Fear Factory

Dog Day Sunrise

By Simon Milburn

13 June 2013

Words by Simon Milburn

Man versus machine. It’s been represented in various forms of media and entertainment over the years but as far as music goes, whenever this topic is mentioned, the name Fear Factory is never far behind. The quartet, who formed in 1989 in Los Angeles, California (U.S.A.) became synonymous with the concept of man versus machine over the course of their lengthy career to date. However, one album kick started it all.

Demanufacture turned the metal world on its ear when it was released in 1995. Over the years, it has more than just stood the test of time. It is hailed by many as not only the band’s finest hour, but a pioneering release that brought something new to the metal world. It has become their Master of Puppets; their Reign In Blood. It represents the perfect blend of industrial metal that remains the pinnacle of the genre to this day. Now, for the first time ever, it is being given the royal treatment live. It will be played in full for the first time ever when the band return once again to Australian shores for a very special string of dates.

“[I’m in] Sacramento, California,” begins the ever chatty frontman Burton C. Bell. “We’re seven weeks into a two month tour and California is the last leg, and this is the second show in California. So far, so good. It’s good to be back in nice, sunny, pleasant weather.”

It will be the exact opposite however when the band return to our fine land in a couple of weeks time to kick off these very special Demanfacture shows. But that doesn’t faze Burton in the slightest.

“That’s ok. It’s alright. I love it down there. It’s all good,” Bell comments as we sit down to discuss the creative process behind the mighty Demanufacture, musical evolution and inspiration, and just how these shows came together.”

Fear Factory

“Well, it was chaotic and an interesting time period because we had finished some tours off of Soul Of A New Machine and we started writing some songs,” begins Bell when asked about the creative process behind Demanufacture. “We wrote Pisschrist and after we wrote Pisschrist, we got a tour with Sepultura in ’94. Right before that tour started, we lived through the North Ridge earthquake in Los Angeles and our building got condemned. So, when we left L.A., we had no place to live so we just went on tour. On that tour, we were playing Pisschrist live and we got back and we still had a rehearsal spot.”

Burton continues, “We were all living on couches and what not around L.A. but we still had our rehearsal spot down in South Central. After work or whatever, we’d be going to rehearsal and start writing. But at that time period in L.A., the Rodney King beating and trial was happening and during that entire time, L.A. was just like one big ball of tension … the racial tension was unbelievable and the anger between the cops and just people in general and the mistrust. You could cut it with a knife it was so thick. We did a photo shoot somewhere in the bottom of L.A. and as we’re driving through South Central, we heard on the news the verdict of the Rodney King trial and we were driving right through that area where the riots started. So we hauled ass home and we lived through the riots for a few days in L.A. and we were in Hollywood and there were people with machine guns on top of their roofs guarding their properties. There was a high end motor car sales place down the street from us and the National Guard was out. That was a huge, big, big influence on the writing process of this record… just that tension. You can pretty much feel that in the record.”

The story doesn’t end there however as the recording process wasn’t the smoothest either as Bell explains.

“Then there was the tribulations we went through to record the album…y’know, I was still writing lyrics as we were recording… just the whole process of that… chaos… just non-stop chaos. After we finally finished that record, and everything was done, the label came to me, ‘Well, can you write a paragraph description of each song?’ So I put all the songs together and made this record a concept record and it just tied everything in with the vibe that we wanted to create. We wanted to create the soundtrack to the apocalyptic world which we were living through at the time. That’s when the concept of man versus the machine came in. The machine at that point wasn’t a physical thing. It was a metaphor for the establishment.”

Fear Factory's Australian Tour playing Demanufacture in full!The end result speaks for itself and has clearly stood the test of time. There was a very clear progression from their raw debut Soul of a New Machine to Demanufacture. Bell sees it as nothing more than a logical step more than a conscious one.

“It was just evolution, man, because before Demanufacture, there was the remix record Fear Is The Mindkiller. That was part of our evolution. This is the sound that we’re creating out of just pure creativity.”

A big part of that evolution was the shift in Bell’s vocals. Demanufacture was the first album to really demonstrate the balance between clean vocals and grittier, growled vocals when the music called for it.

“It just felt right with the music. When I do vocals, I sing what I feel and I project what I feel. I can hear melody in Dino’s riffs… melodies that you might not but I hear. This is what I project because this is what I hear in my head.”

It would become a trademark style that has become more popular over the years than Bell could ever have imagined.

“I should’ve copyrighted that technique. Y’know, all these young bands don’t even realise where that might have come from. When I think back, I just feel a sense of pride… like a teacher of sorts. I’ve influenced a young creative mind to do something and be influenced and inspired by. I’ve given something positive to the music world and to a younger mind.”

At no point though did the group think they were going to deliver the first metal revolution in the post Grunge ‘90’s era.

“No, we never thought about that. I was just happy that people liked it. I was happy that it finally got finished, really. We recorded it and it came out, and it was getting great reviews and I was just happy. That’s positive for us. Good tours and more work.”

Over the years, I’ve spoken to a lot of artists who would often say they would change this or that about their past work, no matter how recent it may be. George Lucas famously said that art is never finished, only abandoned.

When asked if he would do anything differently with Demanufacture, “No,” is Bell’s succinct answer. “You gotta step away from it at some point and say you’re done. That’s what we did. We said, ‘Here’s the record. Let’s do it!’ Sometimes it’s about time constraints, sometimes it’s about money. But you gotta stop at some point and you gotta just do the best with what you have. I believe we did that. If you’re not finished, then you create something more with a new creation. Demanufacture is the one album for us the fans will always love and say, ‘That’s their best record ever.’ You can never recreate that. There will never be another Demanufacture like there’ll never be another Master of Puppets or there’ll never be another Reign in Blood, y’know? You cannot recreate what was going on in the artist’s lives at that point in time because it is what they were living through and what we were living through that created that sound.”

Now though, it’s time to recreate that album live for the first time ever and Australian audiences will be the first ones to experience this. It was only within the last year or so that the notion of playing Demanufacture in full came about, and it was never really a serious thought.

“The last time we were in Australia, which is about a year ago, we were playing five or six songs off the record. I joked like, ‘Why don’t we just play the whole damn record?” The promoters were like, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea! Why don’t you come back in like a year and play Demanufacture in its entirety?’ I was like, ‘Hmmm, OK.’ We thought about it and it was Australia that really embraced Fear Factory first. It was Australia where we earned our first silver and gold record for Demanufacture. So we feel like we owe it to the fans to bring what they enjoy.”

No doubt some will struggle with the band playing such an iconic album with only half of the original line-up intact. But Burton is looking forwards, not back.

“Well Raymond doesn’t want to play anymore. We’ve crossed that bridge and we’re done with it. We’re doing it with the line-up that we have and Matt and Mike are very happy and excited to play a record that they loved as a fan. So, it’s gonna be exciting! We had played most of the songs already. There’s a couple of songs that will take some rehearsing but that’s why we rehearse, so…but we will be ready. They know six of the songs perfectly at this point.”,/p>

Fear Factory

It’s hard to believe the album is 18 years old at this point. The question has to be asked if Burton though he’d still be doing this for over twenty years.

“No,” Burton replies simply. “I had no clue, man. I got a few backup plans. I’m working on other things. We all do. The older you get, you gotta make plans. I have other projects I work on – I got photography, I got writing, so… I got plans. I definitely have backup plans, but Fear Factory is my main thing. At this point, that’s how I survive and feed my family and pay my mortgage. So I’m going to continue that as long as I can.”

We already live in the lucky country and now, we’re even luckier with Australia being the first country to experience live Demanufacture in full. No doubt there’ll be some more crowd favourites thrown in there, too.

“The album’s only an hour long so we have to play some other things. We’ll have a couple of other surprises for you. There’ll definitely be more songs. We’re looking forward to playing this record in its entirety and just getting back down to Australia. Australia is always a great time.”

Fear Factory are touring Demanufacture around Australia thanks to Soundwave Touring. Tickets are on sale now. Catch them on the following dates: Thursday July 4, The Tivoli, Brisbane (18+); Friday July 5, UNSW Roundhose, Sydney (Lic A/A); Sunday July 7, The Palace, Melbourne (18+); Tuesday 9 July, HQ, Adelaide (18+); Thursday July 11, Metro City, Perth (18+). For more information on Fear Factory, check out www.fearfactory.com .

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