FEAR FACTORY - Set This World On Fire
February 6, 2010, 5 years ago
By Aaron Small
In Christian theology, The Second Coming refers to the return of Jesus Christ from Heaven to Earth. In the metal world, it refers to vocalist Burton C. Bell and guitarist Dino Cazares reuniting as FEAR FACTORY after seven years apart.
Fear Factory released their debut album, Soul Of A New Machine, in 1992. Their unique fusion of death and industrial proved to be groundbreaking. The sophomore effort, Demanufacture, is the band’s musical apex. Obsolete followed, proving to be FF’s biggest seller. 2001’s Digimortal would be the last album with Dino. Personal differences and internal disputes caused the band to fall apart. In the ensuing years, Dino would go on to play in ASESINO, BRUJERIA and DIVINE HERESY. Meanwhile, Burton reformed Fear Factory with bassist Christian Olde Wolbers switching to guitar. Byron Stroud was named new bassist and Raymond Herrera remained steadfast on drums. The Archetype and Transgression albums were released and Fear Factory continued to tour.
It wasn’t until April 2008, when Burton was singing for MINISTRY, that he would bump into Dino again at a Los Angeles show. Unbeknownst to either at the time, that chance meeting planted the seeds that would germinate into a Fear Factory reunion. As Christian fell by the wayside, so did Raymond. Enter drum god Gene Hoglan and Fear Factory is reborn with a bar-setting new album, Mechanize.
Burton’s excitement, not only for the new music, but also about having reconciled with his old friend Dino, is impossible to curtail. “Absolutely. The creative chemistry is really strong right now. There’s a consciousness within both of us that’s a driving force – and I missed it. In musical history there’s always a combination of people in bands that makes it work and without the combination, it doesn’t work. Dino and I seem to have found that chemistry early on and it’s worked. Whether it’s a contingent or whether it’s a very easygoing thing, it’s there. He can’t deny it and I can’t deny it. Here we are with this album that we wrote. I couldn’t have done it without Dino.”
Previously, Fear Factory was signed to Roadrunner, Liquid 8 and Calvin Records. Now for Mechanize, the band has a new home at Candlelight Records. “Fear Factory was a free agent so there were a lot of different labels interested of course. But I had a specific type of contract I wanted to sign,” explains Burton. “Candlelight stepped up. ‘Is that the contract you want? We’ll give you that contract.’ They wanted Fear Factory that bad. My contract request wasn’t difficult. But I feel in this day and age, why not ask for what I want? For years I’ve been signing contracts that I felt were the only ones I had to sign. Not any more.”
In addition to Mechanize being the first Fear Factory album on Candlelight, it’s the first FF album to feature drummer Gene Hoglan (DARK ANGEL, DEATH, TESTAMENT, STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, ZIMMERS HOLE, OLD MAN’S CHILD, DETHKLOK). According to Burton, “It’s really cool” to hear one of metal’s elite pounding away behind him. “I have to admit. In the beginning, it was just Dino, Gene and me in the rehearsal room, Byron hadn’t come down yet. We were all just jamming. Dino and Gene had this creative spark going and there I am listening to Dino write new riffs with Gene playing along… oh my god. I couldn’t stop smiling. Just listening to Gene play, watching him play… he makes it look so effortless. I was like, Holy Fuck! That’s amazing! I was happy.”
Bassist Byron Stroud, who played with Gene in Strapping Young Lad and Zimmers Hole, was instrumental in bringing Hoglan to the Fear Factory camp as Burton attests to. “Absolutely. He was definitely a key part of it. When I had to think of a drummer, it was like well, who are we going to get? Raymond’s a good drummer. When you have a good drummer, you need the same calibre if not better. There’s a few drummers out there, but not many. All the drummers we were thinking of were already working. Byron mentioned Gene and suggested we give him a call. So I asked him and he graciously said yes. I was very happy and I’m very pleased with my choice. The drums and guitars have always been this combination, this mechanical machine that’s really the driving force. I knew he could do it, but he adds this flavour to the drums that has never really been there before. It’s such a good feeling to hear it.”
When it came to lyrical inspiration for Mechanize, Burton was reading Alvin Toffler’s The Third Wave, which proved to be very influential on the words we hear. “True, very true. For people who are not familiar with it, Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock, which has been very influential on musicians and society in general. Third Wave is his follow up to that. It came out in 1980, almost ten years after Future Shock. It’s a sociological analysis of the world today. It’s non-fiction. It reads like a textbook. He starts with the agricultural revolution and moves into the industrial revolution. Then with all that knowledge and all those examples, he starts deciding what the third wave is. It’s a very mechanical type of society. It was a big influence. I already am aware and read papers and watch the media. I’m very observant of the world around me. But this really added a different perspective to it. It was really cool. There’s a lot of terms that I took from it. There’s titles in there that I’ve used. It’s such a cool book. If anyone has the patience to read it, they should check it out.”
Some of the subjects dealt with on Mechanize are pretty poignant and rather far-reaching. For example, ‘Powershifter’ contains the line, ‘Always question authority.’ That’s something people the world over can understand and appreciate. When asked if he personally has a problem with authority, Burton laughs and replies, “Certain authority yeah. I don’t have a problem with authority but there’s certain aspects of authority, mostly the authority figures that are in control of society, of our world today. Just because it’s absolute power doesn’t mean you shouldn’t question it. I believe you should always question authority, whether you feel they’re doing a great job or not. It’s not just their life that they’re living. They’re also enforcing aspects of your life and you have to question your freedoms. Is that truly making me happy? No. You should question it and really move forward. If the early settlers never questioned the Kings, we would never have The United States.”
‘Christploitation’ is bound to cause controversy as it contains the lyric ‘Your God is just a lie.’ “Oh I hope so. The Church is definitely an authority figure to so many people and it’s something I’ve always questioned, the aspect of religion. I don’t know how I came up with the term Christploitation, but it was like holy shit, that’s really good! The idea of Christploitation is that religion is exploiting the ideas of Christ and just using this person’s words for their own agenda in the name of war and conquering. Even The Crusades – that was all Christploitation. That’s another book I was reading by Richard Dawkins called The God Delusion. It also opened my eyes. The idea of God being the ultimate power and having rule over everything to me is just a lie. Really? That’s what you think God is? I don’t. That couldn’t be a God to me.”
Religion doesn’t play a role in Burton’s life at all. “No, not any more. Growing up, living with my parents, they wanted me to go to church with them so I had to. But even as a kid, I didn’t get it. I didn’t feel it. But ever since I moved out of my house – which was many, many years ago – religion has not played a big role in my life. I’ve always questioned the Church and their methods and motives really. I think a lot of people do. Unfortunately, very religious extremists – I hate to use that term but very devout Christians don’t want to hear otherwise. As open-minded as they might say they are, they really aren’t. Anyone who even gives an inkling or just a notion of there is no God… if someone is an Atheist, they’re afraid to say they’re an Atheist because Christians just come down on them severely and chastise them and rebuke them for saying that. Really, it’s like having an argument with the coffee table.”
‘Designing The Enemy’ is an interesting title because in a utopian existence there would be no enemies. So the concept of designing your own foe is rather perplexing. “It makes your head spin but it happens. A lot of this War on Terror, I believe, is a designed enemy, created to generate money and finances, to keep society moving forward with a direct intent or set goal for everybody. Like you said, in a proper utopian society, there would be no enemy – but there is no pure utopia. Our country (The United States of America) has proved that without war, without conflict, there is no economy. So this is where we are. It goes toward a social statement and it’s very personal. A lot of people create their own contention. Something that you might create, that is growing, will soon be your own enemy. You grow to hate it. That which makes you stronger can also kill you.”
For the avid collector, there are actually three different versions of Mechanize: the regular one, a limited edition with extra tracks and a toolbox! “Oh yeah. It’s an actual toolbox. There’s little tools in there with Fear Factory logos on them (the set consists of carpenter pencil, hammer, screwdriver, calliper, folding rule and measuring tape, along with a patch, poster and sticker). It’s a real collector’s item. It’s like a little piece of art. In the age of MP3s, there’s nothing really being done like that anymore, so we thought it was a really cool idea, instead of just doing a digipack. It’s like the size of a Kleenex box.”
When it came time to decide on bonus tracks for the limited edition, “We were trying to think of cover songs… and we decided to cover ourselves. So we re-recorded songs that were demoed early on in Fear Factory history, before Soul Of A New Machine and a song from Soul Of A New Machine. We re-recorded ‘Crash Test’, ‘Sangre De Ninos’ which was off the Concrete album that got us signed and ‘Martyr’. There’s also the three song demo that we did: ‘Big God’, ‘Self Immolation’ and ‘Soulwomb’ that were done on drum machine with Dino playing guitar and bass and me singing in the bathroom. It was recorded in our little apartment in Hollywood. We found the master that was this little half-inch eight track and we bounced it down digitally. So it’s still that demo, but re-mastered. It was just called The ’91 Demo.”
Mechanize comes to a close with ‘Final Exit’. A song that is completely different from the nine others that preceded it, as well as the rest of the Fear Factory catalogue. It’s eight minutes long, has a much slower tempo and contemplates your own mortality. All the machines are gone and at the end of the album, the end of the day, it’s just man himself. “Man himself and his own thoughts. It’s based on a book by Derek Humphry called Final Exit. It’s an actual group out of the northwest, an association promoting the awareness of doctor-assisted suicide for patients who are suffering severe amounts of pain, debilitating pain – cancer and the like. There’s a group of people who feel that if there’s no medicine that can help me in my pain, why should I continue? I feel as a human being. I have the right to end my own life. That is a freedom that is debated. However it is your own life and you can take it. It’s not a negative comment about the group or association but it’s a comment about society. The pro-lifers and the pro-choicers, they want to keep every baby alive but no one really thinks about death. It’s something that every human being does. What did Bill Hicks say? Smoking has killed 5,000 people this year. Guess what? News flash! Death kills people every day. Our mortality is usually something that people don’t want to think about, but it’s going to happen.”