20 years of mechanical metal madness and the Fear Factory still runs strong. Guitarist Dino Cazares speaks with ReGen about the band’s history culminating in their latest opus, The Industrialist.
An InterView with Dino Cazares of Fear Factory
By: Ilker Yücel
For two decades, Fear Factory has stood as the ultimate bridge between the gap of the organic and the synthetic, combining the human touch of extreme metal with the cold mechanization of industrial and electronic music. The duo of vocalist Burton C. Bell and guitarist Dino Cazares has–since the release of the 1992 debut, Soul of a New Machine–excelled at producing a sound as brutal as it is emotional, with the steely precision of the industrial machine being given a voice that addresses all of humanity’s most heartfelt concerns. Inspired by the likes of Godflesh, Pitchshifter, and Ministry and later influencing bands like Static-X and Machine Head, Fear Factory has stood apart as an entity unto itself: not quite industrial, not quite metal, but representing a virulent marriage between the two, driven by Cazares’ machine gun riffs and Bell’s melding of death growls and clean melody. With such concept albums as Demanufacture, Obsolete and Digimortal detailing the eventual subjugation of humanity by the very technology it created for its benefit, the band has been the musical equivalent of a prophetic sci-fi nightmare akin to the Terminator, Robocop, and Matrix movies. With this year’s release of The Industrialist, Fear Factory takes its concept to its apex: stripped down to the core duo of Bell and Cazares and with longtime de facto member/producer Rhys Fulber (of Front Line Assembly fame) at the helm, the album presents this violent and decrepit future from the machine’s point of view, detailing a story of an automaton borne of the advances of the technological age attaining sentience and eventually being the source of man’s demise. The vocals and the riffs are as heavy as ever, pleasing fans of the band and the genre while also presenting a distinguishably heavier inclusion of electronics and synthesis, even employing a drum machine for the first time on record. ReGen had the opportunity to speak with founding member Dino Cazares while on the Noise in the Machine Tour to discuss the band’s evolution over the last 20 years, culminating in the concept and music presented on The Industrialist.
On the new album, The Industrialist, in what ways did using a drum machine instead of a live drummer affect the songwriting process?
Cazares: The songwriting process was much quicker, much more efficient, much more cost-effective. Obviously, a band like Fear Factory has always embraced the technology from the beginning. We’ve always been open about it, we’ve always talked about it, we’ve always talked about guys like Rhys Fulber helping us out ever since Fear is the Mind Killer, which was after Soul of a New Machine. We’ve embraced all that. Most people are saying, ‘Well, them using drum programming is no different,’ because it doesn’t really sound any different. They can expect it from a band like Fear Factory. Again, it’s very cost-effective.
The way music is going today, a lot of people don’t really make much money anymore unless you’re a big radio band or something like that. But for metal bands like us, we make most of our money just on touring and selling merchandise. As far as CDs and stuff like that, record companies are not giving much advances anymore, so you have to find ways to cut corners financially to try to save money. But this is nothing new for us, again at the same time, because when me and Burt did our first demo back in 1990, it was with a drum machine. We had three songs and it was with a drum machine; it was me and Burton in our apartment, a one-bedroom apartment, and Burt was singing in the bathroom to get that reverb effect, and a friend of ours named John Fenton, who was a manager for a lot of bands. Anyways, he had an eight–track recorder, and we did everything. Yeah, I did guitar and bass. We used a little Boss Dr. Drum machine, and Burt sang in the shower, and that’s how it was. So it’s nothing new for us; we started that way. Then, obviously other people came in and we kind of progressed into a more metal band (or death metal band), but we did have some industrial elements; Burt, obviously, with the melodic vocals, which has inspired bazillions of bands. It wasn’t until we met Rhys Fulber that we did the remix album Fear is the Mind Killer, which was in 1992. And that was when we were like, ‘OK, Rhys can afford all this technology. Let’s bring it in. Let’s embrace it. Let’s use it.’ Ever since then, we’ve always gotten criticized for it. We’ve always gotten criticized, because most metal fans, at the time back in ‘92, it was not really well known in metal to do that kind of stuff. I’ll put it this way, it wasn’t really spoken about. Bands have used other members and other stuff–samplers and stuff like that–to do certain things, but they just never talked about it; they never brought it to anybody’s attention. We embraced it, and that has always kind of like always been like our concept.
What are your thoughts on Fear Factory’s influence on the way metal bands are using technology and how that’s affected the way people perceive your music?
Cazares: There are a lot of bands that are using laptops; I call them the laptop kids. They’re just writing music on laptops. You hear it in a lot of people’s music today. The Browning, one of the bands we’ve brought on tour with us, the guy was just telling me that most of the stuff was done on a drum program as well on their laptops. Every band you can think of is doing it nowadays. Fear Factory is still Fear Factory. No matter how much more of these elements that we incorporate into our music, it’s still Fear Factory. It’s still got the mechanical vibe to it. It’s still got the machine gun riffs, killer double bass, and of course Burt’s great vocals, so it’s always going to appeal to those metal fans, I think.
The new album seems to be a return to a futuristic concept or story, whereas Mechanize was focused more on contemporary issues and how the futuristic concerns of the past are actually happening now. Why was this?
Cazares: There was still sort of a mechanical feel to it; conceptually, there still was. It was more of just what’s going on right now. We’ve always incorporated that stuff in all of our records, of what’s going on right now. Like Demanufacture, for instance. We had riots, the Rodney King riots; we had fires; we had floods; we had earthquakes, all within that time, all within that period from 1992 to 1994. So, when Demanufacture came along, that was the perfect title for what was going on in where we were at, where we lived in LA. We just saw the destruction that was going on around us. Thousands and thousands of acres were being burned; people’s homes were being burned. Then we had floods, because they were all the trees that would normally block the water, and people’s houses were sliding down the hill. And then we’d have earthquakes and all the land had been loosened because of all the floods and fires, and it was just destruction. It was like, ‘OK, maybe it was Mother Nature’s way of saying get rid of the old and come up with something new.’ That’s when Demanufacture came along, and that was just the perfect theme, title and sound for that moment. Soul of a New Machine was the record that started it; Demanufacture was the record that changed it.
There’s kind of a big contradiction in Obsolete, because when we did the record Obsolete, we used a lot of technology, but we wanted to make it sound as human as possible. So in some ways, Obsolete kind of had a more organic, natural feeling, a darker kind of tone, whereas Demanufacture just had this fucking cold, bleak, fucking end of the world fucking type of tone to it, like a well-oiled steel machine, a surgical steel machine. Obsolete, we just wanted it more organic, but we wanted to incorporate a concept, because we had been talking about it for years. ‘We’d love to do it, we’d love to do it,’ but we’d done so much touring on those records that finding the time was always hard. It wasn’t until Obsolete that Burt actually sat down and wrote a concept for it. Basically, all the technology that man has created to help turned against him, and man was becoming obsolete. And it’s still that way today. Radio DJs, they don’t exist anymore; it’s all programmed. Automobile corporations; it’s all machines. Computers have taken control over our job situations; that’s why a lot of people are out of jobs. ‘Fuck, why do I need to hire you? I can just program it all on the computer.’ Same thing with using a drum program on the record. Why do I need to pay some guy $15,000 when I can just do it?
Not unlike Obsolete, The Industrialist comes with a booklet of images and text, correct?
Cazares: Yes, Burt did a bunch of sketches of what he envisioned. I don’t know how many pages it is. It’s over 20 pages. I think true fans who are into it will really get into the story and stuff like that, and maybe have their own opinions about it, which we’re hoping that people will. It’s something to talk about; it’s really cool. We don’t want to divulge too much, because then I’m just telling you the whole story and you’re not going to go and read it.
What did prompt the departure of drummer Gene Hoglan and bassist Byron Stroud between this album and the last?
Cazares: Well, Gene is busy. Deathklok is his main band, so whenever Deathklok calls, that’s what he does. As you know, Gene’s in everybody’s band; he’s not just in our band. We just happened to be lucky and have him for that one year. He’s excellent, an excellent drummer; he’s probably the best drummer I know. Me and Burt took a year off and Byron decided to join Three Inches of Blood, so that’s where he went. So me and Burton just decided to hire a couple of other guys. We got Matt DeVries from Chimaira, and we got Mike Heller from a band called Malignancy. Excellent musicians!
Will Matt or Mike be contributing in the studio in the future?
Given the conceptual nature of many of your albums, why has that never extended into your live shows?
Cazares: We should have a big ol’ Terminator, like Eddie from Iron Maiden.
People would expect that, though.
Cazares: A lot of that has to do with money, as well. Yeah, there are cheap ways of doing it, but unfortunately, in this day and age, we don’t have the kind of money to afford that kind of technology. We would love to have a video wall behind us, but that’s like really expensive to rent and just to put together.
Tell us about your other bands and how you are able to distinguish what you do in one project versus another.
Cazares: Well, the only bands that I’m really focusing on right now are Fear Factory, Divine Heresy and Asesino. Asesion, we’re halfway done with the record, and with Divine Heresy, we’ve got five songs. I believe that my style is my style. You’re going to hear it in everything I do, but whenever you’re working on a project, the main thing is you just have to try to focus on that thing. For instance, Asesino is more death metal, horror, Satanic, a little bit of that…a little bit of filthiness in there. So we just try to write stuff that’s just fun and try not to think about it too much. We just try to write stuff that’s going to be catchy and fun and fit into the concept of that style of music. When I’m doing Divine Heresy, that’s much faster, it’s much more technical, and a lot more noodling on the guitar, so we keep it that way. Obviously, Fear Factory is more mechnical, more cold, more bleak, more futuristic; just repetitive riffs and fast picking.
Since Mechanize, you’ve started using 8–string guitars as well as your usual 7–strings. What are the advantages of using the 8–string guitar?
Cazares: Well, somebody’s actually building me an 11–string guitar, believe it or not. I have a friend in Poland making me one. One of the cool things about using the 8–string guitar is that you can actually–I haven’t done it yet–transpose all of the records. On each record, there are different tunings. Soul of a New Machine and Demanufacture were in B–tuning. Obsolete, Digimortal and Mechanize were in A. The Industrialist is in A as well, but there is also F–sharp on some of those, so that’s where the 8–string comes in, because the cool thing is you can play all of those songs on one guitar. But you have to totally rethink how you wrote those songs, because you’ve got to change them, because the notes are in different spots. But I don’t do that. When I travel overseas, I’ll just take the 8–string and maybe one 7–string, and with the 8–string, I can do most of the set. I’m more of a 7–string guy than I am an 8–string; the 8–strings I usually only have one or two songs on a record.
So it was more of just an experiment to use it on Mechanize?
Cazares: Yeah, just to go for some lower tunings or something really different.
What can you tell us about additional songs not featured on The Industrialist? Why has there not been a remix album since Remanufacture in ‘96?
Cazares: There was a point where it started to become trendy, so we stopped doing it. Obviously, when something becomes really trendy, people overdo it and just kill it. So we’ve kind of stayed somewhat away from that. There are dubstep elements, but it’s not dubstep on some of the remixes that we have on the B-sides that are going to be in certain packaging. Japan will get different stuff, Europe will get different stuff, and the USA will get different stuff. We have to split it up; each territory always wants something different. Australia wants something different, Japan wants something different; we don’t want the same in the USA, so we’re going to give you something different. It’s always like that. Hopefully, I’m sure you’ll find them online somewhere. Some of the stuff might not get released until who knows when…might be saved for a movie or a video game or something.
You mentioned video games, and Fear Factory has a long history of contributing music to video games. Can you tell us about that?
Cazares: We did so many video games. I think we hold the record for the most songs on video games; it was over 30. There are a lot of offers for small-time movies, commercials, some video games, some just online video games. We have always been a part of that, and we’re open to any of that stuff.
So what’s next for Fear Factory?
Cazares: Touring, touring, touring, touring. We’re pretty much booked all the way up to December 18th.
We’re going to be flying over to Europe, and we start all the summer festival tours in Europe up until July… oh, I’m sorry, into June. Then we’ll do Japan, Australia and New Zealand; come back and we’ll do another European tour with us and Devin Townsend, which starts in late October, November and part of December.
What’s a typical routine like for the band on tour?
Cazares: A routine that’s typical for us is just to make sure that you pack the necessities. Baby wipes are a necessity, because you don’t always get showers; you’ve got to use baby wipes. Make sure you pack enough socks and underwear. You know, you can wear the same pants or the same shorts; us guys will wear them for a few days, but you’ve got to change your underwear and your socks. That’s pretty much how I prepare for a tour.
Any major tour memories?
Cazares: We were in the front lounge. We’re all hanging out, partying, having a few drinks; some of the guys decide to drink Jack Daniels, and I was like, ‘Oh god, that’s so nasty.’ There’s a guy who sleeps above me in my bunk, and I sleep in the middle bunk. He was getting up in his bunk and went ‘Blaaargh’ all over my bunk. I came to open my curtain to go to sleep and I had all this throw-up on my fucking hands.
Rock and roll, man.
Cazares: But you know what, I was so fucked up that I went to sleep and I woke up with throw up on my arm and I said, ‘Fuck it.’ Luckily, he was nice enough to wash everything.
I would hope so.
Cazares: I had to take a shower and it stank pretty bad. Those are the things that happen when you’re on tour.