Interview with Fear Factory frontman Burton C. Bell
FEAR FACTORY‘s latest offering, Genexus, was released worldwide via Nuclear Blast Entertainment. The album charted in several countries around the globe, coming in at #13 on the World Top 40 Chart. FEAR FACTORY prepares to kick off their US headlining tour which will showcase the classic second album Demanufacture in it’s entirety. The tour starts on March 21 and will run through May 7 with direct support from Soilwork.
Fear Factory frontman, Burton C. Bell, took a moment to chat with Antihero Magazine’s Alex Bland about the new album Genexus, technology, alienation, the need for human interaction, and much more!
During the recording process for Genexus, did you record the album with the fans in mind, or is it the case that you already have a sound that you want to stick to?
I would say both because Fear Factory created their own sound. We’ve created our own sound a long time ago and it’s our sound that draws our fans to us. It’s quite unique, you hear a Fear Factory song, you know it’s Fear Factory.
Therefore, when we experiment with different technology or arrangements or song-crafting or different types of sounds, ambiance, textures, it’s to blend in to enhance Fear Factory, not to change our identity. That is for the fans.
Also, when we were writing this record, we did some research. Research as in going back, listening to our old albums like mostly Demanufacture, Obsolete, and Digimortal, and listening to those records just for sound production itself. While we were writing, we took some time off to do a couple small tours like Australia, India, China, and when we would pay attention to the songs that got a lot of reaction. The biggest fan songs are the groovier ones. With that in mind, we realized okay, well we have been lacking in. Writing some groovy songs because our biggest songs have always been groovier, not like slow groove, but like a heavy groove.
In the song “Recharger” from The Industrialist you say, “Open your scars and the sky opens wide. See a new world in your eyes, believe in yourself and you will survive. Live out the life you designed.” That seems to me like it might be part of the message on this album, part of the arc. You start with “Autonomous Combat System” which is a song about humans building machines as weapons, I believe, and then you end with “Expiration Date” which says, “Under the surface, we’re not machines.” While your songs are based on specific topics, the lyrics are also open-ended even though they’re about technology a lot of the time. Do you mean for your lyrics to be open to interpretation or do you have different songs with specific topics in mind?
I write a few different songs with particular topics in mind. For instance, “Terms of Education” is about all major religion and how I feel about it. On a whole, all my lyrics come from myself. They come from my own emotions, my own passions, my own feelings, my own thoughts and how I feel about them when I think about them. When I write, I kind of write in a third person anyway. That way it tells more of a story and it is more of a personal thing. In the process of writing, I’m detaching and becoming something else. Therefore, in my opinion, it’s become important to do that because that way, whoever reads it can take that idea and make it their own. Everyone feels different emotions for a different topic. When I write, I write about what I’m feeling to keep it not necessarily vague, but descriptive.
When I was listening to “ProtoMech,” there’s a lyric where you say, “Take everything away from me, replace my skin with circuitry to feed the machine.” There are so many people walking around with their smartphones, avoiding human interaction, and having the devices do a lot of their thinking for them, instead of doing the hard research and forming their own opinions on things.
Absolutely. Humans are already becoming dependent on technology and the small apparatuses they carry around in their pockets or their hands. I come from a punk-rock, anti-establishment background. Total “1984,” George Orwell, dystopian type of thought processes. So, when I say the machine, the machine is a metaphor for the system, for anti-establishment.
I think that you and Dino both would like to see humanity return to more organic human interaction, but also see something positive in this whole machine movement as well. It’s not black and white for you.
No, it’s not. I don’t hate technology. As we move forward in technology, technology advances exponentially every year. It gets smaller and it gets more powerful and people become more dependent on it. What I want people to realize is that the social media is all bullshit. It gives people the idea that they have thousands of friends when no one’s a real friend anyway. What I want people to realize is that if we use our humanity again – what that means is that we care for each because this is the only way that our species can evolve and survive.
Right now, I see the aspect of the world developing away from that, because people can be so absorbed into their own little microcosm of social media which means absolutely nothing. It’s the “see me, I’m not saying anything” generation. “I’ll take a fucking picture of my food. I’m going to take a picture of myself, look how pretty I am.“
When you and Dino write, or even just personally as a person, do you have a vision of Utopia that you would like to see, or not really?
For me, I just present a vision of a future world that could possibly happen and hopefully people can make their own decisions. Do you want to move this way or do you want to move the other way? It’s totally up to you.
Everyone’s idea of personal happiness is different from everybody else. My idea of Utopia would be different from yours. For me, it would start with a government that actually cares about its people. Let’s start there. Let’s stop pretending this is a democracy.
As a band, one which demands you to be on the road so much, does it distract from your idea of wanting to be close to other people as much as possible or spending time with your family? Does your public profile distract from that or make it so that you’ve had to make compromises along the way?
You’re right. It’s the choice I’ve made to make my career music and the music industry. I’m fortunate that I’m able to survive by doing this, but the compromise is it takes me away from my family and my loved ones. To me, that is my compromise, but my family understands. They know that this is what I do and I love what I do. They’d be the first one to tell me, “Don’t stop because of us.” My goal is to find a balance where I can be with them all the time and still do what I love to do. That’s my goal.
Where are you emotionally at this stage in your career?
I’m 46-years-old. I’ve been with Fear Factory for 25 years coming this October which is more than half my life. Emotionally, I’m happy. I feel that everything, I’ve got no regrets about everything I’ve done. I’m like Frank Sinatra. I did it my way. Seriously! And I wouldn’t change anything because it’s made me the person I am today, and I’m happy with that. There will certainly come time where I’m not going to be able to do this much longer so I need to start making plans. I am not anxious, but I’m making plans and preparing for my future.
That’s cool! Good then. All right, I’ll let you go.
All right. Alex, it’s great talking to you and you have a good day!
FEAR FACTORY w/ Soilwork:
3/21/2016 The Juggernaut – Gallup, NM (No Soilwork)
3/22/2016 Sunshine Theatre – Albuquerque, NM (No Soilwork)
3/24/2016 Korova – San Antonio, TX
3/25/2016 Trees – Dallas, TX
3/26/2016 Scout Bar – Houston, TX
3/28/2016 House of Rock – Corpus Christi, TX
3/29/2016 Majestic Lounge – Fayetteville, AR
3/30/2016 Warehouse Live – Clarksville, TN
4/01/2016 Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
4/02/2016 Rock Shop – Fayetteville, NC
4/03/2016 Norva – Norfolk, VA
4/05/2016 Rams Head Live – Baltimore, MD
4/06/2016 Gramercy Theatre – New York, NY
4/08/2016 Reverb – Reading, PA
4/09/2016 Palladium – Worcester, MA
4/10/2016 The Chance – Poughkeepsie, NY
4/12/2016 Altar Bar- Pittsburgh, PA
4/14/2016 Agora Ballroom – Cleveland, OH
4/1/52016 Machine Shop – Flint, MI
4/16/2016 Piere’s Entertainment Center – Fort Wayne, IN
4/17/2016 Big Shots – Valparaiso, IN
4/19/2016 Concord Music Hall – Chicago, IL
4/20/2016 Q and Z Expo Center- Ringle, WI
4/21/2016 The Rave – Milwaukee, WI
4/22/2016 Pop’s – Sauget, IL
4/23/2016 Aftershock – Merriam, KS
4/24/2016 Summit Music Hall – Denver, CO
4/26/2016 In The Venue – Salt Lake City, UT
4/27/2016 Hitt Event Center – Idaho Falls, ID
4/29/2016 Revolution Concert House – Boise, ID
4/30/2016 El Corazon – Seattle, WA
5/01/2016 Hawthorne Theatre – Portland, OR
5/03/2016 Slims – San Francisco, CA
5/04/2016 LVCS – Las Vegas, NV
5/05/2016 Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA
5/06/2016 Marquee Theatre – Tempe, AZ
5/07/2016 Fonda – Theatre Los Angeles, CA