When Dino Cazares left Fear Factory in 2002, the band carried on without him. It was a messy split and it seemed nobody could ever imagine him returning to the fold. Even less likely was the prospect of Fear Factory carrying on with an entirely new rhythm section, especially given the respect given Raymond Herrera in metal drumming circles. Yet in the spirit of the band’s whole cyber-techno-deconstructionalist ethos, in 2009 Fear Factory tore itself down and built itself back up. This year’s Mechanize is a brutal return to form that sees Dino and vocalist Burton C Bell join forces with Strapping Young Lad rhythm section Gene Hoglan and Byron Stroud. Fear Factory are returning to Australia this month to perform some shows with Metallica, so I started my chat with Dino by asking about Fear Factory’s association with metals’ most high-profile ambassadors.
Have you played with Metallica before?
Yeah, we did about ten shows with them in Europe, and that was earlier this year. They turned out to be really, really cool guys, very down to earth, and they really know how to treat their support bands, y’know? They treated us really well and it’s an honour they asked us to come back.
Did you get a chance to sit down and talk rhythm guitar with James or anything like that?
Yeah! Definitely! I actually let James jam on one of my guitars. He was interested because I have seven and eight string guitars. He was like, ‘Wow, look at this guitar!’ and he started playing it. He would come into our dressing room pretty much every day and shoot the shit. We went out partying with Lars one night, and Robert Trujillio. They took us out to dinner and stuff like that. Really nice guys. You wouldn’t expected them to treat bands like that, but they treat them really well.”
You guys were just out here earlier this year. You seem to be pretty regular visitors, you should rent a shack or something.
Hey, yeah mean, trust me, I wouldn’t mind! But yeah, we’ve definitely been there quite a lot over our career. Australia was one of the first countries that really embraced Fear Factory back in the Demanufacture days, back in early 95, 96, when we did our first Big Day Out. It’s been really successful over there. We love Australia, we love going there – it’s like our second home.
And the reception to Mechanize has been huge.
It’s been very positive. Everywhere we’ve been, all around the world. It feels great. Y’know, I was a little nervous at first because I was first coming back into the band, I wasn’t sure how it was gonna be received, you know what I mean? The typical stuff when you put a record out, you’re a little bit nervous about it, but I was a little bit more nervous because it’s my first time back in so many years. But it’s been great. The response has been really, really good. We’re all stoked.
When you came back to the band, I guess everyone wondered if you would all get along, but I saw you guys all hanging out at the Baked Potato in LA earlier this year when Mike Keneally played a gig with Brendon Small and Gene Hoglan, and I thought ‘Fear Factory are hanging out together for fun – everything’s gonna be alright!’
Yeah! You were there? Yeah, we all hang out, we all go to gigs and support each other. That was a cool little gig that Gene did. Gene’s one of those kinds of drummers that can adapt, and if you remember that was, what, 70s music?
Yeah, it was half a Stevie Wonder album, some Jeff Beck songs, Steely Dan…
Yeah, yeah! That was one of the cool, exciting parts about me coming back to Fear Factory, was actually getting to jam with Gene. The guy is such a very talented musician. A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, he’s a big fat guy,’ but dude, that guy can play! Doesn’t matter how big you are, man, the guy has the heart, the soul and the knowledge! He can play everything. When he came into Fear Factory he was like, ‘What do you want me to play? I can do it all.’ We felt limitless.
I remember when I first heard that you guys were playing together, and it wasn’t announced that you’d be called Fear Factory yet.
Yeah, at that time we were still in a lawsuit and when we played the Big Day Out this year, we could use the name Fear Factory but if we used the name Fear Factory we’d have to give the other Fear Factory some money. So we didn’t use the name at that time. We were called Fear Campaign on that tour. But everybody knew it was Fear Factory!
Let’s switch to guitar talk: what was it like to switch to Ibanez eight strings?
It was very natural. I remember when they first made it: it was 2005 and they made the first prototype. They actually called me and a few other musicians to come down and try it. When I went there and picked it up and started jamming on it, they were like, ‘Wow, you’re the first guy who actually knew what to do with it.’ Well yeah, I’ve been playing seven strings for so long that switching to eight was exciting and fun, and it came natural to me.
Do you have many of them? What are they like?
I have four eight strings. I have two that are the RGA8 – one of them I’ll be bringing with me – and I have two of them that are the regular RG.
How do you tune them?
They’re tuned standard F#, so the first six strings are standard tuning, then the next lower string is B, still standard, and the F# is the low one. I’m one of the lucky guys that gets his guitars custom made, so I get the necks a little thinner. We’re talking millimetres, but millimetres make a big difference. So I can make it a little thinner, I can make it neck-thru. A lot of people don’t have neck-thrus. I can experiment with different types of woods, lighter woods, heavier woods, maple, basswood, bubinga, rosewood, ebony, things like that. And every piece of wood, you’re going to get something different about it. I believe I’ve found what I like, but I love my eight strings. I do have quite a lot of seven strings.
I remember seeing you guys in 99, you had the Ibanez UV777BK Universe with an EMG humbucker in the bridge position.
Yeah, what was that, the Obsolete tour?
Back then when you saw us, they got stolen. All my Universes got stolen. All of them. I didn’t have one left.
Have you ever got anything back?
Nothing. When I first was out of Fear Factory I was a little upset – okay, I was a lot upset – and I got rid of some of my guitars. I made a mistake I sold some of my LA Custom Shop guitars. And there have been a couple of them that you see that collectors keep buying and selling. I was recently in Poland and there was a collector out there who had a couple of my guitars and I tried to get a hold of him to sell them back to me because it’s a bit of sentimental value, but the guy never responded to me. They’re really nice necks. I have double truss rods because when you’re touring, every country’s different and the necks have a tendency to move a little bit. You have to constantly keep adjusting the necks, especially when you go from extreme cold to extreme hot, so I have double truss rods to keep them solid.
How did you initially get into metal? For me it was around 91, I was 13, Megadeth had just released Rust In Peace, Metallica put out the Black Album…
For me it was before that, back in the late 70s, I would say. I was definitely very much influenced by what my older brothers and sisters listened to. Everybody liked something different. I came from a big family, but one of my sisters was more into rock, borderline metal stuff. I first heard AC/DC when I was nine, and I saw them on TV and I was like, ‘Wow, I wanna be like that guy,’ and I was Angus Young. ‘I wanna be that dude,’ y’know what I mean? That first got me into it, then I heard Black Sabbath, and then Judas Priest, and then all of a sudden, in the 80s all the newer-school metal bands came out like the Metallicas and the Slayers and stuff like that, and it just got heavier.
One of the cool things about metal is going back and finding the bands that influenced your favourite bands.
I’m influenced by all of it. I’m influenced by the music, not just the player but the whole sound. I don’t look at what I do just as the guitar, I look at it as the whole. When I’m playing guitar I’m thinking of the drums as well. I’m thinking of a cool melody line that’s going to go along with it. I’m thinking of a cool keyboard sound or some sort of sample, y’know what I mean? I think of it like that. I might start with a guitar but it doesn’t finish with a guitar.
That’s something Fear Factory captures so well – the band’s sound is much more than just the guitar sound.
Well we definitely wear our influences on our sleeves. For Fear Factory, a lot of the stuff that influenced us was the early speed and death metal, grindcore, mixed in with the industrial, stuff like Killing Joke, Godflesh, stuff like that. But me and Burt were also fans of other music that was really big, the alternative stuff, so that’s where a lot of the melodic vocals come from. We decided to put the melodic vocals into our heavy music and we were able to create our own style that other artists could be influenced by, positively.
LINK: Fear Factory