It’s been four years since the return of Coal Chamber to the scene, but with “Rivals” they’ve come back with a vengeance. As Jason said in his 5/5 review, “it features some of the most diverse material they have ever recorded. It will not only please the old school fans, but it is guaranteed to make them a lot of new fans, too.” These words were never more evident than with the response we all witnessed on their recent headlining tour in the States. From selling out venues, to the meet and greets with fans of all ages, Coal Chamber is as strong as they’ve ever been, and it’s absolutely awesome. With the release of “Rivals” coming on May 19th via Napalm Records (pre-order it here), I had the honor of speaking with Dez Fafara about Coal Chamber‘s return, the new album, future plans, and an exciting update on DevilDriver‘s new music as well! Enjoy the interview below!
Metal Mark: Dez, always a pleasure sir. How is everything on your end?
Dez Fafara: Great man. Good to hear from you my friend. I’m home for another week, and then I’m off to Europe, so just enjoying my lady and home life before I get back to it on stage.
MM: Hell yes. Well we are here to talk about “Rivals” coming out later this month, and when we talked before, you mentioned it was a monster, and you weren’t lying. This record is so killer man!
DF: Thank you so much man. The feedback we are getting recently has been so overwhelmingly positive, so it’s great that people are digging the record. I’m even getting emails late at night from the most cynical people telling me “Well done,” and “You guys nailed it,” so that’s always great to hear. We are really stoked on it for sure.
MM: Now that you’ve had time with the record completely done, finished up the massive headlining tour, and saw the live response from the people, are you just happy as hell right now?
DF: Definitely man. It all came down to us doing our best, and that’s exactly what we did. We made the agreement early on that if we made the record and it wasn’t good, that we wouldn’t put it out there. Once we heard the pre-production, and what was coming out of those speakers, we knew it was something special, and to now being playing it live man, and seeing the fans into it, it’s just killer. We couldn’t be happier. We are just ready for May 19th so everyone can have it in their hands.
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MM: So far so good, because the fans came out in huge numbers on the recent headlining tour. From following you on Instagram, it was really great to see fans of all ages at the meet and greets for you guys. How crazy is that considering some of the fans weren’t even born when you guys were originally around?
DF: It’s kind of mind blowing actually. Most of the fan base right now is about 70% young. Like you said, not many of these kids were born when Coal Chamber originally came out, so I don’t know how that happened honestly (laughs). We got to see a ton of parents bringing their kids out, which is a big part of it, so to have that support and loyalty from our fans is truly a blessing. It’s incredible. It really is incredible.
MM: Something else that is incredible is your vocals on this record. Once again you worked with Mark Lewis, and once again, you sound more raw and powerful as ever. What is it about working with Mark that brings this out of you?
DF: The thing with Mark that I love is that he lets me capture things in the moment. Most producers keep you in the booth for hours, and with Mark, he gives me the freedom to go in the booth and knock it out all in that moment when I’m feeling it. Whether I knock it out in one, two or three times, it’s never a hassle or hourly approach with him. When I’m feeling it, he gets ready, and we get it done. He is all about the vibe like I am, so it’s a perfect match. I just really love working with the dude.
MM: Very cool man. Not only are the vocals impressive, but the guitar work is really impressive to me as well. After listening to the album over and over, it’s crazy that Miguel does not get enough credit in the scene for what he is able to do.
DF: I’m glad to hear you say that man, because I feel the exact same way. I’ve said this before, and people freaked out, but I really feel like he’s up there with Tom Morello with what he can do with the guitar. The guitar is not just a guitar to him. He creates sounds, vibes, textures, and creativity that is unlike anything else that you hear out there right now, and he’s been doing it for years. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been a part of this record if I didn’t hear the stuff that he was writing early on man.
MM: What was your reaction when you first heard the stuff he was writing? I know you were hesitant about doing this at first, so what made you say let’s do it?
DF: Here’s the deal. We starting talking in 2006 about doing this again, and in 2009 we actually demoed two songs, but they just weren’t anything new. It sounded like old Coal Chamber, which is the last thing we wanted to do, so we didn’t move forward with it. When we did the Soundwave Festival in Australia I got to hear some riffs that he was working on, and the shit blew me away. One was “Light in the Shadows,” which is on the album, and once I heard that, I was down. I wanted to be a part of it that second. From that point on, we just waited until we all had the time, and it felt right, and we made “Rivals” happen man.
MM: Like all other material you’ve worked on, “Rivals” is a true album, and by that I mean you can listen to it from front to back. The songs move together, the vibe is strong throughout, and it’s an easy listen for fans. With the chaotic nature of this band, was it harder to make it happen this time around?
DF: Honestly there was nothing about this process that was hard. When I started to get the songs from them, I told them to wait. I wanted to write the album as a whole ya know. Sometimes it took weeks to write lyrics, and other days I’d knock a few out in one sitting. I remember one day my wife came down to the studio at two in the morning I think telling me I need to get some sleep, and I looked at her and said I just wrote six tracks (laughs). She couldn’t believe it, which is understandable, but once I sang a few to her, she was beyond happy about them, so I knew it was right. They were “I.O.U. Nothing“, “Bad Blood Between Us“, “Rivals“, “Another Nail in the Coffin“, “Over My Head” and “Light in the Shadows” I believe. So any time it comes that easy, you don’t stop. You just go. Plus, it brought out a different vibe in me that I haven’t felt in a while. I actually learned a lot of new stuff that I can put toward the new DevilDriver material as well. Any time you can learn and grow within your art to make yourself better, it’s just a special thing, and it really came across well with the album.
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MM: On the recent headlining tour you threw in a couple of those new tracks, but I’m guessing we will hear more on future tours?
DF: Definitely. Yes. 100% yes! With the headlining tour, the record wasn’t out ya know. It’s still not out, so we didn’t want to overwhelm the fans with a lot of new material. This was our first major run in a while in the States, so we wanted to focus on the classic material, yet still give a taste of what’s to come. That’s when it will get hard, because I feel that this is an album that should be heard in it’s entirety live. I have no doubt that sometime in the future that will happen. Once the touring cycle is done, I really wanted to play shows where we play every song live. I feel it’s that good man.
MM: Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say that about any record you’ve done before.
DF: Honestly, I don’t think I ever have. I think every record I’ve been a part of has had the capability to be played in it’s entirety, but there’s just something special about this album. To even hear me say that I want to play this album from start to finish live is eye opening to me. I don’t think I’ve said that out loud ever (laughs). I definitely want to do it though. Definitely.
MM: You mentioned future touring, but as we all know, DevilDriver will be picking up again soon, so what’s the future of Coal Chamber look like right now?
DF: We are taking it slow man. We are just enjoying the moment right now. Are we having fun? Yes. Book another tour. Was the record well received? Yes. Okay, book another tour. As long as we’re still having fun, we will continue to do it.
That being said, DevilDriver is going to record in October and November this year for our 2016 release, sometime in the Summer or Fall it’s looking like, and I’m beyond excited about that new material, but we don’t want to rush it. For twelve years, we put out six records ya know, and it was just time to take a break when we did. Right now everyone is clearing their heads, and putting together the new music, and let me tell you, I’ve heard twelve or thirteen tracks so far that they’ve written, and it’s amazing stuff. Mike even said that they’ll probably have twenty five songs before we head into the studio. I know DevilDriver fans are getting anxious, and eagerly awaiting the new material, but we will be back in 2016 with a record that will crush everything. Trust me on that.
MM: That’s awesome to hear man! We are all excited to hear what the new members are bringing to the table for sure!
DF: Dude the vibe within the members of DevilDriver right now is just beautiful. The new guys are clicking on all cylinders, and you can tell by the music that they are putting together. So while the vibe is good, we’re getting it done ya know. Both bands I’m privileged to be a part of right now are so positive, and so driven at the moment that I’m just enjoying every moment. It’s really a great thing to be around.
MM: You mention the positive vibe a lot, and that’s something I’ always truly admired about you throughout your career. You’re extremely positive, always professional, and you truly live life to the fullest. Was the positive approach something you’ve always had, or something you learned to embrace throughout your years on the road?
DF: I’m not going to lie man, it’s something I had to learn. I’m not a guy who bitches about my past or whatever, but I did have a pretty shitty upbringing ya know. So from an early age I always had to keep a positive head, and no matter what brought me down, I had to find a way to push through. It wasn’t easy at times, but it’s something that has made me who I am today. I don’t understand people who walk around with a rain cloud over their head, because life is too short to do that. It really is. That’s why whenever I’m around a negative person or situation, I just remove myself. I’m a private person, you know that as much as anyone. That helps because I don’t get caught up in other people’s bullshit. I got too much going on in my life to worry about all that stuff. Life is too short man. It’s meant to be enjoyed, and I truly believe that.
MM: Well said Dez. Once again, thank you for taking out the time for the interview today, and congrats again on the “Rivals” record. For the final question, I have to ask if someone would have told you back in 2003 that Coal Chamber would be back in 2015 with a new record, what would you have said?
DF: I would have said you are out of your fucking mind (laughs). I would have put my life savings on that. There was just no way. I’m just really blessed to have this back, my friends back, and this new fire back ya know. For anyone reading this, please take my next words to heart. If you get a chance to make up with someone you had a falling out with, do it. Whether it’s an ex-girlfriend, an ex-best friend, or a boss that rightly so fired you, go talk to them. Tell that boss thank you for firing me, because people grow, and people change, and life is too short to break up something beautiful over something petty. That is what this is all about. I don’t like living with regret, and therefore I don’t do it anymore. I remember asking my wife if I’m really going to do another Coal Chamber record or not, and she said I would regret it if I didn’t, and she was absolutely right. Regret is just not in my vocabulary anymore. It happened, things are beautiful right now, and “Rivals” is the soundtrack to it. It’s a powerful statement in my mind to what life is about, so I’m really excited for people to hear it. It’s one of my proudest moments, not only as a musician, but personally as well. I’m just loving life right now.