INTERVIEW: Fear Factory’s Dino Cazares

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The mighty Fear Factory is touring Australia this June in support of their latest album Genexus, but this tour has a twist: fans have been invited to submit songs for the setlist. It’s a cool opportunity to hear some less-common tracks and to feel like even more a part of the show than the typical Fear Factory fan frenzy allows. Last week I caught up with riffmaster Dino Cazares to chat about the tour and, of course, guitars.

So you’re letting fans have a say in the setlist.

Yes, and luckily the majority of songs the fans pick are the ones we play anyway! But there are a handful of songs that are a little different so we’re going to throw those in there. We’ve had an overwhelming response on that and we can’t believe how many people are voting for it and being a part of it. It’s really cool.

Is there anything surprising in the non-standard songs that people are choosing? Is there anything where you’re like “Really? We hadn’t even thought about playing that song live”? 

No, I mean, we think about that stuff all the time: how would this song fit in the setlist? How would it go over? Sometimes we play the rare tracks and people are like ‘Huh? I don’t remember this song… I haven’t heard this song.’ So sometimes you have to stick to ‘the best of Fear Factory.’ But I think some of the songs people are picking are going to fit really well in the setlist. And we’re excited to do this because whenever you’re selecting a setlist, different band members will say ‘I want this song, I want that song,’ and it gets to be a bit of a headache, trying to decide which songs to put in. And sometimes when you play shorter gigs, like festivals, you’ve only got time for ten songs, and what are those ten songs going to be? It’s a lot of pressure. But this takes the pressure off us and puts it in the hands of the fans, and they get to hear what they want to hear.

When you guys started playing “Archetype,” everyone thought it was a really classy move on your part. People respected that you did that.

When I first came back into the band I was probably a little bitter and I didn’t want to play anything off those records, but after a while the fans started to speak and I listened. They said ‘that’s still part of the Fear Factory catalog. Can you at least consider it?’ And so I did. We started to play “Archetype” and “Cyber Waste” and, I believe we’ve done “Slave Labor” in other parts of the world. But “Archetype” is a song that’s part of our setlists now.

Here in Melbourne you’re playing at the Prince Bandroom, where you’ve previously played places like the Palace Theatre, which closed down a while back. We no longer have a venue that’s a good fit for a band of your size here, which means we’re seeing a lot more of these multi-night stands in smaller venues. I know as a fan it’s exciting to get to see a band like Fear Factory in a smaller venue. 

Yeah! It makes it a little bit more intimate, more personal. It’s really cool and the fans have a better opportunity to be up close and personal with you, and you get to see a really ripping show right there in front of your face!

It must take you back to when you were a new band playing smaller shows. 

Yeah, but over our career we’ve played every size venue you can think of, from a backyard to the biggest festival stages. To us a show is a show. It doesn’t matter what it is, it doesn’t matter how many people, a show is a show and you give 100 percent.

I was listening to an interview with Rivers Cuomo from Weezer recently where he talked about the early days and the difference between playing for ‘an audience’ and playing for fans. Did you have a clear moment where you noticed that change from playing to an audience to playing to Fear Factory fans? 

We noticed that from the very, very beginning of our careers. We just saw the fanbase grow, y’know what I mean? But it’s always amazing when kids are singing your lyrics, wanting your autograph, staying after the show to meet you. We’ve encountered every different kind of fan you can think of and we 100 percent appreciate them. The typical thing to say is that if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t exist. And of course if it wasn’t for the Australian fans …we’ve been going there since after our first record and we have a long history with Australia, and we appreciate it and that’s why we make the really trips to go out there.

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So let’s talk guitars! Got any cool new Ibanezes lately? 

I’ve definitely been playing my signature. We just did the Demanufacture US tour and I was playing my RGA Demanufacture-painted guitar. It’s got the artwork painted on the body, and that guitar is fully dedicated to that album. But for the majority of stuff we play I’ve been playing my signature DCM100 baritone [buy one here], which has got the Seymour Duncan Retribution pickups in it. Those pickups are are based on the Blackouts family; you’ve got the Mick Thomson EMTY Blackout, you’ve got the Dino Retribution, the Jeff Loomis… so it’s based on the Blackout, and that’s basically all I have in my guitar. If it’s an older guitar I might have a Blackout in it but the majority have a Retribution.

What did you want to be different about the Retributions? 

Well the Dino guitar, I wanted it to be less hot, because my amp is pretty much rippin’, and I wanted to bring some of the gain down just a hair, just a little bit, to add more clarity to it. It’s got a little more crunch but it’s still got the full clarity and the full body the Blackout has. It has the full roundness, and a little more high mids for clarity. Sometimes when you palm-mute the guitar it can get muddy, so I added more high mids to give it that crunch, the clarity. So that’s a big difference between the Blackout and my pickup. But the main difference is if the regular Blackout has 14dB more gain, mine would have, I would say, 11. We brought mine down a few dB just give to give it a little more clarity and so it wouldn’t feedback. Sometimes my amp can feed back and it’s not controllable, so we brought that down… and it’s just perfect! It’s rippin’!

Buy Seymour Duncan pickups here

Did you ever use passive pickups or have you been active all the way?

I used passive pickups at the very beginning of my career but I never recorded with passive pickups.

Do you have any guitars that might surprise people? I’m just trying to imagine if you have a jazz box at home or something. 

I have a ten-string acoustic guitar which a friend of mine made. I have a weird 11-string guitar that my friend from Poland made. I don’t really have anything too different. The majority of my stuff is Ibanez. I still have a couple of the old ESPs from when I first started, but 90 percent of my guitars are Ibanez. Yeah! I’ve been one of the lucky ones: I’ve been with Ibanez for 18 years. So like I said, 90 percent of my guitars are Ibanez and 75 percent of those are custom made, and the rest are models I just wanted to have, y’know what I mean? Like of course, Steve Vai’s Universe. But the majority of my stuff is custom made from Ibanez and I’ve been really lucky because over the years there’s only a handful of guys that have that many Ibanez guitars. That’s what Ibanez told me!

FEAR FACTORY TOUR DATES

THURSDAY 2 JUNE – BRISBANE, THE TIVOLI – 18+
Tickets from www.ticketmaster.com.au or Ticketmaster Outlets 

FRIDAY 3 JUNE – SYDNEY, UNSW ROUNDHOUSE – 18+
Tickets from www.ticketek.com.au or Ticketek Outlets

SATURDAY 4 JUNE – MELBOURNE, PRINCE OF WALES – 18+
Tickets from www.tickets.destroyalllines.com or Oztix Outlets – SOLD OUT

SUNDAY 5 JUNE – MELBOURNE, PRINCE OF WALES – 18+
Tickets from www.tickets.destroyalllines.com or Oztix Outlets

TUESDAY 7 JUNE – ADELAIDE, HQ – 18+
Tickets from www.tickets.destroyalllines.com or Oztix Outlets 

WEDNESDAY 8 JUNE – PERTH, METROPOLIS FREMANTLE – 18+
Tickets from www.tickets.destroyalllines.com or Oztix Outlets

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