Coal Chamber: Crack Open the Chamber of Horrors

The members of Coal Chamber are resting quietly at Larabee North, a studio in Universal City, CA, where the Los Angeles-based "spooky-core" band mixed its sophomore record, Chamber Music, a more multi-dimensional and landscaped undertaking than the neo-metal quartet's bludgeoning 1997 self-titled LP (which has sold in excess of 300,000 copies). "My Mercy," for example, includes a beatific string section along with keyboards by Cher's son Elijah Blue (of the band Deadsy). Even more startling is a lush rendering of Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey," which features another guest?metal godfather Ozzy Osbourne?swapping vocals with Coal Chamber frontman Dez Fafara.

"It's always been a favorite song of ours," says Coal Chamber guitarist Meegs Rascon. "We were going to record it for the first album but we felt it wasn't the right time to do it. This time, we had Ozzy, and the budget and proper instrumentation to make it sound good." recently tracked down Rascon to reflect on the development of his band, the making of Chamber Music and the light in the dark. When Coal Chamber started gaining a following several years ago, the band's music became known as "spooky core." Can you recall the early days of spooky core?

Meegs Rascon: We thought it was kind of funny. And then we thought, okay, it's kind of cool. We love dark elements in music. "Spooky core" became a little movement with the kids. They would come to our shows all dressed up with goth makeup. They can't do that on a normal basis. Most can't go to school or go home that way. So when they came to our shows, they can vent that kind of emotion. Many of your songs deal with issues that relate to young people.

Rascon: We're not trying to be role models, and we're not here to preach. But I do think we tackle a lot of issues that matter. "Tyler's Song" [on Chamber Music] deals with Dez' son, who got bulled a lot in school. But it's a positive song. Dez is telling his son that dad loves him and that he's gonna go through troubles like any other kid. But he'll be a man in the end. A few years ago, a boy committed suicide while listening to a Coal Chamber song. How did that affect you?

Rascon: He was listening to "Oddity" [from Coal Chamber's debut album]. It's very sad because our music, almost all of it, is very positive. And many people can't go past the image, can't go past the harshness of our sound, so they automatically lump it into the whole satanic evil music genre. A lot of our songs are written for the kids, and only for the kids and the situations they're in. We always try to be positive in the end, instead of being all negative and, "Oh, I hate my life." Because we're not complaining. We get paid to do what we love. I hate bands that complain about life. Why do you have to complain? You have millions of dollars in the bank, you have a beautiful wife or girlfriend, and a big house. Stop complaining. And talk about issues that matter. I think we tackle a lot of issues that matter. Anything about your upbringing that influenced the way you are today?

Rascon: I grew up with a lot of friends who were gang members, but I was never into that. It made me go, "I want to do something with my life." There were two options: college or music. And I chose music, because I was so into it. And now I listen to everything. Without music, I wouldn't be anything. On Chamber Music, how does your guitar interact with Rayna Foss' bass?

Rascon: We would often do the same thing on the first album. But on the new one, Rayna often came up with harmonies that were different from what I was playing. Still, some of the riffs were doubled up, and that sounds killer and thick. How did you meet Cher's son Elijah Blue?

Rascon: We became friends with Elijah through [Orgy singer] Jay Gordon, who produced our first record. One day Elijah came over while we were partying and we asked if he could play the keyboard part on "My Mercy." What was it like working with Ozzy?

Rascon: At first it was like, "oh, it's Ozzy!" But he was so down to earth and so "normal" with us. When it was time for him to record his vocals, all of our equipment was put away, and it was just him in the vocal booth. We were trying to tell him, "try this" or "do it that way" and Ozzy would be like, "you're the boss." On Chamber Music, Dez doesn't scream and growl as much as he did on the first album.

Rascon: Yeah. It's part of our progression. We talked about it and felt we wanted to stray away from that whole screaming approach. It was like, "okay, can we write a song now?" There's not as much need for the token scream. I think Dez has changed for the better, just because he's using a lot more textures in his vocals and he's being more melodic. To me, that's heavy. Most people can't just sing. It's easier to scream than to sing. How do you feel about the rampant categorization of heavy rock these days?

Rascon: People like to divide music up, and go, "You're a goth guy, you're a metal guy, you're a punk guy." And there are all these cliques. Why do people think of music that way? It's just not fair, music is music.

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