As the pioneers of “cyber metal” and with a career spanning over twenty years, Fear Factory have continued to push the envelope within the contemporary metal scene and show no sign of slowing down with the release of their latest album, Mechanize. Before their Australian tour supporting Metallica in September, Killyourstereo caught up with guitarist Dino Cazares to talk about the band’s past, present and future.
Hey Dino, how are you going mate?
Good, how you doing?
Yeah not too bad, how’s your day been?
It’s been great. Nice, sunny and warm here in California. I’m having a relaxing break from touring.
Sounds good. Yet, you’ll be at it again when you head back to Australia in September with Metallica…
Yep, we leave here in a few weeks and we’re going to be out there in beautiful Australia.
So this will be the second time that you’ve been to Australia this year after playing the 2010 Big Day Out earlier in the year?
Yep, we were there for the Big Day Out and now we’re going to be there with Metallica. It’s an honour that they asked us to come back on tour with them as this is the second tour we have done with them.
So how has the touring with Metallica been going?
It’s been going great. C’mon, you’re playing to thousands and thousands of people! And they are really nice guys, their whole crew and all their people treat you really well. They make you feel very welcome. They know how to support their support bands (laughs).
That’s good to hear. Has Metallica been a big influence on your guitar playing?
I think Metallica have had a big influence on metal music in general. You know what I mean? They were definitely an influence on me, of course. They have some amazing songs and James Hetfield, in my opinion, is one of the greatest rhythm players. And being influenced by that in general… it’s still apparent in my music today.
What other bands and guitarists influenced the way you play today?
I’m not influenced by a lot of guitarists today. A lot of my influences came from when I was growing up. Obviously, Angus Young was probably the first guy who ever influenced me to even pick up a guitar. Just watching him play and watching how he went crazy on stage… that was something that I wanted to do when I was a young kid. And guitarists from all different genres of music inspired me, everybody from James Hetfield to The Edge from U2. But overall, I was just inspired by metal music in general.
Ever had the opportunity to see AC/DC live?
Ah, no. Never seen them live because every time they go on tour I’ve been on tour. Every time they have been touring I’ve been somewhere else. Unfortunately, I’ve never had the opportunity to go see them.
Ok, well getting back to Fear Factory… how did you approach the songwriting process for the new album Mechanize? Was it different to the past Fear Factory albums that you’ve played on?
The only difference was that we had different musicians… and that was it. One of the other things that was different too was that there was no drama. It was a very fast and easy process. The reason why it was fast was because there was no drama, there was no bullshit going on. We didn’t have any record label breathing down our back. We didn’t have any drummers sleeping with the bassist’s wife! (laughs) We didn’t have any drama like that, so the process was really positive and really creative. Me and Burton (C. Bell, vocalist) playing together again was amazing. To be able to collaborate with one of my best friends, to create a lot of music together and just to be able to play with him again was amazing. And playing with a killer drummer like Gene Hoglan- the guy is legendary. He has played with so many different bands and he is a professional drummer who knows how to adapt to whatever band he is playing in. The guy is a pro. Collaborating with all those guys was really easy and really professional. There was no drama. We just went into the studio and bashed it out. We wrote the record in about two and a half months to three months and recorded it in two months. So the whole record was done in less than six months.
Before you left the band in 2002, you said that there were certain musical differences between yourself and Burton. Is it fair to say that you’ve resolved these differences?
I wouldn’t say musical differences with Burton, there were musical differences between me and everyone. Back when we were doing Digimortal, the record label was pushing us to go a little bit more commercial. I wasn’t really for that, but certain members of the band were. That created a lot of clashes musically. But there was a lot more other stuff involved besides that…
Did Candlelight Records give you creative freedom over the direction of Mechanize?
Yeah, well like I said earlier there was no record label breathing down our back telling us we needed to write a radio song. We went into the studio and bashed out whatever we wanted to play and they were a label that said, “You’re Fear Factory- do what Fear Factory does”. And so we were like, “Ok, Here we go”.
After spending nearly six years apart from Burton, was it strange writing with him again or was it more of a natural progression of just picking up from where you left off?
Natural… very, very natural. We would be having a few beers, watching movies and watching documentaries on different stuff like Big Brother and religion and trying to get ideas and concepts as well as other theories and conspiracy theories on 9/11 and the exploitation of Christ and all kinds of stuff. Watching all that stuff was fun. It reminded me of when we first met and started writing music and the creative ideas that we would come up with.
And are those themes concerning religion and surveillance something you feel quite strongly about? Given the nature of tracks like “Christploitation” from the new album?
Yeah, we definitely feel strongly about it. We wouldn’t write about it otherwise. One of the things about Fear Factory is that back in the day we tried to be futuristic, we tried to predict the future and we always had our ear out for new technology. Things like cloning technology and the internet. When we were doing Soul of a New Machine and Demanufacture the internet was not as big as it is now. People didn’t rely on it as much as they do now. People didn’t have relationships over the internet like they do now. You know? People have fucking pets and farms on the internet now (laughs). People are less social physically but still very social on the internet. People are shy and they can’t go out and talk yet they can talk a lot of shit on the internet. At that time we were talking about where our future was going, but on this new record we are talking about the present- where we’re at today, where technology is at today, where religion is at today and conspiracy theories about 9/11. We wanted to write about what Fear Factory is… and Fear Factory is about anything that causes fear, whether it be religion, the government, schools or church. That was the original idea of what Fear Factory was when we first came up with the name for the band, so we wanted to go back to what Fear Factory meant.
Getting back to the musical direction and your guitar playing on Mechanize, there seems to be more lead playing and experimentation on this album. Why did you decide to include more predominant solos during songs like “Fear Campaign” this time round?
Why did I want to open it up a little more? During my time being out of Fear Factory, I was able to experiment more and play with different musicians. I did Roadrunner United, Brujeria, Asesino and Devine Heresy. I got to play with a lot of great musicians and I learned a lot of stuff. When I was doing Fear Factory back in the day there was a lot of stress and a lot of pressure in terms of what we wrote. People would always want us to do one certain thing. So once I left Fear Factory it was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I was able to go out and learn new things, not just on guitar, but in terms of songwriting in general. And so all the things that I learned I was able to use when I returned to Fear Factory.
So playing with bands like Asesino and Devine Heresy has influenced the sound of Mechanize in a good way?
Yeah… you could kind of say that it influenced it, but… I just learned different things on the guitar that I wanted to show on this record.
What guitars are you using these days? Are you still working with Ibanez?
Oh yeah, I’ve been a solid Ibanez endorsee for almost 15 years- since 1995.
Are they eight-string Ibanez guitars you are playing on Mechanize?
I use seven-string and eight-string guitars. Eight-string guitars I use on part of the record but the majority of it is played with seven-string guitars.
Have you ever used an eight-string guitar on a Fear Factory record before?
No, never. Only with Devine Heresy and Asesino.
What tunings do you use?
The eight-string guitars are tuned to F # and most of Fear Factory is tuned to A, while a lot of the early records are tuned to B.
So with each album you’ve progressively taken the tuning down a notch…
(laughs) Yeah… I mean on Obsolete we had some really low stuff, like in F #, and I was playing that on a seven-string. But ever since they came out with eight-string guitars, which can be tuned that low, it’s a lot easier for me and saves me buying super, gigantic fucking guitar strings. However, I don’t really plan on going any lower. I don’t plan on going onto a nine-string or a ten-string guitar or anything like that. But I did use a ten-string acoustic guitar on a song called “Rise of the Scorned” on the first Devine Heresy record. I play a ten-string acoustic guitar on the intro to that song and it sounds really cool.
And speaking of Devine Heresy, do you plan on getting back and recording with those guys again any time soon?
Yeah, well I have a little bit of time off right now and I’ll have a little bit of time off when this Metallica tour is over. I plan on getting in there and writing some new songs, and hopefully Devine Heresy will get to tour Australia as well. Definitely, Fear Factory will be back there for a headlining run.
Will those Fear Factory headline shows coincide with the Metallica shows in September?
No, it will be after that. It will be either later this year or early next year.
So while you’re still hoping to get out here with Devine Heresy, have you toured Australia with that band before?
Yeah, we toured with the Soundwave Festival a couple of years ago. I don’t remember who headlined that year, but it was a couple of years ago now.
Are you working on any other side-projects or bands at the moment?
No, the only bands that I’m working on are Asesino, Devine Heresy and Fear Factory.
I understand that Mechanize only came out earlier this year, but have you been writing any new Fear Factory material since?
Oh yeah, I’m always jotting down ideas. I have my iPhone and when I’m walking down the street and I have an idea in my head I will hum it and record it on my phone, just until I can get to my recording studio at my house where I can write stuff with a drum machine and my guitar. You know what I mean? I use my phone so that I can get my ideas down. I’m constantly thinking of stuff… my brain never stops working (laughs).
And having been part of the heavy metal scene for so many years, what do you think about the state of contemporary metal today?
I find that a lot of the newer bands are really influenced by the older bands, and a lot of that stuff is unoriginal because it has already been done before. But then again, in this day and age it’s really hard to be original because there’s so much stuff that has already been done. But there’s a few bands that I like- there’s a band called After The Burial and Dirge Within. They are a couple of new up-and-coming bands that are putting a new twist on things musically. They are really good bands, and it takes a lot for me to like a new band, as they have to be doing something different or something original for me to really get into it.
What advice would you offer up-and-coming metal bands trying to make it in today’s industry?
First thing, you need to try to be original. Then you need to get yourself a lawyer.
A lawyer? Really?
Get a lawyer, right now. A lot of people don’t understand that once you make your first dollar, then it’s a business. Right? A lot of up-and-coming musicians, young bands and young artists don’t realise that. Yeah sure, you can be a great guitarist but once you make that first dollar then you’re a businessman. You know what I mean? Are you a musician?
Yeah, I’m a guitarist and have been in a few bands.
Have you made any money yet?
Well, once you make your first dollar you’re still a business man. And you know what? Once you start growing in a band and you start to become more popular, there’s going to be more people that want to take that away from you. We call them “sharks” in the music industry. There’s always going to be one guy who will go, “Yeah man, I’ll manage you!” and the next thing you know is he’s booked you a gig and you’re playing a pub gig. Let’s say you get paid $500 for the gig, and at the end of the gig you’ll be like, “Ok, where’s my $500? Where’s the money that we have to split up?” and the manager can be like, “Oh well, I had to pay for this and I had to pay for that” and the next thing you know is your manager is ripping you off.
Is that something even you experienced when you were starting out?
Oh, of course man! (laughs) I think every band has experienced that. Even clubs rip you off, everybody rips you off, so you really have to watch your back and you really have to get a lawyer. That’s my advice to anybody who thinks they are just going to go and play music just to fuck chicks or drink beer every night. They need to know there’s a lot more to it than that. If music is your career and that’s what you want to do, then you have to learn to become a businessman. You can’t just go out there absent-minded and do it because you are going to get fucked.
It’s the brutal truth I suppose…
Dude, you’re from Australia and AC/DC said it best: “It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock n’ roll”. Listen to those lyrics, that’s the brutal truth, that came from fucking Australia. Those lyrics came from Bon Scott, who is from where? Fremantle? He said it the fucking best man. That guy said it the best. If you’re in a band then listen to those lyrics because that’s the truth.
Ok, to wrap things up now and to get back to Fear Factory again, do you think that Christian Olde Wolbers (ex-Fear Factory bassist) and Raymond Herrera (ex-Fear Factory drummer) will ever rejoin the band?
I don’t know what they think, but I’ll tell you what I think- I’m not interested. I mean why? I’ve got Gene Hoglan now. I’m moving forward not backwards.
Fear Factory and The Sword will support Metallica during the September dates of their 2010 Australian tour.
Wednesday 15th September – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Thursday 16th September – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Saturday 18th September – Acer Arena, Sydney