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an in-depth interview with
Coal Chamber’s Mike Cox

Before the term Nu Metal got so oversaturated and cringe-worthy in the early 2000’s with a plethora of manufactured, radio friendly bands, who appeared more cookie-cutter than edgy, the term Nu Metal was used to describe a new wave of heavy metal groups that didn’t quite fit within the speed, thrash, doom or hair metal genres of the 70’s and 80’s. Enter Korn, Deftones and of course Coal Chamber.

But during the height of the Nu Metal onslaught in the early 2000’s, only three albums in, Coal Chamber self destructed. And while front man Dez Fafara quickly moved on with DevilDriver, one of the pioneers of 90’s metal, were assumed to be gone forever.

But you know what they say, never say never, because Faith No More was not the only band to reform and release a brand new album in 2015. Coal Chamber as well, mended fences, toured and released brand new material. In fact, Faith No More’s “Sol Invictus” and Coal Chamber’s “Rivals” were released on the exact same day. May 19th, 2015.

So what was it like for Coal Chamber to reunite? And why did the band break up in the first place? Now we all love and respect Dez Fafara, but we have also always heard from him over the years. We already know his point of view on everything, so at Horror Metal Sounds, we decided to hear from another member of the foursome and offer you a fresh perspective on the ups and downs of Coal Chamber, leading up to the release of one of the best albums of 2015.

Here is an interview with Coal Chamber drummer Mike Cox.

HMS: Rivals is your first studio album in 13 years. And when looking at your first three albums you can see a clear progression in the bands sound. So after returning with a fourth album more than a decade later, where does this album stand in that direction Coal Chamber was going in? And how did the time away affect your sound compared to when you started?

Mike Cox: Well, obviously with the amount of time we took off and people got into different projects, I think everyone’s music knowledge and style expanded and matured. You know, with the first couple records, I mean, I was fucking 19 years old when we did the first record, I was a little kid writing songs for an album that was going to be everywhere in the world. And as time progressed, we never really, uh, we don’t plan what we write. Me and Meegs would sit down and we would throw beats and guitar lines back and forth and it always ended up sounding like Coal Chamber, obviously.

With this new record, we wanted to just have more of a mature sound but keep it really raw and really nasty sounding. We did click track on the record, but our click track, we sped it up and slowed it down, so there’s not even tempos. We wanted that live, raw feel to it, you know. It’s far from perfect and I don’t think records should be perfect.

With technology now, you can go in there and fix every single hit. And there are these bands now, I listen to ‘em and you can tell it’s so chopped up in a computer. And every hit is made perfectly perfect and you know, I just, I don’t come from an era of making music absolutely perfect.

HMS: Absolutely. But considering the technology we have today, what (if any) was the difference in how you guys recorded the new album compared to recording back in the 90’s?

Mike Cox: Yeah well with our first record there was no such thing as pro tools. So it had an analog sound to it. Now with pro tools, you can pretty much fix anything, but we didn’t want to just get a sound we were okay with and then add a bunch of shit in the computer to make it better. We tried to approach this kinda old school, even during the writing process we pretty much set up a boom box in the room and you know that’s how we used to record our song ideas back in the day. Put a tape in a boom box and record. It’s a better vibe.

HMS: So what was the writing process like? How did you guys work as a foursome?

Mike Cox: Well me and Meegs always start with the foundation of the song and Nadja comes in and adds her part. On this record we would send the idea to Dez and he would literally whisper into his phone and play it back through text and we’d write songs around that. Yeah, so we kinda wrote some of the songs through an IPhone. Which is amazing.

HMS: That is awesome.

Mike Cox: Yeah. It is. But Dez does all the lyrics. We don’t go into his personal space. Just like he doesn’t tell me what to play. We all bring our own into this thing and it works for us.

HMS: Let’s talk about Nadja (Peulen). I love her. I’ve seen her play live with you guys back in the day, but to the best of my knowledge, she never recorded or wrote with you guys on those albums. She just played and kicked ass live. So this new album is the first time she’s contributed to the recording. What was that like?

Mike Cox: Yeah, it was great. Everyone has a certain style they bring and realistically, Nadja has been with us the longest out of any bass player. So you know writing songs and adding her parts, it kinda just fit perfectly.

HMS: So on the new album, you had Al Jourgenson do guest vocals on “Suffer In Silence.” How did that come about?

Mike Cox: We never sat down and said ‘hey, lets do a duet.” Dez and Al have known each other for a while and we had some parts on the song missing vocals and Dez was trying to think of some things and Al just kinda popped up. And to have him on the song, to me is just insane, cause Ministry is like one of my all time favorites ever since I was in middle school. To go to Dez’s house and sit there and watch Al do vocals was just amazing.

HMS: That is killer. Now, I don’t want to focus too much on the band’s break up cause I prefer talking about the positive more than the negative, but I guess there may be some new fans out there that were not around when you guys did break up. So what was that like and moreover how did reuniting come about?

“This is definitely not a one off. If this was a one and done thing I definitely wouldn’t have done it.”

Mike Cox: You know the break up was a culmination of after so many years. We probably should have broken up after the first album. I mean we didn’t really get along. We were never on the same page and get added to that, the rock and roll lifestyle. It was just a culmination of different personalities.

The break up happened and we didn’t talk for like five years. I totally quit music for at least five years. I didn’t want any part of it. And then Meegs went and he talked to Dez and he ended up going on stage with DevilDriver and that kinda opened the doors for all of us to talk.

We just became friends. We never had planned on getting Coal Chamber back together. We never talked about it, we just wanted to know each other as friends. And then the Coal Chamber thing finally came up and we were in such a good headspace that we just decided to do it and finish what we started.

HMS: So let’s talk about the industry as a whole. Back when you guys did your first couple albums, this was pre ITunes and even pre Napster. Now that you’re back the industry as whole has changed. People used to buy records, now they can purchase digital copies and even just buy songs instead of albums. So being back in it all, what are the biggest differences and how do you feel about it?

Mike Cox: Well it’s a whole different animal now. I mean back when we started record sales really meant a lot. And we sold millions of records over a course of years. And you know, after we broke up and everything changed. Record stores are closed and everything is through social media, it’s just a whole new way of getting things out there. And yeah, I guess now for every album you sell that means ten other people stole it. (Ha) So to make money off record sales is really hard to do these days. It was hard enough before, but now. It’s not the cash cow a lot of fans think it is. Touring and tee shirts is where bands make their money.

I come from the era of stealing a tape or CD from K-Mart and opening the record and looking at the artwork and reading the lyrics. Like you said, nowadays people want just one song and they don’t care about the artwork.

HMS: Speaking of social media, with things like Facebook and twitter do you think a band benefits more from that compared to how it was for you in the 90’s?

Mike Cox: You reach more people quicker, for sure. But with Facebook and shit where people are posting everything, like what they had for breakfast and everyone’s a rock star, I mean, it used to be a big deal to get on the cover of a magazine. Life changing, Nowadays you get on the cover of a magazine but they just post it on Facebook. It’s the good and bad of social media. I mean, bands used to be so mysterious and hard to get to. Now, it’s just all there. Everything. People gotta post like their grilled cheese sandwich. But you have to do it. You have to.

HMS: What about radio? Nowadays with XM radio and more selections do you feel it helps you get more exposure?

Mike Cox: Oh 100% more exposure, cause Coal Chamber has never been a band that radio would touch. We sold 500,000 records on our first record in our first year with zero radio play. That was strictly off touring and working our asses off. But now Liquid Metal plays our song every day.

HMS: And how about videos? That’s the other thing that has changed. Do you like doing videos? Since MTV doesn’t even play videos anymore, do you guys even bother with that stuff? I mean it still goes on the Internet. But is it a priority for you?

Mike Cox: Yeah. My little brother is a videographer. He’s done a million videos and we come from that same era where videos mean something. There are still millions of people that don’t know Coal Chamber and we can reach them through videos online. We have a bunch of lyric videos but I’m not really a fan of lyric videos. But apparently people love them. The label was like, “You have to do a lyric video.” I don’t think I’ve ever watched one all the way through.

HMS: So is this album just a “one off” kind of thing or do you guys have plans to continue moving forward?

Mike Cox: This is definitely not a “one off.” If this was a “one and done” thing I definitely wouldn’t have done it. And I don’t think anyone else would have. To get back together after all these years just for one thing, would be asinine. I feel like we’re a brand new band. I feel like we are starting over and we have a lot to prove. We don’t expect anything, we’re out there busting our asses. Like a whole new band, just a little older.

Ryan M. Andrews, HMS

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