Dino Cazares of Fear Factory

by Greg Prato

It's no secret that by the early '90s, heavy metal was for the most part, a very stale and predictable genre. And while grunge gave it a much-needed kick in the pants (although hair metal diehards would beg to differ), there were a handful of heavier bands that found unique ways of putting a new spin on metal. Case in point, Fear Factory.

One of the first true "Industrial Metal" bands, Fear Factory issued such albums as Soul of a New Machine (1992), Demanufacture (1995), and Obsolete (1998), which are some of the top classic metal releases of the decade.

After a split from the band for several years, founding guitarist Dino Cazares returned to Fear Factory for 2010's Mechanize, and their 2012 conceptual album The Industrialist. Cazares discussed his inspiration from sci-fi flicks, how he created his unique guitar approach, and the stories behind some of Fear Factory's most renowned tunes.
Greg Prato (Songfacts): Let's start with talking about Fear Factory's last album, The Industrialist.

Dino Cazares: Well, one of the first things about this record that was a little different, this is the first time that we've used a two bass drum program to actually do the whole album. On previous Fear Factory records, we used drum programs on various songs, but this is the first time we decided to take the whole step of doing it on the computer. We were extremely happy with the results. With technology today you can manipulate a lot of things, and that is something that we haven't shied away from; we've talked about those kinds of things. We've always been a conceptual band when it came to technology. So that was one of the first things.

And the second thing is that we wanted to go back to some of the older song structures that we created back on in the Demanufacture and Obsolete days - we wanted to do some of those typical Fear Factory song structures. In other words, it's just like the intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/middle part, that kind of thing. And that was something that we went back to.

As far as anything else different, the only thing that was slightly different was probably the concept. We've always been a big conceptual band and we've always talked about "What if?", and what would the future be like, and how much technology is playing a big part of our lives. Everything from cell phones to computers, everything you could think of. The world isn't as big as you think it is, because now everybody can communicate on the Internet and see each other. With Google Maps, I can Google your house, where you're talking to me from right now! See outside where you're talking to me.

In the past, we've always talked about man versus machine. Well, on this record we decided to talk about the perspective of the machine, what he feels, what he thinks, and what he's going through. We call him "the Automaton," for lack of better words, a robot. Terminator-looking guy. But it's in human skin and looks very human, feels very human. And it doesn't know that it is an automaton. Doesn't realize that until he figures it out and goes in search for other people who are of his kind, and what he finds out is that he has a certain shelf life. In other words, they run on batteries and their battery is going to die within a few years. So he wants to find his creator and hopes that he extends his life. Because this thing thinks it's human. It thinks like a human, it feels like a human, and mentally it has memories that have been implanted in his head.

But as he lives, he sees. And what he sees and what he learns, it's stored in his memory banks. So he makes them more sentient, which makes him think like a human.

Songfacts: I see. The concept and the storyline sounds similar to the movie Bladerunner.

Dino: We've been fans of Bladerunner and Terminator and all the sci-fi movies, Dune. If you go back to all of our records, most of the titles have been taken from sci-fi movies, whether you can tell or not. For instance, Soul of a New Machine was our first album. That was taken from the second Terminator. There was a review for the movie and the title of the review was "The Soul of the Machine." They were talking about the T-1000, which was a new terminator. So we called it that.

And then the second EP that we released is called Fear Is the Mindkiller. And that was from Dune. And then so on and so on, and it just kind of goes from there.

Songfacts: What are some of your favorite songs on The Industrialist?

Dino: My favorite song is "The Industrialist." It's the opening track, it's probably the biggest and the most epic song. It's got all the elements of Fear Factory - it starts out big and it goes into the syncopated double bass, kick drums pattern, syncopated with the guitars. And it just sounds like the big machine roll-along.

Songfacts: And looking back, how would you say songwriting has changed in the band over the years?

Dino: It's definitely changed. Actually, from our first record to our second record there was a huge jump. You learn as you go along when you're writing songs. We've been fans of metal music and industrial music for a long time, but we've also been fans of very popular music. And if you listen to a lot of very popular music, it has this very simple structure.

So by our second album, we were like, "What happens if we take some of these simple pop structures and made them into fuckin' really heavy songs?" We learned from that and we grew from that. Then you subconsciously have a template of structures that you like to do. Fear Factory, we have a template with maybe 10 to 15 different structures. It's just what combinations work best with each other. And as we get older, we discover other patterns and we change things around and we discover other structures and listen to other music.

I've known bands that actually copy structures from other pop bands. I mean, literally, just copy it. Everybody does that. A lot of the producers do that, so on and so on. So when we got our own template, we just started mixing and combining different tempos to see how they work.

Sometimes we look at songs as two different halves, and sometimes we try to make the second half different than the first half just to make it more interesting. But at the same time, still do some of the same vocal harmonies on top of it. So it's all relevant.

Songfacts: When Fear Factory first appeared and first started putting out albums, what was the reaction from fans of heavy metal? Because Fear Factory was pretty different sounding than the average metal band at the time.

Dino: Well, our first album came out in 1992, and we started in 1990. So the minute we got together and our singer [Burton C. Bell] hit this melodic vocal, something just sounded right, and we were like, "Wow, okay. Besides insane heavy, he's doing this melodic part." And it became our thing. It became who we were. It became our style.

Over the years, we've gotten better at it. And Burt's vocals have gotten better. When we first came out, no one was really doing anything like that, so we were put into the death metal genre, even though we weren't a death metal band. We were kind of lumped into that genre, because of the label that we were signed to, Roadrunner Records. A lot of the death metal kids heard it, and it was like, "What the fuck is this? Why are they singing on this death metal record."

It was funny, because it got us attention. Whether you hated it or you liked it, it got us attention. Kids either hated it or liked it. The ones who liked it were like, "Holy fuck, this is amazing." The ones who hated it just hated it for that reason: "Oh, the music's great, but I hate the vocals."

Demanufacture came out in 1995 - a lot had changed in those three years. The band made a huge jump. We definitely got rid of the death metal style vocals and death metal style music, and we went into a whole new thing. We experimented much more with technology and we brought in a lot more keyboards and we completely changed our sound, used a lot of drum programs and the computer for the album. People were like, "This is new, and this is amazing." People instantly got sucked into the melodic vocals, and it opened a whole other door for us. It became more acceptable.

Since that record came out, the vocal style has become a staple in music today. You hear it in every band: Killswitch Engage, All That Remains, Five Finger Death Punch. That typical vocal structure, vocal style that Burt created has become the norm today. I've heard other people claim that they started something like that, but we were before that. Everybody was like, "Yeah, we came out in 1995 and I did this." I'm like, "Oh, yeah? Well, you need to go back to 1992."

Monte Conner, who signed us, he was the A&R director there, and that was the reason why he signed us, because we were different.

Songfacts: Who are some of your favorite songwriters?

Dino: My favorite is The Beatles. Paul McCartney. You listen to some of the structures on Wings, there are like five, six different parts, but they're all amazing. [Singing] "Band on the run..." that song had some amazing parts to it. And another guy who was very similar, I'm not really a big fan of the music that much, but I love his structures, is Kurt Cobain. He had some very simple structures. Simple songs, but just a lot of heart and realism - there was something real about it. I do like the structures in the Foo Fighters. That guy, Dave Grohl, has some amazing structures and he's done a lot of different things. AC/DC, they're a band that I started with. Mutt Lange, the producer, I'm just a fan of his. I mean, if you listen to Back In Black, the record still is one of the best rock records ever. Guns N' Roses, Appetite for Destruction. That record was great. Def Leppard. Even Bob Rock, Metallica, The Black Album, a lot of those records had really strong structures that I like.

So those are the songwriters. I mean, everybody who was a part of those songs one way or another.

Songfacts: How exactly did you come up with your guitar sound?

Dino: I was a big fan of Van Halen, the first Van Halen record. I was like, man, that guitar tone is so fuckin' crunchy. I loved it. Why couldn't other bands have that tone? Why can't Judas Priest have that guitar tone? You know, Judas Priest's guitar tone was very midrange-y, it had a softer edge to it. The first Van Halen record, if you listen to it rough, nothing hits them. It had some balls, had some bite, had this top end that I really liked.

So back in 1984, I think it was - '83/'84 - I ended up buying my first Marshall. I went to a guy in Los Angeles. I heard about this guy who was modifying Marshalls, because everybody back in the day was getting their Marshalls modified with more distortion, more gain, things like that. A gate put in the head, all kinds of stuff. Everybody from George Lynch to Eddie Van Halen to Warren DeMartini, all those '80s guitar players had something cool about their amps.

So I reached out to this guy who modified. I said, "Look, I want it to sound like the first Van Halen record." He gave me a call a few weeks later, he says, "Come pick up your head, it's ready." I picked it up, plugged it in, I'm like, "Holy fuck." It sounded just like that. Like, that's it.

And then, I was playing 6 string guitars. I was a big fan of all those bands I just mentioned. I was trying to make it in Hollywood, trying out for various bands. At the time, a lot of the death metal and grindcore and that kind of metal in general, it wasn't really popular here. So I decided to link up with other people and create something on my own. That's when I met Burton C. Bell, the singer. I said, "Hey, let's start this band. We'll do an industrial type band." And we started our first band together.

Then I started experimenting with lower tuning; tuning my guitar down to B and A and stuff like that. I realized that I connected better with those tunings, and they had a darker tone to them. You can make really cool specific chords, because if you tune to standard E or drop E, everybody was tuned to that. So I was like, "We need to go somewhere different." And so that's what we did, we tuned lower. All those chords that you make didn't exactly sound like everybody else now, because you changed the tuning. And it sounded cooler, it sounded darker, it sounded eviler, sounded meaner.

After listening to bands like Metallica and listening to other bands and listening to drummers, I'm like, "Why can't the drummer's beat follow the guitar picking?" And so that's how I developed our sound. Every type of picking that I played, I made the drummer's kicks follow my picking pattern. That's how we developed over the years.

I actually wanted to be a drummer at first, so that's how I think - I think patterns, I think rhythms. I think drumbeats when I play guitar. And I think that's what makes me stand out a little bit differently. Through my Marshall head, and practicing down picking, triple picking, all different types of patterns, I was able to develop my style and my tone.

Songfacts: Let's discuss your memories of certain classic Fear Factory songs. "Martyr," what do you remember about that?

Dino: "Martyr" was one of the first songs that we wrote for Soul of a New Machine. And that riff in particular was inspired by European techno.

Songfacts: Interesting.

Dino: So if you listen to the riff, it goes, [singing - play the clip below], and if you put just a single kick behind it, [singing], and it was just a techno thing.

So I decided to convert it into a guitar riff and put some heavy beats behind it. Then we decided to experiment with the structure. The guitars and the drums come in right at the beginning, and then all of a sudden it tapers off and this low vocal comes in. Then after four bars, just BOOM - it blasts into the first verse and it opens up. It had a very explosive effect.

It's one of my first songs. It was never intended to be the first song on the album, but the guy at the record company, Monte Conner, really liked the song and thought it was different and thought it would make us stand out and get more attention. So he decided to put the song first. Obviously, it did have an effect on us, because the song is still a classic today.

And "Martyr" was just exactly what the song is - somebody who dies for a purpose.

Songfacts: And what about the title track from Demanufacture?

Dino: "Demanufacture," the drumbeat was actually programmed. At the time it was a drum machine, because there wasn't really much ProTools technology back then. It was actually recorded in 1994. So in 1994, we were using a drum machine to do the intro of the album. And the intro of the album is just a kick drum. I thought, "Okay, this is our new style. This is where we wanted to go." We wanted to show people fuckin' drums. Me being a fan of drums, I wanted the record to start off with drums, and that's what it did. It was a kick pattern. It was a pattern that I played on guitar that I had the drummer follow with his kick beats. So I decided we're going to start the album with the kick drum pattern, and then the guitar comes in and it's going to build from there. Then it explodes, and when the chorus comes in - "I got no more goddamn regrets, I got no more goddamn respect" - that really hit home with the kids, and it's still a song that all the fans sing live. When you get into that part, everybody likes to shout the chorus. It's amazing.

It's also the first time that I had my guitar tone really dialed in. We had really good people behind us who were helping us mix the album, and they really understood where we wanted to go. They understood that we wanted to be somewhere different.

And Demanufacture, the song and the title of the album, was the opposite of "manufacture." It means to take apart or to break down, and that's basically how we saw LA at the time. Because in Los Angeles, we had the Rodney King riots. We had the fires, we had floods, we had earthquakes, all within a matter of three or four years. We just saw the destruction of Los Angeles: gang violence, police brutality. And then after the Rodney King riots, we had massive fires that burned a lot of the trees and a lot of the brush. Then we had massive rain and there was nothing to soak up the rain. There were no trees, there was no brush. It was just all dirt. When you put water on it, it turns into mud. So we had massive mudslides.

And then after that, in 1994, we had a massive earthquake. So we just saw the destruction of Los Angeles and we decided, Demanufacture. This is perfect. The breakdown of Los Angeles.

Songfacts: And what about the song "Resurrection"?

Dino: "Resurrection." Well, it was our first fully conceptual album [Obsolete, 1998]. And the resurrection is more of an uplifting story. When we first started, it was always the concept of "man versus machine." Man wasn't able to adapt back then to how the technology was taking over, so he was fighting against it, because he saw a bleak future for man, where technology was taking over people's jobs, people's lives. Automaton robots and so on. So this one particular man was considered a hero, a subhuman hero. Well, we called him "a subhuman terrorist." He was fighting, and he had a little guerilla army. There was a point on Obsolete where man was winning, so it was like the resurrection of man on that particular song.

This was at the point where the band had a little bit of money, and we were able to build a studio into our rehearsal room - we built a nicer studio. And as our engineers were putting the studio together, me and the drummer were playing. He had this beat, and it was a little different. It wasn't like super double bass or anything like that, but it was a different beat, so I wrote a riff to it. The song was in a 3/4 timing, like a waltz: 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3. That's what they call a waltz beat.

And then when the chorus came in, it went to a 4/4. So you had this waltz beat, this 1-2-3, 1-2-3. Then 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. There's just something about the timing of those two things together, it really worked. That's what made the song.

Songfacts: What would you say is your favorite Fear Factory album?

Dino: Wow. It's really hard to say that I have a favorite Fear Factory record, but I can list two. One was Demanufacture, and the other one was Obsolete.

Demanufacture because it really opened people's eyes. The record was a sign of the times. It was an era where people can look at this record and be like, "Production's amazing. Production's very slick. Very aggressive." And we did some amazing song structures that we are very proud of today. It's still a template for us to go back and listen to some of those structures today.

Also, it meant change for music. Other bands probably will never admit it, and some bands forgot where the style came from, but bands who were influenced by us at the time, it showed. It meant change, and people who were influenced by it, you could see the change, because they were doing it later on. That record is still a staple in metal music today.

Some people forget where that vocal style came from. If you ask a 15-year-old kid who's doing it right now with his local band, say, "Hey, man, who were you influenced by?" "Oh, Killswitch [Engage]." But little do they know that Killswitch was influenced by Fear Factory. It's like they forget where it all came from. So that record, Demanufacture, meant a change. And that's why, to me, it was one of my favorite records.

And Obsolete is probably the most "adult songwriting record" that we've ever made at the time. It also meant another change. It meant a change to where we could actually write a song without playing double bass, and make it heavy and cool. That was something different. It was still Fear Factory, but we discovered other things about ourselves. That record took a year to make - it took a long time to make that record. It also meant another change for us, as well.

Songfacts: And the last question I have: what are the future plans for Fear Factory?

Dino: Right now we're going to be doing a lot of touring. We're going to be touring all through the United States. We're going to be doing a festival tour in Europe. We're going to be doing another Australian tour, and we're going to do Canadian shows. We're going back to South America, and then later in the year, we'll be doing another record. So it'll be out early 2014, around there.

April 30, 2013. More at fearfactory.com.
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Comments: 2

  • Molly from Southern PaI never use a computer unless I think it's absolutely nessessary. I don't have an email or facebook. I have wanted to reach out to Fear Factory for almost ten years... It would be awesome to meet someone from behind the best music I've ever heard. My name is Molly. I'm 24. I exist. And this is, "more than a dream to me."
  • Zero from Nowhere, NjDino Is one of my biggest influences on guitar and one the reasons I bought a 7-String.
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