Fear Factory are heading out on the highway in 2016 in support of their most recent album, the crushing 'Genexus'. Albert Petersen finds out what the world has to look forward to... And learns a bit about the band's past into the bargain.
I’ve been revisiting Fear Factory’s back catalogue again as I write up this interview with guitarist Dino Cazares; admittedly Remanufacture (1997) isn’t technically a Fear Factory album but I’m loving the bleeps, bloops and chunky-ass riffs nonetheless. It’s a delightful appetiser before I switch back to the new album Genexus, and we kick things off with a discussion on what drew Dino to the industrial sound. “We’ve always been fans of industrial music – bands like Ministry and Godflesh – and we wanted to see what it would be like to combine industrial tones with extreme metal,” he mentions how he’s always been the ‘metal guy’ while “Burt [Burton C. Bell – vocals] was more of the industrial guy and somewhere we met in the middle. It was just the influences that we had from the music that was coming out from the late eighties to the early nineties – there were other influences too; Burt had a melodic side to him too so we added a lot of the more melodic vocals in with the more extreme vocals. It created a new genre, and we felt combining all these genres together would create something more original.”
I see you’ve got producer Rhys Fulber (Front Line Assembly) back on board and Genexus is mixed by Andy Sneap but I note there’s no permanent keyboardist in the band so who did the electronica for the album? “Rhys Fulber did a portion of the keyboards on the album and a guy named Guiseppe [Bassi] from Italy and a guy named Damian Rainaud from France did a lot of the keyboards as well.”
And in your attempts to strike a balance between the heavy guitars and electronic components, do you ever feel like you’ve gone too far in one direction or the other. “Not necessarily; when we write the core of the music is usually the guitar and the drums, and often the keyboards are put on top of that but sometimes we start writing the song with the keyboards first. It all depends on what the melody and the song calls for. For instance, there’s a song on the record called Expiration Date, that song is more of an ‘electronic ballad’ – that’s what I like to call it – it’s a massive ballad and the majority of the sounds on it are keyboards.” He reflects on the band’s musical experiments often having to be done progressively because “Sometimes when you go too far, fans just don’t like that, so we try to do it in baby steps and introduce it into a song or two and not necessarily push the boundaries on the whole record.” So you do you ever feel that you’ve written something that’s just too mental for general consumption? He laughs. “When we were doing our earlier remix records like Fear Is the Mind Killer (1993) – it’s basically a remix album of techno dance music with extreme heavy vocals and extreme guitars – I did think that maybe that was pushing it too far forward for people but we were fearless. We just put it out there, and the label was behind it. Some people really loved it and some people didn’t. We also did another remix album called Remanufacture, which was essentially a remix album of Demanufacture (1995), with Brazilian jungle music to dubstep to techno-industrial music; we thought we were pushing the boundaries forward and we were a little nervous and a little concerned about putting it out but you’re never gonna move forward if you’re too scared. Again, we were fearless and people seemed to love it. We love taking chances.”
I see that your touring drummer Mike Heller has made his recording debut with you guys. Dino is most pleased. “He’s been a part of the band for about five years now and he’s definitely in the band but he’s also a ‘hired gun’ at the same time; he can leave whenever he wants to – unfortunately that’s how it is in the music business nowadays. We also have a bass player called Tony Campos (former Static-X, Soulfly, Ministry) who is also a hired gun but it’s all about how they feel and how they want to be a part of the band.” Fear Factory’s line-up seems to have always been in flux; is the band bigger than the sum of its parts? “The core line-up is obviously Burt and I; we write all the music but when it comes to playing live, you wanna make sure you have the right musicians to help you carry that message across to the fans. You want to have the right musicians to play the parts correctly and right now I feel, probably since 2004, that this is best line-up we’ve had.”
The opener on Genexus, Autonomous Combat System, is pretty intense; do you have any concerns that you may write a song that’s too difficult to pull off in a live environment? “Hopefully, not necessarily – the song I mentioned earlier Expiration Date; it’s such a keyboard driven song, that song concerns me on how we’re gonna do that live because there are also a lot of harmonies and vocals. Sometimes I do have concerns but it’s not something that I fear putting on the album because I can’t play it live.” Frighten the peeps, I say.
Genexus is another concept album, and I suggest that it’s almost as if Obsolete (1998) is conceptually a logical progression to it, an album that you didn’t create for another 18 years. Are you a time traveller? He denies this and also disputes my speculation. “It is kind of. But not quite. Genexus is way further into the future compared to when Obsolete came out. The concepts behind Genexus; they’re not so far into the future from where we are now in 2016 but from 1998 to Genexus in 2016, it’s a big jump conceptually. Digimortal (2001) had to come out; Mechanize (2010), The Industrialist (2012); they had to come out and now Genexus. Genexus is basically the Singularity process between man and machine. It’s the hybrid of where we are going and how technology is evolving; Obsolete was barely the beginning of where things in our lives were becoming obsolete, where jobs were becoming obsolete because of machines. It was explaining how this technology was making things obsolete and how we need to be prepared for that, to be prepared for change, and that’s what Obsolete was about. The Singularity process was way into the future. Digimortal was about the cloning technology and how we were able to take DNA and be able to clone things; whether it be a dog, rat, a monkey or a sheep right up to humans. So we’re relating the stuff that we sing about to the times and what’s going on, and right now, everyone is questioning what the Singularity process means what that technology means. And that’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
You’ll be touring the US from March to May in US, and you’ll be heading to Europe for the festival circuit in August, but you’ll be coming to dear sweet Australia in June. What are your set plans? “The set that we’ll be playing in Australia will obviously be showcasing some of the new songs and we’ll also be playing a lot of classic Fear Factory. We’re gonna go deep into the catalogue and you’re gonna get a lot of stuff from Soul Of A New Machine, Demanufacture, Obsolete; everything from The Industrialist to Digimortal – even stuff from Archetype (2004). We can’t wait.” Neither can we.
And finally, Burton has Ascension Of The Watchers as his mellow side project but you did Asesino (Mexican death grind madness) which is fucking metal; do you have any desire to go all mellow and twangy? “No! I leave that to what I do in Fear Factory because we do mellow songs here and there, almost ballad-like songs, but as far as the extreme stuff goes; I love it. That’s my outlet; doing stuff with Divine Heresy and Asesino.”
I mention that Asesino scared the bejeebers out of me (in a good way). Dino cracks up and replies “Good!” before disappearing into the ether to become at one with the machine.