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Interview

Fear Factory Reconstruction Part 2 (Obsolete Through Genexus)

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Band Photo: Fear Factory (?)

Following up with what Rex_84 did with Dino on Fear Factory's spring tour, it felt right to cover the rest of Fear Factory's history with Burton C. Bell as he is the sole member of Fear Factory to be present through the band's entire history.

We touched on Obsolete, touring with Machine Head and what exactly goes on at Gathering of the Juggalos which actually managed to viscerally disturb Burt. My main regret was not asking about the World Magnetic Tour with Metallica but the tour manager was watching me like a hawk the whole time and counting the minutes and I wanted to be concise so I cut that question out but thankfully everything else I wanted to ask made it in.

Matt: I'm here with Burt of Fear Factory.

Burt: Hello.

Matt: How's the tour going?

Burt: So far it's going pretty well.

Matt: I know that Darren just did an interview with Dino.

Burt: Who's Darren?

Matt: The other guy from metalunderground.com from Texas.

Burt: Okay. Alright.

Matt: He went through your history through “Demanufacture.” Let's talk “Obsolete.” It feels like that album was written today. You have a government that has all your e-mails and these crazy police incidents where a cop runs over a guy who he's tasked with finding in Massachusetts, SWAT teams are going after unarmed protesters in Missouri, a teenage girl gets shot in a car chase in Colorado, a guy gets shot for having a broken tail light in South Carolina and here in Chicago we have our own version of Gitmo.

Burt: Chicago police have always had issues. The fact that information is able to be relayed instantly... This shit's been going on for a really long time. It's just that technology's relayed quicker so when this happens you have the story or the video happen so it's just becoming more apparent. It used to be not transparent. It's always been happening. Police, military, authority figures in general have always been predatory towards the poor and the classless.

Matt: On the tour for Obsolete, you toured with Slayer and Rob Zombie. What was that like?

Burt: It was rad. First was Zombie with Monster Magnet. We were direct support for Slayer. That was just a great tour. Kilgore was on that. Just great times and great people.

Matt: When you did the Gary Neuman, “Cars” cover, how did you get Nary Neuman to agree to do it with you?

Burt: It was weird. Well, not weird. It all started when we were touring for “Demanufacture” in Europe and there was this Heiniken commercial that was using, “Cars” as its commercial song and just for fun we started playing it. We were all “fuck, we all remember this song.“ It came to recording time and we were all, “why don't we just record it?” Someone where we were knew Gary or his management and said, “how about you do this song with Fear Factory?” And Gary's Like, “Yeah.” He knew of our band. Our label flew him out to Vancouver to record the vocals. It all happened because of circumstance. Happenstance, really.

Matt: I know that during the “Digimortal” tour you were touring with Machine Head who were also going through a rough patch where you were also getting dropped from Roadrunner at around the same time.

Burt: That was the Road Rage tour. That was still the Obsolete cycle. That tour was through the States. It was Ill Nino, Chimaira, Machine Head and us. We were touring through the states back in 2000 which was before “Digimortal.”

Matt: Then I don't have any more questions about “Digimortal.” I just think that it was interesting how your band got dropped at the same time as Machine Head and then you both released a kickass album with Machine Head doing “Through The Ashes of Empires” and you doing “Archetype.”

Burt: Yeah, we got dropped since they didn't want to honor our contract. So we just said, “let us go.”

Matt: Speaking of “Archetype,” by the time that came out, you had all these bands claiming that you influenced them like Epica, Killswitch Engage, Opeth....

Burt: Otep, really?

Matt: Not Otep. Opeth. Akerfelt's band with the whole, harsh/clean stuff. What it like to have that kind of influence?

Burt: I think it's a positive influence. I think it's interesting and cool in a way that people grant me kudos with that. I was just trying to emulate the vocalists I liked and that's just how it came out. If I could go back in time and tell my 1993 self, “Hey, you should trademark this style since everyone will be using it, times would be a little different.”

Matt: With the “Archetype” tour, you were touring with Mastodon, Lamb of God, Slipknot, Children of Bodom and Chimaira. That sounds like a pretty good tour.

Burt: Those were various tours.

Matt: I mean in the same cycle.

Burt: There was the Mastodon, then there was the Children of Bodom/Lamb of God, then there was Slipknot/Chimaira. That was fun. Great bands. I am proud and thankful that I am able to call all those people friends. All those bands are still kicking and doing much better than Fear Factory.

Matt: I wanted to go see you when you were at the House of Blues but I was a teenager at the time and my mom was like, “you're going to get hurt at those Ozzfest bands in a most pit!”

Burt: Yeah, that is pretty funny. Thanks for coming by on this one.

Matt: With “Mechanize,” I thought that was just as good as “Demanufacture” and “Obsolete” and that's high praise considering that I got more speeding tickets to “Demanufacture” and “Obsolete” than any other albums.

Burt: So you have a bit of a lead foot when that record starts?

Matt: No, usually more, “Freedom or Fire” and “Body Hammer.”

Burt: Good driving songs. People really resonate with both of those albums. They were ahead of their time in a certain way. When “Demanufacture” came out, nothing sounded like that. You hear that album now, it sounds like an album that could come out today. We touched upon something while we were working on our craft and perfecting our craft at that moment and defined our sound and refined that sound on “Obsolete.” No record sounded like that either at that time period.

Matt: Around the time you did “Mechanize,” you filled in for vocals on the 2008 Ministry tour. How did that come about.

Burt: I became friends with those guys before “Mechanize” came out and before “Last Sucker.” It was because my friend Raven, the bass player. He goes, “how about you come down here and do some vocals on this record.” And I'm all, “really?” I talked to Al and they were really excited so they flew me down to be on the album. Then on the C U Latour, they asked me to do some songs on it. I think that was 2008.

Matt: Yeah. That was 2008 since that show was the same time as the Arch Enemy/Dark Tranquillity co-headlining tour where Dino was playing there literally a day after you.

Burt: I wasn't paying attention to that tour.

Matt: That was when he was in Divine Heresy.

When you were touring for “The Industrialist,” you did Gathering of the Juggalos. What was it like being the only metal band at a rap festival?

Burt: Soulfly was also there.

Matt; I was going to ask if you had any advice that you gave to Cannibal Corpse who did it two years later.

Burt: No. If I did, I'd have said, “don't drink the water.”

Matt: Oh man. What happened with the water at Gathering of the Juggalos?

Burt: If it's open, something might be in it. Only drink water that's sealed. Cause I walked around that festival and I saw things that I'd never thought I'd see. I'd thought I'd seen it all in my time with all the festivals I've been to and all the concerts I've played. That didn't even prepare me for what I saw at the Juggalo fest. I took it in stride.

Matt: What kind of shit did you see there?

Burt: People just walking around naked, doped up out of their minds. Dudes selling drugs with bullhorns shouting, “GHB! GHB! Give her the date rape she'll never forget!”

Matt: Holy shit! Wow!

How did all those rap fans take you?

Burt: They watched and they didn't boo us. I guess they enjoyed it. We finished.

It was definitely an experience. There was a school bus with the top chopped off so it was like a convertible going around with people having sex on it as they're driving for everyone to see. I was like, “Oh god, I don't want to see this.”

Matt: I remember telling a friend I wanted to go see it since I was all, “Oh cool, Fear Factory's going to be there!” And she was all, “You don't know what Juggalos are like.” And I just said, “How bad can it be? I've seen tons of shit.”

Burt: You know who was there the same night we were there was Tommy Chong.

Matt: Wasn't that the year that Charlie Sheen was there?

Burt: He was. He wasn't there on our day.

Matt: How did you find Mike Heller. I heard that he's the guy who taught Origin's drummer how to play but I've never ever heard of this guy. I was thinking, “if you're going to be filling in for both Ray and Gene, then you've got to find somebody who's damn good.

Burt: We got introduced to him from a mutual friend in Killswitch Engage. We saw him on Youtube play and we auditioned him. He's 35 but we call him, “the kid” and he's a fantastic drummer. He's in a band called Malignancy in New York. When he's not playing with them, he tours with us. It was just good luck that we got connected with him.

Matt: “Genexus” kind of wasn't really what I was expecting but I mean that in a good way. I feel like it has a lot of influence from a lot of 80s new wave bands but I thought that it was really well done and what you were trying to accomplish with “Transgression.” The riffs on Genexus also sounded a lot more fleshed out and it had a louder guitar tone. It was interesting and different and good.

Burt: We really spent a lot of time on this record and I think that's what made the difference. We took our time writing it. We fleshed the ideas out. We fleshed out the arrangements. Got everything just right. Guitars, beats, samples, soundscapes. Everything. We took out time on it. Also researching Fear Factory's history. Revisiting “Demanufacture” and “Obsolete” and realizing what the good parts of those were. How songs translated from recording to live. Just figuring what were the best parts but without repeating yourself. To take an idea and make it better.

Matt: You had a bus crash last year. Was anyone or anything damaged in there?

Burt: No. That was in Europe lat year. No one was hurt, thank goodness. For me, I felt the impact. I was sleeping, we all were sleeping.

Matt: Shit.

Burt: We felt the impact in front of the bus. Then it was just silence. There was a moment of weightlessness and I was waiting for the buss to fall on its side or something like that and then it just stopped. So I crawled out of the bunk on the floor since European buses have two levels so I crawl out and see a crack in the top windshield and see that we hit something. So I went out back to the kitchen area and there's glass everywhere and the coffee maker was busted. Nobody was hurt but we had to get a new bus so that one could be fixed. The only damage was to the bus driver because it mentally messed him up since he'd never been in an accident before. He quit the next day. I felt bad for the guy but it was all because he dropped a chocolate he was eating. In just the few moments he took his eyes off the road and then he just veered.... Chocolate. I don't think that I got your name.

Matt: Matt.

Burt: Good meeting you. Thanks for coming out.

Matt: Yeah.

Dasher10's avatar

Matt is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Illinois and a metalhead since 1999.

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