Interview with Dino Cezares: Divine Heresy, Fear Factory & more

Dino on making Divine Heresy metal as fuck; taking Fear Factory to the next level; and jamming with Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Before we get started on this interview, Dino Cazares would like to clear something up. 'This is for a metal site called Metal As Fuck?' he asks. I confirm that this is, indeed, the case. 'That's me!' he chuckles. 'That's me, alright.'

Dino has recently finished recording a second album with his band Divine Heresy. Following up on 2007's Bleed the Fifth, the new album is titled Bringer of Plagues, and is due out July 28. The album was produced by the Dirty Icon team - former Machine Head guitarist Logan Mader, who was also involved in the band's debut, and Lucas Banker.

'The recording process was really, really smooth', Dino explains, adding that it was probably helped by the amount of pre-production the band did before hitting the studio. 'We recorded at our singer's friend's house, we recorded all the demos, so it was all situated before we went into the studio.' He estimates the entire process took less than seven weeks.

The band's MySpace page features a gnarly-looking Grim Reaper-style character surrounded by locusts, in what is a very intense piece of artwork that will also feature on the upcoming release. I ask who was responsible for the grim dude.

'It's a guy named Anthony Clarkson, who works for our record company. He designed a t-shirt for us a couple of years ago and we really liked it, so we kinda approached him to see what he'd come up with for this. We told him the concept, what the album was about, and that's what he came up with. We were like "wow - that's it!". It worked out really good. We're very happy with the album cover.' I ask if the grim reaper and plague are themes that run through the entire album, and, while not being very specific, Dino said the idea of spreading a plague over the world would make sense when the full album cover is opened - so we'll all just have to wait and see.

Vocal duties for Divine Heresy have been taken on by Travis Neal, who also performs in Swedish band The Bereaved, after the unceremonious departure of previous vocalist Tommy "Vext" Cummings following an on-stage altercation. From listening to the preview track Facebreaker it's immediately obvious that Neal has a completely different vocal style to Cummings. So what were the band members looking for when they auditioned vocalists for the position?

'Someone metal as fuck!' was the immediate answer. 'Tommy kinda had sort of a more hardcore-ish sound, a metalcore-hardcore kind of deal. We kinda wanted to get away from that and find someone who was more into metal and more metal-sounding. We wanted this album to be a little more aggressive-sounding than the last one, and we feel that Travis fits just perfectly. As a matter of fact I think he fits better.'

Dino then reveals the rigorous audition process. Instrumental tracks were put on the band's MySpace page for applicants to download, record their vocals over the top, and send back to the band. So just how many singers tried out? Dino takes a moment to consider.

'People who actually came to audition... I would say twenty. People who sent in songs... a hundred. There were a lot of good ones but we wanted to get the right guy'.

Once Travis got through the audition stage, there was more to come. 'We didn't just want to audition someone and say "ok, you're good, you're in". We wanted to take them through a series of tests.' Those tests included playing live, writing a song, and recording a song. 'We wanted to take them on tour, we wanted to write a song with them to see how they work, we wanted to do live shows to see how they went live, to see if their voice held up, were they good with the crowd, and we wanted to record, see how it sounded on the recording.' The song the band wrote and recorded with Travis was Facebreaker, currently streaming on Divine Heresy's MySpace page.

'So we asked him "do you do drugs?"... no. "Do you do steroids?"... no. We asked him a lot of things... "do you have a criminal record?", no. "ok, you're in."' Dino laughs at the suggestion that it sounded like a pretty intense job interview, then in a pointed reference to Cummings says 'We didn't want to make the same mistake twice.'

From Facebreaker, it's also obvious that vocal style is not the only aspect of Divine Heresy's music that has changed. I mention that the song has elements that remind me of technical death metal bands like Arsis and The Faceless, but Dino doesn't quite see it that way.

'Those bands shred a hundred times more than I do. I'm just one little fraction of the kind of guitar they play. My thing is that no matter how heavy, no matter how brutal you are, I always wanna have that melodic element in there. Which I think makes us stand out a little more from some of the other guys. But [Facebreaker] was a conscious effort of me and Tim and Joe trying to take the music to the next level.'

As if a new album for Divine Heresy was not enough to keep him out of trouble, Dino has also rejoined Fear Factory, the band he founded with Raymond Hererra and Burton C. Bell in 1989, before leaving in 2002. I wondered if Divine Heresy would be touring as well this year, given the scheduled Fear Factory dates.

'Oh, of course. We're definitely going to be touring the United States as soon as the record is out, we're going to be doing a new Fear Factory record, then in August Fear Factory is going to be in Australia and Divine Heresy is going to be there early next year, and I'm hopefully going to be touring both bands back to back.'

So woah - did I hear that correctly? Fear Factory will be recording new material?

'Yes. We already are in the pre-production stages for the next album.'

Although the circumstances of the Fear Factory split were rather messy, with both sides flinging mud, Dino and Burton ran into each other at an awards show in 2008 and were seen talking. Metal gossip sites across the internet exploded with speculation that this was the beginning of a reunion. What was the story there?

'Well, me and Burton ran into each other... I think it was last year. We just started talking again, became friends again. We were talking on the phone for quite some time... he came out to LA for the awards, he got nominated for a Grammy for singing on a Ministry song, and we hung out then. And then he approached me on the idea of coming back into Fear Factory... he pretty much had everything set in place when he approached me, and how could I say no? We carried the friendship first, I think that was a big thing. He wanted to see if we could get along again. And when he saw that it could all work, he approached me on coming back to the band.'

In true Fear Factory form, this new lineup - Burton and Dino along with ex-Strapping Young Lad bassist Byron Stroud, who has played in the band since 2002, and drum legend Gene Hoglan - has not been without drama. After announcing Dino's return, a handful of shows in Europe and an Australian headlining tour, founding drummer Raymond Herrera and long time bassist and guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers have filed a law suit, claiming the name Fear Factory belongs equally to the four "classic" lineup members. After this interview, the scheduled comeback show in Spain was cancelled at the last minute, as well as the planned German shows, with more speculation that it was due to the legal troubles. It is not yet known whether the Australian shows scheduled for August will go ahead. Dino had some words to say on the situation.

'Well first of all, Christian was not an original member of Fear Factory. Me and Burton started the band, back in 1990 - me and Burton were in a band prior to Fear Factory. Burt is going to be releasing an official statement regarding that issue, probably in the next week or maybe this week. He will definitely put out an explanation for all that. I haven't been in the band for the last six years so I really don't know a lot of the politics that are going on, you know? Burt approached me and got me back into the band, and he already had everything set in place, so I've got to give him the respect in releasing to the public why that is. I could tell you, but I've got to give Burton the respect.'

Before I can get my next question out, Dino has something to add.

'Another thing too - how could I pass up playing in a band with Gene Hoglan? He's one of the best, one of the legendary drummers of the metal world. He's been in, like, 30 bands. You know someone said to me, "Gene's not really that style". What are you talking about? Gene is every style. Gene is a professional drummer that can join any band and adapt to it - and bring a lot to the band. He's just one of those professional guys. Amazing. And of course Byron Stroud, he was already in Fear Factory when I was out.'

With four albums from Dino's days in the band as well as two subsequent to this departure, there's a lot of material fans will be eager to hear. I was curious as to whether any thought had been given yet to the live set.

'Yeah, definitely. We have a 17 song setlist. The show will be an hour and a half. All the classics from the first album all the way up to Digimortal.'

Not surprisingly, Dino makes no mention of Archetype or Transgression, the albums released after he left the lineup. I seemed to remember reading that Dino didn't have good things to say about Transgression, but he's not about to admit to that.

'I don't believe I'd ever made a comment about Transgression... I could tell you what I think about those records if you wanted me to... if you listen to the album Archetype and you listen to the song Slave Labor, the riff is Shock. Christian pretty much just rehashed everything I had done in the previous albums. I guess in some ways it's... carrying the torch. But it's also just rehashing. And of course, not a lot of people liked Transgression much. Burton brought me back into the band because he wants that old school style back. And then some - and then taking it to the next level. The new songs I'm writing are definitely heavier... in the sense we're going back to the first album and the second album. It's not like Digimortal or Transgression or any of those records. It's more along the lines of... more of the brutality of what was Soul of a New Machine and Demanufacture.'

Moving on from Fear Factory, I bring up some of Dino's notable side projects and double check my pronunciation: Brujeria is actually Brew-ha-REE-a. 

'At the moment I am not doing Brujeria. Just no time, no time for that. Asesino, I've been touring a lot - all last year and earlier this year, I did a South America and Mexico tour that was very successful. Devildriver opened up for Asesino on our Mexico tour - we're pretty big over there.  It was a great tour, we had a blast. We got to go to Brazil, and Argentina, and Chile, all those places. and somewhere down the line, I hope to someday have the three bands play together - Asesino, Divine Heresy and Fear Factory.' 

Asesino and Brujeria have also featured some other pretty legendary musicians. I wonder if there's anyone that Dino would like to work with that he hasn't yet had the chance, but he's pretty adamant that anyone who he can think of, he's probably already worked with.

'I've done the Roadrunner Allstars, I've done Brujeria with guys from Faith No More, I've done Asesino with people from Static X and from the death metal band Possessed... and obviously now, with Tim Yeung from Vital Remains and Joe Payne from Nile and now I'm doing Fear Factory with Gene Hoglan who's played in every band. So I've been lucky to be able to jam with a lot of different musicians. And I really believe that the two bands I have now are the guys I want to play with right now.'

I figure there must be someone... living or dead? Dino laughs at my suggestion that he might bring back Elvis and instead opts for legendary blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.

'I would just sit there and jam with him. That would be amazing... he played with so much passion. But it's not who I'd want to be in a band with, cos I'm a metal player not a blues player.'

Our time running out, I ask Dino if he has any last words for Metal As Fuck readers.

'Well, I definitely like to keep my music metal as fuck... I can't wait to get out there to play to fans who really love Fear Factory, I can't wait to come back to Australia and see everyone in August.'

So there you have it... let's just hope the legal matters are resolved in time to make that tour a reality.