Interview with Burton C. Bell
Here we have a band that has gained popularity rather easily, and is often looked down upon for it. Perhaps it is more than just their relatively painless acceptance that seems to turn their old death metal fans against them. Maybe it is because they decided to continue to create heavy music, yet add into it a sound that is unduplicated by any band, a sound that doesn't sound exactly like every other band out there. It seems that too few of us give inventors the credit they deserve. In this case, Fear Factory deserves every bit of the attention they are receiving from more mainstream audiences, but seems to be forgotten by those of us who have been with it since the beginning. It is sad to see such closed-mindedness to such a rare form of art that only they can create. And with that thought in mind, I would like to lead into this, my second interview into the mind of one of the brainchildren of the most creative and successful true metal band of the '90s and beyond.
Enslain – How would you describe the theme of "Obsolete"?
Bell – It's about man becoming Obsolete because man lost his humanity. And when man loses their humanity, the machine will be able to take control. And that's the story of "Obsolete". And in the story, there's a few who retain their sense of humanity, their sense of individuality, and are fighting against the machine to try and change the order of things, to make the world a better place to live for them. Edgecrusher is one of those people. Edgecrusher is a human who is trying to push strain onto this infrastructure to collapse it.
Enslain – Explain the concepts behind some of the other songs on this album.
Bell – They're all written about things about today but I just expanded upon them, some of them are personal, some are social... Three songs are personal that I've written into the sense where it doesn't sound personal; those are "Descent" "Resurrection" and "Timelessness". The other ones are like social, like "Hi-Tech Hate", "Securitron", "Edgecrusher" are more of the social aspect. "Securitron" is adapted upon the internet idea, and I took it a step farther, you know, who's to say that a few years from now the monitor you are looking at won't be monitoring you? That door has been opened for that possibility. "Descent" was a personal song where for me, I hit a point where I just went low, I was lying to everyone, lying to myself, you know, I was living a lie basically, and I felt nothing, and it nearly felt like it was going to kill me, it was terrible, so I adapted upon that, and to keep it consistent with the story of "Obsolete", I wrote about how humanity is loosing their humanity, and that's our descent into nothingness. "Freedom Or Fire" is about how those Cambodian monks who set themselves on fire as a statement against political oppression, and to them the ultimate freedom was their death, that was the only way they could feel free, because in their state they were living in, they could never feel free, so they died for their freedom, and to me, that was one of the most powerful gestures I had ever seen.
Enslain – Was having more clean vocals on this album intended or did it just happen like that?
Bell – It just happened, you know, it's just part of the natural evolution, the riffs that Dino was writing, that was how I interpreted the riffs, and everyone seemed to like it (laughs). Plus I've become a little bit more self-confident in my singing, you know, this is only our third studio record and I basically started singing when I joined Fear Factory, so I'm getting better as a vocalist as the years go by as well, becoming a little bit aware of what I can achieve.
Enslain – Have you ever had any vocal training?
Bell – No, never... I was in the church choir one time, when I was a kid (laughs).
Enslain – Are you having any trouble live, keeping your voice hanging in there?
Bell – No, we played a couple of shows already, and I did well, it sounded like the record. The more in shape I get, the better it will be.
Enslain – Are you guys planning on making a home video?
Bell – Well, you know, that's part of the whole plan of Fear Factory, we know we'd like to do a home video but we don't want to do your basic home video, we want to make it really creative, so we are working on that, maybe in the next two years, you might see something like that.
Enslain – What bands influence your sound?
Bell – I would say ourselves! (laughs). We are all into all sorts of types of music, and we just bring all of our creative powers into one form, we all sit and talk together and just bring it all into the FF sound, from hip-hop to grindcore, you know, we all like all types of music, and I think it's because of that reason, our awareness of other music, and our ability to keep an open mind to new music, I think that's what attributes to the Fear Factory sound.
Enslain – Are you happy with the way music in general has evolved over the years?
Bell – Yeah, I mean there's a lot of cool things that have come out, and there's a lot of stupid shit that's come out too, but there are bands that have integrity and there are bands that want to write music that they want to write, not write music that is trendy. To me, that is a sell out, that's a cop out, you know, it's easy to write other songs that sound like other people. It's harder to stand out on your own, and I think that's what Fear Factory does, we just stand out on our own.
Enslain – Do you play any instruments?
Bell – Me? No (laughs), I attempt to play guitar once in a while, but I've never had lessons, I'm just kinda teaching myself how to play guitar, I can sit down at an instrument and make it sound interesting, but I don't know what the hell I am doing!
Enslain – I've been hearing a lot about a video game called Messiah, what's that all about?
Bell – Our drummer Raymond is a video game fanatic, it's his first love in his whole life, and he became friends with the designer of Messiah, and the designer of the game happens to be a Fear Factory fan, so we wrote a song for the game, that's exclusive to the game as well, its the title track, it's called "Messiah", and it's probably one of the heavier songs we've ever written. At the same time, they took that song and then we gave 'em 8 more songs from between "Soul of a New Machine" and "Demanufacture", and "Obsolete" as well, so it's like an unofficial greatest hits of Fear Factory.
The game is like an adventure game, kind of like Tomb Raider meets Doom kind of thing. You gotta go through many levels trying to find clues and your main character is a cherub called Bob. And what Bob does, Bob has to fly around the Messiah world, looking for his clues, looking for evidence of what he is trying to find, but to do that he has to inhabit, he has to possess other people's bodies, so he becomes like 40 different characters in the course of this game.
Enslain – OK, video games are Ray's hobby, what do you do to keep busy on the road?
Bell – I like to write when I'm on the road, I try and just keep healthy, and keeping healthy is keeping my mind healthy so I like to write about what I am feeling at the time.
-- Lady Enslain