INTERVIEW with Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory) (Vocals) and fellow Aquarian

You know, for us. I don’t look at the fans as beating each other up. What they are doing is they are releasing – it’s a release and I...

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Brought to you by Bottle Caps and Brushes with Bono

Interviewed by Marianne Jacobsen (Journalist/Writer) Myglobalmind Webzine


MGM: hi there it’s…what day is it?

Burton: It’s Friday

MGM: Yes Friday August 14, 2015 and I’m here with….

BCB: Burton C. Bell from Fear Factory

MGM: (cheer) hey Burton do you like sugar?

BCB: Yeah!


MGM: So kind of my theme for these interviews is to bridge the gap between the new metal music my niece (who is 13 – love you Madi!) listens to and metal that has a foundation and history. Sometimes for a young fan or newcomer, exploring catalogues of longstanding bands can be very intimidating.

So…keeping that in mind – what would you want new or young fans to know about Fear Factory if they couldn’t Google?

BCB: Fear Factory came onto the scene in LA in 1990. We stood out immediately because we weren’t a hair metal band and we weren’t a death metal band and we weren’t an industrial band. We were doing all these crazy things to create this new sound – we were really developing a new sound that we were interested in doing.

Fear Factory is a band that came on the scene and created a sound that really took people by surprise in Hollywood and the rest of the world.

The new type of sound was developed with a new vocal technique that no one had ever heard before we started doing it where I would do the heavy growls and singing, which no one was doing before. I was just emulating my favourite artists and it just came out…

MGM: Who is your favouite artist?

BCB: Artists! I have a lot of favourite artists. From Nick Cave to Godflesh, Sisters of Mercy, David Bowie. I like a lot of music.

MGM: You almost have to because Fear Factory covers such a broad genre with its music.

BCB: Fear Factory is a band that each individual member had a different flare. So we all brought our different styles into it. Raymond – he was into Death Metal, Dino was into Grindcore, I was into Industrial and Goth music so we all got together and created our own entity and because of my vocal style it really set us apart from everyone else.

MGM: So what was the initial reaction to Fear Factory?

BCB: The initial reaction from people was, “this is not metal – this is not industrial this is not death” – and we were like “ok…”

I mean this was Fear Factory creating its own brand and that is why we were able to tour with all sorts of bands in the beginning – from Hardcore to Death Metal to Industrial to Grindcore – we were able to tour with all types of bands. Then Demanufacture came on the scene and that’s when we really found our sound.

Demanufacture defined our sound and defined us and pretty much defined a whole genre of music after that…

MGM: Do you find that you are continuing to evolve still musically?

BCB: We evolved, but we have learned that you have got to experiment. However you experiment to blend in and enhance, not to experiment to change, because if you change your identity all the time fans are not going to recognize you.

We’ve done that experiment before and failed miserably when we did a record called Transgression. It was an experiment in sound – thus the title Transgression. However the fans were like “wow I don’t recognize this”.

MGM: Did you find you lost some of your fan base doing that?

BCB: I’m sure we lost part of our fan base because they didn’t know who we were. So we went back to the drawing board.

MGM: Does it hurt your feelings when your fans say “I don’t like this. I’m not happy with this.”? Do ever get frustrated with your fans?

BCB: No. I mean, it’s pointless to get frustrated because its just a waste of energy. People are gonna want to hear what they want to hear. They are either gonna come to your shows no matter what because they are fans or not. You can’t please everyone.

If we can please ourselves that is what is most important. We do the music we want.

MGM: So what is it that pleases you the most about this? I mean, you are so far in now and there are many bands that use a cookie cutter and continue to “polish the turd” to sell albums?

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BCB: Like I said you can’t please everyone and if we sound like somebody else then it wouldn’t be Fear Factory. If it didn’t sound like Fear Factory who did you want it to sound like? The music is still Fear Factory – we come up with challenging concepts and make it work.

MGM: So what do you have to say to someone who is a new fan of Fear Factory? Where would you suggest they start with your catalogue?

BCB: With the new record (laughter)

It’s a new classic

MGM: What’s your favourite song on it?

BCB: I like them all. They are all so different.

MGM: It’s nice to see you so proud of your new album

BCB: Well it’s like our new baby. We worked really hard on it and took our time on it. It was a very cathartic experience.

MGM: How did you record it this time?

BCB: The last record we used a drum machine and this time we actually had Mike Heller – who has been our drummer for almost 4 years now – we had him play to bring back that the live drummer feeling. Because there are nuances that a real drummer can do that a machine will never be able – well not yet – at this point attempt to emulate.
Using a live drummer also brings a groovy aspect to it.

MGM: So Al Jourgensen has said (in his autobiography Ministry: The Lost Gospels according to Al Jourgensen) that he cannot stand watching his fans beat the crap out of each other at his shows. What’s the energy like at a Fear Factory show?

BCB: I love Al Jourgensen, big fan – I actually consider him a friend.
You know, for us. I don’t look at the fans as beating each other up. What they are doing is they are releasing – it’s a release and I think that it’s a very positive release. For me it’s a release on stage. Like I said it’s a cathartic experience for me because the songs are real. Even though it tells a futuristic story, they are very real songs to me. They are very emotional and they are talking about topics that I’m passionate about…

MGM: Which are?

BCB: I think what I want to stress is that we have technology and it’s really developing further and further and we are becoming so dependent on it. You know, there are always science fiction stories about the rise of the machine and machines taking over the planet and creating genocide.
It’s like now – that’s not the way its gonna happen. I predict it’s going to be through human apathy and dependence on the machine. We see the seeds of it today.

MGM: Digital Dementia?

BCB: Dependence. So like my thing is that – once that happens we can lose our humanity. And when I say “our humanity” I mean humanity where we care for each other. To extend our species the only way for us to continue is to care for each other.

MGM: I personally have found with the up and coming generations (14-24) there seems to be this real sense of entitlement that seems to be there that I have never seen before. I actually find it frightening.

BCB: Oh God yes. They feel entitled that’s why they think they can take everything on line.

MGM: That’s why my motto is “don’t be a dick buy a shirt”.

BCB: Yeah and come to the show! I’ve been saying at the shows “please support your favourite artist, because if you do not support them, there is no possible way that those artists can come out and see you”.

MGM: Many artists have said to me that being in music cannot be about the money anymore. It has to be about loving your art because you are not going to get rich doing this.

BCB: No you are not going to get rich. However I can say that I can survive and support my family – which I would like to continue doing. Which is a good thing.

Interview is halted by a discussion regarding the original origins of Bottle Caps

MGM: So…describe your fans

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BCB: Our fans are everything. I would like to consider our music rather intelligent both musically, lyrically and conceptually. Of course not everyone is into the concepts or the lyrics, however there are people that are. Some are right into the sound.

I see the majority of our fans really paying attention to what we are talking about, and when they finally realize what we are talking about they begin to see it in the world around them. Their perception just opens up even more.

MGM: So do you think you are keeping them open minded with your music?

BCB: Yeah absolutely.

MGM: So let’s talk about a star struck moment. I think everyone has to have one.

BCB: Oh yeah for sure! I’m a big fan of music.

MGM: Ok so who? What’s your biggest star struck moment?

BCB: There are people I haven’t met yet…

MGM: Ok so bucket list?

BCB: Willie Nelson – I mean I’ve seen him play live but never met him, would love to meet him.
I would love to meet everyone in U2

MGM has to inform BCB that she danced on stage with Bono and U2 for 3 songs during the ZooTV tour in summer of 1992 in Toronto.

BCB: I’ve seen U2 perform live. I love them, great performers, great artist and entertainers.
My U2 story is – its 2000/1 – we are doing press for Digimortal. It happens to be at a time of the Grammys being held in LA at the Staples Center. I was asked – because all the journalists were there – to go down to the Staples Center and do some press.

So that’s cool and I do all the interviews and stuff and a couple of hours later I come out of all the interviews and I’m walking around the Staples Center checking it out because it’s a cool place, when I hear this familiar sound coming from the arena.

I was like “I know that sound!” I walk into the arena and I’m in the first tier (stage left) and there’s the fucking Edge on stage just doodling! I’m like “oh my God!”.

Then, Larry Mullin comes out and he starts doing a beat and the it hits me – “oh my God they are fucking gonna do sound check!” So I go down to the floor and I sit right in front of the stage about 5 rows back – I sit in Tony Bennett’s seat – and I’m sitting there and Adam Clayton and Bono come out and were doing this fucking jam that sounded awesome and then they go into Beautiful Day. At that moment, I’m doing everything I can but to cry. Meanwhile, there is a small crowd in front of the stage (small like 15-20 people) and Bono walks off stage, still singing and starts signing people’s stuff. I didn’t go up though.

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MGM: You didn’t?

BCB: I didn’t go up because I didn’t feel it was the right moment for me and I’m all about moments.

MGM: Me too!

BCB: What I learned from that day though was that if Bono still has time to walk off stage and sign people’s stuff – then I can do it.

MGM: So no one is above taking time out for fans?

BCB: Agreed, no one is above it.

MGM: How often are you approached by fans telling you that your music has changed their life?

BCB: I actually get that about once a week.

MGM: No way! Awesome!

BCB: It’s very cool, it’s everyone (all walks of life) who come up and thank me for the music helping them through times and I’m like “the music helped me too”. It’s a crazy connection and I do not take it for granted.

MGM: Any closing statements to this interview?

BCB: Nope. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you.

MGM: Right on! Lemmie give you some Pop Rocks!

BCB: You already did.

MGM: No those are Bottle Caps.

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Sidenote: The very next night BCBs three children came to see Fear Factory for the very first time. (Take kids to work day!) I hope that show was amazing and Burton’s reunion with his family was magical!


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