Shot for Metal Hammer at Sword And Stone, Burbank, California. Many thanks to Tony who makes all the cool weapons!
Tag-Archive for » Fear Factory «
The traffic on Sunset Boulevard crawls along like a sick dog. It’s late on a Friday afternoon, rush hour, so it would probably be quicker to walk, but, nonetheless, any self-respecting metal fan who happened to be passing the Standard Hotel would doubtless do a double-take that would cause the slowest car crash in history. Sitting at a table by the bar are Burton C Bell and Dino Cazares, laughing and sharing a few beers while the fella downstairs with the horns and all the best tunes is apparently skating to work.
In 2002 Burton and Dino’s band Fear Factory, the band they formed together in 1989, one of the most influential metal bands of the last 20 years, abruptly broke up. Words were spoken. Harsh words. The kind of words that are very difficult to take back. Put in simple terms, Burton and Dino fucking hated each other and everyone knew about it. Later the same year the band returned minus Dino. Christian Olde Wolbers had moved to guitar while Byron Stroud of Strapping Young Lad took his place on bass. Completed by drummer Raymond Herrera they made two studio albums, Archetype and Transgression, both good albums, but somehow lacking the spark of the original line-up, and then in 2006 they went of indefinite hiatus, drifting off to other projects. It was a sad, disappointing end to a truly great band, just fizzling out like a cheap firework.
And then in April of this year the impossible happened and the aforementioned dude downstairs noticed a distinct change in the weather. Burton and Dino announced the reformation of Fear Factory, retaining Stroud on bass, but bringing in legendary skinbasher Gene Hoglan on drums, effectively a new line up of the band with two of it’s original members. And weirdly, Metal Hammer has just got the blame for it.
“This is your fault!” laughs Burton. “This all because of you! You took the photo!”
Perhaps we should explain: In April 2008 Burton was out on the road with Ministry providing guest vocals on their final tour and Metal Hammer was out with them for an Access All Areas feature. After the first of two LA shows at the House Of Blues there was a backstage party, well lubricated, though not boisterous, a lot of toasts being knocked back to Ministry’s departed bassist Paul Raven. A snapshot of Burton and Dino from the party ran in Metal Hammer with a caption like ‘here’s a picture we never thought we’d see’.
“Is that what they said?” grins Burton today. “Oh my God! Dino and I were good friends before we even got a band together and we were friends throughout the whole thing, but things happen in relationships. It got to a point in my life where, honestly, I’m not mad anymore and I just wanted to talk to him.”
“That was the first time we’d talked to each other in six years!” says Dino of the Ministry aftershow. “He goes “are you still an asshole?” and I go ”yeah, are you still an asshole?” and he goes “yeah, let’s go and get a beer!”
Neither side goes into the reasons for their break up, hatched have been buried, but Burton will admit that it was strange playing in the band without Dino and that it was done “more out of necessity than want”.
“I guess I just needed to step away and do something else for a while,” he shrugs.
It was equally weird for Dino went to see Fear Factory live, an experience that, let’s face it, must be like watching someone else shag your ex-girlfriend.
“I think that goes for the other guys!” chuckles Dino, an in joke with Burton. “But it was weird the first time. I definitely did a double take because I honestly thought it was me playing guitar. Like Burton’s said before Archetype was just a copy. But I could actually pick out where Christian had taken riffs off the old albums and then when I saw them live Christian’s guitar went out and all sorts of shit happened.”
Weren’t you secretly pleased?
“Yes and no,” says Dino. “I never really thought it because I always knew that somewhere down the line there was gonna be a change.”
“To be fair,” says Burton, “in the beginning, when we started up again it felt good for a moment and the ideas were good, but then other elements came into play and everything started going wrong and it went to a place I didn’t want to be. After a while it just wasn’t right.”
A lot of water has been passed since then: while Burton was out with Ministry, a once in a lifetime experience, and making two albums with Ascension Of The Watchers, Dino was building a name for Divine Heresy and continuing with Brujeria as well as performing with the Roadrunner All-Stars. They’ve learned some new tricks in the six years they’ve been apart and the upshot of it all is that Fear Factory are back with ‘Mechanize’ their seventh and arguably most important studio album. Or at least they should be. But it’s not that simple since former bandmates Christian and Raymond are claiming ownership of the Fear Factory moniker.
“There’s a lawsuit still pending and we’ve taken legal steps,” says Burton. “I can’t really talk about it, but I’m doing everything in my power and at this point it’s 50/50. I’m not gonna try the case in the public media, that’s up to the courts to decide, but we’re doing everything that we have the right to do. There’s always the chance that we’ll lose, but we’ve followed the correct procedure and technically we’re right.”
“One of the things people don’t understand,” adds Dino, “is that Burton actually reached out to those guys to put the band back together and for whatever reasons they turned it down, so Burt let them know that we were moving on without them and we have every right to do that.”
Unfortunate band politics aside, however, this is the band’s most important album since their 1992 debut Soul Of A New Machine, not least because it kicks major ass, but also because it serves as a much needed reminder that Fear Factory are originators in the scene, particularly with Burton’s much copied vocal style. There really was nothing like it when Fear Factory first came out.
“Yeah, Burton’s vocal style is in everything now and some of those bands don’t even know where it came from!” exclaims Dino. “Now with us coming back people are probably gonna be like “oh they sound like this band”, but we’ve been doing this a long time! We also pay respects to who we were influenced by and we give them credit and that’s what other bands don’t do because they’re afraid to or they just don’t know.”
“I try not to think about it,” shrugs Burton. “Obviously I see it, but I try not to think about it. When I hear bands doing that I’m like, “I’ve heard that before”. But you know what? I’m not disappointed because if they were more original then I’d have no job! It is what it is. I get disappointed with the music industry for pushing something that’s not really that original and forcing it down people’s throats. Some fans have asked me if I’m pissed off that some of these bands are bigger than us and have more money than us and I might be, but in the long run I’ll be around longer than they will.”
Indeed. Despite having just flown into LA yesterday after a tour with his other band City Of Fire, Burton insists that Fear Factory is the priority. They’ll spend the next week hunkered down in their LA rehearsal studio, honing the new tunes and getting them spot on for their forthcoming live shows before unleashing them on the public.
“I think kids are gonna love this album because they’ve been primed by bands that are good, but they’re not really all that original,“ says Burton. “This is how it’s done. It’s about how it’s done, with conviction and wish passion and it’s real. I think kids will notice that there’s nothing fake about this. As a kid growing up I could recognize that.”
It’s difficult ‘not’ to recognize that in Fear Factory. While Dino says he’s “mellower and more understanding” these days and Burton says he has “less hair and more wrinkles”, the ferocity of the band has gone nowhere and if anything ‘Mechanize’ is even more intense than their previous work.
“This album has a very social outlook, but that’s always been the case,” says Burton. “I never wanted to touch on actual politics because I don’t wanna be that hardcore preacher on stage, talking all the time between songs. But it’s all of the above, it’s conservatives, liberals, the police, the Catholic Church, the atheist’s, everybody! Lyrically I just wanted to be realistic.”
It doesn’t get much more real than tracks like Christploitation, a scathing attack on organized religion with shades of their 1995 classic Pisschrist, or the aptly named Final Exit, the last track on the album, which concerns the Final Exit Network, an online group who assist in suicides for the terminally ill.
“Where is the logic that suicide is a crime?” questions Burton. “And if someone helps you then that’s a crime. We spend billions of dollars killing people and keeping them in jail! Why can’t all that money find a cure for cancer? Because there’s no money in the cure. And that’s what American society is based on, it’s all money, and the government is a corporation. If you believe that you can vote for someone who will listen to you, it’s a fucking lie!”
And for those that perhaps sniggered about Burton’s ongoing lyrical obsession with technology taking over…Well, guess what? He was right.
“It’s happening, man vs machine,” he insists, his phone choosing that moment to ring as further proof. “There’s cars that park themselves and more and more jobs have become obsolete. The world is becoming a mechanized piece of machinery and we’re all becoming a piece of the machine. And if you’ve got a job then it doesn’t matter who you are because you can easily be replaced and probably be replaced by a machine. There’s no need to talk about a future when the future I’m talking about is here today. It’s fucking scary! The world is a fear factory. I like using the metaphor of Fear Factory being a machine: it was a machine that was built in 1990, it’s done some miles and parts have been changed or replaced, but sometimes you have to find the exact model to make it run with full efficiency.”
So how long’s it gonna last before it blows up? Burton and Dino exchange glances:
“We’re lifers.” says Dino simply.
“I remember walking down the street with Dino before we ever stated Fear Factory and saying “you and I can can go far!”’ grins Burton. “It’s chemistry and Dino and I create a chemistry that works!”
Indeed you do, sirs. Welcome back!
Fear Factory – Los Angeles, CA November 2009