As everything around me went black, I found myself leaning back against the cold steel security railing in front of the stage. There was an electric tension in the air that was building like a tidal wave coming into shore and as those first heavy notes rang out and the red lights came up, the crowd surged forward and hit the railing with such devastating force that Dayton must have registered on the Richter Scale with McGuffy’s at the epicenter. With that, Fear Factory, bathed in crimson light, opened up their assault on the senses with soul crunching metal.
On tour promoting their latest album The Industrialist, vocalist Burton Bell was in top form. Bell has such a melodic singing voice that he can lure you in close before switching to a coarse growl delivered with such ferocity that it throat punches you and knocks you flat on your ass. At that same time guitarist Dino Cazares played riffs sharp enough to eviscerate you. Heavy, fast, loud, it is everything I love about music. To put it quite simply, on 4/26 Fear Factory delivered melodic metal served up with a heavy dose of brutality.
Having been properly warmed up by openers Kobra And The Lotus and Hate Eternal, who have joined The World Industrialist Tour as support, this Dayton crowd was chomping at the bit for the type of metal only Fear Factory can deliver. Watching out over the frenzied crowd was like staring out at the turbulen”t waves of an angry ocean, headbanging was going on in unison as Fear Factory provided fan favorites both new and old. Songs such as “Linchpin,” “Fear Campaign” and “Demanufacture” was acknowledged by many in the crowd, singing along word for word before a charged finale of “Replica” that proved that Fear Factory are a major force in the world of metal.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Dino after Fear Factory’s sound check to discuss the formative years of the band and the latest album.
I’ve always read, as far as the formation of Fear Factory, that Burton was brought on after you heard him singing in the shower…
It’s always prefaced with “allegedly”, so I didn’t know if that was actually a true story.
Dino: We met each other because we were all roommates. It was in Hollywood, right off of Hollywood Blvd, right in the heart of Hollywood, there was a house, and a friend of ours owned the house. He rented each room, there were like 7 or 8 rooms. It was considered a mini mansion. Burton was one of the roommates when I happened to move in. We had a mutual friend that lived there as well, a guy named Alex. Anyway, I was an aspiring guitar player, I was playing mostly grindcore, stuff like that, and one day I heard him singing in the shower. He was singing a U2 song. I just happened to be walking by the bathroom and was like ‘who’s singing?’ And he said I got Burt up there. I was still new to the house and I heard him singing, and Alex, my friend, was a drummer, and we all three started a band called Ulceration. We were doing really heavy industrial, Godflesh type stuff, Burt had a different voice, was doing a different voice, not death metal, not melodic, just somewhere in between. So we had a band called Ulceration and did a few demos. Then I met a drummer through a mutual friend, different drummer, and I was like this guy’s really good, I think I should start another band. So me and Burt started this newer band and we got this other guy, different drummer, so we started another band which turned in to Fear Factory. At this time we were still doing the Godfleshy thing mixed with a little bit of death metal and Burt was just doing heavy vocals and one day it was like he just started singing how he did in the shower. Just came out, and I went ‘Whoa, what was that? Do it again!’ And that’s how the formula started.
I’ve noticed that Fear Factory, as a band, has never been afraid to try new things. So how would you say the sound of Fear Factory has evolved from the first album up to this current one?
Dino: Good question. That’s a really hard question. Back when we first started, we started out as a heavy death metaly kind of band and we had melodic vocals, which made us stand out. So we weren’t really afraid … in some ways musically we’re like ‘Ok, to be accepted in the scene we need to stay this way musically, but we want to stand out’ so we added the clean vocals and we knew we were taking a chance. So it just obviously progressed, our song writing got better, Burt’s vocal style got better. We started to not be afraid to combine different styles together. So, ya know, now we just kind of like pretty much stick to the formula as far as melodic chorus’s and heavy verses. We try to use different combinations of songwriting. So that’s how it kind of evolved. We’ve always been a band with great production. Technologies gotten better, so we’re able to make records with a laptop and this little machine over here (he’s referring to a portable recording studio).
That leads me to the next question. How did the recording of The Industrialist differ from the recording of past albums?
Dino: Not much. The only difference is that we used a drum machine, a drum program for the whole album. That was the only difference. In the past we’ve used, obviously, drum machines and drum programs to enhance our sound or to create certain parts on the record. So, this record we decided, hey, let’s go back to using—because we didn’t have a drummer—a drum program for the whole album. It’s not the first time we’ve done it.
There is actually a story behind The Industrialist?
Dino: Correct. The story behind The Industrialist: the Industrialist is an actual automaton who was created in a factory. It’s a robot, for lack of better words. A humanized robot. A robot that’s humanized…he looks human, his mind is…everything he sees and everything he learns, it’s like a human. Basically it just stores the things that it learns in it’s memory banks, so it actually has memories. You know what I mean? In other words, sitting here talking to you, the automaton would remember that it was talking to you. That’s how it becomes more human. It has emotions because the way it learns like a human, and the way it stores it, it kind of like picks up human emotions and as it exists longer and longer, the more it learns and the more information it’s got, the more humanized it gets. So, once he, somehow he figures out he’s an automaton, coz he thinks he’s human, figures out he’s an automaton he decides to go back and meet it’s creator to try to extend his life, because obviously all robots have a shelf life. Even humans. So he wants to extend his shelf life longer than x amount of years. That’s pretty much what the story is about.
You have always been ahead of the curve as far as sound, pretty much everything you have put out you’ve been the first to do. So what bands influenced Fear Factory?
Dino: The bands that influenced us was obviously bands like Ministry, Godflesh was a big influence, Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM. On the metal side, anything that was metal, ya know, from the death metal scene to the speed metal scene, thrash metal, black metal, all that’s pretty much influenced us. Even pop…even stuff like The Beatles, stuff like that would help us with song structures. So all that stuff has influenced us. It’s hard to say one thing is a major influence.
So when you hear bands like Static X or Rob Flynn of Machine Head say that Fear Factory was an influence for them, how does that make you guys as a band or you as an individual feel?
Dino: It still makes me feel very extremely honored, but we’ve heard it from them a bazillion times (laughing). But still it’s an honor.
Have you ever had a band say Fear Factory was an influence and when you hear the band you’re like, man, I wish they hadn’t even said our name?
Dino: No. I think the newer generation of kids forget where the influence came from. Because a lot of them will be like ‘I’m influenced by Killswitch Engage,’ then if you’re influenced by Killswitch Engage you gotta know what came first before Killswitch Engage. And a lot of kids don’t know the history of where this style started from.
You mentioned earlier about Burton’s vocal style…
Dino: That’s one of the main things that when you think of Fear Factory, the second thing is the guitar riffs and the syncopated riffs with the kick drums. That’s pretty much our signature sound. When we were creating our sounds, Burt’s melodic vocals, and then the guitar riff syncopated with the kick drums, we were trying to emulate a machine. That’s what we were trying to do.
Looking at your tour schedule, you’re playing several consecutive days, with no real break til July…
Dino: Like a BREAK break? (laughing) Well, a lot of stuff’s not up there yet. Stuff is being added every day. The last show is June 8, we’re off for a few weeks. We’re supposed to go to Australia, but we’ll see what happens with that, in July.
With some of Burt’s growls and stuff, doing so many shows, does that wear on him?
Dino: Of course it does.
Have you had to cancel shows or just go on anyway?
Dino: Cancel shows, no. We don’t like to do that. We have canceled shows if it’s a super necessity, but we don’t like to do that. We do our best to try and make it happen. If Burt’s gotta go to the doctor, he’s gotta go to the doctor, if he’s gotta get a shot, he’s gotta get a shot. Sometimes the doctor will say you really shouldn’t go out there and do it, but he’ll go out there and do it anyways. That’s just the nature of the beast, man.
And you guys will be doing the 70,000 Tons Of Metal Cruise?
What exactly is that? I’ve seen the ones where 80’s metal bands do cruises down to the Caribbean, is that similar in nature?
Dino: Very similar in nature. 70,000 Tons Of Metal started four year ago. We did the first one. It’s extremely fun, basically you’re on a cruise ship with all metal fans. It’s just a traveling party on a boat. Everybody’s cool, everybody’s nice, all the fans are respectful.
Sounds like I need to get on that.
Dino: Yes. There’s a lot of magazines that go on it, yeah. A lot of video programs.
I know you, especially, have been into side projects. Anything going on now?
Dino: The only side project I have going on is Asesino, which is Spanish death metal, and Divine Heresy. We’re gonna be releasing records all next year. New Fear Factory record, new Asesino record, new Divine Heresy record. So I got three albums coming out next year. I don’t know how I’m going to tour with all three of those bands…
Dino: Dino Fest. Fear Fest. Fear Fest! Coming to you in 2014…where? We don’t know…