Inter-band feuds were a major part of the metal landscape at the turn of the millennium. While Fred Durst threw stones at every musician who gave him a funny look, Slipknot and Mushroomhead were at each other’s throats and System Of A Down were being lambasted as “the shittiest band of all time” by Oasis. It was also reported during the genre’s dying days that even nu metal B-listers Sevendust and Coal Chamber were having a bit of a spat. That venom seeped into the public eye with the release of the ’Dust single Enemy, taken from the band’s 2003 record, Seasons.
Singer Lajon Witherspoon certainly sounded incensed. ‘Step up to me! You want to be a big-time player? It’s not to be!’ he spat, over thunderous riffing and imperious percussion. ‘Actin’ like a wise ass, I’ll fuck up your face and you’ll never look back!’ It didn’t take long before members of the metal press began hypothesising that those lyrics, written by drummer Morgan Rose, were targeting Coal Chamber frontman Dez Fafara. Morgan’s then-wife, Rayna Foss, had recently parted ways with Dez’s band, and the aftermath was rumoured to be acrimonious. However, talking to Hammer two decades years on from Enemy’s release, Lajon downplays the notion of a Sevendust/Coal Chamber shit-slinging match back in the day.
“I think that got taken out of context,” the frontman says. “People just ran with the whole Morgan and Rayna thing, and no one came out and said, ‘No, that’s not what it’s about!’ I think that [rivalry] was more just for the hype of it; the whole Dez thing was fun for the magazines.”
Since Enemy’s release, there have been conflicting statements over the feud. Although Lajon always kept his nose out of any public bear-poking, MTV reported that Morgan had some spiteful words for Dez in 2003. The drummer apparently stated that Enemy was at first called Pez, a derogatory nickname Morgan had for Coal Chamber’s leader.
“We called him that because I used to say, ‘I want to take this dude’s head and pull it back and rip his tongue out of his neck,’” he was quoted as saying. “He’s a horrible human being and he fucked my wife over real bad.”
Dez never retorted, however, commenting that he and Sevendust had always been friendly with each other. Morgan and Rayna’s daughter, Kayla, has since added that the mudslinging was the result of shoddy journalism.
“My dad and Dez are friends and have been for a long time,”she wrote in a 2022 Instagram post. Instead of being about Dez, Lajon explains that Enemy had more to say about Sevendust’s ambitions of conquering the musical landscape.
“That song was about the fact that we were going up against the whole world,” he says, “and it was for anyone who had an enemy or enemies and wanted to overcome.”
A testament to that world-beating manifesto, Sevendust were one of the few nu metal acts to hold their own as the genre slipped out of the mainstream in the early 2000s. Although their 2001 album, Animosity, saw them slump in the charts slightly (it reached No.28, down from the No.19 position of predecessor Home), they enjoyed several high-profile multimedia appearances. A clip of the band’s video for Waffle appeared in the Chris Rock movie Down To Earth that year, and in 2002 they went on The Late Show With David Letterman and entered into a partnership with pro-wrestling juggernaut WWE, covering the theme song of former world champion Chris Jericho for the company.
“It was such an exciting time for us,” Lajon remembers. “At the time that Enemy was being written, the band had so much excitement for our careers. It was the start of something that we thought was going to be very big.” Behind the scenes, though, the spectre of death loomed over Sevendust. Drowning Pool singer Dave Williams, a friend and former tourmate of the band, died as a result of cardiomyopathy on August 14, 2002. Then, on November 9, Lajon’s younger brother, Reginald, was shot and killed in Nashville, Tennessee, aged just 23. Sevendust were halfway across the United States in Minnesota that day.
“We were on tour with 30 Seconds To Mars opening for us,” Lajon says. “I remember, before my father called [to say that Reginald was killed], I couldn’t get out of bed that day. Something was going on, I knew it, but I didn’t know what it was. When my father told me what had happened to my brother, I couldn’t believe it, but he told me, ‘You do the show tonight, then you get on the plane and get here.’ I did three songs and couldn’t do anymore. I was rushed to the airport. I remember being on that plane, thinking, ‘Why couldn’t it have been me? Why did it have to be my baby brother?’”
Lajon and Reginald were extremely close. The singer had previously written the song Prayer, from Sevendust’s self-titled debut, about the pair praying together. The Animosity track Shine is about Reginald as well, and Lajon continues to dedicate the song to his late brother at live shows.
“I feel like his energy is still around us now,” he says. “I can continue his legacy by talking about him and never forgetting him.” Lajon denies that the ferocious lyrics of Enemy are actually targeted towards Reginald’s killers, explaining that they are meant to savage “bad people” in general. However, he acknowledges that the “shadow” of his brother and Dave’s deaths impacted the tone of the track. “It was very unfortunate the way that Dave passed away, and then my brother was executed,” he says. “So Enemy definitely touches base with things like that.”
When it came time to record, Enemy - along with the rest of its parent album, Seasons – was tracked with future Green Day and Pink producer Butch Walker in Ruby Red Studios, Atlanta. Lajon recalls that, off the back of Sevendust’s snowballing momentum, the production “was at a different level, a different scale”.
“I remember recording the last song on Seasons and this big, beautiful, white bus pulling up outside the studio to take us on tour,” he recalls. “It was the first time we had TVs in the bunks and we were like, ‘Oh my God! We’ve really made it now!’ We just knew that the future was bright.”
Enemy was released as the first single from Seasons and became Sevendust’s most successful single at the time, reaching No.10 in the US Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. In turn, Seasons became the band’s then-highest-charting album on its release on October 7, 2003, climbing to No.14 on the US Billboard 200. The single also continued Sevendust’s hot streak of mainstream support. WWE made the song the official theme tune of their September 2003 pay-per- view Unforgiven, before then using it in the marketing for the videogame SmackDown! Here Comes The Pain. Wrestler Chyna even had a starring role in the Enemy music video, portraying a bully character called Lu Lu who tries to fight a young, armless man.
“The director of the video [Adam Pollina] just came to us and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got the perfect thing: I have this little skit that I did with Chyna, the wrestler,’” Lajon explains. “Of course, we all loved wrestling back then – and the kid, the fighter, was also incredible.” He laughs: “That’s how you know the song didn’t have anything to do with Dez, because you’d have seen him getting beat up, too!”
Two decades on, Enemy has become a Sevendust mainstay, a song that seldom leaves their live sets. And even after all those years, Lajon still considers the song to be appropriate to his life today.
“[When I play Enemy] it conjures up emotions about the state the world is in right now: the people that think they know right from wrong but are just idiots,” the singer says. “I just turned 50 years old and I’ve realised there are a lot of people in my life
I never need to talk to again and I’ll be fucking perfectly fine.”
However, Lajon wants the track’s ultimate legacy to be that it helps empower his fans to stand up for themselves against whatever’s trying to keep them down.
“The nicest thing someone could say about Enemy is that it gave them the courage to stand up to a bully,” he says. “I’d hope that someone would say, ‘That song helped me be strong or pulled me out of a depression and let me know I can be something.’”
Originally printed in Metal Hammer #383