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.
I just interviewed Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares about the band’s kickass new album The Industrialist. The full interview will be on I Heart Guitar when the album is released, but here’s a snippet we’re using on the Seymour Duncan blog. Enjoy!
Byron Stroud is a legend in the metal bass world. He was the man responsible for holding down the thunderous low end of Strapping Young Lad, as well as SYL offshoot Zimmer’s Hole. When Dino Cazares left Fear Factory and Christian Olde Wolbers switched over to guitar, Byron stepped into the bass slot. Then Christian and drummer Raymond Herrera were out of Fear Factory, Dino was back in, and SYL drummer Gene Hoglan joined, reuniting one of the most iconic rhythm sections in metal. You still keeping up? Well now Byron and Fear Factory singer Burton C Bell have another band on the side, called City of Fire. CoF is more melodic and traditional than FF and far less extreme than SYL, but that’s not to say they aren’t heavy. Their self-titled debut mixes metal and melody to great effect and allows Bryon to explore darker, moodier metal textures than he can in his other jobs.
When one hears of a band fronted by the singer from another popular band, the first thought is ‘I guess that’s something the singer put together.’ Not so with City of Fire – it all started with legendary underground thrash band Caustic Thought. “That was a band I started right out of high school with Ian White and Bob Wagner,” Byron says. “That was a band that Devin Townsend and Jed Simon both played in before we did Strapping Young Lad. I’ve always stayed in touch with the guys and we’d do the odd reunion show here and there. The last one we did a couple of years ago went really well, so we got together and started writing songs and we really liked the direction it was going. We brought in another player, Terry Murray, and once we did some demoing I thought Burton would be into it. Burton and I have a similar taste in music, and when I sent him the demos he freaked out. The only vision we really had was that we didn’t want any song to sound like any other song on the record. We’re happy with the way it turned out.”
The arrangements in City of Fire leave a lot more sonic space for Stroud to move around in. “It definitely gives me an opportunity to try different styles of bass. I do more fingerstyle playing. I started out as a finger player, and it was only when I joined bands like Strapping where I started playing with a pick to keep up with everybody. And when you’re playing finger style it’s one less thing you have to worry about: trying to find a pick!”
I suggest that I can hear a few psychedelic influences creeping into some of the riffs and melodies of City of Fire. “We hear that too in the songs, but it was just natural for us. And the songs we’ve written since we recorded the record are more of the same. We’ve definitely tapped into something we’re really into and feel we can pull off and make sound killer. That’s the great thing about Terry Murray – he’s a producer in Vancouver as well and he reminds me of a lot of things that Devin Townsend does. He has a similar production style that Devin has, so he’s really good at the layering and getting great performances out of people.”
Byron’s bass arsenal includes Fender and ESP instruments. “I have a couple of custom Fenders that I got made a few years ago when I joined Fear Factory. I’ve always been with ESP, then when I joined Fear Factory I started using Christian’s basses and I just loved them. They were a more rounded bass, whereas the ESPs were more cutting. I’m back with ESP now, so I use both. I have some ESP 6-strings and 5-strings, and I still have my trusty Fenders. For amps I was with Ashdown for a while but now I’m back to Ampeg again. I’ll use two separate tones: I’ll have one amp that’s strictly a sub tone – no mids or highs – and I’ll have another amp which is an extreme distortion tone. I can switch that from a distortion to a clean sound but I always keep the sub. But for City of Fire I just went with a basic old 1968 Ampeg SVT through an old 8X10 cabinet, cranked it up and got the classic tone.”
Wow, I just had to check my watch to make sure it wasn’t still April 1. Just saw this on Blabbermouth:
A brand new project has been formed featuring original FEAR FACTORY members Dino Cazares (guitar) and Burton C. Bell (vocals). The band, which is rumored to also include bassist Byron Stroud (who played on the last two FEAR FACTORY albums in addition to touring and recording with STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and ZIMMERS HOLE) and legendary drummer Gene Hoglan (DETHKLOK, STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, DARK ANGEL, DEATH, TESTAMENT), will play a number of shows this summer as well as record a studio album.
So I just realised that if you turn ‘What I Listened To On The Train To Work Today’ into an acronym, it looks like an onomatopoeic interpretation of the sound a finch makes.
Okay, this morning seems to have been one of polar opposites for me. I started my walk to the train station cranking Fear Factory’s ‘Obsolete’ album. When this one came out, I got to interview Raymond from the band (for Curio, the student magazine for the University of Canberra – I was the News & Reviews editor). Allow me to slip into self-indulgent journo mode for a second…
When Fear Factory toured Australia to promote this album in 1999, I was lucky enough to get a backstage pass and a photo pass to shoot the first 3 songs. The band opened with ‘Shock,’ the first track off ‘Obsolete.’ After getting a bunch of shots of the band (including Dino with an Ibanez UV777BK Universe 7-string with a single EMG active humbucker), I turned around to get some pictures of the mad wall of mosh happening behind me. Suddenly I felt ‘a presence’ and I realised singer Burton C Bell was right behind me, getting the crowd to go extra psycho for my photos. So I turn around and we sing the chorus to ‘Shock’ together into his mic. Awesome. Awesome.
Anyway, ‘Obsolete’ is my favourite Fear Factory album. The production is sharp, hi-fi and aggressive, with monstrously tight grooves and direct songwriting. Dino’s guitar tone is clear even when he plays complex chords on tracks like ‘Descent,’ and Burton strikes the perfect balance between his screamy voice and his singing voice. Fear Factory made other great albums before and after ‘Obsolete,’ but this is the one for me.
Anyway, after getting to the train station and stopping at the kiosk for a coffee this morning, I switched over to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’s ‘Raising Sand,’ which won every single one of the Grammys yesterday, with the exception of the Best Rock Instrumental award which went to Zappa Plays Zappa.
This is a cool, low-key album which reminds me in parts of Page and Plant’s 1998 ‘Walking Into Clarksdale’ album (not only because both albums include the song ‘Please Read The Letter). There’s lots of cool tremolo-drenched guitar playing by T Bone Burnett, and the whole atmosphere is very laid back and real. I would consider this one a bathtub album, or maybe a quiet Sunday afternoon album, sprawled out on the sofa with a sunbeam slowly crossing your bare feet as you read Oliver Sacks’ ’Musicophilia’ or something. Man I wish it was the weekend.
By the way, anyone else notice that T Bone Burnett looks a lot like John Hodgeman (Daily Show correspondent and the PC in those “I’m PC” “And I’m a Mac” commercials)?