Life, Death, and Fear Factory's Dino Cazares

Dino's interview with The Stalker.

Thanks to the new world order, where social networking has made privacy is a thing of the past, I pick up the phone to Dino Cazares armed with some additional information about my quarry: the Fear Factory/Brujeria/Asesino/Divine Heresy guitarist has just celebrated his 44th birthday. Enjoying a brief break at home before Fear Factory head off to support Metallica on sold out tours around Australia, Dino reveals that he had a great time and was ‘celebrating all weekend, pretty much’. Sounds like the Dino we know.

Because I am The Stalker, I then let on that I’d seen them play at Wacken Open Air just a few weeks previous. Rather than being being creeped out (that would come later), Dino was happy to chat about the European metal festival experience.

‘We love the European festivals. I mean they really know how to put them together - they’re very well organised, you get a great selection of bands that play’. While hanging out with friends is a prime component for the festival attendees, it turns out the bands have very much the same experience on the other side of the fence. ‘You get to see your friends, all the other band members, you get to hang out. The guys from Rammstein were really cool, we met a lot of bands… so festivals are always cool.’

It wasn’t all rosy however – the Fear Factory guys had a very close encounter of the firey kind when their tour bus caught alight in England. According to reports, the driver noticed a light in a wheel arch and within minutes of pulling over to investigate, the entire bus was engulfed in flames as the band stood on the road, barely able to believe what was happening. Of course, someone was standing by with their video phone – view the footage here.

‘That was pretty scary,’ Dino says. ‘It was the first time any of us had been involved in anything like that. And it was a pretty hairy moment. You know we were lucky that we made it out, and we were lucky that our gear made it out as well. Without our gear we wouldn’t have been able to continue the tour.’

Dino chuckles at the suggestion that a close shave like that must make him think about his own mortality – then reveals it wasn’t their first bus incident.

‘Earlier this year, [we had] another bus incident where our bus driver actually fell asleep, and he ran off the road. That was pretty scary as well. But the fire was much scarier. Getting burned alive or trapped on a bus, would have been a pretty shitty way to go.’

Considering the road the band has travelled to get to this point, it would be a somewhat anti-climactic ending to their career too. Dino agrees – ‘It’s happened before to some of the best bands in the world. Look at Metallica - they lost Cliff Burton in a bus crash’.

Somehow, the interview has turned rather macabre as Dino remembers other crashes, such as that which took the life of Vitek of Decapitated. A risk for working bands on the road perhaps?

‘Definitely. Not just in a bus, in vans too ... Just being out there, it’s definitely very risky. You’re always on the road, you’re always flying everywhere, who knows what can happen. But those are the sacrifices that you make, being in a band, and we do it because we love it.’

Turning back to Wacken, I mention that it was the first time I’d seen the new Fear Factory line up live, and recall that a couple of the songs had a distinctly different feel to them, which I attributed to new drummer Gene Hoglan’s differing drum style. I can almost hear Dino leaning forward across the telephone as suddenly the tables are turned – and I’m the interviewee.

‘Really? Which ones?’ The maestro demands to know.

‘Well.... Linchpin, for example.‘ Should I be feeling so nervous?

‘Did it make it heavier, did it make it lighter, what? What did it sound like?’

Now I’m definitely nervous. ‘Maybe, heavier. It was definitely… I dunno, I may have been a little drunk.’ A way out perhaps? The truth is though, I’ve seen this band live at least five times and I’m sure that some songs did have an altered feel. ‘But it was different, to me the song felt different.’

Dino laughs. ‘It felt different. Did it feel… was it bad or good?’

Sensing an escape, I insist that it was good, and Dino actually seems relieved and not upset, so I continue the line of questioning. Was it something that he had noticed?

‘I don’t think it’s anything that I’ve noticed,’ he says, sounding relaxed again. ‘I think that if anything, it might come across as closer to the album than before. I think Burton [C Bell]’s vocals are amazing - I think he’s gotten better over the years, and learned how to really use his voice really well. Obviously with Gene Hoglan, he can pretty much play anything - he can play exactly to the record. That’s exactly what we were doing, we were playing pretty much identical to the record. I felt that way.’ Rest assured, dear reader, this interviewer was not merely drunk. ‘Sometimes it depends on what kind of sound man you’ve got. If you’ve got a good sound man that can actually mix it closer to the album, that helps a lot too.’

Continuing on the theme of the new Fear Factory, the new album Mechanize contains somewhat of a stylistic departure from previous Fear Factory records in that a guitar solo is included, in Fear Campaign. As to whether it was something he set out to do, or a case of the song calling for some extra shred, Dino supposes that it was a bit of both.

‘Back in the first album, Soul of a New Machine, there was actually a guitar solo on a couple of the songs’, he elaborates. ‘But we felt that we wanted to go a different direction, and we decided to pull the solos out of the mix. And so we kind of kept it that way through the whole Fear Factory sound - we never actually wrote parts with solos in.’ Having a break from Fear Factory, a time in which he concentrated on his other projects Divine Heresy and Asesino, helped the guitarist develop his playing style further. ‘I was able to expand a lot on what I was doing, and I thought that it was time to bring the solos back to Fear Factory. So when I was first doing it, Burton was like “ok, we can do it, but it’s gotta be good, it’s gotta be the right solo, if not, we’re just gonna cut it out”…  so I actually ended up doing them and Burton really like them.’

Supporting Metallica, arguably the biggest heavy metal band in the world, is a pretty big deal. It may seem obvious, but I have to ask if Metallica was an influence on Dino. He unsurprisingly indicates yes, but manages to do it without actually saying so. 

‘I think Metallica was an influence on the whole genre, not just me... the whole metal genre. So yeah, they influenced me one way or another. And it’s really cool to be able to play with, like you said, the biggest metal band in the world.’

Landing the gig was not luck, chance or label negotiation. ‘Metallica actually asked us to play with them before. Earlier this year we did a few shows with them out in Europe, we did a bunch of festivals with them, and now they asked us back, so it feels good. I know that Kirk Hammett was a fan of ours, and I know that James Hetfield actually listened to our record – our new record – so that kinda says something I guess.’

Being the internet addict that I am, I had a few questions from Metal As Fuck’s Twitter followers. One metalhead wanted to know what the future held for Divine Heresy, perhaps wondering if the new momentum with Fear Factory would push other projects to the backburner.

No stranger to juggling multiple bands, Dino seems genuinely surprised by the question. ‘What’s the future for Divine Heresy? We’re gonna be touring some more, and we’re gonna be doing a new record.’ What some people may not know is that Fear Factory and Divine Heresy have done shows together.

‘We [Divine Heresy] supported Fear Factory on the last American tour. It was great - a lot of our fans were very happy because they got to see both bands. There was a show where Burton’s other band City Of Fire actually opened up as well, so people were extremely excited to see all the bands.’

Knowing the effort that Dino puts into each show, I can’t help wondering if playing twice in one night was a hard feat to pull off. But apparently, he takes it all in his stride.

‘It’s nothing that I didn’t get used to after the first week. My neck might have hurt a little bit more than usual.’

Another danger of the job?

‘Exactly! Look at Tom Araya you know, he’s going in for back surgery, he had problems with his neck from headbanging all those years.’ Again, the conversation has taken a downer turn as we discuss injuries sustained by metal warriors in the line of duty. At first expressing surprise that more cases aren’t reported, he then recalls Phil Anselmo and again, we’re off on a morbid tack.

Another question from a tweeter: with himself on guitar and Gene Hoglan on drums, does Dino think this is the best Fear Factory line up thus far? I end the question with ‘I know what you’re going to say’ but actually, he just laughs and says ‘They’re both just as equal I think.’ He reiterates that he’s not trying to slag anyone, before adding ‘I believe that Gene Hoglan is a much better drummer than Raymond [Herrera] - I know that for a fact. But you know, Raymond was a creator, so I think they’re both just as great.’

One more question from Twitter: Referencing the 2005 Roadrunner United project, where Dino took on a team leader role in writing, recording and producing a number of songs for the compilation - is that something Dino would like to do more of? The maestro is enthusiastic.

‘Oh hell yeah, I love doing that.’ He points out that Brujeria was like a project band, with members of Napalm Death, Cradle of Filth, Carcass and Faith No More – among others – contributing at various times. ‘I love jamming with other musicians, I love putting together a team of dope-ass players, just to have fun and write some killer music. I would love to do it again.’

Finally, my burning question: is Australia ever going to see a Fear Factory headlining tour? It feels like we’ve been waiting forever. Dino concurs that headline shows for the diehard Aussie fans are well overdue, and lets on that that something may come to fruition in 2011.

‘I know, Jesus Christ! I mean, we keep going over there for other tours. We’re working on something for some time next year. Unfortunately you guys have a lot of stuff going on next year, you got Big Day Out and you got Soundwave, in January and February... we can’t compete against that, so we’ll have to wait until later next year. Later, sometime after the Soundwave festival.’

Once more, for the Fear Factory diehards in the room: Dino Cazares says ‘I’m sure we will be doing a headlining tour in Australia, yes.’

Amen to that!