Interview: Fear Factory and “Digimortal”

interview by rinaldo

I headed up to Hell-A to heed to call of Fear Factory. Nestled in the back of an otherwise shutdown looking building was a small studio that would be the center of my world for the next several hours. The band is putting the finishing touches on their new album “Digimortal”. A small group of us music media types got the chance to hear most of the album. Going in, I didn’t know what to expect out of new Fear Factory material. Every previous album seems to have been something different. “Digimortal”, is more in the vain of “Obsolete”, and in some ways was a little disappointing. The songs were noticeably shorter, lacking long developments and intros, though this is neither good or bad. The major drawback to the new material was the similarities to “Obsolete”. Good listen, heavy, catchy, but done before. Nothing really wrong, I guess my expectations for something more dramatic just went unfulfilled. Some notable highlights include a track that has some obscene double-bass drumming, like 180 bpm, and a really solid instrumental track. The rest was cool, nothing mind-blowing, but will please fans of “Obsolete” and “Demanufacture”. After our listening session I had the opportunity to sit and talk with a modern day guitar legend: Dino Cazares.

So what’s different with this album? The last one, “Obsolete”, was a concept album.
Dino: “Digimortal” is another concept album, its short for “Digital Mortality”. Its about how man and machine have learned to live in this digital world, and now we can’t exist with out each other. The difference with this album begin the amount of pre-production that we put in to it, we recorded it three times, built our own little recording studio.

Sounds like a painful process.
Naw, it was fun. We had a good time doing it, took our time, and trimmed out a lot of the fat. A lot of the songs off of the previous records were 5 or 6 minutes, so on “Digimorta”l we’ve shortened some of the songs. Have the songs get straight to the point, no beating around the bush, no long intro. You know that stuff is really cool, but we wanted to do something different on this record. And the more short songs you write, the more you can do live. We want to do more songs live, as it was we would only do 13 or 14 songs for an hour and twenty minutes. Which gave us a very different approach.

What about the lyrics?
Burton wanted to write a different concept story.

Is a concept album harder then non-connected songs?
I think it is, it’s pretty hard. `Cause you’ve got to connect each song to the concept, so it can get difficult. We come up with a story, a possible future.

Fear Factory has a definite connection to industrial and electronic music, which is part of the sound people are so familiar with.
Yeah we like that. I’ve always been a big fan of early industrial stuff. I never wanted to go full on industrial, my heart still lies towards heavy shit, ripping guitars, metal, what ever you want to call it. And we’ve always liked combining the two.

Do you think that other bands out there with an industrial sound are being influenced by you?
Maybe influenced them, yeah, I know a few bands that we’ve influenced. Actually there are a lot of bands out there that we’ve influenced, and they come up to me and actually told me that we influenced them. Like one time Dimebag Darrell From Pantera come up and told me that when he was making “Reinventing The Steel”, that he A-B’ed his guitar tones to my guitar tones. You know, when your an artist like that, sometimes you need to update your sound. Sometimes you’ve got to keep up with what’s going on out there. It’s all competition with each other, when you hear someone’s record you want to blow it away, or top it. But I’ve all ways said that Fear Factory is in its own little world ever since we came out in LA. The backyard scene playing death metal industrial stuff in East LA. We really stood out, people had never heard anything like us. I think that’s why we got signed. We had some uniqueness to us, and I think we’ve keep that. We’ve done dance re-mixes of metal songs, death metal, grind-core, to just straight metal. And I think that on this album we kind of show all the styles that have been incorporated over the years.

Fear Factory has a kind of rolling ball effect, picking up different musical styles and incorporating them into the band’s sound.
I Think this record is everything that we’ve done in the past, but brought together.

Do you think Fear Factory will ever return to the hard-core sounds that were off of “Soul Of A New Machine”?
For us? I have other outlets for that. Its hard to say, the next record might just be straight grind-core, it really depends on what we feel at the moment. The thing about us is that we are all four different characters, and we all have, and want our own different ideas. Our music is very LA. It’s a big melting pot of different stuff.

How does your involvement with other bands affect Fear Factory? Do you take those experiences in with you?
I guess subconsciously, but not really. I’ve done a lot of work on other albums, from Soulfly to Nailbomb, the early Limp Bizkit record (which I don’t like talking about). I don’t know, Mexican bands, you know all kinds of stuff. Some of it kind of does, some of it kind of doesn’t, but people usually ask me to play on their record because of my sound.

On the last record you had a keyboardist with you live. Are you going to have him with you again?
Yeah John, John Bechdel. Yeah he’s programming all the stuff to for live right now.

Is he becoming more of a permanent member of the band?
Dino: I dunno. John, what do you think?
John: Uuuuuuuuhhh..I think so.
Dino: There you go. I have a feeling things are going to be a little different on the next record.

Are guys enjoying the process of writing these concept albums?
Totally. It gives something more then just a song. I tell you I don’t like talking about my personal life. I don’t want to be one of those people who tells the whole world all the shit that’s happened to them. The story makes listening more interesting. Like reading a book, or the extra scenes of a movie. It’s kind of like that. The hard part is connecting it all together. That’s harder then writing a normal song.

For that process do you sit down in advance and say, “OK this is what we’re going to do?” Or do you just start writing songs, and find the theme in that?
At first it starts out we’re just writing the music, and my singer wasn’t even there for the first few weeks. We were just trying to come up with the music ideas, and riffs, and have a bunch of stuff collected. Then we had Burton come down and help us start piecing it together and start adding lyrics. A lot of the time when we’re writing music there’s no lyrics, that comes later. That’s one of the hardest parts of all, lyrics and vocals.

What’s the release date for the new album?
April 24, 2001. We’re already on tour. We’ve got Snow-core, and possibly a tour with the Deftones in Europe.