Coal Chamber's Mike "Bug" Cox
By Jay Oakley
How was the trip in?
It was good. We had press all day yesterday in New York City for Sirius radio which was cool because we never had the Sirius thing way back in the day, there was no fucking such thing and now it's such a cool thing. Jose from Liquid Metal, who is a friend of ours, brought us in and we did a Coal Chamber takeover which will be airing when the record comes out. It was so fun, the show was good and we always have a fun time playing in New York City. Not that we don't care about the cities we play but we don't care where it's at we just love to play so we're ready and I'm getting antsy right now.
Your new record, Rivals, comes out pretty soon, correct?
May 19th and we can't wait for it to come out. Right now, I don't want to say we're doing warm up shows because we don't believe in warm up shows because that's what rehearsal's for but these are considered promotional, warm up things. So I just want the record to come out because that's when the real work's going to be in even though we don't take days off because we don't believe in days off either unless we're traveling.
Do you try to put your tour together so that you have cities close by?
We do. This tour for instance, we had five weeks to put this tour together and have as many shows as possible. We already had South America booked so we wanted to do a tour real quick but we're not hitting every city because it's physically impossible. So we're not skipping cities on purpose. Logistically you have to do certain things but if we skipped a city maybe another band was in town that day and you can't kick another band off their show.
With the history of Coal Chamber everyone thinks that this show will be our last show which is so not the case because this is the tightest we've ever been both on and off stage. It's going good and we're ready to work. We'll be out for the next two years working on this record so we're going to be working our asses off.
So you are definitely planning a second leg so you can hit those cities you missed.
Absolutely, this is preemptive strike. We're going to South America, we're doing the Monsters of Rock with Ozzy which is supposed to be a hundred thousand people or something stupid like that. To where you're playing and you can't even see the end of the people. Then we're doing Mexico City, Santiago, Chile and then we go to Europe. We're doing a lot of UK shows right when the record comes out and those are almost sold out already which is surreal to me since we took so much time off.
You don't know what to expect and you can't expect to come back after twelve years and have shit sold out and the fact that with this tour some shows are three-fourths full and some are sold out. If one person shows up that's amazing to me because I wouldn't wait twelve minutes for a band let alone twelve years. I have no patience with bands because I want them to get their shit out and go so the fact that people have been showing up and and almost all of our meet and greets have sold out it's just insane. Now, we're meeting peoples kids because they've grown up and had kids.
I hate to use the word "blessed," but we're blessed to be in this position and we're just getting started. I feel like this is our first record and how we had that fire. We toured our asses off for that first record. Non stop, no radio, no MTV, none of that and we did really well and we all have that same feeling right now.
Well they say that absence increases desire. You've all been away but you've stayed active so why now?
It's time. We could have gotten back together a million times over this break, we'll call it a break. The timing wasn't right and people's heads weren't right, we would have forced it and we would have broke up again. I don't want to say a hundred percent but pretty much a hundred percent we would have broke up again.
Time does heal a lot of stuff. Everyone's grown up and everyone's matured and you kind of don't appreciate shit until you don't have it any more and for me personally by the end of touring before we were in such a negative space and before the last break up we had broken up so many times. It was like a monthly fucking routine for us to not get along and by the end of it I didn't appreciate the music industry and touring. I hated it and it was a very negative thing so we stopped and we all took time away from it.
I quit music for five to seven years. I totally quit playing and started doing normal jobs. I ran out of money and was a drug addict and all that crazy shit and then I became an alcoholic and it was just a bad situation. Then when we started talking about getting back together it put me in more of a negative space, it was slowly killing me. Obviously it was my own choices but the band thing was my avenue of slowly killing myself because in a band you have no rules. Nobody can tell you what to do, everybody works for you and you can tell people that you're not playing tonight if you don't have this which is such an asshole thing to do but I've said it before in the past. You get a lot of power when you're out here on the road and I didn't appreciate it at all.
Do you chalk up things like the breakup to youth?
Yeah, for me one hundred percent. I was nineteen when I got in. Dez (Fafara, vocalist) will say I was fifteen when I got in and he took me out of home ec(onomics) but yeah I didn't even know what touring is, none of us did. All of a sudden we had good success on the first record to the point where we got anything we wanted, anything. Not lear jets and Mötley Crüe shit but pretty much anything we wanted.
I've got fucking crazy stories. Shows where Meegs (Rascon, guitarist) has fallen into the crowd before we've played one note like blacked out and shows that I've played where I've been up for five days. There was one show at Penn State College, it was like our third or fourth tour, we're playing and Dez goes behind the bass amp and starts peeing and then all of a sudden I look over and he's sleeping on the stage, mid song. So Meegs is trying to do the vocals and he has a very thick Mexican accent and it was so funny. But that's all in the past for us.
I don't even drink any more, I'm one hundred percent sober and this is my first one hundred percent sober tour since I was twenty years old and I couldn't be more fucking happy. I just had a kid, he's about fifteen months now and pretty much saved my life. By the end of my drinking I was pissing blood, it was bad because when I quit drugs a long time ago I became a raging alcoholic because I just replaced it. I have a very addictive personality so now I'm addicted to being sober. I remember where I was yesterday which is a fucking amazing thing for me and the whole band now is tight as fuck and we haven't had one second of drama with each other on this tour which is unheard of for us. It's surreal and it's translating on stage to the best shows we've ever played by far because usually we'd have one good show and about five kind of sloppy ones but this whole run has just been solid.
I've always said whether there's one person there or ten thousand we perform. I play crazy in rehearsal so we always just go for it. by the third record we weren't hungry any more. We put our heart and souls into it but we didn't have that fire that we have back again. And we're not doing it to make money because we don't make money off record sales. We spend a lot of money on making this record and it's gonna take a long time to pay that shit back. We make money off touring and t shirts and we're not millionaires, far from it. You can tour for a month and make X amount of dollars but then you take two months off so it all equals out and I have a kid and kids are fucking expensive, holy shit (laughs).
Who kicked it all off?
Well, me and Meegs are best friends, we always have been; I have his fucking name tattooed on me. So we talked always and we have another band together, a baby band, so in between this we do that and that'll be something in the future but when it's Coal Chamber time it's fucking Coal Chamber time and I eliminate everything else out of my life.
So for five years I didn't talk to Dez, at least five years. When I quit music I wanted no part of him, he wanted no part of me. I don't like to use the word hate but we literally hated each other. It was bad, bad blood to the point where it made me nervous when his name got brought up.
Did it ever come to blows?
[Laughs] With us I would say Meegs and Dez I would put in the twenty plus category of fighting and being separated. Everyone thinks we had one breakup at the end. Me and Dez were more of the screaming at each other matches, Meegs and Dez were the going to scratch each others eyes out phase. That was over the course of a year. We should have broken up after the first record because it was bad.
So Meegs actually called Dez after we all got off drugs and shit and started the making amends and fixing all the bridges you fucked up. So Meegs called me and said he just had a two hour conversation with Dez and I was like,"What?!" I was actually kind of mad at him for not being on my side of things and calling Dez. But he said they talked and said they were sorry to each other and Meegs felt so much better that he suggested I do the same.
So me and Dez talked and obviously it was weird and then Meegs went on stage with Devildriver and did "Loco" in LA. I didn't go to the show because I had other obligations and the crowd went fucking crazy. So it was Devildriver playing with Meegs on guest guitar and they did "Loco" but Devildriver style so it didn't sound exactly like the song because it had crazy double bass going but it was a cool take on it and that kind of opened the door. So they hugged it out and so then me and Dez started texting back and forth which we obviously didn't do back in the day because there were no cell phones because that's how old we are (laughs). So we just opened the line of communication.
Me and Meegs always write songs together and we do all the writing for Coal Chamber stuff and Meegs got a record deal with another band but the record got shelved so the record never went out and it was more melodic stuff. I had gotten in to more melodic stuff because I was sick of trying to be heavier then bands because there's always gonna be a band heavier than you. It was so fucking hard so I wanted to go melodic and Meegs came over and we started writing songs, we wrote and it was a Coal Chamber song, it wasn't melodic at all so we said we needed to send this to Dez and that opened the gates. Dez sang on some shit and that was like 2009 and actually one of those songs made the new record. I didn't think it would make the record but once Dez sang on it I felt it had to stay on the record because it was so old and we're so much more advanced and it just sounds like Coal Chamber so we kept it.
In 2009 we were kind of throwing out the question of getting back together and we shot it down because we barely had become friends and getting back together we're not gonna be friends because there's so much bad blood. Everything had happened through phone calls and it's a different story when you're face to face. So more years had passed and we got offered Australia for our first shows back at Soundwave for thirty thousand to forty thousand people on the side stage. The first show we did with Marilyn Manson was sold out, fucking crazy and it worked. So then we got the States, then we got Europe and then we took a year off again because we never said we should do a record and then we got the record deal with Napalm and wrote the record. So nothing was forced. Not one thing because if we forced one thing we would not be sitting here. So it all jelled.
Leading up to the break up you had Nadja (Peulen) on bass and you still do now but for your reunion was there any talk of calling original bassist Rayna (Foss)?
Nope. We had Chela (Rhea Harper) because Nadja was doing another band when we did the Australia thing so we got Chela to play. Chela's an insane musician. We actually had to dub her down to play Coal Chamber music. She's in a band called White Empress which is like super technical and heavy as shit. She actually also give bass lessons, she's super talented. So once we did those tours we called Nadja again and asked if she was interested this time because Chela really was just a fill in and Nadja said yes this time so now it feels back to family.
Rayna was never an option. I haven't talked to her in fifteen years. It's not a matter of not welcome; she just isn't a part of our life. I've heard stories about her life, of how it's going and it's not my business any more and I don't even think she plays music anymore and I wouldn't even know. Nadja was our touring bass player for the longest time and people know Coal Chamber with Nadja on tour and it fit. The Rayna thing was never an option. There were never talks of it, not for one second.
What are you hoping to get out of this record?
I've already got it. The fact that we did it and it came out ten times better then we thought it would and it was written ten times faster then we thought it would. We pretty much wrote the record in a month. Me and Meegs were knocking out songs every day. We had ideas over the years. We didn't write the record over the course of twelve years. We just knocked it out. The fact that that even happened is a fucking Christmas miracle in itself. I'm not saying I'm satisfied because we're just getting started but it definitely put an exclamation point on us getting back together.
But, of course, I want it to reach new people. We have such a solid fan base that never left after this long but you always want to reach new people because the more people you reach the longer you can do it. This is our job, this is our career, this is what we do, this is how I feed my child so of course I want it to do well but we're a band and we don't expect anything. If it sells one or a million we're still going to play. If you put expectations on something and it falls short then you're short changing yourself. So whatever it does, it does because the music industry is so hard to predict what it's going to do especially with the downloading of music, etc.
How many tracks are on the new record?
Twelve. We got to a point where we had nineteen or twenty we had to stop because you're not going to put that many on a fucking record. So we started taking parts from songs and making them work in other songs but it's twelve solid tracks.
It's hard to pick a favorite. I have my favorite but it's hard to pick because it's such a solid record. There's no filler tracks, zero.
All-in-all how do you feel moving forward?
Amazing. I've never felt this good inside the band, outside the band and everything's just positive. It's a good feeling not being stressed out and worrying about the stupid little shit out on tour. It's just to easy to get in a weird head space out here. So we're all just feeding off each other and I'm just smiling between songs rather then worrying who's fucking up or if I'm fucking up and everything's just been smooth.
Mike, thanks so much for taking the time. It was so awesome and a whole lot of fun.
Cool man, and thank you.