I had the privilege of sitting down with Dino Cazares, the guitar player and writer of Fear Factory during their last tour. Fear Factory has always been an industry leader in pushing the boundaries of music and lyrics. Their albums are sonic masterpieces chock full of meaningful lyrics, amazing compositions, and heavy music. Fear Factory makes you think. Fear Factory makes you question. So it’s no surprise that chatting with Dino about the new album, The Industrialist which was released June 5th turned into a very long and involved conversation.
For this tour, the band was playing just one song off the new album. “The record is not out yet, won’t be out until June 5th. It’s called The Industrialist. It’s a conceptual album, again. We’ve always been a band who’s always had some sort of a concept behind each record. We have a single out called Recharger. That’s the song we’re playing, that’s the song we’re promoting right now. Until then, June 5th, we’re only playing the one song. You don’t want to give away too much too soon. Nowadays, it’s all about You Tube and Twitter and videos going viral within a matter of minutes, seconds."
Dino takes ime to recapitulate on the themes FF have covered over the years. "Each record has had different stuff. Soul of a New Machine was our first album. That was the birth of the concept of The Machine. Actually on the cover it showed a machine with a baby coming out of it. Then the second record was called Demanufacture and it was about the breaking down process with something coming. Obsolete is basically where man is becoming obsolete and machines are taking over. It’s basically the war between man and machine. Digimortal is where man and technology have come together and they figure out a way to take your memories and put them on a chip and implant them into another automaton robot, whatever you want to call it. The concept was saying you were able to transfer your soul into another, a better stronger faster human being or however you want to look at it. It could be a hotter chick, a more fit looking guy; kind of like that movie Surrogates. And then Mechanized came in and it was how man and machine were basically one. Then the new album is about an actual automaton who is... man had created a machine to help him, but the machines have all turned against him and The Industrialist is fighting for a change. The Industrialist is fighting for equality. He’s fighting against the corporate machine, the government; you can say an Occupy Wall Street type of thing. He’s fighting for more life because he knows he is a machine and he has a certain shelf life.It’s always the concept of man and machine or humans and machines. It’s how we interact with it and how we use it in our day. It’s really great how much we’ve progressed in the last few years. Nowadays nobody can live without their cell phones. I can remember touring twelve years ago with no cell phone - it’s become part of our life. People actually fear losing their cell phones because their life is on there. They already have nanotechnology. It’s only a matter of time before nanotechnology comes to us or we’ll be able to purchase it and buy tinier things. It’s all coming. I hope I’m around to see all of it.”
Dino doesn’t see technology as being a dangerous or potentially bad thing. Even though we as humans tend to use tools for nefarious purposes and as means of subjugation and control. He says that’s correct, humans do but feels by the time that happens he won’t be alive to see it. “Technology can be better as well. For instance, the nanotech can be injected into your blood stream and they’ll be able to monitor your body and detect cancer cells and attack it or they can find it and treat it, things like that. There’s going to be a lot of good stuff going hand and hand. That’s how it starts. We’re making machines more human-like. There are so many Twilight Zone episodes. Like the album Obsolete we actually took from a Twilight Zone episode, the whole concept.”
In terms of writing, I asked if Fear Factory saw themselves as a modern day Rod Serling where they are halfway predicting the future, definitely being visionaries, or if Fear Factory existed just to tell good stories through music. Dino explains it thus and then schools me on the history of Fear Factory and what their intent was when creating the band. “I think it’s a mixture of all of it. We take what’s going on today, obviously exaggerate it to how it can happen in the future and tell a story. Visionaries? Maybe to some extent. I mean a lot of scientists have taken stuff from writers. We started in 1990. We were born; Fear Factory was conceived October 31, 1990. First time we all got together and rehearsed, started writing songs as Fear Factory. We just wanted to do something different. We wanted to combine certain things we all liked. I was very much into the European metal, grind core, death metal, heavy metal, stuff like that. Same thing with the drummer we had at the time. Burt was very much into industrial music and more alternative stuff. That’s where a lot of the vocal style came from. We wanted to write songs, but heavy. We wanted to write songs that people could sing. Like a lot of the structures we use to write songs were Beatles (type structures), very pop, simple structures and some complicated stuff. No matter what we always had something that always repeated or you heard more than once whether its vocals, whether its guitar, whether it’s a beat. We wanted to make it really hooky but we wanted to make it as heavy as possible. We also were, because of the name Fear Factory, because of the music we liked – industrial and metal; we really wanted to make it sound mechanical. When the engine is running, something that is constantly going. We try to imitate that where the drums and guitar are really locked like a machine without one or the other it wouldn’t really work. We wanted to make it as tight as possible so whatever I play on guitar, drums follow the exact same thing or vice-verse. That’s why we sound mechanical and give it its own sound. Then Burt was really into the melodic stuff and one day at rehearsal in 1990 we were writing songs and he’s like … “LAAAAAAAAA” and I’m like what the hell! That’s fucking cool! Do it again! We played the part again and he sang it again and I’m like that’s it! I think we just found our formula. In my opinion, it’s a formula that works consistently. People try to imitate it and follow it and most of those bands have fallen by the wayside. Fear Factory was pretty big for its time back in the late 1990s to 1998, 1999, and 2000. We were a pretty big band. When you’re a big band like that, you’re going to rub off on somebody, the same thing other bands did to us. It’s a big compliment when you hear people try to do what you’re doing. It’s really very self-gratifying feeling when you know that somebody was really listening and they learned from it and they try to do something similar to it. But we encourage people to have their own identity. Like it’s OK to be influenced by it, but try to maybe take it and make something more of your own than just blatantly taking it. We all have to start off somewhere. But we encourage people to have their own identity. Individualism.”
Which, I point out, is the antithesis of the whole industrial machine complex where there are no individuals only the collective. “Correct” says Dino. “We were lucky that we met a guy named Rhys Fulber who was in a band called Frontline Assembly. He was able to afford all the technology that we couldn’t afford. Back then they didn’t have Pro-Tools like we do now. All the computer technology they did, but it was nowhere near what it is today. It was very expensive and very… broke musicians like us couldn’t afford it. So we met this guy named Rhys Fulber and we brought him into the picture in 1992. We did a first remix album called Fear is The Mindkiller and it was the first time we actually brought all this technology into Fear Factory and combined it together. Something that me and Burton always had the vision of doing. We just couldn’t afford it. So he brought all those keyboards, all the samplers, all the very horrible Atari computers; and we’re trying to make records like that. It was just… that was when we made Demanufacture. That was when Soul of a New Machine was the birth. That’s what started it all. Demanufacture was what changed it all. It was a very influential record to a lot of people. It’s still our fan favourite record. That was when we really embraced the technology and we were up front about it. A lot of people say, “Oh, you used a computer, you’re fake, you’re false.” Well, a computer system is another instrument to create and manipulate the sounds that we want.”
For Fear Factory, that manipulated sound carries through to the live show too. It’s easy to create and manipulate sound in a studio when you have the time and can go back and fix things, quite another when you are on stage in front of a few thousand people. It has to be tight and right. Fear Factory are definitely a tight band live. “Obviously you’re still human and you’re going to mess up live. Yes. But we try to play as tight as possible. And try to put on as much of an energetic show live. It’s hard to do both. We’ve been doing it for a while and we’ve got it down really well. We have the whole show pretty much like, all the samples and all the stuff you hear live we have all that programmed on an iPad. We hook it up to the PA sound system. We have it on the iPad. There’s something called Garage Band on the iPad and within Garage Band you can have this stuff we’ve taken from the real studio and put into the iPad Garage Band. We can run a few tracks. So we just press play. It has a click track. Our drummer has the inner ear headphones and he follows a click track. Plays along to it. We follow the drummer, follow the samples live. That’s the cheapest way you can do it. I’ve seen people do it on an iPod but it doesn’t sound as good. But that’s just for live. Studio is a completely different story. But we’re taking all the sounds that we created on the album and basically just put them on the iPad.”
To end the interview I asked the age old question which would come first - the zombie apocalypse or Skynet? I’m firmly a believer that both will happen and we’ve a better chance at surviving a zombie apocalypse than a rise of machines. But when Skynet does takes over, we’re screwed. Dino weighed in with his opinion. “I’m not sure what will come first, zombie apocalypse or you know this futuristic technology. I think the technology is more likely to happen before zombies.” I felt it depended on how you defined zombies. Are zombies a biological/viral derivative or, as George Romero shows, a social commentary reflecting dampening or dumbing down of society and behavior? “But then again I’ve already seen zombies up in Vancouver,” Dino relates. “A bunch of heroin addicts look like zombies. And what about the people who like walk around not even looking, get hit by cars, fall in holes, fall in fountains? If you talk about zombies where people come back from the dead I think it’s more likely to happen that we see a war against the machines before. Zombies are very popular, very good fun. I think it’s just make believe. I believe Skynet is real, yes. More real than zombies and more scary. Skynet can shut down all transportation, all public transportation. They can shut down the trains. They can shut down the busses, electrical grids, everything. What would happen? People would not know what the fuck to do. It would be chaos, looting, riots, crazy, fires.” Cautionary words from a visionary...