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15th December 2012
Following a lengthy trek around mainland Europe on what was billed as the Epic Industrialist Tour, co-headliners Fear Factory and the Devin Townsend Project wrapped up their joint excursion with a handful of dates in the UK mid-December. And with the former's eighth studio album, 'The Industrialist', unleashed earlier in the year to rave reviews which has seen the seminal industrial metallers return to what's widely regarded as the essence of their classic sound à la 'Demanufacture', Metal Discovery arranged to meet with the band in Manchester to chat about their songwriting motivations this time around. Arriving at the venue just as Fear Factory commence a half hour soundcheck it seems the schedule is running slightly late. After a seemingly excessive ten minutes of a roadie saying "one, two..." into mics and then the band themselves running through three songs, the tour manager leads me backstage to their dressing room while he yells "Dino" repetitively down the corridor in a quasi-Flintstones moment. However, with the guitarist nowhere to be found, vocalist Burton C. Bell is assigned interview duties. As we settle down inside his dressing room, initial discussions reveal that Fear Factory have not just been co-headliners with the DTP throughout Europe but co-farters too...
METAL DISCOVERY: How’s the tour been with Devin? Do you think the two of you have a generally mutual fanbase based on crowd reactions at the shows?
BURTON: There are some fans that share an affinity for both bands, Fear Factory and Devin Townsend Project. There are some fans who are just like shoegazer kind of people that are more into prog but they watch it and I think, by the end of the show, they get it. So the tour’s been going really well and we’ve been getting great responses, and I think we’ve been winning over some fans.
(Burton C. Bell anticipating the invention of a teleporter to alleviate tour fatigue)
"I say this every day, I want them to invent that! I remember seeing Michio Kaku talking about the theoretical possibility of teleportation and I’m like, “make it happen, what are you waiting for?!”"
Burton C. Bell backstage at the HMV Ritz, Manchester, UK, 15th December 2012
Photograph copyright © 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: So are you ready to go back home now?
BURTON: Absolutely! We got here October 26th and I’m ready to go home!
MD: That’s a long stint.
BURTON: Yeah, and we’ve maybe had six days off since then.
MD: There was a video tour diary released online a few days ago, I think Devin had posted it, with a compilation of tour farts…
BURTON: It was just the audio of it, wasn’t it?
MD: There was a little bit of music and some voice samples mixed in there too, I think.
BURTON: But there was no imagery though, was there?
MD: Oh no, I see what you mean.
BURTON: The imagery of it, he’s not going to put that out, I think.
MD: Who’s been the biggest and most prolific farter on the tour?
BURTON: I think it had to be Ryan [Van Poederooyen]…
MD: Right, yeah, Devin’s drummer…
BURTON: Yeah. Him and Matt [DeVries] started the whole thing and then everyone kind of got involved. It’s not hard to…especially on a bus with sixteen guys!
MD: Is that something you repressed at the start of the tour and then farted more and more as the tour went along?
BURTON: No, nothing was held back, we’re dudes!
MD: Have you ever had any farting mishaps on stage ever?
BURTON: A long time ago. We were opening up for Sick of It All in the States and…yeah, it wasn’t very good…
BURTON: Let’s just say I wasn’t very happy about it!
MD: So apart from recording farts on iPhones, have there been any other amusing or random happenings on the tour bus?
BURTON: Well, we’ve just been having a good time. The two bands, we’re like brothers, and from the beginning everyone was getting along great. His whole band is just really chilled and they’re good guys; our band’s the same way. We all share common things and everyone also has different things to add. We enjoy each other’s company and it’s been really easy. On my days off, we’ll even still hang out together, you know, go into town together and check out some sights and do our thing. We just enjoy each other’s company.
MD: 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.
MD: There’s a bit of a George Orwell thing going on there then.
BURTON: Very much so. George Orwell’s one of my biggest inspirations of all time for science fiction. But, in a lot of ways, it wasn’t fiction at all.
MD: It was prophetic.
BURTON: It was prophetic and he was writing about his time period and the way he saw it. There are still ministries of everything these days and it’s the same way in the United States. So, to answer your question, it’s a mix between both things, of how I see the world and how it is progressing.
MD: But it’s simply a nice story as well.
BURTON: Thanks! [laughs]
MD: I guess there’s the whole ‘Terminator’ thing going on there as well with machines against man so do you think those movies are quite prophetic too?
BURTON: I think so. It’s science fiction that really creates vision for scientists to create. Gene Roddenberry’s ‘Star Trek’…the self-opening door, something as simple as that, well, “we can make that!” The communicator, you know…
MD: Teleporting would be great, wouldn’t it!
BURTON: Well, yeah, they’re working really slow on that!
MD: It’d be particularly good on tour, you know, getting between venues!
BURTON: I say this every day, I want them to invent that! I remember seeing Michio Kaku talking about the theoretical possibility of teleportation and I’m like, “make it happen, what are you waiting for?!”
MD: I’ve heard you’re not a fan of ‘Terminator 2’…
BURTON: Ohhh, ‘T2’… it’s just hokey!
MD: You’re probably the only person in the world who hates ‘T2’!
BURTON: The effects were cool but the story was weak. I was like, really, The Terminator’s a babysitter? Come on! James Cameron sold out and… this is my opinion, he sold out to make a Hollywood film to make it accessible to families worldwide… [laughs]
MD: Maybe because Arnie went off and did ‘Twins’, ‘Kindergarten Cop’ and all that crap between the two movies, he couldn’t go back to being mean again in ‘T2’ so he was the ‘Kindergarten Cop’ guy in that movie.
BURTON: Well, you know, it’s like screw that but ‘Terminator Salvation’ was fantastic. That was a fantastic film.
MD: 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 focussed 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 and Rhys 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!”
MD: So it gave you far more control using programmed drums...
BURTON: Far more control, ease of control and less stress… [laughs]
MD: 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]
MD: I think the whole drum machine thing is still stigmatised 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.
MD: 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!
MD: 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.”
MD: Rhys [Fulber] produced again who’s someone you’ve worked with since the ‘Fear is the Mindkiller’ EP…
BURTON: Oh absolutely, yeah. He co-produced with us and was writing with us. He’s a great human being – there’s no other producer who understands Fear Factory more than he does and he’s pretty much a member of the band but he makes a better living doing other things.
MD: And there’s a link between yourselves and Devin through Rhys isn’t there, because Devin played on a Front Line Assembly album…
BURTON: Yeah, we met Devin through Rhys. We already knew Devin but we really connected through Rhys. When we were writing ‘Obsolete’ he came to the studio a lot, just to check things out.