If there is a thread to carry through Coal Chamber's story, perhaps it is turbulence. Turbulence within the band - turbulence on stage - turbulence in the studio - turbulence in their personal relationships. Formed in Los Angeles in the Spring of 1994, the band quickly recorded a self-produced demo and set out on a street level raid that put their name on every street corner and underneath every slimy rock in L.A. Ensuing word of mouth quickly led to packed shows at well-known Hollywood clubs such as The Whiskey A Go-Go and The Roxy. Within a few months, Coal Chamber were drawing as many people to a club as locally established peers who had been doing the rounds for 2 years. Mixing hip hop, punk, goth and hardcore influences with a thick, molten, down-tuned riffing style, they were marinating their sound, and sweating away in a dark rehearsal room at the same time as then-unknowns Korn were doing the same in Orange County and the Deftones in Sacramento. In the Fall of '95, Dino Cazares of Fear Factory and producer Ross Robinson simultaneously brought Coal Chamber to the attention of Roadrunner VP of A&R, Monte Conner. Blown away by "Loco" (the demo's opener) and intrigued by Dez's schizophrenic vocals, Conner immediately offered them a deal. Life was suddenly easy. They were on the rise. And then, it all came to a halt.
According to Dez: "I met my soulmate, and she couldn't deal with the hours, the people I had to work with, just none of it was copacetic to her. I left the band because of her and I left it for almost half a year. But I always missed it. I just missed the music, missed performing, being with my friends and making music with them. I spent most of my days just in a haze, not really inspired anymore. Then my friend Meegs came knocking on my door one day and said, ‘Look, none of the singers we've tried have been working out. We really had magic, let's go for it again' and the rest is history."
Regrouped by Spring 1995, Dez's decision to commit to Coal Chamber bred a "no-looking-back" attitude that fueled passion and fire into their music. From the opening lines of the twisted "Loco" (now the lead track to their forthcoming self-titled album), it became clear: "Pull - steamroller rollin' through my head said attached to loco power up coal through the system..." This band were here to move forward, letting nothing get in the way. Meanwhile, on stage, the band's performances might better have been called ritual possession, or exorcism-- as if each show were an attempt to simultaneously reconcile the past and set a tone for the future, with the members visually switching their appearances every few months, like writers racing to catch up with their thoughts. With Coal Chamber no longer a question of "if" but instead "how good and how soon", they put their urgency and determination together with matured perspectives gained from their time away.
The Roadrunner deal was finally inked during Christmas of ‘95 and the band were faced with the decision of finding the right person to lay their magic down to two inch. Never afraid to take chances and try fresh ideas, that right person turned out to be two, as the band gave a shot to long time L.A. scenesters, Jay Gordon, a local musician, and Jay Baumgardner, house engineer at NRG Recording (home of Hootie, White Zombie and Green Day). These two were starving for their first big break and had as much to prove to the world as the band. By the time the NRG sessions were completed 30 days later, the band were emotionally and mentally drained, and the production duo had proven they had the goods to compete with the big boys.
The album's style is that of a work in progress, tapping the veins of immediate experiences. Explains Dez, "The day I started recording my vocals, my wife left me. She left me in the driveway of my home, taking the dog and everything I fuckin' owned. Everything I fuckin' thought was real." Asking him "Are you alright?" before she took off, Dez's response, "Do I seem alright to you?," was being laid to tape in a flood of tears 10 minutes later in the studio. Those words becoming the new chorus to "Unspoiled."
"Making this record was the most difficult thing any of us has ever gone through. We were challenged physically, mentally and emotionally, and it was pure hell, especially on my end. I needed to rid myself of all this emotion so that I could feel alright again. This LP is like a closure to that part of my life, and a new beginning at the same time. That was a very turbulent and chaotic period. But you know what we've since come to realize? We thrive on that. That's what drives us and gives us our edge. That's what keeps it real."
Groove heavy, with a flair for the theatrical, and the spirituality of knowing better, Coal Chamber inevitably crosses genres and styles to present a kaleidoscopic view of a world of inner conflicts put to aural form. It's a sound that is still evolving as you read this.