It's been a trying few years for Fear Factory. Not only has a lengthy court case prevented any activity from the band since 2016, but it ultimately led to the departure of front man Burton C. Bell. Despite all this, the FF machine however, is still very much alive, according to founder Dino Cazares; "I’m here working a record that I passionately love, and I still love the band Fear Factory", he tells us as we sit down for a chat. In the unique position of promoting a record which features the departed Bell, we caught up with Dino to discuss 'Aggression Continuum', the events of the last few years, and how he ranks the Fear Factory discography. Remanufacture; Eamon O'Neill.
Hi Dino, how are you, and what have you been up to today?
I’m doing good. Well, I got up this morning and I started doing press, and that’s pretty much my schedule nowadays, to promote this record, and I’m very happy to promote this record. I can’t wait for people to hear it. It’s an amazing record.
Before I get to ‘Aggression Continuum’, I wanted to chat a little about the fantastic three-disc blue vinyl reissue of ‘Demanufacture’ that’s just been released; were you involved in that?
Yes, 100%. The record company reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to be a part of this. Maybe people understand this, maybe they don’t, but when you sign your rights away to a record, they can do whatever they want with it. But Luckily they reached out to me and said; “what can we do to make this record better, to put it out on vinyl?”, and I was like, the first thing we need to do is get me the unmastered tracks so we can get them mastered specifically for vinyl. One of the cool things too, is the record has some weight to it; it’s thicker vinyl, and the grooves are much thicker, so when the grooves are thicker, you can actually put more information in, and you can hear a lot of cool little details in the mix, which is really cool.
It really does sound great.
It is, and even thought it does add some warmth to it, it is still very crisp, and you can hear all the little crispy details. When they reached out to me, I went; “okay, let’s put this thing together”, and they told me they had these live recordings. Those live recordings are from 1996. We were still on the touring cycle for that record, and we played a festival called Ozzfest, which is Ozzy’s festival, and we ended up mixing those live recordings, and you can hear the energy and the fire from the band, because we were just ripping at that point.
The last time we spoke was at Bloodstock 2016, and things were looking great for Fear Factory. Then it all went silent; what happened?
Well, what happened was we had a lawsuit against us for the trademark of the name Fear Factory, and we were pretty much dormant because we couldn’t use the name. We couldn’t go out there and tour, and we couldn’t put new records out under the name Fear Factory until it was all settled, and it wasn’t until July 2020 when I was able to regain the rights to the name Fear Factory to move forward.
One of the stories we broke from that interview was that you had plans for a tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ‘Obsolete’ album; were you disappointed that that never happened?
No, because there were other things that really disappointed me and crushed me then that was bigger than a tour. Going through the legal stuff, that’s really devastating. It took a really long time. It took four and a half years. These legal proceedings always take a long time, and the only ones that really benefit from it is the attorneys being paid a lot of money! But yeah, there were other things that were more devastating than doing the ‘Obsolete’ tour, but that definitely did add to it, yeah.
The legal issues have taken up so much of your recent time that you must be sick of talking about that negativity by now.
Well, there’s a lot of drama. Sometimes dramas make good records. Sometimes, it’s just life. We could sit here and we could talk about all the negative stuff, we could talk about all the positive stuff, but at the end of the day, it is positive that we’re getting this record out. But we’re just talking about the troubles and the strife that we had to go through just to get this out; that’s part of the story, that’s part of what makes this record what it is.
A lot of people would listen to a band like Fear Factory to get their own aggression out; did the creation of the music must act as an outlet for your own frustrations?
Well, definitely. That’s what music is in general; to provoke a feeling. Some people use it as a way just to let loose, and some people use it as a way of therapy. So, you know, I’m right there with them too, because there’s sometimes when I’m playing songs on stage, and I get emotional, because I know the story behind the song; I lived it. One in particular, a song called ‘Scapegoat’, going back to the first record [‘Soul of a New Machine’, 1992], it’s about me being wrongly accused and convicted of something that I didn’t do. Sometimes when we play that song I get emotional because of the shit that I had to go through during the story behind the song.
‘Aggression Continuum’ kicks off with ‘Recode’, and right from the start you know it’s a Fear Factory album.
Of course! ‘Recode’ is one of my favourite songs. It starts the record very dramatically. You hear the tension building up, and you hear the speech, and then all off a sudden it gets to the riff, and it comes up pretty intensely, and then it blows up, and then it tapers off and you hear the first line, which is; “imagine your life taken from you”. That’s what we were trying to say because the Fear Factory name was being held up in court, so there was actually a possibility that the name could have been taken from us. We could have had to change the name, so that’s kind of like everything right there, in that one line. It’s the same as ‘Demanufacture’, and the first line you hear; “desensitised to the values of life”. Those two distinctive lyrics really sum up the whole rest of the record, and the story of what’s going on. I’m not necessarily talking about the concept, I just mean the whole thing surrounding it.
Fear Factory are a band with pummelling riffs, and juxtaposing beautiful melodies, and that’s apparent on the single ‘Disruptor’.
Well that’s always been our motto. Some records have more of a contrast than others. This one, the contrast is big, because you’ve got ‘Disrupter’, just screaming at the top of your lungs and just showing you all the anger and the stress and just getting it out, and all of a sudden these beautiful melodic vocals just come in, and the contrast really works. I think you can hear the contrast form because you hear the vocals go lower, into [sings] “no regrets”, and boom! The soaring chorus gives you the light at the end of the tunnel.
‘Fuel Injected Suicide Machine’ has also bee released as a single.
I wrote that song, and I was wondering; “is Burton really going to get into this track?”, because it’s pretty intense. It’s almost like a throwback to ‘Soul of a Machine’, or ‘Mechanize’. He really got into the track, and it’s based off a character from the movie Mad Max named the Nightrider, and he wrote the lyrics in the perspective coming from the guy driving the actual car. He related the music to that particular character because the riff sounded like an engine. So the Nightrider, that’s all about the car, right? And he felt; “it sounds like an engine to me, so we should call it ‘Fuel Injected Suicide Machine”, and I was really happy that he did that, because I really like the movie, and I really like the character. He really got into the track, and so he made it work, and it sounds killer.
Music and movies has always been intrinsically linked in Fear Factory; is it true that your vision for the band was to make music like the Terminator soundtrack?
Yes, but you have to go back a little bit. We’ve been fans of sci-fi moves from the get-go. Mad Max, that was filmed in 1979. That was a long time ago, and we were kids watching that. Then, all of a sudden ‘Terminator’ came along, and during ‘Soul of a New Machine’, there was an article that I read, and they were talking about the T-1000, the new Terminator; the liquified Terminator that was in Terminator 2, so I read an article that said ‘Soul of a New Machine’, so I was like; “that’s a great title for an album”, because the whole ‘Fear Factory’ thing was; ‘whatever manufactures fear’, and it could be technology. So obviously, we embraced the technology and made that a really big concept of what Fear Factory is. So that was the perfect title for the birth of this machine; that’s why it has a baby being born out of this weird looking machinery [on the album artwork].
Sci-fi became an undeniable element of the Fear Factory aesthetic.
We’ve always been fans of sci-fi. Look at the next EP that came out; ‘Fear is the Mindkiller’ , that’s from the movie ‘Dune’. And then ‘Demanufacture’  was more inspired by just what we saw in Los Angels from 1992 to 1994; there was the Rodney King riots; then we had fires; then we had floods; and then we had a major earthquake. So, to me that was; “what’s the opposite if ‘manufacture’? Demanufacture!” It was just what we saw, what was going on around us, but at the same time, we related it to future concepts, and that’s just being a fan of those type of movies, and definitely, Terminator was a very, very big influence on that record, for sure. There’s T:2 samples all over it, but I really can’t tell you where they are, because I might get into trouble! There’s one in particular that you can really hear. ‘Pisschrist’!
Onto a more difficult question, and right now, you’re chatting about a band that doesn’t have a singer, and promoting an album that features a guy who has left; how strange, or difficult is that?
Not necessarily. I’ve been in these type of situations before. I’ve been out of the band, and having to do those interviews on why I’m out of the band; doing interviews when I started a new band with new members; so I’ve kind of been in these types of situations before, but this one’s very unique, for sure, having to do press for an album with a singer that’s on the record, but he’s not in the band. It’s only because the record was already complete in 2017, before I did all the improvements to it. Again, what I was saying earlier; when you sign a contract, the record company is the one who owns the record. They own the master recordings, and it’s up to them if they want to allow me to make changes. So, initially, I wanted to remove Burt’s vocals and put a new singer’s vocals on there, but the record label didn’t necessarily want me to do that, because they heard the songs, they loved everything. They wated Burton’s vocals to remain, so I definitely respected that, and I thought it was a great idea, so we kept them there. That’s why we’re in this ironic situation.
Were you shocked or disappointed that Burton actually left?
Yes and no. This is the third time Burt’s departed the band. A lot of people don’t know that. In 2002 he originally quit, but then they ended up getting back together without me. In 2002 Burton quit the band, six months later, the other three guys decided to put the band back together without me, and that’s why there’s two records without me; ‘Transgression’  and ‘Architype’ . And then, he quit the other two members back in 2007, around there, and then came back with me back in the band in 2010 for ‘Mechanize’, so it’s not the first time that he’s pulled this type of thing. So, back in about 2018 he stopped communicating with the band, stopped communicating with the management company, and he just disappeared, and so we were like; “okay, he probably quit!” So, years go by, and no response until we heard from his lawyers. So, we kind of knew a little bit that he was gone, and it wasn’t until 2020 when he released his statement. So, it wasn’t really that much of a shock to us - to me in particular - but maybe to the fans because the fans didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes.
Do you know if Burton had heard the new album?
I don’t know if he did. He’s gone. He disappeared. He’s done. The only thing I know is what he said in the media.
It must be ironic for you, that because of the situation, this album is getting a huge amount of press.
Yeah, but again, what I was saying earlier, the drama surrounding the record also adds to the story, and adds to people being intrigued; “what happened!? What’s going on? What’s going to be the future of Fear Factory?” It’s part of the reality show that’s going on. I’m expecting Burt to say something again in the media on this. We’ll see where this goes. Let’s see where this goes. This is what I know, and this is what the fans know; that I’m here, working a record that I passionately love. I still love the band Fear Factory, I still love what it’s about. I look forward to the future of what comes next; I’m here, working. I didn’t run away, I’m still here.
Regarding the search for a singer, does the current state of the world give you time to consider your options?
Yes. It gives me a lot of time to make a final decision. A lot of people think that I might have, and I kind of do have, singers; it’s just about making the right decision. It’s really about chemistry, and these are people that are from different parts of the world, so some of these people can’t even get here yet. It’s all about chemistry; spending time with the person, seeing if we like them, seeing if we get along with them. We could do a lot over the internet, and that’s great, and we could have many, many conversations, but you know, it’s really when you get in the room with a person and get jamming and see how that works.
Have you been approached by any ‘name’ singers about potentially filling the role?
Yes. There have been some singers that have reached out to me that people have been familiar with, sure, but I am really into discovering something, maybe somebody who’s been in a smaller band, or somebody who’s basically virtually unknown, or someone who is semi-known. I just want something new.
In the meantime you have a fantastic catalogue to look back on; this might be a difficult question, but can you rank the Fear Factory discography?
Well, my least favourite are probably the two that I wasn’t on! [*laughing*] I’m going to have to put, for me, it’s ‘Obsolete’ first, ‘Demanufacture’ second, only because ‘Obsolete’, to me, was a different ground breaking record. We had matured as song writers, I matured a lot after ‘Demanufacture’. For instance, we wouldn’t be able to write a song called ‘Resurrection’ on ‘Demanufacture’. We had to go through experiences, being out there in the world, travelling the world and just getting a worldwide perspective on what we’ve learned. On ‘Demanufacture’ we were still young kids. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a ground breaking record, but when we went into ‘Obsolete’, it was current to what was going on around us, and it had a groove that ‘Demanufacture’ didn’t have. ‘Shock’, ‘Edgecrusher’; those are groovier songs. Even when we got to faster songs like ‘Securitron’, there’s a lot of groove there. ‘Demanufacute’ was like, we’re just a machine, and I think that we were able to take what we’d learned and apply them to ‘Obsolete’, and that’s why I made that record way more of a rounded album.
What would come next?
Of course, ‘Soul of a New Machine’, but without ‘Fear is the Mindkiller’, you would not get ‘Demanufacture’. So that would be, that’s four there, and then ‘Digimortal’ . But then you’ve got to go to ‘Mechanize’, ‘The Industrialist’ , and ‘Genexus’ , and it’s really hard to put them all in perspective. So we’ve got the four classics, then you’ve got to go to ‘Mechanize’, then ‘Genexus’, ‘The industrialist’. But right now, the new record could be up there with ‘Obsolete’; it could be part of the four classics.
That’s a nice list.
It would take some thought, but I could put it together, and I could probably put the reason why I would choose them. I think maybe one day I will put that together because I think it would be interesting on my perspective of how I see those records, and where I would put them in a sequence.
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'Aggression Continuum' is released via Nuclear Blast on 18th June 2021. Pre-order here.
Pre-save the album on Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer here.