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Never Say Never! Guitarist Dino Cazares Talks About Returning To Fear Factory

By Lisa Sharken, New York Contributor
Monday, August 30, 2010 @ 4:56 PM

"At first I was a little apprehensive about the idea..."

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Fear Factory emerged in 1990 as a band that helped to ignite the industrial metal style by combining crushing death metal with industrial-sounding electronics and samples. The group was formed by vocalist Burton C. Bell, guitarist Dino Cazares and drummer Raymond Herrera. The three members recorded the initial demos that landed them a contract with Roadrunner Records.

After several albums and over a decade of musical success, personalities began to clash and Cazares ended up leaving the group in 2002, vowing never to return. Cazares continued his musical endeavors with his own bands, Brujeria and Asesino, then put together an impressive full-on metal outfit called Divine Heresy, which released its acclaimed debut album in 2007 and was equally well-received when performing live.

The feud between Cazares and Fear Factory continued on until Cazares and Bell crossed paths last year and realized that it was time to put their differences behind them, starting by repairing the friendship that initially brought them together as musicians. Next, what many believed to be impossible actually happened — a reunion between Bell and Cazares in a powerful new Fear Factory lineup that includes bassist Byron Stroud (who had taken over as the group’s bassist years earlier) and esteemed drummer Gene Hoglan. Both Stroud and Hoglan had been members of Strapping Young Lad, so it was an easy transition to bring in Hoglan to round out the band.

Cazares spoke with KNAC.COM about returning to Fear Factory, creating the group’s long-awaited new album, Mechanize [Candlelight Records], and being able to tour with Divine Heresy as the opening act on Fear Factory’s summer tour. Here’s what he told us…

KNAC.COM: Your return to Fear Factory is huge news to the metal world and especially for old-school fans of the band. What brought about the reconciliation between you and the other members?

CAZARES: The reason why we got back together was because Burton and I ran into each other nearly two years ago and we kept in contact. A few months after we had rekindled our friendship he asked me if I wanted to come back to the band. At first I was a little apprehensive about the idea and I wasn’t sure. I asked him to give me a little bit of time to think about it. Even though Burton and I were friends again, I never really had the same kind of friendship with the rest of the guys. But things worked out and here I am! Maybe it’s hard for me to say this, but I believe that I do have a distinct sound as a guitarist and I think that my sound fits really well with the music I created with Burton and Fear Factory. I think a lot of people were missing that sound and style, and that was a big part of my decision to come back to the band.

KNAC.COM: Was it difficult to repair the friendships you had with the other members?

CAZARES: Maybe people don’t know, but other than Burton, the other members — Christian Olde-Wolbers and Raymond Herrera — are no longer in the band. The lineup has changed and I never had a chance to try to repair my friendships with the other guys. It never worked out and that was one of the reasons why Burton decided to work with me. The other two guys didn’t want to do it. Burton decided he wanted to play in Fear Factory with me, so that’s how it came about. Now we have Byron Stroud and Gene Hoglan from Strapping Young Lad on bass and drums, and things are working out really well for all of us.

KNAC.COM: So the slate has been wiped clean with you and Burton?

CAZARES: Yes. He and I had been friends long before we started Fear Factory so it feels really good to have rekindled that friendship.

KNAC.COM: What was the first song you played when you all got together and jammed?

CAZARES: Burton and I had been talking for quite a while, then he came to my house and we hung out together as friends before we actually all sat down and jammed together. We eventually sat down and started going over ideas. I was showing him some of the stuff I had written and he was telling me about his ideas. It was an instant reconnection. It just felt like we were writing the next Fear Factory record — like I had never left the band. We were both very excited and it just started to click. Then when we got Byron and Gene into rehearsal and we all started to jam, everything just started coming together really fast. We wrote the whole record in less than four months and started to record it right away.

KNAC.COM: In what ways was the writing and recording process different from how you worked together in the past?

CAZARES: It was really fast!

KNAC.COM: What came together easiest and what was most difficult?

CAZARES: What came easiest was there was no pressure, no label politics we had to deal with — like having other people at the record label trying to stick their hands on what you write and trying to steer you in a certain direction or tell you which producers to use. There was a sense of creative freedom that we had this time. In the past Fear Factory had gotten so big that the label felt we needed to bring someone in that writes songs, which in many cases can really fuck up the identity of a band. We had to deal with those kinds of things when we were on Roadrunner Records, so this time around we had the freedom where it would be just our own ideas and creativity, and we didn’t have to deal with someone else trying to tell us what to do. So it all just came together really fast. Another thing is that Burton and I pretty much run the show, so we were able to write the songs really fast. In the past we always had one band member saying they wanted to put this or that in, or there was always some sort of compromise and things didn’t always work out. Burton and I were always on the same page and everything just came together really fast.

KNAC.COM: Were there any particular topics that influenced writing the music on this record?

CAZARES: Yes, there definitely were. For instance, "Final Exit" is the last song on the record and it deals with physician-assisted suicide for people who are terminally ill and are going to die because they have an incurable illness. This is a really big topic in America and other parts of the world. I saw a big news piece on it a couple of years ago and really identified with it because my mother had multiple sclerosis and she suffered for many years until she finally passed away at the very young age of 47. So I felt very connected to that subject and it really hit home with me. So I talked about it with Burton and we wrote a song about it that came out really good, and it was released as a single. There’s a lot of other interesting stuff we wrote about on the record as well. When Burton and I sat down we thought about subjects we wanted to sing about. We thought about what Fear Factory is and going more in depth and detail about whatever Fear Factory should mean — like government, political issues, church, religion, school, and things like that. We have a song called "Christploitation" which deals with the exploitation of Christ and how people use that as a fear tactic. The song "Controlled Demolition" is about the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. We felt that it was a conspiracy theory.

KNAC.COM: "Final Exit" has a very melodic instrumental part in there which is a bit different from the heavier style Fear Factory is more closely associated with.

CAZARES: Yeah, that’s toward the end of the song. People might think it’s not what we’re known for, but listen to the last song on Demanufacture. The entire outro is just ambient music. Obsolete has a whole orchestral part in "Resurrection." It goes into a song called "Timelessness," which is amazing and has a whole outro piece as well. So on all the Fear Factory records I’ve played on, we’ve always had stuff like that. We’ve always had a big epic song at the end of the record.

KNAC.COM: What do you feel is most different about the over all vibe of the band when you compare the past and the present lineups?

CAZARES: We all get along and everybody is very talented. Now we have fewer people giving us their opinion about we do, we have less people trying to stick their hand in the cookie jar, and there are not too many cooks in the kitchen which it makes it a lot easier to get things accomplished.

KNAC.COM: In terms of the way Fear Factory goes about recording the music, are you working with more digital technology like Pro Tools and using your own studios to record your tracks as opposed to going out to record in bigger studios?

CAZARES: Ever since our second album, we’ve always embraced digital technology and learned to do a lot of the recording on our own. We always sang about where technology was going, we’ve always embraced digital technology and used it as a tool to get the sounds that we want. That is still the same today. We did use Pro Tools to record this album and I also have my own little rig at home that I record a lot of my ideas on. I have a drum machine and I just run my guitar into the computer and record parts just to get the ideas down. We’ve always been involved in this stuff and it is still an important part of how we make our albums. Most people didn’t understand it back in ’94 and ’95 and they thought that the producer should do everything for the band and shape the way a band sounds. Obviously nowadays people understand how to use digital technology a lot more than they did back then and now realize how useful it can be and how much easier it can make the entire recording process.

KNAC.COM: As computers became a bigger part of everyday life, more people have definitely learned to embrace digital technology and are learning more about digital recording since there is so much more available to the average person today in terms of what they can do on their home computers using very basic tools and having only minimal knowledge of recording techniques.

CAZARES: I think it has definitely become a lot easier to use and a lot more accessible. When you buy a Mac computer, you’re going to get Garage Band and that’s really easy for the average person to use.

KNAC.COM: Do you do ever use Garage Band to record your demos or ideas?

CAZARES: I have used it for demoing. I used to use Garage Band with the Line 6 GuitarPort [an audio interface to plug your guitar into a computer]. I would plug my guitar into the GuitarPort and use it with Line 6 Amp Farm [amp modeling software] and record. You can pick all kinds of tones with Amp Farm and then record simple parts through that. Amp Farm is a great tool for recording guitar sounds in general.

KNAC.COM: With the demo recordings you made for this album, did you usually take them to Burton first to work on them together or did you present a demo to the rest of the band for their input as well?

CAZARES: Some of the stuff I showed to Burton and some of the stuff I took to the band. Instead of making CDs or bringing my computer, I would also dump the recordings onto my iPhone and then plug the iPhone into the PA so they could check out the pieces.

KNAC.COM: Technology really has become so advanced that you can now just do something as simple as putting demo tracks on your iPhone! It wasn’t too long ago that a cassette tape was still the most popular way musicians would share their recorded ideas and demos.

CAZARES: Back in the early days, Roadrunner Records gave us $1,500 to do a demo and we were all broke musicians back then. So we just recorded the whole album on a cassette and sent it to them as the demo.

KNAC.COM: Back then, record labels were making two-sided cassettes with two songs from their newest bands which they would pass out to people a they were leaving from concerts.

CAZARES: During Obsolete they were making those free cassettes to promote the band.

KNAC.COM: After leaving and now returning to Fear Factory, where do you see the biggest changes in how you’ve grown as a guitar player and as a songwriter?

CAZARES: I believe that I’ve grown from being away from Fear Factory. At one point I was so engulfed in Fear Factory and I believed that Fear Factory had a particular sound and style. At the time, I really couldn’t figure out how to progress from there. When I left the band I was able to explore other types of music and jam with other musicians to explore my guitar playing and open that up through playing in Divine Heresy, Asesino and Brujeria. There were some other projects that I worked on that really helped me expand on my style. It really came from just jamming with other musicians and that helped me to kind of break free of what I had done with Fear Factory at the time. Coming back into Fear Factory now, I can bring all that I’ve learned in those seven or eight years that I was away from the band back into Fear Factory without really changing the band’s style. But as a guitarist, I was able to open up a lot and do more intricate guitar work on the songs and on solos.

KNAC.COM: Are you playing both 7-string and 8-string guitars with Fear Factory?

CAZARES: Yes, I am. I’ve been with Ibanez Guitars for nearly 15 years now and I’m using both 7-string and 8-string guitars. Around four years ago Ibanez became the first company to mass-manufacture the 8-string. There are other companies who have been building them for a while, like Conklin, who had made their 8-string guitars first, but Ibanez was the first company to put them out in mass production. 7-string guitars became very common and a lot of players use them. But now 8-string guitars are becoming more popular. The 8-string also helped me to open up my playing with something new. Just as the 7-string has a different sound from a 6-string, it’s a bit different than playing on the 7-string, so it’s a new challenge that makes you think and play a bit differently.

KNAC.COM: For those people who might just be discovering Fear Factory now, what would you put on an essential listening list?

CAZARES: I would say that to really understand the history of Fear Factory, you’ve got to go back to the beginning and start listening from there. But for a quick fix, I would say that Demanufacture is an essential album to listen to.

KNAC.COM: What does Fear Factory have planned for the rest of this year through 2011?

CAZARES: We’re touring through the rest of the year and more dates keep being added to the schedule. Right now, we’re pretty much booked through the US and we have plans to go to play around other parts of the world. Then sometime in 2011 we’ll stop and do a new record that we should have out by 2012.

KNAC.COM: What is happening with your other bands and side projects? It’s clear that you are still fully committed to playing with Divine Heresy, but will Asesino and Brujeria be put on temporary hold? It’s probably a treat for fans to have Divine Heresy touring with Fear Factory, though it may be draining for you to be on double duty performing with both bands each night.

CAZARES: We’re definitely making a new Divine Heresy record next year or by 2012 and there will also be a new Asesino record. I’m still going to continue with Brujeria as well. As far as touring goes, people have been tripping out to see Divine Heresy with Fear Factory throughout the summer tour. It’s been really cool to be able to play shows with both bands. I’m having a great time!

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