Fear Factory Remain Band of Vocalist Burton Bell’s Dreams
When Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares and vocalist Burton C. Bell play, there’s a palpable chemistry that was built over decades on a foundation of experience and tension. In other words, the two have been through more drama than most divorced couples.
They lived in a group house together in the late ’80s, and at the time they got along well. Then they started Fear Factory, and as often happens when young creative minds are combined, personalities and opinions began to diverge. “Dino and I were good friends for a long time,” Bell told Noisecreep. “As friends do, we got into fights. Sometimes we’d fight over the stupidest things. We definitely got on each others nerves being around each other [all the time].”
Soldiering through their disagreements, Fear Factory created several groundbreaking albums that merged metal and industrial music and blended Bell’s vicious growls with his steely, melodic vocals way before the dawn of metalcore. The band hit creative stride with 1995’s ‘Demanufacture’ and reached its commercial peak on 1998’s ‘Obsolete,’ the digipack of which included a hit cover of Gary Numan‘s ‘Cars.’
But after 2001’s ‘Digimortal,’ Fear Factory were on the verge of collapse, and — after a particularly heated fight on the band bus — Bell left the band. “I think I wanted to fire a tour manager, and he didn’t want to fire him. It was something like that,” Cazares recalled. “Afterwards, he wouldn’t talk, and it led to him quitting.”
The March 2002 break up turned out to be more like a fragmentation. Later that year, drummer Raymond Herrera and bassist Christian Olde Wolbers convinced Bell to come back to a Cazares-less Fear Factory. The move infuriated Cazares, who left the mainstream metal circuit and played with Brujeria and Asesino. Bell, too, remained pissed off for a long time.
“I had a lot of dreams about our relationship, and my dreams moved me through it over the years,” Bell said. “At first, my dreams were very angry and I would fight him. And then my dreams evolved to me ignoring him. And then my dreams evolved to wanting to speak to him and actually speaking to him. In my mind, I worked through the anger I had, and eventually I just got over it.”
In April 2008, six years from the time they last spoke, Bell walked up to Cazares at a Ministry show in Los Angeles and the two started talking. Within minutes, ancient animosities melted away. At the time, Bell’s band, Ascension of the Watchers, was opening for Ministry and Bell was performing vocals for the second half of Ministry’s set. But the vocalist was itching to get back into something on a more full-time basis. And while Cazares was working with his band Divine Heresy (which he still plays with), the thought of a Fear Factory reunion was too tempting to pass up. So later that month, Bell flew from his home in rural Pennsylvania to Los Angeles to work with Cazares on some new material.
“Dino came to pick me up at the airport, and after being with him for a couple hours and talking to him it was like we were back living together in Los Angeles,” Bell said. “We were making the same bad jokes and we were really excited about starting another record.”
After recruiting Fear Factory bassist Byron Stroud and drummer Gene Hoglan (Dethklok, Strapping Young Lad) and programmer Rhys Fulber (ex-Fear Factory, Front Line Assembly), Fear Factory started writing their new album ‘Mechanize.’ In no time, they had put together parts for 15 songs.
“After the first couple weeks, once everybody started to reconnect, the music started to really click,” Cazares said. “The music started to come out really good. Vocal ideas started to come out really good. I started to write to Burt’s vocals. Burt started to write to our music, and it really went from there. The creativity was still going in the studio, too. We were adding touches all the way up to the last second. And I think you can hear all that excitement and hard work on the record.”