You might have never heard of a band called She's in Pain, but if you're reading this, you've definitely heard of the group they morphed into: Coal Chamber. The former was founded in the early Nineties by vocalist Dez Fafara and guitarist Meegs Rascón; shortly thereafter, it became the latter, a band that existed on the bleeding edge of an unstoppable heavy-music movement in their hometown of Los Angeles that would soon take over the world.
"Our first show as Coal Chamber was in '93," Fafara told Revolver in a recent interview for our upcoming print edition. "The [Sunset Strip] was completely dead. The hair scene had completely killed everything." But something new — or rather, nu — was on the come up. "There was a very small band from Huntington Beach called Korn that would bus people up to their shows in L.A." he recalled. "The scene went from hair metal to this weird conglomeration of Coal Chamber, Static-X, System of a Down, Korn and Deftones. So, I think L.A. went through growing pains after the hair metal thing, and probably said to the masses, 'The next scene we pick up on in L.A. is going to be weird, diverse and cool.' And that scene became nu-metal."
Rounded out by bassist Rayna Foss and drummer Mike Cox, Coal Chamber released their self-titled debut in 1997 via Roadrunner Records, and it still stands as a foundational entry in the nu-metal pantheon — though at the time the band called their style "spookycore," a fitting descriptor of their eyeliner-and-fishnet-dominated fashion sense as well as their ghoulish sound.
With the group set to play reunion shows this year, here are five eye-opening facts about Coal Chamber's early days and first full-length.
1. Coal Chamber grew out of a shared love of Sisters of Mercy
Heavy metal was not Dez Fafara's first musical drug of choice. Indeed, before he became the frontman of Coal Chamber and later DevilDriver, Fafara played drums in a psychobilly band called the Screaming Wolves. "I'm a psychobilly, punk-rock, gothic-club kid way the fuck before I'm a metal guy," said the singer, who was born Bradley Fafara, but eventually called himself Dez after Black Flag's Dez Cadena, a formative hero. "The only reason I went into metal is because it was vicious, and punk rock was starting to become blink-182."
Underlining Fafara's non-metallic roots, when he and guitarist Meegs Rascón formed She's in the Pain — a.k.a. the band that would become Coal Chamber — the two bonded most around their shared love of a legendary goth band, rather than any heavy-metal idols. "I found somebody in Meegs, my guitar player from Coal Chamber, that loved Sisters of Mercy as much as he loved Motörhead and White Zombie," Fafara noted. "So, we clicked."
2. The cops regularly harassed Dez Fafara during the early days of Coal Chamber
Coal Chamber busted their asses working to get their name out, and did so the old fashioned way: by wheat-pasting posters all over town. "I remember getting in a big white van with five-gallon buckets of paste, big paint brushes and 5x20 posters," Fafara recalled. "We would roll up and down Sunset and Melrose, and we would cover all the movie posters. Terminator 2? Cover it! We would go home to shower and barely be able to take that shit off our hands. We would put up 250 posters in a night, so much so that I had the cops call my house and say, 'If you do this again, we're going to come to your house and arrest you.' I'd say, 'You don't know where I live,' and hang up on them. I was stupid. Of course they knew where the fuck I live. They're the LAPD."
3. All four members of Coal Chamber lived together in a tiny apartment
Before drug use and the occasional band brawl split Coal Chamber up in 2003 (they would reunite in 2011 then break up again five years later), the band members were super tight. In fact, for a time, they all lived together in very close quarters in L.A.
"I had a tiny, 600 hundred square foot apartment in Hollywood," Fafara recalled. "Meegs ended up moving in, Rayna ended up living in the kitchen area, and then Mikey actually started staying with us, too. You've got to remember he was 17 when he joined the band. ... [For him] it was a culture shock. We were all living in that apartment at the time, trading Top Ramen and going out every single night with backpacks of tapes. We would just give away 50 cassette tapes a night. We were our own street team."
4. The song "Loco" is about Coal Chamber's crazy fans
Coal Chamber's opening salvo, "Loco," served as the band's breakthrough single and still stands the band's signature song. It was a tribute to the group's unhinged die-hards. "We were playing the Whisky [a Go Go club in L.A.] and [most] of the crowd would be what was called the South Gate Crew, a Hispanic crew that if you fucked with 'em, you'd end up with a broken nose and no teeth," Fafara explained. "We had violent shows in the beginning. So, 'Loco' mostly represents the culture that came to support us the most. We wanted to give back to them. That song's what broke us open."
5. The creepy ice cream truck man on the album cover and in the "Loco" video is not Ozzy Osbourne
Yes, the pale, black-makeup-slathered ice cream vendor does look an awful lot like the Prince of Darkness. And yes, Coal Chamber do have lots of Ozzy connections: They played the first-ever Ozzfest in 1996, were managed by Sharon Osbourne and collaborated with the heavy-metal godfather on their 1999 cover of Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey." But no, that's not the Ozzman on the album cover or in the video — despite what Wikipedia might say.
As Fafara confirmed to us: Sometimes a creepy ice cream truck man is just a creepy ice cream truck man. "[That] was actually a guy that cruised around my [neighborhood] all the time," the Coal Chamber and DevilDriver frontman recalled. "Me and Meegs used to run out of my little one-bedroom apartment and grab an ice cream cone, [and] we got to know the guy. He allowed us to use it. He was just a really cool old man, and said, 'Don't mess up my decals; don't spray paint anything on the truck.' This is actually the truck that cruises around as we're writing music [for the first album]."