Saturday, 2 December 2006

FEAR FACTORY - Interview with Burton Bell by Christine Leonard-Cripps

Don’t fear the reaper

Fear Factory remanufactures death metal

Churning out alt-metal thrash for over a decade-and-a-half, Fear Factory has earned legendary status among the myriad of industrial bands that emerged in the early ’90s. Founding member and vocalist Burton C. Bell was fresh from his days with Hate Face when he crossed paths with percussionist Raymond Herrera in Los Angeles. The two formed the band’s earliest incarnation under the name Ulceration. They quickly joined the lineup of a compilation entitled L.A. Death Metal and soon thereafter found themselves signed to Roadrunner Records.

Inspired to broaden their horizons the newly formed (and appropriately renamed) Fear Factory began experimenting with remixing techniques and adding new instruments, producers and players to their roster on a regular basis. By 1998 they had released an impressive array of albums including Soul of a New Machine, Fear is the Mind Killer, Demanufacture, Remanufacture (Cloning Technology), and Obsolete, and had established themselves as a force to be reckoned with.

Pioneering a new industrial genre and taking the hardcore scene by storm, Fear Factory continued to push the envelope with a unique esthetic that layers techno-oriented augmentation on top of classic hardcore metal. Dabbling with elaborate remixes of everything from Gary Newman’s "Cars," U2’s "I Will Follow" and Nirvana’s "School," Fear Factory have proven that they are comfortable enough in their own skins to step outside the box and create musical arrangements that appeal to their senses on all levels.

"When people ask what our influences are, I just tell them to look at the songs we’ve covered over the years," explains Bell of the band’s eclectic musical tastes. "It doesn’t matter what genre a piece comes from, we just have fun with it while trying to keep it recognizable. Our music is directed towards people who like everything from hardcore to industrial to new wave to pop."

This past fall Roadrunner Records released a Best of Fear Factory CD that has rekindled interest in the band’s oeuvre and recruited new adherents across the metal scene. By tying together such diverse elements into one intellectually stimulating and physically exhilarating package, Burton and Herrera have seemingly struck upon an inexhaustible well of musical inspiration that has proven to be a veritable fountain of youth. Backed by guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers and Strapping Young Lad bassist Byron Stroud, the group is eager to reconnect with its fanbase and re-establish their presence on the world stage.

"It’s almost overwhelming playing in front of an audience again. We’re revisiting material we haven’t dragged out in 10 years, but people seem to be pretty happy with the results. We usually focus on picking our heavier material, including a couple of tunes we haven’t performed live since 1994. It’s a real trip back to the rack, so to speak," says Bell.

"With our more recent albums like Digimortal, Archetype, and our latest release Transgression, I think one can perceive how our sound has subtly evolved on its own over time – there was certainly nothing deliberate about it."

Accustomed to touring with massive, million dollar productions such as Ozzfest and the inaugural Gigantour, Bell confirms that he is very much looking forward to engaging audiences on a more intimate basis. Hitting the highways with the Machines of War tour along with fellow headbangers Decapitated, Hypocrisy and Suffocation, Fear Factory is more than ready to assume its rightful place as the headlining act in the company of highly capable and compatible peers.

"I think that there are up-and-coming bands out there who represent our genre, but industrial music is not really getting much notice these days," says Bell of the current state of things. "Bands like Ministry and KMFDM are still around, but they’re on the backburner. Young bands that have evolved from the Swans, Einsturzende, Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails are so hard to search out, they’re pretty much invisible and nobody has really made a dent in the scene.

"Basically, I’d have to say that industrial music hasn’t moved forward yet. I think someone needs to step up and take it all the way back to what it was originally about – rhythm and discordant cacophony."

by Christine Leonard

Originally published in FFWD Magazine December, 2006

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