first put makeup on, people were like, “What are you doin’?” It was a ‘fuck you’ kind of thing, maybe to the ‘80s rock. We hated that shit. It killed L.A.

MI: It’s ironic that the makeup is intended to be ugly, and now kids are doing it to look like you.
DM:  Exactly. I’m not putting it on to look pretty. I always say I’m the ugliest motherfucker in the industry. I’d always rather make myself look uglier when I go onstage than look pretty. Fuck it, it’s all sweated off after two songs anyway.

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