Fear Factory's Dino Cazares: “You can’t control how people are gonna twist your words around."

Dino Cazares
(Image credit: Stephanie Cabral)

The engine of industrial extremists Fear Factory for more than 30 years (on and off), few metal guitarists have peddled consistently heavy riffs longer than Dino Cazares. His tone is as imposing as the dystopian cybernetics that inhabit his band’s lyrics, whether it’s on 1995 game-changer Demanufacture or the new, long-awaited comeback, Aggression Continuum. After a half-decade of legalities, bankruptcy and frontman Burton C. Bell calling it quits, Dino has reignited the machine with a plethora of lessons on success and sacrifice.

Metal Hammer line break

Don't be afraid to bend rules

When we recorded Concrete in 1991, Ross [Robinson, producer] was working at Blackie Lawless’s [of W.A.S.P.] studios. Late at night, so we wouldn’t have to pay for studio time, Ross let us in. We started recording at

8pm, all the way to 3am, just to get the record. We were stealing studio time to make the record happen. We didn’t have a lot of gear either, so we borrowed a lot of gear. After the session, we ‘permanently borrowed’ it.

California was more than just thrash

Grindcore and death metal were massive here in LA in the late 80s and early 90s. I remember one time, there were two shows going on at the same time, and each one had about 3,000 to 5,000 kids. It was like, ‘Hmm, which do I go to? Do I like Cannibal Corpse more, or Carcass more?’ There were heaps of bands in that style, and it was massive in backyard parties too. We got 200 to 500 kids in a backyard. People built stages in their backyards. When we started, we played the backyard scene.

Max Cavalera stole my only Fear Factory demo

I was using the Ross Robinson demo to shop Fear Factory to record companies. A lot turned me down: Metal Blade, Earache, Nuclear Blast, Peaceville. There was a music convention going on in LA; all the record companies went there. It was a place to be seen, watch bands and party. I ran into Max and he knew me from Brujeria. I told him about Fear Factory, we went to his hotel room and put the cassette on. He said, ‘This is killer! I’m gonna keep it.’ It was my only copy. Max wouldn’t give it back; I had to wrestle him on the hotel bed to get it back! Luckily he told Monte Conner [then-A&R at Roadrunner Records] about it. That’s pretty much how we got signed.

Death metal fans hated us

There were some melodic parts on Soul Of A New Machine that we took out. I felt that we were introducing something new to death metal by mixing heavy and clean singing, and that fans wouldn’t get it. We were right; a lot of people hated it, but it brought us a lot of attention. It was the first time anyone heard that! Then we released a remix album [Fear Is The Mindkiller, 1993], which was techno, dance, club and electronic remixes with death metal and grind. People went, ‘What the fuck is this?!’ If we’d listened to those people, we wouldn’t have forged this path. Merge Soul Of A New Machine and Fear Is The Mindkiller, and you get Demanufacture.

Nothing's too weird to inspire Fear Factory

I don’t know what the weirdest one is, but a lot of things inspire Fear Factory. For instance, we had a song called Final Exit on Mechanize that was inspired by assisted suicide, and an organisation called Final Exit that wanted to help people take their own lives, legally. We’ve done so many movies and books: Dune, Terminator, Mad Max, Blade Runner, The Twilight Zone – even The History Channel! It had a show about companies that manufactured massive mechanical things for tanks, warships and cranes. They called the guys who make them industrialists; that’s where we got The Industrialist’s title from.

I knew Demanufacture would be a classic

I knew we had some great songs. I didn’t know it was going to be a classic record until we started mixing. When we got Greg Reely and Rhys Fulber to mix the album and things were being put together, I was like, ‘Wow!’ I literally had tears of joy that somebody had seen my vision. It was the best feeling in the world; that is when we knew we had something special.

I've spent 10 days arguing about guitar tones 

Colin Richardson is a great producer but we weren’t gelling on Demanufacture. I just felt he didn’t see my vision and we had a big falling out over my guitar tone. We wasted 10 days arguing about it. Finally I won and we created this killer guitar tone, but I could tell his heart wasn’t there. He didn’t get the keyboard situation, so I hired Greg and Rhys to mix the album.

Fear Factory ditching me was freeing

When Fear Factory reformed without me, I was like, ‘Umm, how are they gonna do that?’ Then I realised Christian [Olde Wolbers, ex-bassist] would be on guitar. I asked, ‘Why am I out of the band? Oh, Burton doesn’t wanna play with me? OK.’ After about six months, I felt freedom. I started to realise I was stuck in the Fear Factory mould. Being out of the band allowed me to do things I’d had on the back-burner. I toured with Brujeria, then I created Asesino, then I did Roadrunner United, then I started Divine Heresy. All in seven years.

Svalbard and Orbit Culture are the future of metal

I was blown away by Svalbard. Serena Cherry is amazing, passionate, and I love her guitar playing. Another band is Orbit Culture. I heard them a few years back but I’m getting into them more. Tyrant Of Death are a really cool band. They’re industrial – another underground band with cool shit to listen to.

Metal gossip sites are a necessary evil

You can’t control how people are gonna twist your words around. It doesn’t matter what you say; people will twist it however they want to. There are a million websites that have used my tweets as news stories and sometimes they don’t give the full context. We’re both a necessary evil. Without the musicians saying controversial things, you’re not gonna have a website where you can make money off advertising. At the same time, we need those websites; they keep certain artists relevant.

Not every Fear Factory album is good

Transgression was an experiment. It wasn’t an experiment that went well, but it was an experiment. When I came back for Mechanize, I thought, ‘I need to bring the heavy back!’

My tensions with Burton made for some brilliant music

I’ve learned how to deal with personalities over the years. Sometimes personalities just don’t work out. Sometimes personalities have a lot of friction and that friction creates beauty. I believe that friction that we had created some great music – some of the best music I’ve ever written in my life; classic things that people were inspired by for years to come. Opposites attract. I’ve learned to deal with it over the years and I’m still dealing with it now.

Going bankrupt is hell

You lose everything. Some businessmen go bankrupt because it’s the smart thing to do; they can give up their assets because they have plenty of others. A person like myself, you go bankrupt and everything is on the chopping block. You have to disclose everything you own: your car, your house, your TV, your trademarks, your businesses, your songs. You have to buy them back. You feel like you’ve lost everything you built up in the 30 years before that.

Our new singer could be a change

I’m very open to male and female [singers]. Gender doesn’t play a role in my decision. I’m looking at something new for Fear Factory. I’m looking for a way to move new elements into the Fear Factory sound. I want people to be prepared for a possibly big change. If it’s a female, a lot of people are going to have a lot to swallow. I showcased a lot of female singers on my social media and got backlash from dudes. I was really surprised, but whatever. If I listened to those people in 1992 when I was doing Soul Of A New Machine, I wouldn’t have been able to pave a way forward for myself.

Published in Metal Hammer #350. Aggression Continuum is out now via Nuclear Blast.  

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.