Comicpalooza 2016 is right around the corner on June 17-19 at the George R. Brown Convention center in Houston, Texas. We are keeping up with the tradition of bringing Hard Rock and Heavy Metal stars to the show as last year brought the members of Shock Rock/metal band GWAR, as well as Ramones drummer Marky Ramone, Megadeth Bassist David Ellefson and legendary Hard Rock Bass player, Rudy Sarzo. This year, joining the amazing lineup of guests is the 30th Anniversary cast reunion of Aliens that includes Sigourney Weaver, Paul Reiser, Bill Paxton and Michael Biehn, the cast of Boondock Saints including Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead and film star Kate Beckinsale, Dino Cazares and Burton C. Bell of Metal stalwarts Fear Factory, as well as Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali and former Megadeth drummer Nick Menza. Fear Factory has been on tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their seminal album from 1995, “Demanufacture,” to packed audiences all around the country with Swedish metallers, Soilwork.
During the last stop in Houston, Comicpalooza was able to sit down with guitarist, Dino Cazares, a founding member of the band, to talk about the tour, their new album and their appearance at Comicpalooza.
Comicpalooza: So the first thing I want to talk to you about is that Comicpalooza is coming up, and you and Burton are featured guests this coming June.
Dino Cazares: Yeah! We are very excited and honored that you would even consider us to do that. We're also excited about seeing some of the other artists who are going to be signing at this event.
C: Have you ever been to a big comic convention like this, or San Diego, or anything like that?
D: Actually no. I've been to E3, but I've never been to a comic con. Well I hear about people dressing up in costume as different characters and so on and so on, I can't wait to go!
C: Have you heard about any of the other guests that are going to be there?
D: Yes of course, Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, I mean the entire cast of Aliens, I can't wait.
C: Yeah it's going to be amazing. I know we're going to find you at their booth the whole time.
D: Definitely! I'm going to try to get some autographs from them and I'm going to try to bring some of my action figures with me to get signed. I've had those action figures forever, ever since the movie came out, so I can't wait to get it signed.
C: At Comicpalooza there's always a great combination of different artists. Last year for the music scene we had Dave Ellefson, Marky Ramone and we even had Gwar hanging out in full costume.
D: Oh that's great. Well I don't know if I'll dress up in a costume, but if I did I don't know what I would be. Maybe Nacho Libre or something like that. I dunno what I would dress up as but maybe I'll surprise you. Gwar. Yeah those costumes that they wear... I know they wear them nightly and I'm sure after sweating for a couple of hours a night on stage those things probably smell really bad. All of the blood that they shoot out, I can imagine it probably gets in there...
C: So let's talk about your childhood. What did you grow up geeking out on? Movies? Comic books? I know music, of course, but what in the geeky realm got you going when you were younger?
D: Who wasn't into Superman? Who wasn't into Batman and Robin? Of course watching all of the television shows and getting all of the comic books, but they were kind of everywhere you went. They were on bubble gum wrappers, you had them on collectible cards, all kinds of stuff. That's pretty much what got me into it, and, of course, Spider-Man. Spider-Man was probably one of the main ones for me. I haven't watched the Daredevil series yet. My friend's been telling me to do it. I've been getting into Vinyl and Better Call Saul lately, but a lot of the stuff we don't get to see while on tour.
C: When you’re on tour, how do you keep up with your shows, movies and all the things you geek out on?
D: Online. The minute you get internet on your phone you kind of keep up with it that way, but you know a lot of things you still miss. For the most part I try and keep up with as much as I can online.
C: So the band has always had a science fiction aspect to them, that's very much what Comicpalooza is about. When the band was first getting together how did that concept come about? How did you decide to write fantasy lyrics and concepts?
D: Well it came from Burton and I connecting on movies we liked. Sure it started with comic books, but then from comic books it went to movies. Obviously a lot of the Marvel stuff was way later on, but it started out with stuff like Blade Runner and Terminator, those kinds of series that came out, and of course Aliens. So we formed a band because Burt's a really good writer and we wanted to take what Fear Factory means and make it into a story. Fear Factory is obviously anything that manufactures fear. It could be anything. It could be church, religion, it could be the government or technology. We decided to go with more of the technology theme because we were a fan of all the science fiction stuff. We took whatever we believed in, or whatever we read in the newspaper, or in books and we took those stories, or stuff that was happening with cloning technology, and made those stories into our own. Then Burt would take that influence and write a story and concept about it.
C: It fits the music really well because you’re able to add those technology elements into the actual music, too.
D: Well that also goes with being a fan of movies, because whenever you see a scene there's always some great music behind it. You know what I mean? Especially the big blockbuster movies where they have some insane orchestra playing. We were always like let's paint a picture with the music so all the electronic elements we put in there, or the keyboards, that came from being a fan of the score and just incorporating it into our music and helping enhance certain parts. Whether it be Burt's melodic vocals and we add melodic keyboards to make it a little more tense, or we add some strings and violins to make it sound a little bit darker or something, that would just enhance it. Then, of course we, have taken sound effects from a lot of movies. Terminator, Blade Runner, Aliens, all the movies that I mentioned. We have taken sound bits here and there and added them to our music, and it's great because a lot of times people will hear our music and be like “why are you guys not in a movie soundtrack, it fits so well?” We did get to do a couple. Mortal Kombat and Saw one.
C: That's Hollywood supporting Metal.
D: Yeah exactly, but you know we always wanted to be in a Terminator movie and we have a song called “Expiration Date," so people are saying it should be in the new Blade Runner. We're trying to...
C: Well they are working on it.
D: I know! We're trying to talk to the people, but it's a little too early. Still, we're trying to get there.
C: I'm glad you mentioned the movie and sound design because the sound design is such an important part of the movie’s story, but I also think it's an important part of your band. It makes you genre defining.
D: Yeah I think that adding all those sound effects came from influences of other industrial bands that we liked like Ministry, Godflesh, Skinny Puppy and KMFDM. Those bands influenced us, but we put our own touch on it because we wanted our music to sound more mechanical, more like a machine. We wanted something that was repetitive, but changed and at the same time had this beautiful melody of Burt's vocals and the intense parts being intense and a lot of the other parts being melodic and then bringing all the sound effects, all the strings, all different types of keyboards and it all really worked well with our music. We discovered that very early in our career, which lead us to “Demanufacture.” That is the one where the band evolved. When you hear the first album, we’re still a little bit raw and still trying to find our way. Cause you know we put 17 songs on our first record which is like two albums. It was just a little unfocused, we were young but still being a fan of all these bands we were still learning. We still hadn't evolved yet so it wasn't until we did the second one called “Fear Is The Mind Killer” where we hooked up with this guy named Rhys Fulber, who was able to spend hours where he had just recorded the audio of movies. Even if it was just some ambient sound you hear in the background that doesn't really enhance anything, it's just a cool sound and we have taken really weird and different parts and just added them into the music to make it sound almost like you are there when you listen to it. He spent hours working on that stuff, and when he started working with us on “Fear Is The mind Killer,” we pretty much did techno and industrial remixes, with the extreme parts coming from Burt's vocals and my heavy guitars. It was something that people hadn't really heard at that time, and that's when we realized that this electronic element fit really well with our music and it was closer to the vision that we saw our band being. So when it came to “Demanufacture” we of course brought in Rhys Fulber to help us out with all those soundscapes that we wanted to put in there, and then we focused on 10 songs instead of 17 songs. We crafted those songs and we got better, we got really good, and then we recorded the album and boom, here we are today 20 years later doing this record in its entirety.
C: How did playing Demanufacture live come about? I’ve noticed a lot of bands do the anniversary event of performing the old album in its entirety.
D: Yeah it kind of spawned from other bands doing it. I've heard of other metal bands doing it. Kraftwerk did it. Other industrial bands have done it. I know that Al Jurgenson...I don't want to say it but I know other bands are thinking about doing it, too. We thought, well f*** 20 years of “Demanufacture." It happens to be one of the fan favorites, let's do it, let's see what happens. We first did it in Australia two years ago and it was very successful, so we decided okay let's take it to Europe and see what happens. We did it there and it was also very successful. The U.S. has been crying for it so we are doing it here now, too. But who knows, maybe in a year we'll do “Obsolete” in its entirety.
C: On this tour you have Soilwork opening for you. How do you pick what bands are actually going to come out with you?
D: We thought Soilwork would fit really well with the band because they have a lot of melodic parts as well and they have a lot of extreme parts and they also have a keyboard player with them. They would fit with us really well, the fans would get it, and it's been working out really well. We've had a few sold out shows already. New York sold out, Kansas City sold out, and I'm sure L.A. is on the verge of selling out. We sold out in New Mexico, San Antonio, so it's good. think we have the right package.
C: Do you enjoy being on tour? I know it's a necessary evil the way the digital age is now, but do you enjoy making the music or do you enjoy more being on tour?
D: I enjoy both. Of course I enjoy being creative. When you're at home, in your environment, your mind's free, you don't have to do interviews, you don't have to talk to a lot of people, so you can focus on more of what you want to create, which is great and I love it. But then once you create it, once you get it out there, you want to go out there and hear the fan's reactions. The best way to see that is to go and perform it live and see how they react to it. To me if you can make somebody happy, that is success.
C: With playing “Demanufacture” in its entirety, how do you decide what other songs to play out of your large catalog of songs?
D: That's the hard one… if you know what I mean. Obviously, you know the set list of “Demanufacture” so we decided that there's so many songs that we could play, but we decided also to promote our new record. We're doing three songs off the new album, then a couple from “Obsolete” called “Shock” and “Edgecrusher.” We're doing one from “Archetype,” which is (the song) “Archetype” and doing an old song which is “Martyr.” If we do another headlining set, that's going to be even harder picking all the songs that you want to play from all the different records because we have such a deep catalog so it gets harder and harder every year. If we did do “Obsolete” in its entirety, we would probably do in some of those other songs. We'd have to play “Cars,” “When Evil Dwells” and that's already like an hour and fifteen minutes. We could also just do the whole album and the B-Sides and that would be enough.
C: Let's talk about “Cars” really quick. Do you think that song hindered the album in any way?
D: It kind of did when it came out, but I can't complain because the band obviously got a little more successful because of that song. The bad part of it was that we had to play it every night and it wasn't something that we really wanted to play every night. Don't get me wrong, we love Gary Numan, and we completely respect him. He definitely helped shape who we are because he was one of the pioneers of using keyboards and that electronic sound he had going on. That was something that definitely influenced us and the reason we did the song. We just didn't want to play it every night, so we played it on certain shows. Then it worked out better for us because we didn't have to do it every night and it made the fans want it. So we had to do it on all the radio shows, like shows that were sponsored by radio stations we had to play it. Shows that were not, we didn't play it.
C: Let's talk about the new album, “Genexus.” It's one of my top 10 albums from this past year and I could not stop listening to it! It's super catchy, and to me it's the spiritual successor to “Demanufacture.” It's closer to that than any other album that you have ever done.
D: Yeah, when me and Burt first started the record, we were like “Ok, what are we gonna sing about? What are we gonna do?” So one of the things we decided was that we were gonna take our time to write the record and not rush it, because obviously when you get more time to write a record, you get time to find its faults. We really analyzed the songs, we really went through everything with a fine toothed comb, and another thing that was said was “let's try to channel the energy we had on our early records and bring that vibe back in.” We didn't necessarily want to copy what we did, but just the energy and what we felt and what we were going through at the time and try and channel that into the new record. I think we did that. I think we were able to capture that and I think that's one of the reasons the record was so well received.
C: You mentioned three songs that you were playing, is there any other songs that you want to play if you could live.
D: Definitely! “Expiration Date,” which we shot a video for, by the way. It's going to be great and it's going to be out in a couple of weeks. I would love to play that song. It's a different song, it's a different vibe, it's a really mellow track. Burt really shines on that song. We've played “Protomech” before. We want to start introducing the song called “Anodized.” “Autonomous Combat System” is another. We wanna add that to the set, but I dunno. To me that record could be played in its entirety. A lot of people have been asking for “Church of Execution," “Battle Of Utopia,” people are asking for these songs and we are like man we'd have to do a two or three hour set to get through all of it.
C: Have you done any shows like that where you've played that long?
D: Yeah, we've played almost two hours before. It does get very tiring, especially for Burt's vocals. Him going back and forth is pretty hard so we would only have to do it on certain shows.
C: Do you find it easier when you and Burton get together and he's going to work on story ideas and lyrics, do you find it easier to write the riffs to that?
D: Definitely! His lyrics, titles, conceptual ideas, definitely inspire the music for sure and vice versa. And sometimes you’re writing a riff, you’re writing a beat and it's cool and sounds great, then Reese adds something else then you’re like let's build on that and then all of a sudden Burt comes up with another idea and he starts singing some parts and it just grows and evolves. That's one of the best parts about creating, because something could inspire something else and it could just turn into something better.
C: So when you guys are recording you play a lot of the parts, you play guitar, or you play bass, and you do some of the production and things like that.
D: Well Tony joined the band when the album was pretty much just about done and he didn't get to play on it unfortunately. Mike Keller played live drums on the record. He has a little bit of his flair to it, a little bit of the rolls and the idiosyncrasies he has and things he likes to add. We left the human element in the music which I think also helped a lot, too.
C: So mixing was done by Andy Sneap (Legendary Metal Producer), how did that come about?
D: We wanted to try something different. We had used another guy a few times, we said okay maybe we should go with somebody else and we thought Andy Steed would be best suited for it. It took quite a few tries, quite a few phone calls about the direction that we wanted to go in. After about four or five phone calls and just talking about the ideas, he nailed it. We were completely pleased with how he did it and hopefully we get to use him again in the future.
C: For the album “Genexus,” is there an overlaying concept or are the songs just sort of separate but together?
D: Well obviously it deals with the evolution of where we are as a society, living among the genexus model of robots. The singularity process has already been here, it's now. It's about how man and machine have become one. So all the different aspects of what you could use that type of technology for; whether it be medical, whether it be war, whether it be sex, or just a robot in everyday life that you don't even know what it is or even that it's not human. It’s also from the perspective of how it feels as well. Of course there’s a clip from a new movie we saw called Rise which is a little bit like Blade Runner where the want to eliminate the robot because the robot started to become smarter than the human and it started to make it's own kind and started to rise against humanity. Basically saying we're gonna take over, which is where our record “Obsolete” comes from. The theme is that we are becoming obsolete and we always tried to sing about concepts that were years ahead of us, but we're getting closer and closer every day. What are we gonna sing about next? I dunno we might make a simple rock record meaning conceptual where it's just party and girls, who knows. (Laughter) That could be the future! I'm only joking.
C: “Genexus” came out last year and you’re on tour now. How far ahead do you think about writing songs and that kind of stuff?
D: Well we haven't really sat down and talked about it because right now we're doing the touring thing and that takes a lot out of you. Obviously doing interviews, doing meet and greets everyday, playing these shows, sometimes you don't really have time to sit down and talk about it so we just focus on that one thing.
C: Let's talk a little about your influences. What got you into playing guitar and what was the first album that really got you?
D: The first album that really got me was AC/DC “If You Want Blood You Got It.” I was like 9 or 10 when I heard it and I fell in love with it, and by time I was 14, I had an electric guitar, and was playing all those riffs and then obviously it evolved. You start listening to the heavier stuff. Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, and Motorhead and all that stuff. Then it progresses into the Metallica's, the Slayers, and the Exodus' and the whole thrash thing that came out. Then all of a sudden you get into the even heavier stuff like Napalm Death, Carcass, Obituary and Suffocation, so all that stuff just kinda influenced me as to how extreme music went. But all those bands I mentioned still lacked something that we wanted to have. That was melodic vocals, melody, the keyboards and all that stuff. That was one of the things where Burton and I, well I came from more of the metal side and Burton came more from the alternative side, meaning like industrial and he liked more of the sub-pop bands like Nirvana, Mudhoney, Tad, a lot of different kind of stuff. He liked Head of David and stuff like that and when we met it was like an explosion of ideas. What if we did this? What if we did that? What if we brought in this band? Fear Factory then just become a big melting pot of influences until we grew and evolved to create something that was original and our own.
C: So when the band first started all those years go, did you think you would be where you are today?
D: Everybody dreams, you know what I mean? And we still dream, because once you stop dreaming then it's over.
C: I don't know how much you know because this is a Burton question really, but he did a graphic novel for one of the albums, “The Industrialist,” that's a perfectly good thing to bring to Comicpalooza as well.
D: Yeah, I'm sure he will definitely bring some of those as well. I mean, why wouldn't he? The concept of the “Industrialist” album which he brought into his own graphic novel which was ingenious and something I thought we should have brought in a long time ago. I've been telling him that forever, but finally he got around to doing it. He scraped up enough money and obviously the fans wanted it and we sell them every night so there's a demand for it.
C: What was the reaction you got when you found out you were invited to come to Comicpalooza?
D: (Laughter) I was like hell yeah! I was excited and I know Burt is really excited. He's probably a bigger geek in the comic book side than I am. But when we both come together, we're more science fiction and movies and television shows.
C: You guys are gonna have a great time, and Burton's really into comic books, it's gonna blow his mind to be there.
D: Oh of course. People dress as different characters right?
C: Oh yeah. D: What should I go as? You can ask the fans that. What should Dino go as? They gotta remember I'm a big guy so you can't make me fit in some small outfit! “Oh we want you as Spider-Man!” because that's going to look pretty funny.
C: I appreciate your time, man! Anything you want to say to the fans of Comicpalooza that will see you there?
D: We can't wait to be there, we are excited that you invited us and please come out! We're a couple of friendly guys, we don't bite, and we'll do whatever, sign autographs, take pictures. We'll geek out.