"I'm about bringing the show back to rock," says Mark "Marky" Chavez, lead singer and frontman extraordinaire of Bakersfield band Adema. "I remember when I was really young, a little teenager, I wanted to connect with the singer up there. I wanted some action and movement. When I'm onstage, I'm everywhere. I want to get those kids that are way, way in the back, because they remember that shit."
Coming together in the same Central Valley breeding ground that spawned bands like Korn and Videodrone, Adema is the most buzzed-about heavy rock sensation of the year. After months of major label bidding warfare that reached massive proportions, Adema signed with Arista Records and began not only a series of high-profile gigs, but recording one of the most anticipated debut albums of 2001.
"We go on the Internet and people are digging it (already,)" says Chavez, who watched demand for a digital version of the band's song "Everyone " nearly shut down the servers of promotional website Streetwise.com. "People either really love it or they don't, and that's when you know you have a successful band, because if people just go, 'eh, it's okay,' you know they're not even gonna buy the record."
Chavez's confidence may come from his proximity to one of the most vital music scenes of the last decade. Growing up in Bakersfield - where he worked as a day care supervisor and flirted with becoming a teacher - the then-teenaged vocalist was well acquainted with many of the popular local acts, like Juice and SexArt, out of which came the musicians who would form Adema, Mike Ransom being the first. DeRoo and Fluckey were in Juice, the band that grew out of the ashes of SexArt, which included Davis and guitarist Ryan Shuck of Orgy. But Chavez had another connection as well: his older half-brother was Jonathan Davis, lead singer for Bakersfield's most successful export, Korn.
"His biggest influence on me, and absolutely the best thing he could have done for me, was telling me when I wasn't good enough," confides Chavez about his brother. "I'm the type - and this is something that's instilled in our family - that when I want something, I go for it; there's no way you're gonna deny me or tell me I can't have it. But as far as being there and being supportive and stuff, he was awesome."
And just what is this music that sent two dozen record labels into a literal feeding frenzy on the basis of demos alone? Nothing less than a powerful, hard-driving, yet richly emotional fusion of heavy rock foundations, street sensibilities, and melodic modern rock flourishes that create one of the most original sounds on the already saturated "nu metal" scene. "When they called, I was just thinking, 'okay, I'll just do the demo and check it out,'" recalls Kohls, who was still in Videodrone at the time. "But they came to my house, they played me two songs, and they just blew me away."
The band had been rehearsing and demoing material for a year before Kohls joined, but the demos they did with him earned the attention of the record industry before Adema had set foot on a single stage. After clinching the deal with Arista, the band members retreated to a cabin in northern California for the intensive writing sessions that yielded the material for their debut album. "That's where the honeymoon ended!" laughs Kohls. "We had a few little scuffles, some cabin fever happening there, " admits Chavez. "We got real down and dirty and wrote this record, but it was perfect. The first night, all our gear is hooked up, Mike strums his guitar, and boom, it just starts hammering down snow. We wrote that song "Giving In," and that just set the tone right there."
"'Giving In' is a song about personal addictions," continues the singer. "I was really screwed up with liquor for a while, and I expressed a lot of bad feelings through alcohol. It gives you the feeling that you don't have any connection with anyone, and the title means you're just giving in to all those feelings, giving in to the bad side of life to numb yourself to responsibility."
Other songs on the album, such as "Everyone" and "Freaking Out," reflect darker sides of human nature. "'Everyone' is about people who always want to point the finger at other people, instead of looking at themselves. But the song itself is sort of laughing at those kind of people. 'Freaking Out' is about growing up in a town where you're either a football player or you're nothing. There's nothing wrong with sports, but I wasn't respected for being a musician. It's also about paranoia, always tripping out about what people are saying about you."
Despite the heavy subject matter, Chavez says that "I'm into making people feel good about living. A lot of these rockers out there are always going, 'boo-hoo, my parents, boo-hoo, life's so bad,' But you know what? Life ain't that bad." A perfect example is"The Way You Like It," which boasts an almost hip-hop braggadocio. "That 's my arrogant side. It's about doing things the way I wanted to do them, and people telling me I was stupid for doing that, but I did it anyway and it worked for me."
Adema got together in L.A. with producers Bill Appleberry (7 th House) and Tobias Miller (guitarist with the Wallflowers) to record their long-awaited, self-titled debut. "We worked our asses off," says Chavez, "but we fully believe in this record." Next this five-man powerhouse will take their act on the road and prove that no matter who anyone is related to, it still comes down to the music and the musicians who play it.
"After the end of Videodrone, I was like, 'Am I ever gonna be able to fit in a real band again?'" says Kohls. "But when I started playing with these guys, I couldn't believe it. We were all one hundred percent confident with each other and felt like we were in the band together for ten years the first day we played. I've joined the band of my dreams."
Mark "Marky" Chavez - lead vocals
Mike Ransom - guitars
Tim Fluckey - guitars
Dave DeRoo - bass
Kris Kohls - drums