For just about a quarter of a century, LA based sci-fi extreme metal band Fear Factory have been producing a mechanical, industrial meets metal sound that has blended the harsh, aggressive overtones of heavy music with ambient, beautiful melodies that stick. With the right mix of gitar fuzz and clean vocals and screaming, Fear Factor's music has clearly influenced hordes of up-and-coming metal and hardcore bands from around the globe. With a sound steeped in science fiction, dystopian and futuristic themes about machines becoming and taking over humanity, lead singer Burton C. Bell recently took time to speak with the Weekly about the band's new record, Genexus, tour with Coal Chamber, Fear Factory's line up, (featuring guitarist Dino Cazares, drummer Matt Heller longtime friend Tony Campos on bass) his love of science fiction films and literature, and the band's signature sound.
OC Weekly (Alex Distefano): Tell us the concept behind the new record Genexus
Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory): This record is about the next evolution of humanity, which is when man and machine become one, the singularity. It's based on Ray Kurzweil's theory on man and machine merging by 2045. This shows this generation's experiences; what they might feel about the world and themselves, their empathy toward themselves and how they view humanity during this dark time.
How long have you been into this style of writing lyrics, and sc-fi/ dystopian films and literature?
I was always into this stuff, since I was a young kid. My dad was into Star Trek, The Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, and I really loved Star Trek. I was so curious, a loved hearing about space, and artificial intelligence and started read science fiction books at a young age too. The first author I read was Robert Heinlein who wrote Starship Troopers. When I was eight I discovered Star Wars and was just blown away. Then movies became a big deal, and I read more and kept the interest alive and in high school I read Orwell's 1984, stuff by the great Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, and the movies of the 1980s like Predator, Terminator, Robo Cop, Blade Runner, and from then on I've loved it all, I'm all about it.
Do you pay attention to politics or current events? Do you believe in any 'conspiracy theories?'
I do follow current events and what's happening in the world and technological advances, astronomy, science, and lots of other stuff, including many others so called conspiracy theories, and other ideas many people don't think about, all of which are plausible. It's just a different perspective and they can be fascinating to read or hear about.
Do you think the futuristic dystopia depicted in your albums will come true for humanity?
Well, in a lot of ways it is true. We're not in a pure dystopian society yet. But we are in a society that oppresses the poor, people of different backgrounds, cultures, religion, and more. We live in a suppressive state. Oligarchs and tyrants run this nation. Political dissidents are singled out, history is being rewritten, and war is big business. I write stories based on reality, a projection of what I see with the advancements of technology. Just research this stuff, and man it will scare you and blow your mind.
When you hear the clear influence of Fear Factory's signature sound in so many other bands today, do you get annoyed or take it as a compliment?
I take it as a compliment! It shows that Fear Factory's music has been inspirational for all these bands to create art, make music. It's a very powerful, positive aspect. Bands have taken what we do and some have tried to imitate Fear Factory but no one has done it successfully. But if they are influenced by our sound and they can succeed then that's great! I don't see any negatives to it at all.
Tell us how Max Cavalera from Sepultura 'discovered' the band in the early days of playing underground metal shows in the LA backyard scene.
Yeah at that early time for Fear Factory, we were an underground LA metal band. But, at one point, Dino and I went to see Sepltura and Napalm Death play in LA somewhere. Our manager early on was a friend with Max's wife, so Dino ended up getting our music to him, and he dug it, so he got Monte Conner from Roadrunner to notice us, and the rest is history.
Tell us about the latest addition of Tony Campos, to play bass with Fear Factory.
Tony's been a good friend of the band, for many years now. We've all known each other and I toured with him in Static X and Ministry, and Dino has played with him in Asesino so we're all good friends. When the time was right, our bass player left for personal reasons and our homie Tony jumped it and it made sense and we're all cool with it, and glad to have Tony on board.
Are you guys excited to go back on the road for the U.S. Tour with your old friends in Coal Chamber?
Hell yeah! Absolutely, Coal Chamber is another band we've known for years. We came up together as a local LA metal band, and we've all been good friends for all this time. We never toured with them only played shows so this should be fun. It was really perfect timing, our new record's coming out, they a promoting a new album as well so it makes sense. This was the perfect time, and I love being out on tour with people I love and respect.
What are Fear Factory's future plans for the rest of the summer?
Well, the Coal Chamber tour started in late July and goes throughout the US and North America through September. Then we go to Europe for a proper headlining tour in the fall, and eventually get down to South America and more. We're all very excited about this tour, album and more coming up, including a music video and graphic novel.
Catch Fear Factory on Aug. 22nd, with Coal Chamber, at the Observatory. 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, CA. (714)957-0600