INTERVIEW: Fear Factory’s Dino Cazares
Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares is a pioneer of modern metal guitar technique. His ultra-tight picking, monstrously heavy tone and pioneering use of Ibanez seven and eight string guitars helped to solidify the combination of mechanical precision and brutal riffing that spurred an industrial metal revolution and eventually fed into the development of the djent sound. And Dino’s riffage is in fine form on the band’s new album, The Industrialist [Riot]. The collection is perhaps the most pure representation of the Fear Factory philosophy yet, with Dino handling guitar, bass, and drum programming, and vocalist Burton C. Bell dishing up the kind of anthemic melodies and brutal textures that made albums such as Demanufacture and Obsolete such classics.
“We’ve been getting that a lot,” Cazares says of the Demanufacture/Obsolete comparison. “I think part of that is just because it’s me and Burt! I think it’s the purest you’re going to get of Fear Factory.” The Industrialist marks a departure for Fear Factory in its use of programmed drums in place of a live player such as Raymond Herrera or Gene Hoglan. But the move is not entirely out of character for the band. “When me and Burton started the band in 1990 we were using a drum machine to record our demos” Cazares explains. “Over the years we’ve never been a band that has shied away from technology. We’ve never been a band who hid what we did in the studio. Over the years we’ve used drum machines on certain songs and certain albums, and even though we’ve had live drummers we have edited the drums to be like a machine, and we’ve changed the sounds to machine sounds. So either way it would not have made a difference if we used live drums or not. It would have been the same outcome. Some people are kind of shocked by it, like they didn’t realise that’s part of our schtick. That’s who we are. It’s what we do! Again, even if we had a live drummer it would come out to be the same outcome. And one of the benefits of using a drum program on your Mac laptop is it’s much more cost-effective. And with the way the music industry is going these days, it’s getting really hard to make a solid income because record companies are going down, and the amount of money you would spend in an actual recording studio to record the album, nowadays it’s still pretty expensive. So using a drum program is definitely a much more cost-effective way than hiring somebody to do it.” But Dino remains coy on the exact drum program used on the album. “Oh, I don’t want to promote any kind of drum program that doesn’t give it to us free,” he laughs.
One of the album’s standout tracks is “God Eater.” “It has a very dark feel to it,” Dino says. “That’s pretty much really old-school Fear Factory right there. The intro has a horror movie feel, then it goes to this really cool piano part and the guitar part, and it just gets heavy! The way it builds is cool!” It’s representative of the way Fear Factory’s bleak, industrial metal sound seems to exist in its own time, not dating in the way that other bands do. “Back in the Soul Of A New Machine days, you listen to that and think, ‘Okay, that’s an early 90s, death metal-inspired industrial type of record,” Dino says. “But ever since we started doing Fear Is The Mindkiller and we met Rhys Fulber, our producer, and combining the metal aspects with the industrial aspects and making this killer ‘hybreed.’ But by the time we hit Demanufacture, it was maybe a little ahead of its time, and it kinda grew from there. It’s a combination of our sound, ideas, the technologies we use, and just the overall arrangements and songwriting. I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s relevant.”
LIke its predecessors, The Industrialist features a dose of ambient evil, this time in the form of “Religion is Flawed Because Man is Flawed” and “Human Augmentation.” “Every one of our records has something ambient and dark towards the end of the album. It’s just something we always do, the calming period of the album, y’know? You couldn’t put a song like “Human Augmentation” in the middle of the album. People would be like, ‘What the fuck is this?‘ and it would also mess up the flow of the record!”
Dino’s guitar cache for The Industrialist consisted of various Ibanez seven and eight-string customs. “I’ve been using eight strings since about 2004, 05, around there, just on various projects. It’s not something that I constantly use all the time. The seven-string is still my main instrument, but the eight-string is good to throw in for songs like “God Eater” and “Disassemble.” The eight-string for me is not something I can pick really fast, so it’s mainly something for the more open, heavier songs. But seven-string is still the dominant choice for the rest of the album.” Dino’s use of the eight-string almost seems like an extension of his seven-string work on Obsolete’s “Descent,” where he combined the lowest notes with higher ones, more fully exploring the instrument’s range rather than simply hammering away on the lowest string. “Definitely. For sure. There is a lot of stuff I did on “Disassemble” towards the end that you would have to do with two guitars if you didn’t have the eight-string, or you’d have to tune your guitar way differently. So it has that advantage, and for me it’s also the darker tone that I like about it. It’s also the tension. If I had to do something in that low tuning on a seven-string, the tension would be really floppy.”
A big part of Fear Factory’s sound is Dino’s use of silence, strategically placed within otherwise busy, intricate, jackhammer riffs. And although some players prefer using noise gates to get those ‘holes of silence’ as tight as possible, Dino achieves the effect via a much more analog method: “It’s called having a really good right hand!” he laughs. “A long time ago when we first started the band, we decided it was going to be called Fear Factory and it was going to be industrial. Back then a lot of the bands looped a guitar riff. KMFDM, Ministry, whoever, they would loop a riff that would go over and over. And it would sound like a looped, mechanical riff. So I always tried to copy that. I really learned how to palm mute and stop really fast. Like for instance, ‘Self Bias Resistor’ [sings riff]. It’s just that rhythm over and over again, and it has that really quick stop in between. It sounds like a cut or an edit but it’s not. And that’s how I developed my style on how to be really tight. Normally if someone’s playing that riff, you’ll hear a little noise in between the riffs. I’ve learned how to eliminate that noise, not just with a noise gate but with my palm.” Another aspect of Dino’s precise riffage is his use of the guitar’s volume control at opportune moments. “My volume knob gets a good work-out,” he says. “There have been times where I’ve been using the knob so much that it falls off during a live show. Then I’m like, ‘Oh shit!’ and I have to go looking for it somewhere on the stage or in the crowd. ‘Where’s that knob? I need that knob!’”
For around five years now, Cazares has built his tone around the Seymour Duncan Blackouts active humbuckers in his Ibanez LA Custom Shop guitars. “I’ve been using the Blackouts for some time now,” he confirms. “I remember when they were talking to me about it and they used me as a guinea pig for the prototype of the Blackouts. That was when I was working on the first Divine Heresy record in 2007. They sent me a prototype and I was like, “Wow, this is really fucking cool.” And I just fell in love with it, and I’ve been using them ever since. I use them for seven-string and eight-string. It has that midrange presence which is what I love, what I need to cut through on recordings. That midrange boost really cuts through on recordings and live, so that’s one of the benefits I love.”
There’s one thing which Dino requests on his personal Blackouts that sets them apart slightly, and shows off his allegiance to the pickup: “I always tell them when they make mine to make the logo bigger. So instead of having the smaller Seymour Duncan logo, it has a bigger one. It looks cool on my pickup! I’m trying to get them to make different colour ones now too. I know they can do white but I want them to do other stuff like green and red. Not pink! But green, red, yellow…”
Dino’s guitar tone for The Industrialist comes from a very simple source: “Line 6 POD HD. That was it! I had some really cool effects that I had on my older head, the Line 6 Vetta II, and you can’t transfer them from one head to another unit, so I just plugged in that head to use some effects that I really liked, and which would have taken a lot of time to get on the POD HD, so I said ‘Screw it! Why waste time? Just plug in my Vetta and use the effects on there.’ There’s a song called ‘New Messiah’ where it sounds like keyboard but it’s actually guitar. That’s my Vetta head.” A similar approach was used for the bass on the album: “I went through a bass POD with a SansAmp. It was really simple. It was really easy, and we did this album a lot faster.” Live, those bass parts are being covered by former Chimaira guitarist Matt DeVries. “For a lot of years, everything has been so locked: the guitars, the kick drums, the bass. They’re all so locked. They’re all doing the same thing. You need a bass player that is going to play that tight, as tight as me. So the best way to do it was to have me play it, and that’s what I’ve done over the years. Matt is a rhythm guitar player, so because he plays the bass like a guitar, it sounds like me playing! So it’s perfect! He does the really fast palm-muting on the bass and it sounds cool! It sounds really tight. That’s one of the benefits of having a guitar player that plays bass, rather than having a bass player try to play like a guitar.”
Before we wrap up our chat, I remind Dino that last time we talked in 2010, he said he was hoping to get back some of the Ibanez LA Custom Shop guitars that he’d sold when he initially left Fear Factory in the early 2000s. At the time, Dino hadn’t managed to bring any of the guitars home. Have any appeared since then? “Yes! I got two of them back! I got a white one, a 1998 custom, which I donated to the Rainbow Bar & Grill in Hollywood, and the other one I got was my FF Digimortal guitar, with the Digitmortal logo and it was all metallic silver. I got that back! That one I’m keeping for my collection! I’m still in contact with a couple of guys who have a couple more. Some of the guys don’t want to part with them because they love them, but I’m still trying!”The Industrialist is out now. Buy Ibanez 8-strings from Musician’s Friend: Ibanez Rg2228 Ibanez Rga8