FEAR FACTORY – Soul Hackers
In devising concepts as well as the given titles for tracks, guitarist Dino Cazares and vocalist Burton C. Bell – members of Los Angeles, California-based industrial metal outfit Fear Factory – discuss each and every detail. This was equally the case for August 2015 full-length studio album Genexus, the band’s ninth overall and first to be issued through Nuclear Blast Entertainment.
“The writing process was basically me inside my studio; writing everything on a drum program, getting all of the demos down, and getting all of the pre-production done,” Dino informs. “We changed the arrangements of the songs and so on, and then we gave them to our drummer whose name is Mike Heller. Mike Heller listened to everything; he changed a lot of his drum parts, and added different elements to the writing process. Then obviously we went into the studio with Rhys Fulber, and tracked everything, recorded everything. Then Rhys added a lot of keyboards on top of it, and then we had a couple of other keyboard players who contributed stuff as well.
“The writing process was very natural. We said ‘Look, let’s be Fear Factory. Let’s be who we are.’ The thing is, no idea is a dumb idea. We try everything. That was the writing process for this record, and then when we wanted to track, record and mix, Rhys Fulber is more known for his digital side. A lot of stuff is done on a computer; obviously, a lot of analogue keyboards and synthesizers that he likes to work with. Andy Sneap was more of a guy who likes to get more organic tones, and I think that the combination of Rhys Fulber and Andy Sneap working on the record definitely added something to the hybrid of the organic and digital tone.”
‘Being Fear Factory’ so to speak means the employment of a specific mixture of ingredients. “Obviously crushing riffs, killer double-bass, and beautiful melodic choruses,” the axeman lists.
Nine affairs into a studio catalogue, Genexus will inevitably be critiqued against past efforts. “That’s a hard one, because I’ve been trying to figure that out,” Dino concedes. “One of the cool things I found out after we were done with the record is that it does have some parts that are reminiscent of past records, like ‘Dielectric’ sounds like it could’ve come from Demanufacture (June 1995), or ‘Soul Hacker’ sounds like it could’ve come from Obsolete (July 1998) – like an ‘Edgecrusher’ song. It wasn’t until after we were done with the record that we were like ‘Wow, there are older elements of Fear Factory in this record as well as new elements.’
“Obviously a song like ‘Expiration Date’ is an electronic ballad; the song is epic, it’s beautiful. It’s different to what we’ve done in the past when it came to ballads; songs like ‘Resurrection’ and ‘Timelessness’ are completely different, and ‘A Therapy For Pain’, which is on Demanufacture. Songs like ‘Church Of Execution’, and ‘Regenerate’. There’s a quite a few parts in the songs that aren’t connected to stuff from the past, like the guitar solo in ‘Soul Hacker’. There’s different elements that we don’t do very much, or that we don’t do very often. The only time a Fear Factory record had a solo on it was a song called ‘Fear Campaign’ off of Mechanize (February 2010). We only had songs on the album that were melodic and epic with a big, huge chorus. That was something that we did slightly different on this record.”
Genexus lyrically pursues a specific train of thought. “It’s a singularity concept that has already happened,” the composer details. “In other words, man and machine have already become one. We feel that on this record, the genexus is a hybrid of words; ‘genesis’ meaning the beginning of time, and ‘nexus’ which is actually the connection between man and machine – the singularity process. We’re calling this the genexus generation, a new model of a hybrid of a man / machine basically. This record goes through different processes of what we need to do to survive in today’s world, and also, it uses this man / machine for militaristic purposes. For combat, for all kinds of things. Basically, we’re trying to survive, and at the end of the record on a song called ‘Expiration Date’, you realise that we have an expiration date and we will die, just like everything else. Humans have an expiration date – we all do.”
Science as well as science fiction were sources of lyrical inspiration. “From movies like Terminator (1984) and Blade Runner (1982) to more recent movies like Ex Machina (2015), and also people like Stephen Hawking and Ray Kurzweil – listening to their lectures and their futuristic predictions of where they see technology growing and how it is growing, the evolution of the singularity process,” Dino cites. “We keep up on all that and that’s where our ideas come from, but we kind of add a different spin to it.”
Fear Factory toured extensively in-between recording sessions. “We went to China, we went to India, we went to Australia, so we actually did a lot of touring in-between,” the axe-slinger remembers. “We always had to stop a few weeks here, a few weeks there, so we kind of took our time. We made sure that people will remember these songs. We made sure that there was no weak song on the record; we wanted it to be a great record, and so we worked really hard at it.”
Longtime collaborator Rhys Fulber handled production, once again. “On this one, he probably had a lot less to do because a lot of the stuff was already written pre-production wise before it reached the hands of Rhys,” Dino informs. “Rhys added his elements on a few songs here and there, but a lot of the stuff we had already done. We did it all ourselves. Rhys has different sound ideas for different textures. It could be something that I wrote on keyboards, and then he’ll come in and just make it sound better – he’ll copy what I wrote, but make it sound better. He will give it some quality, give it some depth, and that was Rhys’ role on this one.
“He worked with Burt’s vocals a lot. As far as the guitars, bass and drums, it was mainly just me and an engineer. Rhys didn’t have a lot to do with the record as much as he has in the past, but obviously he has an influence on what we write and what he adds to it. There’s a big influence of Rhys on the record.”
Helming vocal recording was Drew Fulk. “Drew Fulk is great,” the musician endorses. “He’s one of those guys who’s like a vocal arranger. Drew came in to help us organise the lyrics, because Burton had written a lot. Drew understands what words work best in a song, like everything down to the syllable and the pronunciation. He helped Burton out with that stuff. He basically arranged some of Burton’s lyrics for him, and then he also helped Burton with some melodies on this record; to put together some melodies and rhythm patterns for his vocals. We hired him to come help us out with what we had written.”
As far as guitar sessions were concerned, it was a case of business as usual. “On the drums and the guitars, it was business as usual,” Dino seconds. “Just me riffing away (laughs).”
Albeit ‘business as usual’, the perennial aim is to maintain a fresh vibe overall within the Fear Factory framework. “I think that we always have been a band who tries to push the envelope,” the performer submits. “If not trying to push the envelope, we try to stay true to who we are. I believe that when we made Demanufacture, a lot of people had never heard anything like that. That was new, and because there’s not a lot of bands copying the whole sound, it definitely keeps us relevant today.”
Fear Factory is commonly described as an industrial metal assortment, although Fear Factory is arguably different to the likes of Nine Inch Nails, to use one example. “Nine Inch Nails isn’t an industrial metal band – they’re more of an industrial / electro… pop in some cases,” Dino argues. “They’re pretty different than us. Our true core is definitely metal; thrash metal, grindcore, death metal, and all that. Obviously we have our own sound, but we were influenced by a lot of music like that. With that being said though, that’s the core of the music. With Burton’s vocals on top of it, it’s completely different. It’s obviously very, very melodic. The hooks stick in your head; especially on the new record, the hooks really stick in your head. Whether you like it or not, some of the songs you cannot stop singing, and we always try to write them like that.
“It’s really hard to describe Fear Factory or say what to label it. The best way to say it is industrial metal, or cyber metal (laughs). We’ve heard it all, really. We do have ‘Expiration Date’ at the end of the record though, which is an electro-pop ballad. The hook on the song is pretty massive; Burton had a great melodic hook for the chorus, which is epic. We’ve always put out epic songs on our records. The whole record is pretty much tense the whole way through, but then you get to the end of the record and it’s a mellow bit.”
Bearing ‘hooks’ which ‘stick in your head’ suggest Genexus is perhaps a more commercial effort. “If you want to play it on the radio, go for it,” the guitarist chuckles. “I don’t think they’re gonna be playing Fear Factory any time soon on the radio, as far as rock FM radio. It’s not pop in that way, but we’ve been experimenting – just like every fucking band under the sun – with cool, catchy pop structures. I call them poppy structures because they’re simple structures. If you go to our first album and listen to ‘Martyr’ and ‘Scapegoat’, those are pop structures with melodic choruses. We have not changed that – that’s still there. ‘Soul Hacker’ pretty much has the same structure as ‘Scapegoat’; they’re both catchy songs. They’re not meant to be fucking 30,000 riffs, and 50,000 notes in one song. It’s not supposed to be that way; it’s supposed to be cool, catchy fucking heavy songs with a big hook on them. That’s what it’s supposed to be, and that’s what we felt when we wrote those songs.”
Such comments suggest Dino isn’t a fan of more technically minded material. “No, that’s not what I’m saying at all,” he clarifies. “I’m just saying that that wasn’t the intention, but if you go to our album Mechanize, there’s a lot of riffs everywhere. Each song has like ten riffs or ten to 20 different parts, whereas a song like ‘Soul Hacker’ has three riffs.”
As was the case with Mechanize and The Industrialist (June 2012), cover artwork duties fell to Anthony Clarkson. “With the cover artwork, we wanted something that expressed what we were talking about,” the axeman axplains. “Anthony Clarkson came up with this idea and we really liked it, so we ended up going with it. Yeah, sure, people say that it reminds them of Terminator, but that’s kind of where we’ve gone. That’s the message we’ve tried to convey in our lyrics.”
On September 12th, 2014, it was publicly disclosed that Fear Factory had inked a record contract with Nuclear Blast Entertainment. “Monte Conner was the guy who signed the band originally to Roadrunner Records, and if there’s anybody who really understands the band, it’s him,” Dino credits. “We released a lot of records together. When Roadrunner got bought out, he left there and started his own label – his own imprint called Nuclear Blast Entertainment – and he’s signed a lot of bands. He’s only been there for maybe the last two years, but he’s signed a lot of bands; he’s got Suicide Silence, Machine Head, Soulfly, Thy Art Is Murder – he’s got quite a few bands.
“He approached us about signing to the label over a year ago, and obviously he knows the band extremely well. It’s great working with him again, because it feels like we have the old team back together. There’s me and Burt obviously, and then we’ve got Rhys Fulber. We’ve got Tony Campos who we’ve known for years, and Monte Conner. The label is just… It’s especially good working with the label, because they’re actually fans of the band and fans of the music. It definitely helps when people at the label love the band.”
Nuclear Blast Entertainment is arguably almost a flashback to 90s-era Roadrunner Records. “If Slipknot was available or Trivium was available, he’d go out and do a deal with them,” the songwriter reckons.
Directed by Ramon Boutviseth, a music video was filmed for the track ‘Dielectric’. “It was cool,” Dino enthuses. “We basically played in front of a green screen, and he just added all of these futuristic elements to it. There’s a lot of CGI graphics in there.”
In conjunction with promoting Genexus, further music videos might be filmed. “As far as performance videos, yeah, maybe one more,” the axe-slinger ponders. “I don’t know which song it’ll be for, but I’m sure that there’ll be one more. It depends on the success of the record, whether we have enough money to make another one.”
From November through to mid-December 2015, Fear Factory will tour Europe to commemorate the 20th anniversary of second studio record Demanufacture – issued in June 1995 through the Roadrunner label. “Can you believe that that record’s already 20 years old?,” Dino asks. “It just went by fast. We feel that because that record has fan favourites, it would be good to do a tour around that just for a whole new generation of people who never got to see us during that time and that tour. To just play it in its entirety, man. To show respect to what was a record that opened a door to metal. It basically gave a facelift to metal. Burt’s vocal style is definitely something that is very, very common these days among other bands. We just wanna show people where it came from, where it started, so hopefully a new generation will get into Fear Factory.”
Occupying bass for said shows will be former Soulfly / Static-X member Tony Campos, whose appointment was confirmed on May 1st. “It was definitely a no-brainer to bring Tony in,” the musician views. “We were on tour in Australia, and he was on tour with Ministry in Australia – we were doing the Soundwave Festival. Unfortunately, the bass player that we had wanted to spend more time with his family. Matt DeVries has two boys, so he wanted to be there his boys and see his boys grow up. We just asked Tony right there while we were on tour (laughs), and obviously we’ve known him for 20 years. He plays bass with me in another band called Asesino. He didn’t have to audition; all he had to do was learn the songs, and that was it.”
Genexus was released on August 7th, 2015 via Nuclear Blast Records.
Interview published in August 2015.
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