DAVID LEE - Man, I just have to tell you that sometimes I have this fantasy where I just close my eyes and make pretend that I am Burton Bell and I am hanging out with my favorite heavy metal band, BLACK SABBATH, and that I get to sing with another one of the best bands on the scene today, FEAR FACTORY. How is it to really be Burton Bell?
BURTON BELL - (Laughing) Um, right now it is pretty hectic! It is hectic but it is exciting at the same time. To me everything is a new experience as well and I take it all in stride and I observe it and take it in. It is like, I am going to relish this moment. Remembering everything that I am doing is a lot at this moment but, yeah I am enjoying it.
DL - Was the BLACK SABBATH a major milestone for you?
BB - Oh dude! Those two shows that we did in Birmingham, England with the entire original lineup, we took time out of writing our record to go and do that because we definitely didn't want to miss it. The whole original lineup in Birmingham for the first time in twenty years! I was like, "Dude, we got to do that." and everyone agreed that it was to do. Yep, it was the definite pinnacle of my life at that moment.
DL - I know what you mean! I would have been so annoying if it was me, running around asking for autographs and bugging them to death.
BB - Oh dude, I was asking for autographs!(laughs) Everybody was there! Brian May, Rollins, Vinnie Appice everybody was there. I got to meet Bill Ward finally and he was a super cool guy. He was even on the side of the stage watching our set. We all got off stage and he was like "Fuckin' brutal!" (Laughs)
DL - That had to give you a rise?
BB - It put me in a killer mood for the rest of the evening.
DL - He has done some stuff that has kind of a FEAR FACTORY texture to it.
BB - Yeah, he has, hasn't he. He has been the experimental person.
DL O.K. so, you do the dream SABBATH gig and then you are on to another album. You probably haven't had anyone tell you different but I like this one a lot.
BB - Well, actually people have. When we had that "REMANUFACTURE" record, we had some fans come up to us and say "I hated it!" It was like "O.K." And then they were like "I don't like this one but the next one should be heavy!" We said we would keep that in mind and we definitely did. We definitely wanted to stick to our roots.
DL - This thing has definitely got a groove to it. I don't want to say funky but it definitely grooves in a very human way.
BB - What do you think of the word "organic?"
DL - There you go!
BB - Organic is a good word because it brought back the human element to FEAR FACTORY. We kind of lost that on "DEMANUFACTURE". "DEMANUFACTURE" was very cold and mechanical but our fist record "SOUL OF A NEW MACHINE" was a very groovy record and all of those songs had a very organic groove to them and we just combined "SOUL OF A NEW MACHINE" and "DEMANUFACTURE" together to bring back that human element to FEAR FACTORY.
DL - I don't understand why people don't like to use the term but this is a "concept" record.
BB -I don't understand either because nobody hardly does it any more and, to me, it was like a challenge to create this story, to create this world within the music and to make it believable. It was a challenge that we considered an obstacle and we wanted to cross it. FEAR FACTORY started off as a concept. Our name is a concept so, ever since the beginning we have been a thinking band and everything that we do has to have a meaning and a purpose. I think that we are a very conceptual band because that is just the way we are. It is not the fact that we were influenced by concept albums when we were growing up, I mean, yeah there are a couple that I like. I love PINK FLOYD's "THE WALL", it's fucking awesome. There's "TOMMY" by THE WHO, that is a great record but heavy bands don't do it any more. W.A.S.P. did it with "THE CRIMSON IDOL" and QUEENSRYCHE did it with "OPERATION MINDCRIME" but other than that, no one does it. We just do it because we love it.
DL - It would seem to me that it makes it a great deal harder, especially lyrically, to write an album as a concept as opposed to a record that is a collection of individual songs.
BB - Exactly. It is a difficult process. For me, I worked backwards on this record. We came up with a title of the record first, "OBSOLETE", then the lyrics came later. I was writing all the lyrics to all the songs at once because I had to keep this big picture in mind of this world that we wanted to have people visualize so, everything had to be consistent and we had to tell a story. At the same time that I had to tell a story it had to have rhyme and meter, I was stressing hard during the whole thing. I was writing lyrics up until I was singing them! While I was singing them I was still changing lyrics. "Well, this could be a little better." or "This could be done a little differently." Then I got all that done, all of the lyrics were done and I had to wait for a song sequence. They all fit together but I had to wait for a song sequence because that was going to be the outline for the story that I was going to write. The final packaging of "OBSOLETE" a movie script that reads along with the lyrics that I have written. It is like a little graphic novel that Dave McKeen and I did. When I had the song sequence I had my outline and then I wrote the movie script so, I worked completely backwards.
DL - So not only do you undertake the most difficult task but you do it the most difficult way imaginable.
BB - (Laughs)Yeah, it's the only way that I know how to work! DL Is the process something that leaves you both mentally and physically tired after it is all done?
BB - Completely! I finished it the day before I left on this promotional tour and during the time that I was writing this story, through stress or something, my jaw locked up. I don't know what happened. I thought that I had tetanus or mono or something. I went to the doctor and got blood tested for everything and it showed negative for everything so I guess it was all just stress. I had this anomaly built up in my jaw so bad that I couldn't even eat, I couldn't even chew it hurt so bad. It wasn't until about two weeks later that the pain finally left. The stress was gone, finally. We were rehearsing in Amsterdam before Ozz-Fest and during that, whatever pressure was there suddenly dislodged or whatever and it was like, "Wow."
DL - Was it the Prozak that somebody proscribed for you?
BB - (Laughs)Yeah, I wish! No, no Prozak.
DL - Now that FEAR FACTORY has established itself do you see the band following in any particular direction or is that something that is determined by the way you feel at the time?
BB - The only line that I see us taking is one that moves forward. There is no telling what the next record is going to sound like. The song "Resurrection" is, probably, the most mature song that we have ever done and maybe it will be a step forward from that, it is hard to say. We don't follow a line.
DL - Just what your feeling at the time.
BB - Yeah, right. It will always be in a FEAR FACTORY vein.
DL - I don't think that I have ever heard a record be as heavy and also have a string section on it. Who decided to bring in the strings?
BB - That was our producer, Reese Fulber. When we were writing the record in Los Angeles he was actually down there with us co-producing. That was the first time that we have ever had that. He brought us the idea about bringing in a string section. He was like "I think I will bring in a real string section in here. I think that it will make it a lot fuller sounding and not so thin. It will bring back this human element to it." And we were like "Cool." When we got up to Vancouver we worked it out and he met with the arranger and they worked out a string piece for "Resurrection" and "Timeless" and it just worked out. That was a great experiment because there aren't many bands using strings. There are no heavy bands or even any other kinds of bands using strings nowadays so we thought that would set us apart in at least one area.
DL - Definitely and what I dig about it is that it wasn't used as a ballad so that you could have a radio single.
BB - No, we definitely didn't use it a s a ballad. It was just a FEAR FACTORY song. We still have the heavy riffs and the heavy groove but the melody is still there as well.
DL - You have expanded your frontiers into other areas like CD ROM games.
BB - That is definitely an avenue that a lot of bands have not discovered yet. It opens the doors to so many more people that you don't realize. Our drummer is a video game fanatic and he is the one who pursues it and he is the one who got us hooked up with this video game "MESSIAH". He is friends with the guy who is designing it and the guy is, basically a FEAR FACTORY fan as well and he was like "Why don't you guys give us a song for it?" So, while we were in the studio we just wrote a song for it and it is called "Messiah" and it is exclusive to the video game. There are eight other FEAR FACTORY songs on it as well and it is going to be available for PC, Sony Play Station and Sega.
DL - That is cool. There are a lot of bands out there who have a lot going on both musically and lyrically that would lend itself to stuff like that but you don't see to many of them actually getting into it.
BB = Yeah. The game is a memory adventure game like "DOOM", "TOMB RAIDER" or "RESIDENT EVIL" and that kind of stuff. The main character is a cherub named, Bob and to find the levels and to find the pieces that he is looking for he needs to posses, like, forty other characters in the video game to finish the game. That is cool and it is going to come out later this year.
DL - When I spoke with Dino last year he told me about his movie debut. Have you had the chance to get into a porno movie yourself yet?
BB - No, it is something that we decided wouldn't be a very good idea for FEAR FACTORY.
DL - Why was that?
BB - It is not what FEAR FACTORY is about and, I don't know, I don't condemn porno but I definitely don't buy it.
DL - Really?
BB - I don't have a problem with it but when it is so heavily construed with the band, then I have a problem with it because, to me, that is not what FEAR FACTORY is about.
DL - Since you have done the graphic novel and there are all of these concepts around have you ever given thought to doing a longer form video or maybe a live concert video?
BB - Oh yes, definitely. We are definitely considering that and it is going to be a matter of time until we have it all figured out. We would definitely like to explore other things and bring in the visuals. And why not? It seems to be the only thing missing now. We have written this concept and all that someone needs to do is make it into a movie.
DL - I know that time is short but before you go I want to ask you about having had the chance to work with Gary Newman on a version of "Cars". How did that all come to pass?
BB - Oh man, that was amazing. We started covering "Cars" in , about, ?96 in Europe as an encore song. It came out cool, it sounded good and the word got around that we were doing it and someone got us in contact with Gary's manager. When we were in London last year he, not Gary his manager, came to meet us and we talked with us and Reese as well basically it turned out that he said that when we were in the studio to give him a call and "We will fly him out." We told him that we wanted to cover "Cars" and he flew out for three days and was in the studio for one and watching him do it....Wow! We stuck, pretty much, to the original idea of "Cars", we didn't mutilate it or anything like that. Gary was in the studio singing along and it was like "Fuck! Man he sounds the same! It's Gary Newman!" I had the chance to tell him that the first time that I had heard "Cars" I was in Boy Scout camp in 1980!(laughs) He was like "Oh, God."(laughs) We knew that "Cars" wasn't going to be on the record because it doesn't really fit with the concept but it is going to be a "B" side. While he was there I had the chance to get him to do a spoken word thing for the intro to "Obsolete" and it wasn't until after the fact that I realized that Gary Newman is like one of the forefathers of electronic music and here he is on our record twenty years later saying that man is obsolete. I was like "Wow man, maybe it is partially your fault!" There is definitely and irony there.
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