May 2013 03

Touring the States yet again, the industrial/metal powerhouse brings its latest mechanized masterpiece home in full force. Vocalist Burton C. Bell speaks with ReGen about the current path of The Industrialist.

An InterView with Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

Fear Factory has stood for over two decades as one of music’s most perfect merging of man and machine. Precision mechanical rhythms and industrialized soundscapes combine with the band’s most human elements of aggression and melody, topped off by intelligent lyrics detailing high science fiction concepts that have made the band one of the most unique entities in modern music. 2012’s The Industrialist saw the band embarking on a new mechanized adventure, detailing the struggle of a sentient automaton finding its purpose in the aftermath of a post-human age, driven by some of the most intensely fierce and truly industrial music the band has yet created. With the current lineup now having been touring for over a year and the band returning to the States after the album’s release, Fear Factory presents this bleak and prophetic vision to an audience ready to stomp to the beat of a new machine. Vocalist Burton C. Bell speaks with ReGen on The Industrialist and the album’s further progression into a new creative vision, as well as offering some insight into the nature of a breaking down music industry, the utilization of technology in music today, and even some thoughts on the current wave of science fiction cinema.

 

Fear Factory is on tour in the States yet again.

Bell: Yeah, it’s the first one we’ve done since the record’s been officially released.

Is it fair to say that this tour will feature more selections from The Industrialist?

Bell: Absolutely!

While past concept records were part of a sort of chronology, albeit not a linear one, The Industrialist stood on its own. Will there be any continuity in the story within the live set list?

Bell: No, we don’t do that. We’ll be playing three tracks from the new album, but they’ll be mixed in with all of our other songs to create a good live flow. That’s what we’ve always done. We’re not a performance art type of band. For Fear Factory, the live aspect of our shows is the energy and the intensity; making a good flow has always been the key to making a good concert.

The current lineup has existed since the last tour – well over a year. Now that they’ve had time to settle into the band, in what ways are they bringing out aspects of the music that perhaps past lineups didn’t?

Bell: Well, Matt DeVries – who is a guitar player for Chimaira – is playing bass for us. He’s an excellent performer, an excellent musician, and a killer friend too. The fact that he’s a guitar player makes him even more precise onstage; it makes the precision on bass even better. That’s what the bass has always done is follow the guitar, so the fact that we have a guitar player playing bass makes it even more precise, and that’s something that was lacking for a few years. You can hear the difference. Mike Heller is a fantastic drummer! He is a machine, a machine in human skin. He plays everything to perfection. The precision onstage is just perfect, and this is what Fear Factory has always strived for; not only a live intensity, but the precision of the songs and that they come across as crystal clear. They’ve nailed it. The fact that we’ve been together for over a year now means that everything’s moving along like clockwork. It’s just awesome!

The last record, The Industrialist was mostly you and Dino with Rhys in the studio. Now with DeVries and Heller making Fear Factory a well oiled machine in the live environment, is there any new writing going on?

Bell: Actually, I’m glad you asked that, because we’re going to be on the road for two months, and we’re going to take this opportunity to turn the back lounge of the bus into a studio. We’re going to utilize the fantastic software that’s out there now and the new tools that are available to musicians and bring them on the road with us because a studio can fit into a little back lounge now. We’re going to start writing the new record and just use the time that we have together and not have the stress of any timeline of a recording budget or studio budget going overtime. We’re here, we’re together, so let’s use this time wisely. We’re surrounded by music, so let’s create it.

On a side note, The Industrialist made ReGen Magazine’s Top 20 Albums of 2012.

Bell: That means a lot to me. There’s a lot of music that’s out there and the market is being saturated. The fact that we got recognized out of a plethora of bands means a lot. I appreciate that!

On your last tour, you toured with The Browning – a band noted for its incorporation of metal and dubstep. Being the technological band that Fear Factory is, what are your thoughts on music now as more people seem to be trying to step out of the convenience that technology afforded?

Bell: I think it’s half and half. There are some purists out there that don’t want to use the new technology because they feel it’s cheating. Granted, that’s how they feel and that’s fine; they’d rather do everything to their profession and their ability as well as they can. There are other bands, Fear Factory included, who see the technology as a new tool – not as a crutch, but as a new tool, and use it to their advantage; take the tool and see how far it can be pushed and see what else can be created with it. There are musicians and bands out there that take the tool and have no creativity and no talent and they create a record, and it’s like, ‘Whoa, I’m a musician now!’ It’s frustrating for me, but hey, they’re trying. There are musicians out there, like Trent Reznor who is one of them, who take the technology and push the envelope with the tools that they have. That’s what Fear Factory likes to do.

Regarding the writing process, which can change depending on the situation, as The Industrialist is its own story, how does that come about? What is the process for writing the music and then coming up with the lyrical concepts?

Bell: What we’ve been doing for these past records is that before we go into the studio, or before I go into the studio, I have a notebook in which I just jot down ideas or words that I think are inspirational or pertinent to the Fear Factory concept. I just have a notebook full of ideas, and when we go into the studio and start writing, Dino and I go through the book and see that there’s this, there’s that, and we start throwing words and concepts around and discussing ideas – even philosophizing at some points – and we find that inspires us. It inspires us musically but also inspires the concept to come around, so once we really start thinking about that, the most important aspect is coming up with the title of the record. It’s the title of the record that’s really going to inspire the concept of the story. Once we came up with the title of this album, it just fit perfectly with the concept of what we were trying to achieve sonically and it matched what we were thinking and how we were writing. I wrote the story after all the songs were finished. When the lyrics were done and the songs were done, it acted as a template for a story, an overview. It was like, ‘Here’s what’s going to happen, and here are the different parts and different thoughts. Let me put it all together.’

The deluxe edition of the album came with a booklet full of drawings – these storyboard sketches that you came up with.

Bell: Yeah, they were terrible. (Laughter)

The deluxe edition also came with the ‘Blush Response’ remix and the cover of Pitch Shifter’s ‘Landfill,’ while the Japanese edition came with the acoustic version of ‘Timelessness.’

Bell: Which I played guitar on.

Are there any plans to stretch this out? Will there be any sort of expansion on the artwork and such?

Bell: Absolutely, there’s going to be expansion! I’m working on that right now! I’m working with an artist named Noel Guard, who is a fantastic graphic artist. This whole past year, I was researching trying to find an artist to create the graphic novel of The Industrialist. I finally found this artist through connections that I had. We were introduced online, and it turns out that he’s a huge Fear Factory fan. He came to the show in London – I invited him because I saw his website, and after seeing his website, I said, ‘This is the guy!’ It was his Batman series that really just blew me away. So for the past couple of months since January, we’ve been working on the graphic novel of The Industrialist. The story that was written, he is putting images to that story. It’s fantastic! It will be finished by June 1, so he’s halfway done. The images that he’s creating are just blowing me away. I told him, ‘Man, you are creating exactly what I saw in my head.’ That’s going to be finished June 1, and then we’re going to search for a publisher. But The Industrialist graphic novel will be out this year! And he’s making it graphic too.

Are there plans to release some deluxe edition that will feature both album and graphic novel?

Bell: It’s certainly a possibility.

Are there any plans to do any kind of remix companion for The Industrialist? There didn’t seem to be just prior to its release, but with the ‘Blush Response’ remix, is it a possibility?

Bell: No plans of yet, but that could change. Maybe when we get the rights to our masters back, we can do that, which will be another two years. We just got the rights back to our masters for Mechanize, so maybe it’s something to consider for that album, and then when we get them back for The Industrialist, it’s something to consider as well.

That brings up the question that perhaps many underground artists don’t have to worry about thanks to self-releasing via Bandcamp and the like. What is that process like when you record and release an album, but you don’t have the rights to the masters? For instance, KMFDM and 16volt had to wait until they got the rights to their old album masters, and they’ve rereleased their back catalogs now, and Fear Factory had some issues with Roadrunner Records.

Bell: We’re still waiting on the masters for some of those Roadrunner albums too. But yeah, when you sign a record or you do a licensing contract, which Fear Factory does, the person putting it out is making a vested interest. That person wants to make sure they have a vested interest, and that’s just part of the record industry; whoever is releasing it only owns it for a certain time period. For me, that’s par for the course. In this day and age, you can make it to your advantage. In the old days, you’d have to sign it so that they’d own it for 10 to 15 years. Those days are over! Now, it’s for like three years. If you’re just doing a licensing deal, they can only own it for three years. So now, it’s just a matter of waiting, but during that time, you just keep working your record. As long as they have that vested interest, they’re going to try to keep selling it as well. Once you get that and you get your masters back, you can do whatever you like with it. It’s kind of like buying a car; it’s not really yours until you pay it off. You don’t get that title until it’s paid off. But of course, once you get that title, now it’s all up to you.

What else is on the horizon for you? Dino has his bands and you have Ascension of the Watchers and City of Fire. What’s going on with those projects?

Bell: I’m working on finishing up this graphic novel for The Industrialist. John Bechdel and I are working on a new Watchers album; we have several new recording ideas, which I’m really excited about. We’re going to continue trying to finalize those and ultimately having it out by the end of this year. I’m also building my new website, which will have my photography on it. There’s a software app that you can buy through Apple called Aperture with which you can create your own coffee table book. They print it up and you sell it, and I’m going to use that tool to my advantage and sell coffee table books of my photography. My website’s still being built, and the Watchers site is being built, so be on the lookout for those. I’ll probably make an announcement on the Fear Factory pages.

How have people been responding to the new material that you have performed live?

Bell: Well, we’re excited to finally get out on the road in the United States to support this record. There’s been a lot of positivity with Fear Factory; we’ve played some really good shows. I did do something new with my routine and I actually got through Skype some vocal coaching. And I’ve actually for the first time in my entire career learned some new things, and it’s actually helped my live performance immensely. I can think back now and think, ‘Wow, what a dumbass I was for never having done this before!’

Fear Factory has obviously taken a lot of influence from sci-fi films, and now we have films like Prometheus last year and Pacific Rim this year. What are your thoughts on sci-fi cinema now and what’s come out or is coming out that’s adding to your inspiration?

Bell: I loved Prometheus! I thought it was a great film, and to me, it was the true nature of science fiction, which was very philosophical. That’s what Ridley Scott does; he’s almost the Philip K. Dick of directors in that he takes the philosophy of science fiction and really pushes that envelope. I really enjoyed it. I really got it, and I connected with that film. I’m really looking forward to the second part of Prometheus – I wouldn’t say sequel because it’s more of a continuation of the story, not unlike Lord of the Rings. And I think Pacific Rim is going to be pretty cool. Science fiction has really come by leaps and bounds, and with CGI being so much improved… and I didn’t mind the 3-D aspect of Prometheus because it wasn’t a campy ‘coming at you’ kind of 3-D. It was immersing you into that screen, and Ridley Scott did that really well, and I thought that’s how it should be. It should be surrounding you and you should be in the film. Oblivion looks pretty cool even though it’s Tom Cruise; it still looks pretty cool, with a Minority Report vibe to it. That was a good movie, even though it had Tom Cruise in it. (Laughter) There was a trailer for a film that I can’t remember the name of, but it blew me away. It was about this man who became machine and he’s escaped and is being hunted down by the people that created him.

 

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