Divine Heresy / Brujeria / Asesino / ex-Fear Factory
***Interview By Lord of The Wasteland (Transcription by Mike Holmes and Claudia)
When Fear Factory, one of the most influential metal bands of the nineties, announced that they were breaking up in early 2002, it was a major shock. It was an even greater shock when the band got back together in 2003…but without founding member/guitarist/songwriter, Dino Cazares. A lot of drama spilled out to the press with both sides pointing fingers at each other but Cazares seemed to end up taking most of the blame, not just from his former bandmates but from fans and press, as well. While Fear Factory soldiered on releasing ARCHETYPE in 2004 and TRANSGRESSION the following year, Cazares kept busy with various other projects including Brujeria, Asesino, as well as being named a “Team Captain” for Roadrunner Records’ ROADRUNNER UNITED album in 2005.
It took several years but Cazares’ new band, Divine Heresy, has finally come to fruition with its debut release, BLEED THE FIFTH. More of a straight-forward, American heavy metal record than Fear Factory’s heavily-sampled, industrial sound, BLEED THE FIFTH still features Cazares’ lethal machine-gun riffing along with the drumming talents of former Nile/Vital Remains/Hate Eternal skinsman, Tim Yeung and new kid on the block, Tommy Vext, on vocals.
I spoke with Cazares at length just four days after the late August release of BLEED THE FIFTH and during our nearly ninety-minute chat, we talked about Divine Heresy but also touched on his preference for using seven-string guitars, doing solos, the history of nu-metal, the inevitable Fear Factory discussion and cleared up some long-standing rumors.
BLEED THE FIFTH came out on Tuesday on Century Media. It took me a few listens to really get into it because I didn’t really know what to expect but after about four or five spins it hit me and it hit hard. It’s a great album.
Good, I’m glad you like it.
Did you guys get a lot of label interest or did you go right for Century Media?
There was a lot of label interest but I felt really close to Century Media. I had been speaking to Robert Kampf, the owner of Century Media, ever since I started recording songs for this band and he showed a lot of interest. We also had a lot of interest from a bunch of independent labels but obviously Century Media seemed to be the one that was really into it, even more into it than Roadrunner Records. Roadrunner wanted me to kind of go softer, they were leaning me more to that direction. I felt that I had already been there, done that with [Fear Factory’s 2001 album] DIGIMORTAL and I don’t want to go back.
You guys are on Roadrunner outside of North America, correct?
Yes, Roadrunner outside of North America is a whole different ballgame than in The States. Roadrunner in Europe is very strong in metal, very strong. A lot of bands you might think are big here are way bigger there because of Roadrunner. Machine Head is way big in Europe compared to here. Trivium is way bigger in Europe compared to here. Slipknot was playing Wembley Arena, which is huge. They headlined. There’s a DVD out with the show. They played at the smaller Wembley Arena which holds like 10,000 people, which is pretty big. Basically what I’m trying to say is that Roadrunner is very strong in Europe and the U.K. compared to how they are here. Out here, it’s basically Nickelback and Slipknot, as far as selling in the millions. Everything else is selling around the 100,000 mark.
I know that Roadrunner kind of shied away from a lot of the bigger bands that were on the label, like Deicide, Type O Negative, of course Fear Factory. Metal sort of became uncool to them a few years ago and now they seem to be getting back into it again. They signed Cradle of Filth, Opeth, Megadeth, Dream Theater…they seem to be getting back into metal again.
Yeah, the thing about Roadrunner is they don’t seem to know what they want. I believe that sometimes they jump on the ball late—not all of the time—but I think sometimes they do. Obviously, some of the bands that they have I wouldn’t have exactly signed, or resigned. I would have stuck with the bands that started out with the label and made the label what it is today. Bands like Deicide, Obituary and Suffocation…
Well, except Sepultura isn’t around anymore…at least the “real” Sepultura isn’t around. But yeah, I kind of didn’t want to play the game again. I’m going to stick with a company that wants to let me do what I want to do. One of the cool things about being on an independent label is it’s better to be a bigger fish in a small pond.
So, is this completely new material that you’ve written for BLEED THE FIFTH or have some of these songs been around for awhile?
I would say about half of the songs is stuff that I had already wrote. Six months to a year after leaving Fear Factory—they regrouped without me—I started recruiting different musicians. Although the band had been dropped, I was still signed to Roadrunner worldwide. Roadrunner then wanted me to write commercial songs for them. In 2002, I went with a few other musicians and did a bunch of commercial songs, a bunch of demo songs. I demoed them and gave them back to Roadrunner but Roadrunner wanted me to do a deal with them but I backed out because I just didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want this to be the “comeback” Dino where I just wrote commercial stuff. Even though I am talented enough and versatile enough as a player to write songs like that, it just didn’t feel real. It felt like I was forced to do it, like I was doing it for the money. After a year of this I just said, “screw that.” I just didn’t want to do it. I didn’t sign the deal or stay with the label. I decided that I was going to set out and find some good musicians and make this shit heavy, what was in my heart to do…what I was put on this Earth to do (laughs). In between all of that I had a bunch of projects. I was in Brujeria, which is a drug-induced, satanic death metal band. I got to do that for a while because I was never able to tour it before, so we took it on the road and we did some amazingly gigantic shows in Mexico and other parts of South America—Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia. We did that for a couple of years and were very successful at it, so I then decided to break free from that and do my own project called Asesino. Asesino is me and Tony Campos from Static-X. We did a couple of records and did a tour throughout South America and Mexico. We even did four tours in The States, twice with Static-X and twice with Danzig. In 2005, I then decided to do ROADRUNNER ALL-STARS, but in between all of that time, I had met Tim Yeung. Tim Yeung is a drummer and at the time he was touring with Nile. He was never in the band, but he did a couple of tours with them. We kept in contact and we were basically in limbo but he told me to let him know when I was ready and then he would move down here. I told him that I was ready, so he moved down here and I showed him a lot of my material. He loved it, so we started expanding on what I had already done and started writing new stuff but then Roadrunner called me and wanted me to be the “team captain” for ROADRUNNER ALL-STARS. I couldn’t turn down a great opportunity like that, so I took it. I then had to put Divine Heresy on hold again but it was okay because Tim Yeung went on tour with Vital Remains and another tour with All That Remains. He even toured with Hank Williams III within the time that I was doing ROADRUNNER ALL-STARS. That pretty much took an entire year to complete between picking all of the musicians from the Roadrunner All-Stars catalogue, writing the songs, recording the songs and then practicing for the show and playing the show. All of that took a year due to peoples’ schedules. It was tough to get everyone together but within that time, Tim and I would get together whenever we had some free time. So, I finally finished up ROADRUNNER ALL-STARS, get this thing away from me, I am done with it. I was then ready to concentrate on Divine Heresy. Tim and I went into the studio and recorded some demos and started looking for a singer. Robert Kampf from Century Media then told me about a singer named Tommy Vext, so I sent Tommy some CDs so he could go into the studio and sing on them. Tim and I heard him sing and we knew right away that this was our guy. We wanted talented musicians that were able to do what was necessary or what the music called for at that moment. If it was a brutal part, we wanted brutal, if it was a melodic part, we wanted melodic, and we wanted a guy that could do it well. One of the things that I think people get confused with is the fact that Tim Yeung came from a death metal band and we are not a death metal band. A lot of people compare us to being a death metal band when we aren’t. We are a combination of all different elements from where we all came from. I have a very distinct style and I think a lot of people recognize me obviously from Fear Factory, which is the machine gun, staccato-type riffs. People know Tim from the extremely fast, technical, blast beat, double bass, insane shit. But also, Tim is a very well-rounded drummer. He played with Hank Williams III, which is country/rock/punk. He is a very versatile drummer and we wanted the music to be just as diverse, as well. We don’t want to be stuck in one set genre. We wanted to be a well-rounded metal band with death metal influences, classic metal influences and my influence that I brought to the table from Fear Factory. We wanted to take a little from all different genres of the metal community and just put it in one big melting pot. As far as Tommy joining the band, we just wanted a guy that could sing all of those different styles that we threw at him.
That’s a good synopsis. Like you said, there’s a mix of groove, brutality and melody all on BLEED THE FIFTH. Were you worried about people listening to Divine Heresy with preconceived notions of what it should sound like?
Yeah, people are already doing that now even before they hear it. They are saying it’s going to be another Fear Factory album, or since Tim Yeung is in the band that it’s going to be another death metal band and it’s none of the above, because it’s all of the above.
DEMANUFACTURE – 1995
So you didn’t try and shy away from any parallels that might be drawn to Fear Factory?
Oh yeah, of course. I didn’t want to be the cyber-metal/industrial band that Fear Factory was. I didn’t want a lot of keyboards or effects on the vocals. I really wanted to be a dry, in-your-face metal band. In Fear Factory, we were doing a lot of experimenting. There were a lot of electronic elements involved. Everything that we did was on a computer and it was just a whole different vibe. There were futuristic concepts to Fear Factory and I purposely stayed away from that but as far as my guitar style, it’s my style and it’s something that I created and invented. You are going to hear a little bit of that because of where I came from and because of my right hand (laughs).
Yeah, it’s a trademark sound definitely. It takes about a minute into the first song but it’s easily recognizable.
But also, with a guy like Tim Yeung, who has a wide variety of drumming talents, you want to use all of those talents. But every project that I work on, or every band that I create, I try to look at it a little bit differently. Brujeria doesn’t sound anything like Fear Factory or Divine Heresy. Sure, there is going to be major comparisons between Divine Heresy and Fear Factory and I don’t mind, I am fine with it. All of the records that I wrote and created were great albums, so I don’t mind being compared to the great albums that I created in the past. For instance, Slayer wrote a great album called REIGN IN BLOOD. People to this day say that GOD HATES US ALL is not REIGN IN BLOOD and it will never be as good as REIGN IN BLOOD. That’s what people are doing to me, comparing me to Fear Factory, saying it’s not as great as DEMANUFACTURE. I know that DEMANUFACTURE is an amazing, classic album but I want Divine Heresy to stand on its own and be its own band. I think the more that all of us get together and start writing together, it will become its own identity and stand on its own and develop into something greater than what it is now. Divine Heresy will grow and be a great concept and will be something bigger.
You mentioned the other guys writing. Exactly how much writing did Tommy and Tim do on this album?
Tommy wrote all of the lyrics. He was the lyric writer and came up with a lot of the ideas. I specifically told him, “Look, just don’t do any cyber shit” (laughs). So, Tommy wrote lyrics about the things in life that you have to sacrifice to become. For instance, Tommy moved from New York to Los Angeles with no money, just pursuing his dream, which was playing with me. He was saying, “impossible is nothing,” you can do it if you set your mind to it. A lot of it has to do with the personal strife that we all go through on a daily basis and how to overcome all of that stuff. It’s a positive record although it sounds very angry and pissed off and some of it is. It’s only because you have those vindictive people who want to see you fail and not achieve what you set out to achieve. There are people out there who want to see that of me and of all of us in the band. It may be jealousy or whatever it is but there are people out there who want to see us fail, so this album is basically a big “FUCK YOU!!” to those people. One thing I can say is I believe we got our point across. BLEED THE FIFTH is a play on words about the judicial system here in America. You could plead the fifth, like have the right to say nothing. Well, BLEED THE FIFTH is a contradiction because we are saying so much on this record. We’re not keeping our mouths shut about anything. It is what it is and the threat is real.
Even the poor guy on the front of the album cover with the bomb in his mouth?
(Laughs) Kind of like if you open your mouth…BOOM! That is exactly what it means. That is why the album starts off with an explosion.
Was there anything you did this time that maybe you wanted to do with other albums and other projects, but maybe it wasn’t suitable?
No, not at all. I believe in every one of my projects that I always try and do something different. Asesino is more of a straight-forward death metal/grindcore band. That’s what we are. I call it Mexican metal riffs…”machete metal,” that’s just what we like to do in that band. As far as Divine Heresy, we are more of a straight-forward American metal band.
So, on the album are you playing seven- or eight-stringed guitars?
Are you playing six-strings at all anymore?
I haven’t played six-strings since 1995, since DEMANUFACTURE. I have been using seven-strings ever since. It just seemed like a natural progression for me to go to a seven-string guitar because I was always tuning down my six-string guitar. When you tune down a sixth-string to around ‘B’, the strings tend to get floppy because of the neck dimensions. When you start getting into the seven-string guitars, they added the extra seventh string so it could handle the low tuning but then I started tuning that one lower. That’s where the eight-string comes in now. Eight-string guitar has a thirty-inch scale neck, which is longer and it had the ‘F’ sharp. But I won’t be using the eight-string for everything. I feel more comfortable using the seven-string. The majority of this album is with the seven-string but there are two songs on this record where I used the eight-string: “Closure” and “Soul Decoded.” We have b-sides that I did with eight-strings but I’m not sure when they will see the light of day. Probably not until a digi-pak or something like that, but you will hear more of it on the b-sides.
So, are you working on a nine-string prototype or anything like that (laughs)?
(Laughs) No, but I did use a ten-string acoustic on the intro to “Rise of The Scorned,” though. Marc Rizzo, who is in Soulfly, and I did that little acoustic piece. He is doing the solo and I’m behind it doing the rhythm. It’s cool and it’s low as hell. It’s a ten-string classical acoustic guitar and it can handle the tunage.
Well, I know that Mark Rizzo is totally into the flamenco guitar.
Oh yeah, totally.
I saw him in San Francisco when Soulfly was touring with Morbid Angel and he came out and did flamenco solo that was really impressive.
Yeah, he actually helped me map out the solos on BLEED THE FIFTH. I would be playing the solo and he would say, “Dude, you’re in the wrong key. You need to move it down.” He was a huge help for my solos because I’m not exactly the best soloist. I am like Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman. Just go. If it sounds out of key, then it sounds cooler sometimes. But yeah, we did that acoustic piece on “Rise of The Scorned” and it came out cool.
You brought up solos and I guess you probably get this question a lot, but why did you not do solos on any Fear Factory albums but there are solos happening in Divine Heresy?
Well, like I said, each project I approach, I approach differently. Fear Factory simply didn’t call for solos. It didn’t need it. There was a period when solos were overdone. The Yngwie Malmsteen’s were dried out. It was just getting way too played out. Everything was always focused on the solo, so when I was doing Fear Factory, I wanted to rebel against that sort of thing. I wanted to against the norm. Everybody was doing solos and I wanted to go the opposite direction and it became very successful. It became so successful that it inspired other bands like Korn and Deftones to do the same. They didn’t do solos, either. Now, the funny thing is that a lot of bands are doing solos again. Now it’s almost like it’s all about the solos.
Yeah, they seem to be coming back, that’s for sure.
That’s why I decided to keep it to a minimum and not overdo it. There’s only four solos on the record, where most bands have solos going through every part of the song. There are some bands that can do it amazingly well and write good songs with it. Dragonforce, for instance. I’m definitely not trying to compete with that kind of stuff. I am a guy who just wants to write memorable songs, songs that will last through time, like “Replica” and “Edgecrusher”, two very memorable songs. Pantera’s “Walk” is an amazing song that people will remember for a long time to come, it’s in the metal history books. Those are the kind of riffs that I want to write, that people will remember for a long time to come. I don’t claim to be the best rhythm player, or the best guitar player, or the best solo player. I just think that I’m good at writing catchy riffs.
Do you think that BLEED THE FIFTH features your best guitar work?
Oh yeah, I always try to achieve to do my best on every record that I do. For the moment, yes, it is the best. But I think that the next record may be even the bestest (laughs)! Like I said, I approach every record differently and I try and do what’s best for that record, and I feel that I did my best on this record.
Well, like you said there are some really memorable riffs on this record, some pretty insane shredding going on and some really cool memorable stuff.
A lot of people like to write fifty riffs on one song. I’m not that kind of guy at all. I’ve done some great songs with two riffs. “Replica”…two riffs.
Sometimes less is more, right?
Exactly, it’s basically all in how you structure it. I don’t want to make it so complicated to where I don’t even want to perform it live or even have fun doing it live. I just enjoy writing good songs.
ROADRUNNER UNITED: THE ALL-STAR SESSIONS – 2005
Logan Mader [ex-Machine Head, ex-Soulfly] helped with the production on the album. He gave it a really thick and heavy sound. What made you choose an outside producer, rather than doing the production yourself?
Well, it was actually a co-production. If you look on the credits, it says…produced by Dirty Icon and produced by Divine Heresy. Basically, I’m the Divine Heresy part of that (laughs). I chose Logan because we did the ROADRUNNER ALL-STARS record together and when I went in to record the ALL-STARS songs, I kept on having problems. Logan was working at the same studio that we were producing at and when I was there recording, I kept having problems with Pro-Tools, so I always kept getting Logan for help. I realized how fast he was and eventually after calling him so many times, I asked him to stay. So then we were looking for someone to mix my songs on the ROADRUNNER ALL-STARS. Colin Richardson did some, Andy Sneap did some and Logan mixed one of my tracks and it turned out amazing. He just had a fresh new vibe, even more than Colin. Even though Colin has done some great classic metal records, Logan just had something fresh about him that I really liked. So, he ended up mixing the song “The End.” It was a single and the video for the ROADRUNNER ALL-STARS and he performed on the track. I just saw how good he was and started using him for everything else after that. I started using him for the demos of Divine Heresy and he co-produced Asesino with me. I just got so used to working with him and we just have a click going on. It’s just getting better and better. He understands me more and it just seemed like a natural progression.
Is he still playing music or is he just behind the desk now?
No, he still does music, but it’s only for commercials and movies now, stuff like that. He doesn’t really play in bands anymore, but he writes songs for bands.
I know that I saw his name attached to a band called Silent Civilian recently. I saw that he produced that album but I hadn’t heard his name in a long time before that.
Yeah, he produced Silent Civilian. He produced the new Igor and Max [Cavalera] project called Inflicted. He also produced a band called Still Remains on Roadrunner. He is still set to do a few other things, as well. He is definitely getting more and more popular and I think this album is opening a few more doors for him, as well.
Getting back to Tommy, when you were looking for a singer, were you looking for someone in particular or were you looking for an unknown?
I was leaning toward an unknown guy, though we did have a couple of guys that were in bigger, well-known bands. I can’t really say who they were but one of them…their guitar player died, he was shot. I think you can guess who that was. Another one was in a death metal band called Dying Fetus and another guy was in Drowning Pool for a while. Actually, Jamey Jasta [Hatebreed] wanted to sing on this project and he did sing one song. He didn’t sing on BLEED THE FIFTH but he did sing on the demo version. I really liked all of the singers but I wanted to find one guy that could be like all of them and that’s what I found.
Yeah, Tommy seems to be the whole package. He has really good clean vocal but he also seems to growl with the best of them.
His vocals are like a real good mixture of Jamey Jasta meets Phil Anselmo meets Burton C. Bell and the other guys that I mentioned. Melodically, he’s like Howard Jones meets Burton C. Bell. Robert Kampf recommended Tommy to me, but he also heard that I was looking for a singer. He sent me e-mails and his friends sent me e-mails. He has a vocal coach named Melissa Cross. She is a very well-known vocal training girl in the metal community. She did Randy from Lamb of God, Corey from Slipknot and Phil from All That Remains, she’s done a lot of heavy singers. She teaches guys, not how to sing, but how to use their throat without ruining it and breathing techniques and stuff. She had been training Tommy for three years and she sent me this really long e-mail telling me how talented this guy was. I was like, wow, this guy has amazing vocal chords. I knew who she was through who she had worked for and I was just blown away by her e-mail. So we had to give this guy a shot, so I sent him a CD for him to sing over without telling him what I wanted. He asked me what I wanted and I just told him to do what you do. He went in and did it, sent it back and I was like, wow, this guy can pretty much do it all. Obviously, I knew that I had to work with him a little bit but he had a lot of passion and his talent was there.
How old is Tommy?
He looks younger.
Yeah, same with Tim. Tim looks like he’s eighteen. Asians age well, I guess (laughs). So anyway, I really just wanted a guy that could be like all of the singers that I mentioned. I also believe that the more that we write together and the more that we create stuff together, the more he will get better. I really think that he will be one of the best later on.
Does he have a lot of singing experience in bands?
He’s pretty new to the scene then?
Very new to the scene, he was in a small band in New York. They did a record but it only sold a couple thousand copies. Nobody really ever heard of him and it was just like a local band. One of the cool things that I really like about him is that he definitely has the attitude and he wasn’t scared. I auditioned a lot of people and I talked to a lot of people and some people were really nervous. Some wanted me to tell their band that they were trying out for me but I didn’t want any drama. Tommy is really just an unknown guy with a great talent.
Well, the last song, “Closure”, really stands out from the rest of the record because it’s a lot slower and moodier. It showcases the clean vocals and reminds me of something that Staind would do.
Yeah, I guess so. Like I said, Tommy can do it all and he wanted to showcase his talent on that song.
Moving on to touring, you guys have some live dates set up with Static-X, Shadows Fall and 3 Inches of Blood coming up in October and I was just reading that you will be touring with Chimaira, Kataklysym and Terror after that. That runs up until Christmas, so what are the plans for the New Year?
Yeah, we have a couple of other tours set up for the New Year. I can’t say what they are because it’s still too early. We basically have it booked all the way up to March of next year.
Did you shy away from doing the big summer tours like Ozzfest and Sounds of The Underground earlier this year?
Definitely not. We would love to be part of a big summer tour. We were actually asked to do this summer’s Ozzfest. When Mondo Generator jumped off the tour, they asked us to do it but it was just too soon. We weren’t ready and we didn’t have a bass player yet and we were still mixing the album (laughs).
DevilDriver eventually filled that spot.
DevilDriver filled that spot. It was perfect timing for them. Their record is out but it was too soon for us. We just got a bass player recently.
Right…Joe Payne from Nile.
Joe Payne who was in Nile, yeah. I actually met him when he was touring with Nile and I was going, “Whoa, this guy’s a fucking badass”. So I met up with him after the show and I said, “Hey man, if you’re ever looking for a gig, let me know. Here’s my number.” And he called me up one time and we talked. We didn’t really talk about bass stuff, we just talked and then a little over a month ago, he asked me “Are you still looking for a bass man”? We auditioned him but I knew that we didn’t really have to. I already knew he was a fucking badass but we did it just to make sure. He already had the gig before he even showed up.
Was he in Nile at the same time as Tim or was it two different times?
Two different times. Tim did two tours with Nile in 2003. Joe came after that…I believe it was on ANNIHILATION OF THE WICKED.
That was 2005, I think.
Yeah. He did two years with Nile…he just got out just recently.
You were talking earlier about some of the other projects that you did after you left Fear Factory. I know you worked on something with Nick Barker [ex-Cradle of Filth, ex-Testament] but whatever happened to those songs? Are they ever going to come out or are you planning on working with him again?
No, I’m not planning on working with him again. There were obviously some issues that we both had that he needed to work out. Actually one of the songs did come out on this record called “This Threat Is Real.” It’s a Barker song. We wrote the majority of it together. It changed a little when we did it with Tim, but that’s one of the songs. There’s a handful more but they were too death-metally, so I wasn’t really into it.
Are there any other musical things that you’re sort of dabbling in right now or are they all on the back burner with Divine Heresy?
No, they’re on the back burner. Divine Heresy has definitely taken over. If I want this band to be successful, I have to stay focused on this band. I am doing Asesino on the side but that’s just whenever. It’s all about Divine Heresy for me and that’s it right now.
There were some rumors that you were talking with Billy Milano to resurrect S.O.D. a few years ago. Is there any truth to that?
(Laughs) Yeah, that was true. I wasn’t talking about it. He called me because he felt that S.O.D. had the best combination when it came to guitar and drums with Scott Ian and Charlie Benante, so he felt that calling me and Raymond [Herrera, Fear Factory drummer] would be the great drum and guitar combination that S.O.D. needed. I said, “Yeah, I’m into it” but Raymond told Billy Milano he wanted X amount of dollars and Billy Milano said fuck it.
So that was it.
That was it. That’s as far as I got.
That’s too bad. That would have been a pretty cool collaboration.
That would have been a great collaboration.
I don’t know if Billy has mended fences with Scott Ian or not but I know there was a strained relationship there and that’s what’s been holding up S.O.D. isn’t it?
Yeah, it was because when they did “Behind The Music” with Anthrax, they didn’t talk about S.O.D. and Billy Milano got pissed.
He doesn’t seem like a guy you want to piss off either (laughs)!
(Laughs) Yeah, he calls me “Dinner.” I go, “Why do you call me `Dinner’”? He goes “`Cause you look like you’re always ready for dinner” (laughs)! I always thought that was hilarious.
So, I guess you could be called an elder statesman of metal. I mean you’ve been around the scene for long enough and you helped keep metal alive in the nineties. What’s your opinion of the metal scene today?
My opinion of the metal scene today is it seems like a lot of what’s old is new. Thrash is coming back in a big way. The whole Iron Maiden/guitar melody solos are really popular with all these metalcore bands coming out. To me, it’s like what’s old is new. Thrash is going to come back huge again and all the kids who are doing it now are basically doing what was already done before but they’re kind of putting a new twist on it and it’s kind of cool. It’s kind of like the eighties is coming back. That’s pretty much how I see the music scene.
There’s only so many times you can really re-invent the wheel, though, right?
Exactly. There are bands who have come out who definitely stand on their own like Necrophagist and Meshuggah. Those are two bands that I can really say are a little different. But as far as everything else…kind of the same ol’ same ol’.
I know you’re a big fan of old death metal and grind bands.
Yeah, all the old-school death metal and grind and stuff like that. I haven’t really heard too much that’s really cool these days. There’s a big trend of new stuff coming out like Job For A Cowboy and Suicide Silence and stuff like that but if I want to hear some classic stuff, I just go back to the old school like Napalm Death and old school Carcass and stuff like that.
There’s a lot of people that point their fingers directly at you—whether it be good or bad—for helping bring nu-metal into popularity. It left a bad taste in people’s mouths and a lot of people almost hate it today. Since it’s been about ten years now since it first hit, what is your opinion of nu-metal today?
(Laughs) Is there any bands left?
There’s a few still out there, I think.
Give it another few years and it’ll be back. I notice that a lot of metal stuff comes in cycles. Who knows? That cycle may come back. But why do you think that people point their finger at me and nu-metal?
Well, the guitar solo for example…you said it was done to death and you wanted to take the guitar solo out of the music. Then you got bands like Korn and Coal Chamber that came in and followed your lead by downtuning, which was a nu-metal trademark.
Well, that’s funny because downtuning was popular before that in the death metal scene. Bands like Carcass were tuning down to B and A, Napalm Death down to C, Bolt Thrower down to G. There was a lot of that sluggish stuff that was done in the death metal scene. If you listen to Korn’s interviews, they will tell you that they were influenced by all that death metal stuff, so would you say that death metal was the downfall of nu-metal because it inspired nu-metal to down tune?
No, I wouldn’t say so.
Why is that?
Korn never list their influences as death metal.
Yes, they did. They would say Carcass was a really big influence on them.
But they have a lot of hip-hop elements and [Korn vocalist] Jonathan Davis, he’s into the goth scene.
As far as down tuning their guitars, they specifically said that Carcass was one of the bands that really helped them with the down tuning. They influenced them to down tune their guitars. Now maybe it wasn’t a big statement, but it was a statement that was made. Would you say that that’s where it started from?
From Fear Factory or from death metal?
No, from death metal.
Definitely. I mean the grindcore bands, like Terrorizer in the late eighties, for sure. Carcass, definitely.
But Terrorizer didn’t down tune their guitars. We’re talking B-tuning, A-tuning, A-sharp. Korn is an A-sharp. We’re talking G, like Bolt Thrower tuned down, Carcass tuned down. You know all those bands…all those bands tuned down low because they wanted to be heavy as fuck.
And that’s what a lot of the nu-metal bands were going for. They wanted to be heavy, heavy, heavy. I mean even Lacuna Coil, they’ve downtuned their guitars and they have that heavy, thick, chuggy, guitar sound. I don’t think it’s totally gone, definitely not. It’s still there.
A lot of the bands now are downtuning their guitars. But in Fear Factory, we were trying to do something different. Can I actually tell you a little bit of history?
The term “nu-metal” came from England. When Fear Factory’s DEMANUFACTURE record came out, it was huge in Europe. We had a song on the record called “New Breed,” so whenever bands that were coming out of California were getting popular in the U.K., they would refer to them as “the new breed of metal.” Kind of like the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. That’s what they were calling bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden in the U.K. back in the early eighties, whereas “the new breed of heavy metal,” Korn and bands like Deftones and Coal Chamber got that term. So instead of it being styled “new breed,” they decided to shorten it and called it “nu-metal.” That term came over here to the States and then that’s how it all grew. Isn’t that hilarious?
I didn’t know that. Interesting.
I think it’s hilarious.
SOUL OF A NEW MACHINE – 1992
I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions about Fear Factory. I won’t get into it too much but I remember the first time I heard SOUL OF A NEW MACHINE. I was nineteen when it first came out.
On the first album, we started out as a death metal band. We got ridiculed a lot because we sounded like a death metal band but we had singing and a lot of people hated it.
Honestly, I had never heard anything like it before at the time. I remember thinking, “What is this?” because I’d never heard this style before.
No one heard it before. It was something new and the death metal community hated. We got ridiculed…A LOT! But the same things that they hated were the same things that thousands and thousands of other people loved. And it grew into and it influenced bands. It influenced so many bands that bands forgot that we were actually where it started. For instance, we influenced one other band and they got popular. That popular band, who was more popular than us, influenced another band and they think that that band is what influenced them but really where it came from was Fear Factory.
Meshuggah. I mean there are obviously a lot of similarities.
Yeah, well, Meshuggah didn’t have any melodic vocals. We’re talking about the combination between all of it. Meshuggah didn’t really have a lot of melodic stuff. Sure they had jazz and stuff like that, but they didn’t really have any melodic chords or melodic vocals going over it. That stuff was new and that’s what inspired a whole new generation of people. That’s pretty much where it came from.
Well like I said earlier, Fear Factory pretty much kept metal alive. Between Fear Factory and Pantera, there wasn’t a hell of a lot out there for metal fans in the nineties.
Pantera was a very melodic band, as well, when they first came out.
They sort of had the hair metal thing going on before COWBOYS FROM HELL.
(Laughs) I look at it this way. If it’s good music, it’s good music no matter what style it is. If you like it because it sounds cool…cool! But nowadays, if your record is sold in Hot Topic, people ridicule you for that. They call you “mallcore.” Like Slipknot. Slipknot’s very heavy, melodic stuff and they call them “mallcore.” Cannibal Corpse has sold records to Hot Topic and so has their shirts. There’s a whole new generation of kids buying that and I don’t hear anybody calling them “mallcore” (laughs)!
On our site’s message boards, there’s a whole bunch of people that get off on all that sort of thing and it irritates me to a point. You get a band like Job For a Cowboy, for example. I mean, yeah, they’re only eighteen or nineteen but everybody automatically assumes that just because they’re that age, they’re just jumping on the bandwagon and they’re not a true death metal band, which to me doesn’t make sense. I mean….
Well all those “true” death metal bands that started were eighteen or nineteen when they started…and younger. It’s just what it is. It’s just a whole new generation of kids that old school death metal has influenced. That’s becoming popular to a whole new generation of kids who never really knew where it really came from and that’s one of the things that always bothers me. A band like Job For a Cowboy…do you know where it all started? To me, I feel like you need to learn the history of the music to really understand it and I think they should. I think they should learn the history of where it all came from, to what it is now today. That’s one of the cases. And I think kids who make those kind of comments don’t know, either, and I think that’s something that they need to know.
Well, that’s the whole thing with the Internet. You get the anonymity and everyone’s an expert.
I’ve been in this industry long enough to know where a lot of it came from. I’ve got to hang out and write songs with some of those people who invented that kind of music and have a few beers with a lot of these people and got to know a lot of them and really understand where it all came from.
MATANDO GUEROS – 1993
Well, you’re in Brujeria like you said with Shane from Napalm Death. He’s the Godfather, man!
Jessie [Pintado] from Terrorizer. Mike Patton and Billy Gould from Faith No More. Max and Igor Cavalera from Sepultura. I’ve jammed with a lot of different dudes and we got to write songs because it was fun. You don’t hear any Mexican death metal bands out there but Brujeria and Asesino. That’s something new. I’m not talking about South America. I’m not talking about people who speak English. (Laughs) A lot of people don’t realize that, we started that! I actually started Brujeria in 1989 before I started Fear Factory. I was doing Brujeria first. We released two seven-inches on Alternative Tentacles, Jello Biafra’s label, before I decided to start something like Fear Factory.
You wanted to get into something a little more melodic, right?
No, I just wanted to start a different project. My very first band that I started was with Ross Robinson and Steve…what the fuck is his name? I can’t remember his name. It was a band called The Douche Lords (laughs). Ross Robinson produced it and he played guitar on it. He and I played guitar on it. It was great. This was Ross Robinson, the guy who basically produced “mallcore” (laughs)! That was way back…it was 1987. And then the year after that, I was playing in a grindcore band and we were called Excruciating Terror. Straight, brutal grind tuned down to A and then after that starting Brujeria. People that I knew like the guys from Faith No More and Sepultura but that project could never be serious because everybody was in different bands, so I decided I needed to start a band that I was going to be serious with and go play around the world and that was Fear Factory. That’s just how it grew.
I gotta ask the question about Fear Factory. Is the relationship with Raymond and the rest of the guys still strained or are there any improvements on that?
No, I don’t want to play nu-metal anymore. Just kidding. No, I don’t want to talk to them anymore. After all the legal battles and stupid shit that went on…nah. I got a new band. I don’t really need to look back to that but at the same time, I don’t regret anything that I created in Fear Factory because to this day, bands are still influenced by it and still love it. There’s a band called Epica. They got a female singer and they just covered “Replica” on their album [THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY].
That would be interesting with a female singer.
It actually sounds pretty good. It was on their MySpace page for a while. It still influences a lot of people to this day and I think that’s cool. I mean, I think that maybe Fear Factory might have influenced nu-metal but I don’t think we were nu-metal. I think that on DIGIMORTAL, the band lost focus of what it was and we had other members in the band who wanted to write more. Previous to DIGIMORTAL, it was always me and Raymond who wrote all the music. When DIGIMORTAL came around, the bass player, Christian [Olde Wolbers], was like, “ I want to be more part of this band. I want to start writing for the band.” I was against it. Raymond was for it. Burt was for it. Christian brought in a lot of hip hop influence, which, for some reason, I still seem to get the blame for. I’m not a hip-hop guy and it just kind of went south. It was a good thing that it ended when it did because I was able to do things that I hadn’t been able to do because of Fear Factory. I was able to broaden my horizons and do other things. I was able to travel to other parts of the world that I’d never gone to. I was able to go back to my people with Brujeria and Asesino and then, of course, create Divine Heresy.
DIGIMORTAL – 2001
So is BLEED THE FIFTH the type of album that you thought Fear Factory should have gone towards instead of DIGIMORTAL?
Oh yeah. It was what I was fighting for. I think that’s one of the things that definitely led us apart was because I was trying to put my foot down but kept getting pushed back in the corner by three dudes and they say a lot of the reason was because of personal reasons. To me, that’s personal. When they don’t want to do the music that I believed that we should have done, to me I take that very personally.
You were one of the founders of the band, too.
Yeah. Me and Raymond basically started the band together and the whole concept was we were going to be an extreme metal band and things kind of went different.
The ironic thing is that DIGIMORTAL actually sold pretty well, didn’t it?
DIGIMORTAL actually sold very well. Even though it got a lot of slack for it, it sold quite well across the world.
Do you think the fact that the band’s sound branched out contributed to those extra sales?
Extra sales, no. We didn’t do extra sales. OBSOLETE was our biggest-selling record to date but DIGIMORTAL was right behind that. It wasn’t a failure. It was a failure as far as what the fans expected.
Yeah and the label probably.
No, the label was still behind it but as far as what the fans expected, no. But it still sold well and it kind of got us to different people because different songs that were on the record were on the radio. When you’re on radio, you’re going to reach different people besides metal kids and that’s pretty much what happened with that. But like I said, it wasn’t a failure but it was a failure in the sense of we didn’t please our fans. I knew that when the record came out. It was really hard to do interviews on that record because no matter what you do, you have to back up what you do. But even though I wasn’t really happy, that’s what we had to do. I saw things going south. When we were making the record, the guys in the band weren’t even talking to me because I was being an asshole because I wanted to go in a heavier direction. I thought that we needed to go back to how we were on DEMANUFACTURE. I felt like we needed to go back to that and they didn’t.
Do you wish that you would have left the band before DIGIMORTAL and not had your name attached to the record at all?
No! I’m not disappointed at all. There are still some good songs on that record. I don’t regret anything that I created. I just regret letting other people write. I regret letting the label take control. The label would suggest “You know, we need to write more commercial songs” and “We need to use these kinds of producers” and stuff like that. I was like, “Oh my God. What are we doing? It’s not going to work. We’re not this kind of band” and it just got worse. It got worse. It got out of control. It got very out of control.
And then after DIGIMORTAL came out, Fear Factory wasn’t with Roadrunner anymore.
Yeah, but I still was. They got dropped.
OBSOLETE – 1998
When I first heard some of the tracks on ARCHETYPE, it sounded like you were still in the band.
Well they had to do that. They had to prove to the fans that they could still continue without me. So basically, who better person to mimic what I had started than Christian? Christian pretty much learned from me. Learned my style. Learned the Fear Factory style and was able to emulate what I had created already. When I first popped in ARCHETYPE, I thought it was me for a second. I thought it was me. I’m like, “This guy does me well!” The first song [“Slave Labor”]….I thought it was “Shock”! Exactly those same riffs. I was even thinking in my head, “Could I sue for someone ripping off my riffs?” (laughs) But at the same time I’m like, wait a minute. I’m suing my own band because I am legally still a shareholder of Fear Factory. Legally I still get paid. Legally, whatever they put out, they still pay me a quarter of their percentage. So even if Christian started ripping off my riffs, I’ll have to sue myself because Fear Factory is a corporation and I’m a quarter shareholder of the corporation. So if I sue the corporation, I’d be suing myself (laughs). So I was like okay, just let it go. Just be happy, sit back, collect a cheque and shut up (laughs).
Is there any chance down the line that you guys might get back together? I mean Sepultura, Van Halen. Who ever thought Van Halen would get back together and now they got a big world tour lined up…
But Van Halen’s not really back together.
Well yeah I guess. Michael Anthony’s not in there is he?
Yeah and Sepultura’s not back together, either. They can talk about it all they want. But Andreas Kisser is saying, “I want us four to get back together.” Us four, not us five. You know who they mean when they say us five?
Max’s wife/manager, Gloria?
Yeah, Max’s manager. Andreas wants them to get back as buddies and as friends. You know, us four, not us five.
Right, and that’s the problem.
That’s the problem.
So you’re saying the chapter is closed on Fear Factory?
No, I’m never going to go back. For what? If Divine Heresy becomes successful, even half the success that Fear Factory was, I’d be happy.
FEAR FACTORY – 1995
What’s the buzz been like on the album so far?
The buzz has been about eighty-percent killer. Europe, way killer. In the States, the buzz has been killer. There are going to be a couple of bad reviews. I read a couple of bad reviews in the death metal community because they’re comparing it to death metal and that’s something you can’t do. I think people are kind of lost about where to put this. People think because Joe Payne and Tim Yeung are in the band, it’s going to be a death metal band just because of where they came from and you can’t compare it to that because it’s not. So I think that there are misunderstandings on it, to be honest with you. If you just appreciate it being a good metal album, then I think it’d be fine.
You said earlier that you had some songs ready to go a few years ago. Do you have a lot more ready to go for sort of the next album?
So you’re ready for number two already?
Yeah. We want to have another record out by fourth quarter next year. You’ve got to nowadays with CD sales and where they’re going, you got to put a record out every year.
Do you think it’ll go back to where bands like KISS were doing two or three albums a year? Do you think that’s coming down the line where bands are just releasing things as they’re coming out?
Yeah but those bands can survive and do things like that. They can wait five years in between and be okay but far as metal bands like us, we have to put records out every year just to keep the interest going. Nowadays, people have a short attention span and they can forget about you, so you got to keep their interest going all the time. You can’t let them forget who you are so you got to put a record out every year.
With the label situation the way it is now—labels are said to be on the way out and iTunes is supposed to be taking over—are you approaching how your record is being marketed a lot differently that you have in the past?
Yes and no. I mean there’s still something to be said about street marketing. They call it “guerilla marketing” where you’re still handing out flyers advertising for your band at shows but there’s also e-marketing where it’s all done on the Internet.
MySpace and that sort of thing.
All that stuff is huge, yeah. I do believe that record companies are going to become obsolete. I believe that you’re going to be able to sell your own music online, which a lot of people do now, or music is going to be for free. Music is going to be for free and you’re just going to have to make money off touring and merchandise.
Did you ever consider releasing BLEED THE FIFTH independently?
You can download our record right now and buy it.
But did you think about doing that without going the route of a label?
Yeah because I have my own label and it’s called Odio Records, which means “Hate Records.” I put out the two Asesino records on it and I make a good living off of that. Of course, a lot of the records we sell in South America and I do have a distribution deal with Century Media here in America and a deal with Listenable Records in Europe, so they distribute my records all through the States and Europe.
So what made you go with signing with an actual label then rather that sticking with your own label?
Because I believe that Divine Heresy is going to be too big of a band for me to control and it would be too much work for me. That’s just my theory. But I only did a licensing deal with the record companies that I work with. I did a licensing deal with Roadrunner in Europe as well for Divine Heresy, meaning that we still own the masters, so after X amount of years, the masters come back to us.
Very smart. So, let them spend the money on the marketing. Let them spend the money on the tours for it. Let them spend the money on the videos. This is how it works.
I know that was the way Celtic Frost did it with their new album, as well. Century Media’s handling the distribution, but Celtic Frost still owns everything. They have total artistic freedom over everything. Century Media just handles the distribution of it.
So is that sort of the same situation that you’re in with Divine Heresy?
Yes. By the way, did you like the record?
I loved the record. I gave it a four out of five in my review. I really dug it.
Cool, cool. Why didn’t you give it a five out of five? Just curious….what was it lacking?
Like I said, the one thing that kind of threw me was “Closure.” I didn’t think it fit with the rest of the record. I thought the other nine songs were tough, hard, groovy songs and then you just sort of had this odd one on the end and it just didn’t gel with me. I like the clean vocal stuff on some of the other tracks but that one just didn’t jive with me.
It was too different.
I think so. It sort of seemed like a bonus track, like it didn’t fit with the flow of the rest of the album. I think it was smart putting it on the end so that it didn’t really interrupt the flow of the album but I felt that it just didn’t fit with the vibe of the rest of the album.
Yeah. I understand what you’re saying but at the same time I didn’t want it to be all “in your face”. We just wanted something different. I wanted something that was going to close the record differently. We also decided to keep the record ten songs instead of making it fifteen songs.
It leaves you satisfied….you don’t want more but you sort of feel like you had enough (Dino Laughs). It doesn’t wear out its welcome. It’s a good length.
Yeah. I agree with you on that. Maybe we could have put a different song but that is how we decided to end it.
A lot of people might gel with it, too. They might like it.
Yeah. It’s really kind of funny. We get so many mixed reviews on this thing. People say the music is so hard and death metal but Tommy’s not. Why can’t Tommy be a death metal singer? Because we’re not trying to go for that vibe.
You referred to Killswitch Engage’s Howard Jones and I said that in my review, that Tommy reminded me a little of that Howard Jones sound.
But a lot of people also say that just because of the way he looks. People say that because he looks like him, as well (laughs). He went on stage and sang with Killswitch Engage and people were doing double-takes. It was hilarious.
One of the other things I said in my review that I really liked about the album was that I didn’t get any sense of it being trendy. The solos weren’t overdone, the instrumental that seems to lead in every album these days and, another one in the middle and one at the end…that sort of thing. It doesn’t have a whole bunch of things stuck in there to try and make it sound like a modern album. It has a definite identity all its own.
Well like I said, we wanted to make a very straight-forward album. I didn’t want to try to throw in all the tricks that I did with Fear Factory and over-saturate it with all that kind of stuff. I wanted to keep it more bare bones but interesting enough to where it has a lot of cool shit to it. It’s all about creating the right balance and that was something that I was definitely trying to achieve. I thought “Closure” was actually part of the balance but it didn’t sit well with you. Actually, like you said, it gets a weird reaction because people don’t know what to make of it yet. You got this guy, he’s kind of like a different type of singer and then when you hear the music you expect…sometimes when you hear the opening riff to something like “Bleed The Fifth,” you expect some guy to come out (*growling*) like that. That wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted someone to be aggressive, pissed off and angry enough to really make people fucking listen and I think that’s what we achieved.
I also mentioned in my review that I thought you were in a very unenviable position with this album because a lot of people are going to come in expecting Fear Factory Part 2 and if they don’t get it, they’re going to be pissed off. But a lot of people are also going to come in with the same attitude and if they did get too many similarities, they would also be pissed off. So you were sort of a rock and a hard place that way. If you went too much you were going to make a lot of people happy, but if you went not enough, you were going to make a lot of the same people unhappy.
Yes, exactly (laughs)! You got it down. You got it down so perfect and that’s why I feel it came out with the right balance of all of it. Right now, Divine Heresy is starting to grow its own identity. It has to get past that Fear Factory mindset that people have in their mind of how it should sound. It’s got to get past that. Once this record gets past that, it’s all about the second release. It’s all about how great the second record is and how much of its own identity it will have and become and grow. That’s what the most important part is to me. For right now, there’s just kind of an introduction. Let people get the shit out of their minds. Let them get the Fear Factory shit out of their minds and then…Boom! Come out with the second record that’s going to kill people.
So what can we look forward for on the second album?
The cool thing about it is that it’s the right balance of intricacy. A lot more intricate stuff on there. It’s the right balance. It’s not so much where you’re going to get tired of it. Tim Yeung is doing the great Tim Yeung thing that he does and I don’t want to change anything about him. He’s killer. To me, it’s more about the structures and the notes and the hooks. The hooks are going to be more memorable on this next record. We’re going to shine even more because we’re going to have a year of writing together, so I’m excited! There’s also another guy who is a great writer, too. Joe is a great bass player. He’s going to be able to shine on this next album. He’s going to be able to show his talents. One thing I don’t want to do, is cross over too much into the death metal thing. I want to stay a heavy metal band. A metal band that’s heavy. That’s how I want to stay. That’s what I want to be. Definitely have some more melodic stuff on there but not too much. I don’t want to over saturate it with that, either. Just mainly sticking a lot of the gruff, aggressive vocal hooks. Definitely still a lot of energy. Definitely want to keep it young and vibrant and energetic. I still want to keep that vibe on it but the one thing that I might want to do which we’ve been talking about is going into the concept of what is divine heresy or what is a divine heresy? And I think that that’s one way we might be able to be successful. Making an interesting story record. Not like a full conceptual record like I did on OBSOLETE but something that relates to everything that Divine Heresy is. It’s just a matter of growing.
***Thanks to George at Century Media Records for setting up the interview.
Divine Heresy—Official Site