In this interview I talk with Dino about Fear Factory, the touchy subject of Road Runner Records, video games, The Browning, crazy tour stories, how he met Bell while he was singing in the shower, and more…
Tell us a little bit about Fear Factory’s upcoming album ‘The Industrialist’ and what we can all expect to hear.
I think that ever since I’ve been back in the band, me and Burton have been gelling really well. When we first started the band around 1990, me and him were roommates and we really shared a lot of different types of music. He was really into more of the industrial side, I was really more into the death-metal side. You know, Earache Records shit, all the grind-core and all the death-metal stuff; Godflesh, Napalm Death, Carcass, all that shit…and then somewhere when we became friends we decided to combine all that together and so I think on this record, The Industrialist, you kind of hear where the band first came from. Obviously we’ve progressed since then, but you kind of hear more of the elements that made Fear Factory who we were back in the day, like ‘Soul of a New Machine’/’Demanufacture’ era, where the riffs were really tight and locked in with the kick drum and just a lot more of the industrial elements, a lot of keyboards, and a lot of samples and stuff like that.
Most of your albums have been recorded by Rys Fulber, what is your relationship like and how was it working with him on this latest effort?
Our relationship with Rhys is super tight. He’s one of the guys that really understands what we are trying to do. He understands the concept between us trying to combine the industrial elements in with the metal elements. He was the first one to really get it. We started working with him back in 1992 with our first EP that we released called ‘Fear Is The Mind Killer’, and then we used him for ‘Demanufacture’, and we used him for ‘Obsolete’, we used him for ‘Digimortal’, then I was out of the band for a couple of records and they used somebody else, and then obviously when I came back I said “We gotta get Rhys back!”. We used him for ‘Mechanize’ and the new album, ‘The Industrialist’. Rhys has been our quiet, fifth member forever.
What can you tell us about the artwork for ‘The Industrialist’, and does it represent a lyric or theme within the new album?
It’s a conceptual album and The Industrialist is an actual “thing”, it’s actually THE Industrialist. It’s an automaton, it’s a robot. Basically, US WE created this “robot” and this robot gets smarter and smarter and as it lives, it collects memories and starts to think it’s human. It just gets smarter and smarter, kind of like Siri on your iPhone. It learns who you are. This automaton learns by what it sees and hears and so eventually, on the album, it turns against us.
I’ve seen quite a few of your shows by this point, all over the country, and I’ve noticed that your crowd reaction here in the States is really strong. Where do you feel is your biggest following and do you get the same reaction overseas?
Bigger actually. Oh yea. Fear Factory is a bigger band overseas. I think a lot of bands are like that. Especially in places like South America where a lot of kids are more passionate. They’re into their metal, they love it. You know, a lot of bands get bigger because they get radio play or they’re the hot trend at the moment. We’re just a band that doesn’t really worry about it, we just do what we do. We like playing everywhere. Small stages, big stages, you’re mom’s house, we don’t care. (laughs)
Do you have any pre-show rituals? Anything that you guys do to prepare for a show?
Number one thing, and I think this goes for every musician…you either piss or shit before you go on stage. Because you don’t want to be up on stage going (grabs stomach) “Oh fuck, I gotta piss!” or “Man, I gotta fuckin’ shit!” Obviously it happens sometimes. You know what I mean? I’ve heard of drummers just pissing in their seats. Or even dudes like Burt, crapped himself on stage one time. There was one time when I even had to stop a show and run to the bathroom, shit, and come back out. (laughs) So basically, the number one thing is just relieve yourself before you go out.
Do you warm up at all?
No, not that much. It comes natural!
Fear Factory has done quite a bit of touring and I’m sure you guys have a lot of stories from the road. Anything crazy that pops out in your mind that you’d like to share with us?
Where do I start? (laughs) (thinks for a moment) I could tell you one recently…we were on tour, and this was in Europe. We were in England and we were going down the O-1 Freeway on our way to the Airport to drop off our drummer’s girlfriend. On the way there at like 3 or 4 O’clock in the morning, our bus driver noticed there was a fire, like a little flame, coming out of the left wheel well. He was like “Oh shit!” So he pulled the bus over, jumped out, grabbed the fire extinguisher, went to go extinguish it out, and as he was doing it the fucking extinguisher ran out! There wasn’t enough in there. The flame started getting bigger and bigger, so the guy runs back inside and says “Every body’s gotta get the fuck off the bus! Get the fuck off the bus!” So, we’re all asleep and so we jump up out of the bunks going, you know “Fire! Fire!”. So, everybody starts grabbing their shit off the bus, like all their backpacks and their belongings, and we all run off the bus and we look over and we’re like “Holy fuck!”. The whole side of the bus was on fire! We’re like “Oh man, our gear and our trailer!” So, thank God the crew at the time was really good because they unhooked the trailer, pushed it back, went into the base, grabbed everybody bags, grabbed everybody’s shit and took it a few feet away. We’re all standing in front of the bus and all of the sudden a tire blows. “Boosh!” We’re all like “It’s blowing up! Aah!” We’re running…but it was just a tire that blew because it got too hot. We’re all watching this fucking thing go up in flames, then all of the sudden we’re like “Where’s Zeke?” Our merch guy, he was passed out in his bunk. So two of our crew guys ran back on the bus, pulled him out into the street. He was still in his…you know, those Europeans they wear those tight, white underwear. We almost forgot about him and he would have fucking burned. The whole fucking bus just burned in flames, gone. Everything was gone.
Your band has endured quite a bit of controversy in the past, do you think it has hurt or helped your band in any way?
I think some of the controversy has hurt the band, of course. I mean, especially when you get member changes and you’ve got labels dropping you and things like that, sure. A lot of those things hurt you, but you know, you’ve just got to persevere. You’ve got to think positively, move on, and forget about that stuff. I think that as long as you keep putting out good records, that will help.
How has it been working with Candlelight Records?
Every thing’s been fine with us, we signed a licensing deal with them. They seem to be doing a great job.
This may be kind of a touchy subject, however I’m curious what you have to say about Roadrunner Records?
When I was with the label they helped us a lot. You know, they basically brought us to the lime light. Roadrunner Records was a very strong record company. They had offices everywhere in the states, and everywhere in Europe. Their marketing team was fucking amazing. All of the good bands that you’d heard of, were on Roadrunner at one point. They did a great job for us. Of course, we signed some bad, fucked up contracts with them and we basically made no money even though we were selling a shit load of records. We were broke for maybe the first ten years of our career. Just being slaves to the label. At the same time, they fuckin’ brought us to stardom. We had a song on the radio, they helped us with that and that worked out really good. They wanted to push us in a more commercial direction at one point and it just didn’t work…on the Digimortal record. Over the years they did really well, it’s just the fact that they ripped us off. The owner, a guy named Cees Wessells, really just fucked us over bad. He made bazillions of dollars, he sold everybody’s publishing…for like 50 million dollars. Then he sold the record label to Warner Brothers. Now it’s fucking gone. I understand that business is business, but his was “heartless” business. That’s all I have to say about it.
I heard a rumor that Fear Factory once held a world record for having the most songs featured in Video Games? Is this true?
Yes. It’s very true. I think we still probably hold the record for that. I don’t know how many it was. It was a fuck-load. We had a mechanical sound, that just really worked with video games. People liked it, and we just got asked a lot, and it worked out great.
If I’m correct fear factory started in 1989, how does it feel knowing you’re still relevant over 20 years later and still have a rabid fan base?
Um…(pauses) It feels good! (laughs) I still got a career! Thank God! I think it’s great. I think it’s actually really cool that I get to still do this. This is my love, this is my life, this is my career. What they call us is “lifers”. Dudes who are doing this for their life. This is it. This has been my number one main band from the beginning, and this is where I’m gonna end as well.
Who are some of your main influences as a musician?
Oh man, I was influenced by so much stuff. When I was younger my mom turned me on to The Beatles and stuff like that. I was like 8 or 9 years old and I remember listening to Mariachi music from my dad. I kind of wanted to pick up the Acoustic Guitar because there was always an Acoustic Guitar laying around. Then when I first fuckin’ heard AC/DC when I was like 10, I was in love. Angus was the shit! Angus Young, just seeing him play, I was like “Oh fuck! I really want to play now!” So, I picked up the Acoustic Guitar, and obviously it progressed. I started with Van Halen, then Black Sabbath, then it progressed from there to Iron Maiden, Metallica, Def Leppard, of course early Motley Crue, Ozzy, and then it just keeps progressing…then you got into Carcass, Napalm Death, Slayer…all that has pretty much been an influence on me.
Are there any new bands or styles of music that you’ve gotten into lately?
The Browning. That’s really all I’ve been listening to. There hasn’t been too much…you know, there have been a lot of bands that have been super technical and that’s cool. It can only go so far. People are gonna crave a SONG. That’s why people like bands like Five Finger Death Punch, because they have SONGS. I think people want to hear songs, they want to hear hooks, people want to be able to latch on to a riff, or a beat. When you’re playing stuff like (makes guitar shredding motion)…that stuff’s cool, don’t get me wrong, but I think that for band’s like Animals As Leaders you can only go so far with it. I don’t think bands like that will ever be that big, because they don’t have a song. They don’t even have a singer! (laughs)…but I commend them for being as successful as they are, without it. For me, I like the bands that have some sort of substance.
Your sound has really evolved in a major way over time. A lot of people don’t realize you’re a part of the early death metal movement. Can you comment on this progression as a band?
When we first started it was just me and Burt and a drum machine. We did three songs, and it was just very industrial. Then Raymond obviously came into the band and it started to become more death metal. Then we kind of did a couple more demos that were a little more death-metally. There was something always that was a little different, and that was Burt’s vocals. That was the key to us getting signed. Obviously Max Cavalera helped us get signed, but it was Burt’s vocals that stood out. When we put out our first record, we couldn’t afford all the keyboards and all the samplers. At that time, back in 1991/1992, that shit was expensive. We couldn’t afford all that stuff so we just had to do it old-school way and throw in a voice sample here and there or some movie sample or something. So, it was always the vocals that made us stand out. Even “Martyr”, the first song, I’ve had death metal dudes come up to me and say “The first time I fucking heard that song, I was like, Holy Fuck! This is something new!” It’s funny because “Martyr” is actually a techno riff. (sings and taps on his leg) I heard some techno band or whatever, and then I was like “Okay, I’ll convert it into a riff.” So we kind of, in a way, copied it…the style, but we just made it into metal. Then we put Burt’s death metal and melodic vocals over it and we were just like “What the fuck is this?!” People never heard anything like that. There were people that were saying “This is fucking amazing!” And there were people that were saying “Oh, fuck those vocals! That’s pussy shit for death metal.” So either way, it got us a lot of attention. Then when we first met Rhys in ’92, he brought all that keyboard shit that he had, and we put it all together. That was the first time ever that you had Industrial, Death Metal, Melodic Vocals, and Techno all combined together. First time that it’s ever existed…and then that’s when Demanufacture came out. Okay, let’s go write these songs…you know, in that same style “Ba-da bup bup bup” (sings kick drum pattern) Who the fuck starts their record with a fuckin’ kick drum? You know what I mean? It was like “Okay, this is it”. Then Burt’s melodic vocals on top of that, then Rhys’ production? Shit was like, futuristic…and pretty much changed a lot of things. Dimebag Darrell even told me one time that he as A/B’ing our record to their record. Obsolete to The Great Southern Trendkill. “Man, you’re tone’s fuckin’ sick Dino!” I was like “Really? Thanks!”…but yeah, it really wasn’t until Rhys came into the picture, bringing the technology that we needed to help develop our sound.
Is it true that you discovered your singer, Burton C. Bell, because he was singing in the shower?
(laughs) Yeah, well, there was a house in Hollywood and it was a seven bedroom house. A friend of ours owned it and rented it out to starving musicians. You could rent a room out for like 200 bucks a month or something. Living in Hollywood, we weren’t really making that much money, we all had odd jobs, so that was right up my alley. It was all musicians and artists living in this house, and Burt was one of the dudes. One day he was singing in the shower and I heard him and I was like “What?!” He was singing U2 or something like that. I was like “wow, this guy has a pretty decent voice!” Later on we became really good friends and started turning each other on to different music and then we started our first band called Ulceration. It was a total Godflesh rip-off. You know, drum machine, me, him, and a friend of ours playing bass. We played a couple shows for like 10 people or something like that.
You recently recruited a new drummer, Mike Heller. What was the audition process like and how has it been working with him?
The audition process took me at least a month or so. I have a lot of friends who are drummers, but everyone was really busy and everybody had gigs and so on, and so on. I reached out to SickDrummer.com, and Anton and Ian definitely helped me find the best drummer for the position. We went through a lot of dudes, a lot of YouTube videos that people sent in, a lot of dudes from all over the world…you know, Europe, Australia, a lot of dudes in the U.S. We were like, let’s give an underdog a chance, let’s get somebody who’s not really well known and just see what happens. Mike Heller happened to be one of the guys that was one of the best videos that we saw and one of the best guys that we auditioned. Obviously there were a lot of other really great drummers, but we just thought Mike fit really well with the band.
What does the future hold for Fear Factory?
Tour, tour, tour. Tour this year, tour next year, and hopefully put out a new record as soon as we can!
Interview by: Noah “Shark” Robertson