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We were fighting the establishment; the machine: Fear Factory

Burton C Bell talks about the influences that have structured the band’s sound and the Indian mythos among heavy metal acts.

Written by Shantanu David | New Delhi |
Updated: September 16, 2014 10:50:09 am
Burton C Bell (left) of American industrial metal band Fear Factory. ( Soure: Stephanie Cabral ) Burton C Bell (left) of American industrial metal band Fear Factory. ( Soure: Stephanie Cabral )

American industrial metal band Fear Factory (FF), one of the pioneers of industrial metal, will be leading the aural assault that is the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Delhi and Pune in November. We speak to vocalist Burton C Bell (pictured left) about the influences that have structured the band’s sound and the Indian mythos among heavy metal acts.

Fear Factory has been cited as an influence by many bands, from Chimaira to Lamb of God to Slipknot. Which were the bands that influenced you?

It’s an honour to be named as an influence by those incredible bands you named. Each band has done well in their careers, and I am happy to call them good friends.

As for me, I was never a ‘full on’ metal fan. While I did have the odd metal album such as Iron Maiden’s Number of the beast or Dio’s Holy diver, I was more into punk rock, and the post-rock industrial sounds coming out in the early ’80s. From there, I went for music that resonated with my soul.

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I discovered U2, whose music completely filled my ears and thoughts. Bono’s early lyrical style influences me to this day. After them, I went towards a more ominous sound in The Swans. This band found and connected with my dark side. The vocalist/lyricist Michael Gira has a powerful voice, which I tried to emulate in the early days of FF. His lyrical style was of true anger and pain.

From there, I learned of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. This was the man/band that took everything I liked about music and melded them perfectly. I have been a disciple since 1988. Then came Godflesh with the primal ferocity of their first album, Streetcleaner; it blew me away.

How did Fear Factory come about its sound, and why industrial metal as a genre? Do you consider yourselves purely an industrial band, considering both musically and stylistically, you’ve explored other sub-genres, such as death, alternative and groove metal?

Our sound was an early exploration through experimentation. Learning our tools, and developing our songwriting was truly ‘trial and error’. Dino (Cazares, guitarist) and I were always interested in the sounds of industrial. Dino and Ray (Herrera, former drummer) were in death metal bands, and I came from a post-rock sound of early-noise/industrial.

Our style combined as we began writing. It was not until Rhys Fulber (sessions pianist) came into the mix with Demanufacture (FF’s second album), that we settled with our sound. I consider Fear Factory an industrial metal band, due to the repetitive and rhythmic beats, much like a working machine with gears and cogs would sound.

The band’s lyrics have always had this emphasis on science fiction, with concepts like “Man versus machine” being explored over various albums. Where does this fascination with sci-fi come from?

As a boy I was fascinated with sci-fi. My father was a reporter in Houston, Texas, and he was following NASA during the Apollo 11 launch. I remember watching Star Trek, Twilight Zone, and Night Gallery on TV with him. In the early days of FF, Dino and I watched a lot of movies which inspired and influenced us — Terminator, Blade Runner, Robocop, and Full Metal Jacket to name a few.

As a lyricist, I try to be poetic. All our lyrics are poems. My poems are about emotions that make us human: love , hate, fear, jealousy, and pain. Can androids feel these too? This concept was perfect for the direction Dino and I wanted to take. We were struggling to survive in Hollywood then. We experienced the LA Riots first hand.

We remember the National Guard patrolling the roads of LA, setting up post at the 7-11 across the street. This was not science fiction, this was pure struggle. But these are the experiences that create science fiction; because we were struggling, we were fighting the establishment; the machine.

This is your first tour of India. How did you come to be a part of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender Festival? Are you familiar with the metal scene in the country?
I wish I knew the details of how we were invited to Weekender, but I am just thankful that we are. I have heard tales and urban legends from bands that have played in India. All I can say is that when they describe the scene, they always have a big smile.

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