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Front Line Assembly’s Bill Leeb Gives Industrial Music History Lesson

Troy Sobotka

Front Line Assembly is the primary project of Vancouver-based musician Bill Leeb. A founding member of Skinny Puppy, Leeb left the outfit to form Front Line Assembly in 1986. Since then, the band has become one of the most influential and consistent acts in the industrial scene.

In 2010, FLA released their latest album, ‘Improvised.Electronic.Device.’ Last month they launched their first US tour in four years. Noisecreep recently spoke with Leeb about the industrial scene during some downtime on the tour bus.

“I’m a bit of a purist. To me, industrial music has always been artists like Test Dept, Throbbing Gristle, SPK, and Einstürzende Neubauten,” said Leeb. “Actually, Gristle even started a label called Industrial Records. It all started out with angry guys banging away on metal objects. That to me is the real industrial music if you look at it from a purist’s perspective.”

Although FLA’s earlier records certainly had that abrasive side, their more recent work has had a much more synth-pop feel. Noisecreep asked Leeb about the origins of that side of the band’s sound. “After that first wave of industrial, you then started having artists like Cabaret Voltaire who used electronic instruments to replace the metal barrels and pipes,” he said. “That continued the evolution of what we do and it was needed. With Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly, that kind of stuff obviously influenced us, but I don’t think we were ever really straight-up industrial. It’s always in the foreground of what we do and we definitely fall under the umbrella of it, somewhere.”

Leeb says he’s pleased with the industrial scene’s progress. “Nowadays, electronic music in general, the entire scene and sound is so fragmented. Whether it’s dubstep or drum & bass or trance — it all comes from that early era of the industrial music scene. It’s incredible.”

If you prefer your industrial to be on the more metal side of the spectrum, look no further than FLA’s 1994 album, ‘Millennium.’ Released on Roadrunner Records, the album features some of the heaviest songs in the Canadian band’s discography.

“I love that album,” says Leeb. “If anything, it showed that Front Line Assembly also took influences from heavy metal. In the late ’80s and ’90s, there was that whole industrial-metal crossover scene that we were a part of. But we always made sure what we did was unique.

“When it comes down to it, we’ve always made sure there was a great song underneath everything. What I mean is that we’ve always been into dressing up our music with great production values, but we’ve never sacrificed the quality of our songs.”

Front Line Assembly tour dates:

June 02 Dallas, TX – Trees
June 03 Austin, TX – Elysium
June 04 Houston, TX – Numbers
June 06 Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
June 07 Mesa, AZ – Nile Theater
June 08 San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick
June 09 Santa Ana, CA – Galaxy Theatre
June 10 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theater
June 11 San Francisco, CA – Red Devil
June 12 Seattle, WA – El Corazon
June 13 Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theater

Watch the video for ‘Epitaph’

Download Front Line Assembly songs | Buy Front Line Assembly albums

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