Sometimes you are faced with a situation that you have a bit of uncertainty about. For me, this interview was one of those times. I’ve been a fan of Fear Factory for many years and I was really excited to set up an interview with the one, the only, Burton C. Bell. Not knowing what to expect, I wrote my questions and hoped I’d not be a total fanboy. Turns out Burton was funny, intelligent and very engaging. Soon after the interview started, I found myself thinking that Burton reminded me of a lot of my own friends, and I was totally at home. Once it was all said and done, this was one of my favorite interviews.
There isn’t much I can tell you about Fear Factory that you haven’t learned over the last 20 years. The band is known for it’s aggressive, industrial-tinged music, and with the release of their 7th album, The Industrialist, the band is finally about to embark on their first US tour to promote the album. With it’s deeply rooted science fiction concept, The Industrialist has quickly became a favorite for many Fear Factory fans.
You can listen to the entire Burton C. Bell interview below:
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Today I’m welcoming Burton C. Bell to the Unsung Melody family. Burton is the vocalist from the band Fear Factory. First off, thank you for taking the time to joins us today.
I’ve got a few things to discuss with you today, so we’ll get started by talking a bit about your latest album, The Industrialist. It was released in June of last year and it has received a ton of great press. After so many years of making tremendous music, do you guys even take the time to read press or do you just do your own thing and not worry about it?
Obviously press is important to a band. That’s how the fans hear about it and are able to determine if they want to pick it up or not. For me personally, I got advice from a good friend of ours, Billy Gould, who’s the bass player in Faith No More, who championed Fear Factory back in the early days, all the way back to our very first demo. The best advice I got from him was, “Never read your own press.” (laughter) Which I interpreted as, everyone has their own opinion and they are entitled to it. If you read your own press and it’s good, it can go to your head. If it’s bad, it can also go to your head. So, just take it with a grain of salt and understand that this is what they believe and not everybody believes that. Press is important and over the years, I’ve learned how to say exactly what I want to say and say it precisely.
The record was written solely by Dino and yourself. It’s a return of sorts to the industrial side of Fear Factory. Obviously, it’s been mentioned many times before that this is a concept record as well, but I’m more interested in what initiated the return to the industrial side of the music?
Before we started writing this record, I really sat and was very introspective about the band. Not in a bad way. Just analyzing the last and what I liked about the band from the very beginning and over time. One of the reasons that I loved the band, and one of the reasons that Dino and I started the band, was the industrial nature of it. This was one aspect of music that brought Dino and I back together. It wasn’t the only aspect, it was just one aspect that we always wanted to have be a part of the band. That’s when I realized that was something that had been missing from the past few records.
So, before we settled into LA and started writing, I mentioned to Dino and Rhys as well that we have to have a return to this industrial nature. Not make it all about the industrial side, but we need to add it in again because that was a really cool aspect that helped us stand out. It made us one of a kind in the genre. Dino and Rhys agreed. We implemented that and really focused on how we could achieve that. One of the ways that we achieved that was through drum programming. That programming aspect really freed us from restrictions that held us back in many ways. It helped us return to the industrial side and it helped us write more creatively, arrange more creatively and just try different things. It was just really freeing and just a great experience writing this last record.
During my research for this interview, I read a few interviews and watched a couple more. One of the things that was mentioned was a possible graphic novel based upon the story within The Industrialist. Is there any progress on that to speak of?
I’m glad you asked that question Jonathan. That is happening right now. After much research in finding the right artist, I finally found the right one in London. His name is Noel Guard. He’s a fantastic artist. I was referred to him by another artist friend of mine. Then I let them know it was something that I’ve been wanting to do. There were a couple different artists that I spoke to before, that were brought to me through the label. They were great people, but their art wasn’t what I was looking for. Their style didn’t match my vision.
When I found Noel, his art was exactly what I was looking for. His style is amazing. So this past year, we’ve been working on The Industrialist graphic novel. All of the pages will be completed by June 1st. Right now, he’s following the story from the booklet that I wrote. He’s following each scene and he’s putting images into these scenes. His vision is exactly what I’m seeing in my mind. We’re definitely connecting. Add in that he’s a Fear Factory fan to boot helps immensely. So he gets it and what it’s all about. He was the perfect candidate. He came at the right time. He’s working on the images and it’s going to be sick. Once completed, we’re going to look for a publisher and hopefully it will be out by the end of the year.
Now you guys did something different than most bands. You licensed your masters through Candlelight Records. It’s not the most conventional record deal. How did that situation come about and do you feel that this type of deal is the future model for music?
It is definitely a futuristic model because it’s ahead if its time. There are not a lot of bands doing this. It really works well for an established band, I will say first. If Fear Factory didn’t have 20 years of building up fan support from a grass roots perspective, seven records into our career, it wouldn’t work. This type of deal or situation would not work for a new band, but it works for us. We have our fan base. We have the ability to get it out there and we tour, so it works for us. It’s a great model for the future for a lot of bands and for a lot of labels. Record labels are a dying breed. No one’s buying records anymore. The working musician, which I consider myself, makes their living by touring and selling merch. So, I think this is a model for future bands. Own what you create. License it out for a very short period of time. That way, you can get it back and do something else with it later on and it’s all yours.
I found it interesting for sure. For younger bands, it seems the crowdfunding side of things, like Indie Go Go and Kickstarter, allow the fans to be their label. Once it’s finished, you could then farm it out and after time get it back. I thought the two ideas could work well together.
Kickstarters are great. Its a great platform for young entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs being a new band or an established band. They can use this platform as a soundboard to get their idea out there and therefore generate income so they can do it. So, that makes everyone who contributes to a new project an actual contributor to the record. In some respects, that would make everyone who contributed an executive producer.
It also gives people a sense of involvement in the project. You want to keep track of the progress. If you give $100 to a band, you are going to tell all of you friends about it.
Absolutely. You’re going to say that I helped create this. I’m one of the reasons why this record is out. That’s a pride moment for a fan, where they can say that they contributed to one of their artists new records.
You are starting a tour next week. It will really be the first full-on US tour to support The Industrialist. Who’s on the tour with you guys?
We have Hate Eternal as direct support, and as lead support is Kobra & The Lotus. These two bands have a great vibe going on right now. They have a lot of interest and a lot of fans that want to come and see them. So, they’re helping our ticket sales as well. Hopefully, they’ll bring some fans that have never seen Fear Factory before and some of our fans will be introduced to a couple bands that they’ve never seen before. We’re very excited about this tour. It’s the first extensive tour in the United States for The Industrialist album. We’re very happy about that as well. We intend to do a lot on this tour. Not only are we going to be touring our butts off, playing plenty of shows and having a good time, but we’re going to set up a recording studio in the back of the bus. So we can start writing some new music.
That’s music to everyone’s ears there!
Absolutely. This is going to be something new for Fear Factory. We’ve never really done this before. So, with the wonderful onset of new technology in the music business, it makes writing and recording so much easier. So we’re going to utilize that while we’re immersed in music for the next two months, let’s create music.
How much of The Industrialist has made its way into the setlist for this tour?
We haven’t really decided that just yet. We started rehearsing a couple days ago. We’re going to have a 75 minute set on this tour. It’s going to be a classic mix of new and old songs. If I had to guess, I’d say three songs.
It was released also that you guys are playing Demanufacture in it’s entirety on the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise in 2014. A lot of bands have had an anniversary tour celebrating a past album. Is that type of tour something that you could see Fear Factory doing?
Absolutely, and we’ve already got a title for it. It’s going to be called the Demanufactour. We’re going to introduce it in Australia this year. Then we do the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise and hopefully, we can bring that tour to the States.
That should make a lot of people very happy.
I hope so. Like you say, it’s a classic record and other bands have been doing it. Machine Head did it with Burn My Eyes. Metallica did it with the black album. Various other bands have done it as well and it’s a good idea.
To fully immerse the fan into the live experience of one record in it’s entirety. God, I wish I could do that with some of my favorite artists. I would love to hear some of my favorite bands play an album all the way through.
It’s another way too, for a band like yourselves who have been around for 20 years or so, to introduce a classic album to a whole new generation.
I have lost many to cancer, and I’ll just preface this question with, cancer can kiss my ass. I saw that you are involved with a charity to help cancer research. Tell me a little bit about your work with the Body of Art Foundation.
I was approached by the photographer through email. His name is John Kelly. At the time that he approached me, I had just lost my best friend to brain cancer. I was like yes, cancer can definitely kiss my ass too. There’s so much bullshit in this world and our society spends so much money on defense spending, rather than putting it into helping people. They’d rather use it for destructive purposes rather than helpful purposes. That’s a whole other topic there though. So yeah, he approached me and said that you are going to be playing the Download Festival this year, I’m going to have a studio set up and I really would like to have you be a part if this charity experience. When he told me about the charity, it was an immediate yes. I’m all about it. I want to be helpful. I agree with this and I see your vision. So, it was madness at Download and we did it in this big interview chamber. He had four huge black curtains set up in the middle of this room. He and his assistant came in and were like, “Okay, do you mind stripping down for me?” I was like, “Okay.” (Laughter) It was cold and I was like ugh, but we did it and it was worth it. The images he created were fantastic. I was very proud to be a part of that.
Alright, I always end on a random question. I know you are an avid reader, so I’d thought I’d ask you who you would want to write your biography, if the opportunity arose.
It’s funny you should mention this Jonathan, because I just started writing an autobiography last night. It’s all because I’m having a new BurtonCBell.Com website built. The people building it asked me for a bio. For a couple months, there was one person that I wanted to write it. His name is Mike Gitter, and he was just too busy. So, I just got frustrated trying to find people. I said screw it, I’ll just do it myself. I started writing it last night. It’s for the website. It’s just a brief autobiography, but as I say and started writing it, I was like, “Oh! This is actually not bad. This is actually pretty easy.” So, I started writing that. If I were to have someone write my biography, I don’t know. There’s a lot of good writers out there. Maybe Ed Kaye? I’ve known him for years and he’d write a good biography.
Burton, I thank you so much for your time. The site and myself wish you and the band nothing but the best. Hopefully, we can get caught up at a show sometime. You guys be safe out there on the road.
Preview or purchase The Industrialist below:
Watch The Industrialist video below: