As we are now in the year of 2019, once heralded in sci-fi as a dystopian future, Front Line Assembly offers one of the band’s most diverse albums yet, with Rhys Fulber inviting ReGen‘s reader’s into its creative process.
An InterView with Rhys Fulber of Front Line Assembly
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Since the band’s inception in 1986, Front Line Assembly has risen to become virtually synonymous with electro/industrial music. Through changing trends, Bill Leeb and his ever evolving contingent of collaborators and band mates have helped to shape the face of the genre, addressing themes of technological upheaval, sociopolitical unrest, and their effects on a humanity whose survival remains in question. With Rhys Fulber often seen as the second half of FLA’s core even as he’s come and gone from the band’s activity, his influence has remained a vital component of the group’s sound and methodology, returning for the latest album, Wake Up the Coma. Featuring guest performances from the likes of Jimmy Urine (Mindless Self Indulgence), Robert Görl (D.A.F.), Chris Connelly (Revolting Cocks), and Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost), as well as songwriting contributions from regular associates, Wake Up the Coma has proven one of FLA’s most diverse offerings, incorporating elements of modern EDM and synthwave into the band’s sonic palette. Fulber now speaks with ReGen Magazine about the album’s creation, touching on Front Line Assembly’s creative process, the backstory of the cover of Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus,” the lasting impression the late Jeremy Inkel has had on the band, and life in the dystopian future of 2019, with just a hint of what is yet to come.
Wake Up the Coma features several notable guest performances – Robert Görl, Jimmy Urine, Nick Holmes, and Chris Connelly. Would you tell us about how they each came to be part of this album? Were their respective songs written with them in mind? How did their contributions affect the original outlook for those tracks?
Fulber: It sort of evolved with the record. I know with the ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ cover Bill wanted to do, he right away wanted a guest vocal and after that came out nicely, it opened the door to try more. He also set up the collaboration with Robert. He just sent us some sequences he recorded and then I pieced them together and we filled out the rest. Bill has been bringing in Ian Pickering to co-write some vocals and we loved his idea for ‘Wake Up the Coma,’ but thought it needed a different voice. I know Nick well and asked him and he did a great job. As for Chris, we had just done the RevCo tour with him and we had a more ambient piece we thought he could dial in as well. It elevated those songs for sure.
As well as the guests, the writing team for FLA has featured regular contributions from Sasha Keevill, Jared Slingerland, and Ian Pickering. Having worked with Bill Leeb on and off over the last 30 years, what do you feel these other individuals bring to the table that stimulates the partnership of FLA for you?
Fulber: It’s variety – I like hearing fresh takes on things and they started ideas I don’t think we would’ve. We did go through everything and give it the required ‘FLA’ touches, but in general, it’s nice to have a big pot to pull from. It also keeps us from looking backward too much.
Two of my favorite tracks on the album, ‘Mesmerized’ and especially ‘Structures’ include Jeremy Inkel as a co-writer; if it’s not too personal, could you reflect on his contribution to FLA over the years and in what ways his absence affected the band’s approach to the album? As well, since he had a part in writing them, what was the process for creating or completing these two songs?
Fulber: I didn’t write directly with Jeremy too much, so I can’t say a lot on that, but I toured with him and he was a sweet energetic guy who was always up for it. He had sent those demos to Bill before we started, and after his unexpected passing, we thought it would be great to finish them as we know he wanted them on the record. We treated them as all the other ones ‘the team’ submitted, but they just have this extra feeling in them because Jeremy is no longer around. We really miss him and his exuberance on the road.
A hundred times over this has to have been asked, but ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ does seem (at face value anyway) a rather uncharacteristic choice for FLA to cover, and you all covered it rather faithfully. How did you all as a band approach this song?
Fulber: This was something Bill had talked about for a little while and we finally just went for it. We had often made half jokes about covering some hyper Germanic pop songs, like ‘…Amadeus’ and ‘Eins Zwei Polizei’ by Modo when we are on tour in Germany, and I guess Bill being Austrian felt more affinity to ‘…Amadeus.’ We had done a heavier version before more in the Hard Wired style and decided to make it in slightly more electro in the end. Of course, Jimmy did such a great job in channeling Falco; I feel that is what makes it more faithful. It’s nice to make a record that’s a bit more fun after all this time.
We are now in the year 2019 (Blade Runner, AKIRA, etc.). As FLA’s music has often explored themes of sociopolitical and technological upheaval, what are your thoughts now as we pass through time – in other words, how our perceptions of ‘progress’ and ‘the future’ change as the fictions of the past come and go?
Fulber: A lot of our dystopian fiction appears to be coming true, so it seems we will never have a shortage of material to draw from. Also, time is different now than it was 20 years ago. It seems like nothing goes in and out of style in music and other art forms now, so it really is the Mad Max era of fashioning together all sorts of things picked from various times – like scavenging materials and technology in the post-apocalyptic desert of our culture. It’s like having everything at once on demand. I feel we as a whole will start to collapse under the weight of this.
What’s next for FLA? The band has been regularly touring… will we see Wake Up the Coma performed on the road?
Fulber: We are looking into options for this, so stay tuned.
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