Fear Factory Singer Burton C. Bell Deconstructs "The Industrialist"
Band Photo: Fear Factory (?)
Fear Factory releases its eighth studio album “The Industrialist” this week—June 5th, 2012. Although containing different cast members from the days of their defining record “Demanufacture,” “The Industrialist” is what singer Burton C. Bell describes as “Demanufacture”-plus.
As most of our readers know, Gene Hoglan is one of the most sought after drummers in metal. The list of bands he’s drummed with is longer than most paragraphs in this article. It’s for this very reason that Hoglan couldn’t make it out on Fear Factory’s first North American tour promoting “The Industrialist.” Malignancy’s Mike Heller filled in his vacancy. Matt DeVries replaced Byron Stroud as the group’s bassist, which should come as a surprise to Chimaira fans who know him as their guitarist.
Metal Underground.com caught up with Bell on the first stop of the “Noise in the Machine” tour with Shadows Fall in San Antonio. Bell gave us the scoop on the new record, lineup changes (he declined commenting on his relationship with ex-drummer Raymond Herrera) and sharing a bus with Shadows Fall.
Darren Cowan (Rex_84): First of all, I want to get our readers up to speed with Fear Factory’s lineup. Dino Cazares came back in 2008 and you recorded “Mechanize” in 2010. “The Industrialist,” due out June 5, features Matt DeVries on bass.
Burton C. Bell: We got a new drummer and new bass player. Gene (Hoglan) is a great drummer, but he is such a journeyman. He’s such a fantastic drummer that he is in great demand. He does a lot of other bands. We took a lot of time off last year. He had to continue working, so he made previous plans. He just couldn’t do this tour with Fear Factory. He’s with Testament…, so we got Mike Heller. He plays with Malignancy and System Divide. He’s a fantastic drummer. Things are working out really well. We also got Matt DeVries from Chimaira playing bass. We were looking for a bassist. Matt is a guitar player. We didn’t realize he was playing bass. We told him, “Hey man, come on out and play!” He didn’t even have to audition because he’s a guitar player. He knew exactly what we needed. His bass follows the guitar perfectly. Matt just does it perfectly. He’s amazing!
Cowan: Did Sick Drummer Magazine help you find Mike?
Bell: I don’t know how we found him. It was through a couple different sources. The guys in Trivium kind of connected us. Then, we checked him out on You Tube. He has a bunch of You Tube stuff, so we asked him to audition and he got the part.
Cowan: Did you have a lot of drummers audition?
Bell: Yeah, we had several people.
Cowan: His being picked says a lot about his skills.
Bell: Yeah, exactly.
Cowan: The press release for your new album” The Industrialist” likens it to “Demanufacture.” Do you agree with that statement?
Bell: There will never be another “Demanufacture.” However, in a band’s history—not just Fear Factory, there have been a lot of other bands—there is always that record that makes their name like “Raining Blood,” like “Vulgar Display of Power or “Master of Puppets.” There is that one record that really sets the standard for the band. “Demanufacture” is the defining album for Fear Factory. It set the standard. It was a litmus test. If they are liking it to “Demanufacture,” then it is meeting the standard. To me, I wanted to take “Demanufacture” a step forward, so to me, it’s like “Demanufacture”-plus. It’s more of an evolution of the industrial influences on the band. There are a lot more soundscapes.
Dino, Rhys [Fulber] and myself worked as a really tight unit. It was just the three of us writing this record. I think that had a lot to do with it. Rhys was the co-producer; plus, he’s like a silent member of the band. He has been for a long time. We’ve been working for twenty years now, since “Fear is the Mindkiller.” There isn’t a producer out there that knows the band better than Rhys. He toured with us once. He only played a few shows with us. He did a couple of shows in ’99 and a couple of special shows, here and there. We use backing sounds for keyboards now. We actually use an Ipad. With that, we can get all the keyboard sounds. There is no reason to carry around a keyboard anymore. It works perfectly.
Cowan: Logan Mader (Gojira/Divine Heresy) provided additional tracking. Have you worked with him before?
Bell: This was my first time working with Logan. It was a great experience. Dino worked with him on a Divine Heresy record.
Cowan: Was Dino your link to Mader? Did you connect with him through Dino?
Bell: Yes, there was only so much we could do in Rhys’ studio, so we got Logan’s recording studio. We finished recording the album there and did some extra vocal tracking. Plus, he had some great ideas for vocals as well. He had great ideas and is a great producer. He’s a great, amazing engineer. He’s super fast and super creative.
Cowan: Is he in L.A. or San Francisco?
Bell: L.A. He moved out of the bay area years ago and started his own thing.
Cowan: Is that what he does for a living now (I still know him as the second guitar on Machine Head’s debut album “Burn My Eyes)?
Bell: Yes, he’s a producer now. He doesn’t even play much guitar anymore.
Cowan: Does the title reflect a double meaning in terms of the album’s story and your band’s style?
Bell: Yeah, there is a double entendre there for sure. The title definitely influenced the outcome of the album, conceptually and sonically. It defined the direction we wanted to go, for sure. As we were writing, it all started coming together so perfectly. It really set the tone. Story wise, it’s a concept. The Industrialist is an automaton—a robot. It’s becoming an ascentient being. When The Industrialist was created, it was the prodigal creation of all industries, of all things put together. It was the best they could do. However, technology moves on, so its creators want to dissemble all of its models. It became ascentient once it discovered the will to resist. It found the will to fight for survival.
Cowan: Would you say this story is the opposite of “The Terminator: The robots are the good guys and the humans are the villains?
Bell: I don’t really define that. The story is from the perspective of The Industrialist, the machines. However, it’s still a fight of man versus machine. It’s almost a murder plot going on where the machine is trying to find the creator and kill it. Along the way it’s destroying factories and stuff like that—taking down the system.
Cowan: Does the album art (Anthony Clarkson) reflect the title and concept?
Bell: Absolutely, totally. It’s the most extreme metal record that we’ve done in a long time. It’s probably the most Fear Factory record that we’ve done in a long time, too. You’ll hear some new things, but it’s obviously a Fear Factory record. This takes “Mechanize” a step beyond.
Cowan: I love the vocal harmonies.
Bell: Rhys and I worked diligently on it. It was really cool. When I would be at Rhys’ studio, Dino would be with Logan doing guitars. Rhys and I would be at the studio getting parts together like a chorus. For a day we would work on a chorus. We worked on getting the best chorus and verses vocals. He came up with a lot of great ideas.
Cowan: What’s going on with tonight’s set list? How many albums do you have now with “The Industrialist?”
Bell: Geez, this is our eighth full-length record.
Cowan: Eight full-lengths, how do you fit in all of that material?
Bell: We only play songs from six. We don’t play any songs from “Archetype” and “Transgression.” We’re playing “Recharger” tonight, which is off the new record. It’s the new single that Liquid Metal is playing. We play songs off of “Soul of a New Machine,” “Obsolete,” “Digimortal” and “Mechanize.” We’ve figured out a great flow, which makes a really good show.
Cowan: You’ve been doing the Sci-Fi thing for so long that it seems some of these songs fit together. You could play a song from one album that would smoothly blend right into a song from another album.
Bell: Some of our songs fit really well together, both lyrically and sonically, so yeah.
Cowan: Is Fear Factory sharing a bus with Shadows Fall?
Bell: That’s right. Times are tough, man. Gas prices are expensive. For the economy, you just have to save money where you can. I wouldn’t share a bus with a band I don’t like.
Cowan: Have you toured with Shadows Fall?
Bell: Never. We’ve played a couple festivals, here and there, but I’ve never toured with them. I’ve known Jason Bittner since 1994. When we were doing “Demanufacture” up in Albany, we had some time to do some pre-production. He let us use his basement to do pre-production. He was in a band called Stigmata.
Cowan: Is this first day on the “Noise in the Machine” tour?
Bell: Yes, we’re on tour until the end of the month (tour just ended).
Cowan: What are you doing after the tour?
Bell: The day after this tour ends we fly to Europe to play a festival. We just got back from South America. We played two shows there. One of the shows got canceled. The whole festival was canceled because someone took off with all the money.
Cowan: Sometimes that happens at festivals.
Bell: Especially in Brazil.
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