Mark Holmes of Metal Discovery conducted an interview with vocalist Burton C. Bell of Los Angeles cyber metallers FEAR FACTORY on December 15, 2012 in Manchester, England. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metal Discovery: You've had concept records in the past dealing with man against technology but the new one, "The Industrialist", kind of reverses that perspective. So is it simply a story about an automaton and its rebellious tendencies or is there supposed to be some deeper social meaning about what's going on in the world?
Burton: Both. The twist with man versus machine, it is about the machine this time but it's a metaphor for man these days as well. Everyone is part of some type of repetitive actions every day and it's also a metaphor for what man is going through… constantly being watched… There is the machine side about being obsolete but man's gonna create his own obsolescence at the same time by creating drones, by creating robots in factories and people losing jobs. It was man that created these things so don't blame the car industry; blame man himself for creating the technology to make everything easier for himself.
Metal Discovery: To quote you about the new album, you've said in a recent interview that "it's probably the most FEAR FACTORY record that we've done in a long time." So was the writing process for "The Industrialist" about reconnecting with your roots to a degree?
Burton: Absolutely. We were more focused on this record than "Mechanize". "Mechanize" was more the "getting to know you" stage again and, after two years, that was done so we were able to really focus. Over the few years, I kept thinking what was really cool about FEAR FACTORY is an element that's really missing and that's the industrial element, and the soundscapes we used to do and just the cool experimentation we did to add that element into our music. Before we went into the studio, I was talking to Dino [Cazares, guitar] and Rhys [Fulber, producer] and I was like, "Man, we've really got to do this"… not to make an industrial record but to really create that hybrid again where we become an industrial metal band that we started out as. I think we really did it right and I think doing it with drum programming not only simplified and expedited the whole writing process but it really added the element of the industrial sound sonically. We were able to manipulate and play with it… as we were writing; we were able to take pieces and arrange them really quickly, like, "This works better over here" and, so, it was just, "Wow, we should've done this a long time ago!"
Metal Discovery: So it gave you far more control using programmed drums...
Burton: Far more control, ease of control and less stress… [laughs]
Metal Discovery: In just about every interview you've done for the album, people seem to ask about the drum machine and why etc., so did you predict that would cause a bit of a stir?
Burton: Oh yeah, we knew it'd be coming but it is what it is and, once it came out, people were like, "oh, it sounds like FEAR FACTORY." When "Demanufacture" came out, everyone thought it was a drum machine anyway! [laughs]
Metal Discovery: I think the whole drum machine thing is still stigmatized in this kind of genre but it sounds fucking fantastic so what's the difference…
Burton: Yeah, and ever since the record came out and people heard it, no one's said anything about it at all.
Metal Discovery: And you've had a very processed drum sound for a while anyway from using Pro Tools since "Digimortal"…
Burton: Since "Digimortal", yeah. So, technically, we haven't had a live drummer since "Obsolete" because we've used Pro Tools to move every hit that the drummer did so, at that point, it wasn't even live. And we changed every sound so it's like, a lot of that was a waste of time! [laughs]
Metal Discovery: Bearing in mind the title of the album and the concept, did you see it as more important to use a drum machine this time?
Burton: I think what was going on with the writing process really inspired the title because it really fit with what we were doing and, as I was writing, I was like, "This could work; this is something that'll fit with the vibe of the music and lyrics and I can feel something happening here."
Metal Discovery: "Demanufacture" is still talked about to this day as your seminal album and remains one of the seminal metal records of the Nineties as well so do you think that will always be the benchmark against which all your subsequent material will be judged? And do you think people get caught up in the nostalgia of that album too much?
Burton: Yeah, people do, especially fans that have been around since the beginning. I'm guilty as well for my favorite bands — you know, they were great back then but they kind of lost the plot. Like U2, they were great from "Boy" all the way to "The Joshua Tree" but after that, for me, they just lost the plot. But you create an album and there's always those benchmark albums for certain bands, which is great because you set a standard for yourself and you don't want to deviate too much from it or you'll alienate your fans but you do want to improve upon it and maybe even better yourself. I think we did that on "The Industrialist"; I think it's a record that rivals "Demanufacture". If "Demanufacture" wasn't a classic, "The Industrialist" would be that. If "The Industrialist" was our debut album, people would be like, "Whoah, fuck!" I think it definitely matches the classic element.
Read the entire interview from Metal Discovery.