BURTON C. BELL: 'I Knew That FEAR FACTORY Was Not Gonna Last Forever'

MetalSucks recently conducted an interview with FEAR FACTORY/ASCENSION OF THE WATCHERS frontman Burton C. Bell. An excerpt from the chat follows.

MetalSucks: So you [ASCENSION OF THE WATCHERS] have a new record out, "Numinosum". In the most abstract way, can you talk about the new record a bit?

Burton C. Bell: Abstract? Purple. (laughs). Well, it's definitely a whole completely different direction for me. It's a different direction from what people are accustomed to from me. For me it's the type of music that I've always been into, that I've enjoyed, that's more a part of me. The music that people know me from is obviously FEAR FACTORY, and other music that I've assisted on vocals with, but to me this is truly the music that I like. When I was in FEAR FACTORY and people would ask me what kind of music I'd been listening to, I'd always been naming non-metal bands. Once in a while there'd be a metal band that'd be cool... like the hard rock bands, or the stoner metal bands, and that kind of stuff. SLEEP I liked a lot. GODFLESH, that was more industrial. I was more of a post-punk kind of guy. I liked NICK CAVE around the first FEAR FACTORY record, NICK CAVE for inspiration. So to me, I'm primarily expressing the music that I like to listen to, so this is my opportunity. I have a guitar and I'm learning how to play it (laughs), know what I mean? But this record has been a journey... and it's turned into a spiritual journey. It's a true expression of my heart and soul.

MetalSucks: That industrial and post-punk stuff like you were into, did you feel like you sort of had to repress that in the way you approached FEAR FACTORY, and now this is sort of a way for you to let it all out?

Burton C. Bell: I wouldn't say repressed, I just didn't have the opportunity. I never wrote music for FEAR FACTORY. I was the lyricist and vocalist, and whatever counter-melody I offered was through my voice. But I never wrote music, so I wouldn't say it was repressed, more like suppressed. This is finally my chance. People have been wondering how I come up with those vocal ideas for FEAR FACTORY and they're really gonna wonder where this comes from. But they're just the type of melodies that are in my head, the type of music that formed me, from soundtracks to country music to classical to ambient. You know, it's all based in atmosphere, it's all based in emotion, it's all based in mood. That's really important for me. I'm really about atmosphere. I must control atmosphere.

MetalSucks: Well this record's definitely got a lot of atmosphere! How did you come to start this project? I know you said you had a dream about ASCENSION OF THE WATCHERS that inspired you?

Burton C. Bell: Well the dream I had in 2000 was part of a journey that started roughly back then. I knew that FEAR FACTORY was not gonna last forever. It was a natural fact bands stop. And I think more bands stop these days than continue. But the dream was part of the journey. I had a need that I had to fill in my heart to really put out music that was true to my personality, 'cause I didn't really feel like I was expressing myself. And I was kind of getting frustrated that people assumed that I was all about metal... and say all you want, but that's not me. Don't like it, sorry, some of it's alright. But I think that's one of the things that made FEAR FACTORY interesting was the difference in music that we all listened to. The fact that I wasn't that type of person. I came from a different background, then Dino and I got together. Dino was a metal guy, I was an industrial plus punk guy, we came together and we created something different. It wasn't two metalheads getting together, it was the coming together of two very different things. So, to me this is where my progression has developed. In the early days of FEAR FACTORY I got to express some ideas and some anger that I was experiencing, but I'm not that angry kid anymore. I'm a 39 year-old man with a family, and I feel I've refined myself. As well we all should be refined. If you don't learn anything, if you don't evolve through life, you're not really living, I feel. So this music really started in my heart a while ago, but when I finally got a guitar, and I started playing it and I started really coming up with parts and becoming comfortable with it. It was in 2002 after the initial split of FEAR FACTORY... I said you know what, I'm gonna go on my journey. I left L.A. and I traveled out to Pennsylvania, met with John [Bechdel], and basically stayed in his studio. I was already friends with John 'cause he had worked with FEAR FACTORY already, so he let me stay at his house, he and his family were very warm. They have a lot of property, about 15 acres in the woods. It was a great place to be for someone who wants to get away and isolate themselves. In some ways the woods were a cloister for me, a sanctuary, and that's where the music really flowered. Working with John, he helped me work out the ideas, and we came up with the arrangements together... and built it up from there. And that's when it really felt like, when we started writing music and it was coming about, that yeah, this is where my heart is. And that's when it really developed. And the dream was great, I'll always remember that dream. And at that time when I had it in 2000, when we were writing "Digimortal", the dream was... a very powerful dream. At the time I was going through some crazy shit, some mental shit, so I was seeing a therapist. She was a union analyst. She wasn't like a regular counselor. Well she was a counselor, she was a union analyst specializing in dream therapy. She asked me to start writing down my dreams, so that's when I really started writing down my dreams. I had this one dream while I was seeing her, and I wrote it down, and I explained to her this dream, and it was such a powerful dream, really intense. And I explained it to her and she listened to it, and was thinking about it, and she described the dream to me as a Numinosum, which is when you experience something of a spiritual nature that you experience outside of yourself. Not your conscious but your subconscious experience. People think outside yourself is, you know, outside, but no. Subconscious also is a term for outside. So it was really powerful and I just remembered it this whole time. So I started really writing down my dreams a lot. I really feel that my dreams are trying to relate a message to me, trying to tell me something. My subconscious is trying to tell me something, that I need to follow my heart, and it's trying to show me a path and I've learned to trust that. It's a gut feeling in a way, but your heart really speaks to you through your dreams and your soul speaks to you through your dreams, and it's trying to tell you something.

Read the rest of the interview at www.metalsucks.net.

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