Interview with Raymond Herrera of Fear Factory
By: “double M” Michael Melchor

For over a decade, Fear factory has been synonymous with a sound that turned the world of metal on its ear. Starting with Soul Of A New Machine, Fear Factory broke new ground by taking the harsh violence of metal and combining it with the technological precision of industrial. The sound had endeared fans of both genres to the band and Fear Factory began building a rabid following.

Fear Factory gained momentum with subsequent releases. Demanufacture was the first to feature the full vision of Fear Factory, and, as a result, the next two albums, Obsolete and Digimortal, broke into the Billboard album charts.

But then the unthinkable happened – Fear Factory suddenly disbanded, leaving a legion of fans in shock and disbelief. The worst was assumed and the world of metal prepared to continue on without these innovators.

Two years later, however, Fear Factory is set to return with a new album, Archetype (see the review on this site), and a slot on the newest installment of the Jagermeister Music Tour.

Speaking on the road from Washington DC, Raymond Herrera took time out of a grueling but welcome schedule of being back on the road to talk about the new album, where the band has been the past two years, and what we can look forward to now that soul of the machine has improved.

Michael Melchor: With the release of Concrete from the band’s early days, the music almost sounds like straight death metal. As the albums progressed, more samples and keyboards were introduced and the music progressed beyond a singular sound. Was that musical evolution a conscious decision by the band or was this something that just happened?

Raymond Herrera: Concrete was a set of demos that were recorded when the band was in existence for nine months. The record itself was released through Roadrunner, which is something they had arranged with Dino that the rest of the band did not authorize. But at that time we didn’t have a keyboard player. We added one on shortly after those demos. When we added a keyboard player, some of the music for Soul Of A New Machine was already written, but not much of it. We added in some of the keyboards there to try it out since we had the chance to. Demanufacture was written with full keyboards since we now had them available and liked how they sounded. A lot of the reason behind using them was that Burton could sing heavy and then turn around and sing melodic as well, which was something that wasn’t done back then. Once we heard it, we thought that the keyboard went very well with that.

MM: Explain the process of the band’s breakup and reformation. What happened with all of that?

RH: Well, things happen you know, and some decisions were made. A lot of people had the same reaction that Chris[tian Wolbers, [guitars] and I did; “I guess it’s over.” We were as surprised as anyone to find out, really.

There’s an agreement between the rest of the band and Dino [Cazares, former guitarist] not to discuss most of it. What it basically boils down to is some personal issues between Dino and Burton C Bell, [lead vocalist]. Once that all went down, the rest of us came to an agreement to continue the band either with all 3 of us or not at all. A lot of people were naturally skeptical about continuing to work without Dino and they were concerned that Fear Factory wouldn’t be what it once was.

And that’s understandable; when you’re suddenly missing a member, the chemistry may not be the same as it was before, and people worried about that. We figured that one way to prove those skeptics wrong was to let record hit and let people come back and find out that we hadn’t missed a step. I guess we’ll find out how right we are [on April 20 when Archetype is released].

MM: And let me say that, after hearing it, that it doesn’t sound like you have at all, and I’ve been listening for a long time.

RH: Thank you very much. Appreciate that.

MM: How did Byron Stroud [from Strapping Young Lad] come to get involved as the band’s bass player?

RH: Well, we were originally looking for guitar player to fill in for Dino, but I wanted Christian to do it. I told Burt also that “fuck that, Chris is playing guitar.” [Laughs] It made sense to me to have one of our own step up since he already knew our sound and what we do, you know? So the three of us sat down and discussed it and Chris agreed to do it. It hasn’t been easy for Christian because he’s worked so hard on bass that it’s like he’s starting all over now. But now that he’s taken that step, I think he loves guitar now more than bass. Now Chris is more in the forefront of the band because bass players are there but not as pronounced as the guitars. Chris eventually went for the idea after we talked him into it and he loves it now. Now all we needed was a bass player.

"We went through a lot in a short amount of time and it was nearly impossible to come back from all of that."
All the bass players that we knew were already in bands and doing their own thing, so Chris mentioned Byron. All of us liked the idea and contacted Byron. It was then that we found out that Strapping Young Lad was taking a break over the next year, which, thank God, worked out well for us. [Laughs]. While we were looking at getting a bass player and talking to Byron about playing for us, Chris did all of the bass and guitar on the album. Once we met with Byron and he heard what we’d recorded, he loved it. After that Chris and Byron sat down and went over everything and then Byron started working with band.

MM: I notice that Archetype covers a lot of different subjects this time around that the band doesn’t normally write about. Was that a conscious effort to get away from the “man vs. machine/technology” motif?

RH: Well, that theme and story has been in all of our records except for Soul... and the new one. Doing that on such a consistent basis is hard for Burton to do; it’s really amazing to me that we did it so consistently. [Laughs] This time around, Burt wrote about all that we had gone through because it was necessary. We went through a lot in a short amount of time and it was nearly impossible to come back from all of that. Eventually we decided to go on and that we could survive this and that it could happen. Once we started writing again, Burton put down on paper what was on his mind and how he felt about everything. It’s really cool because now it’s a lot more personal. It’s been good to take a little break from the science fiction, but at the same time it’s harder to do because the music now is a lot more personal.

MM: Did the dealings with Roadrunner and the move to Liquid 8 help to inspire songs like “Slave Labor” at all?

RH: What happened with that is that we had broken up and Burt put out the press release making it official. We went back to Roadrunner and told them that we were done and that the band was no more, but Roadrunner doesn’t accept a band’s breakup as a way to get out of a contract. They held us to our agreement and said that we had three more albums to go so we decided to write some music and let the label decide whether or not they would want us to record and release them. We told Burton about what happened and then we got the new music to Roadrunner, but then they didn’t want to pay us for any of it since the band was not together. We had two choices – either release what we had or get dropped by the label so, since they didn’t want to pay us for any of the work we did, we told the label to drop us. 6 months later, Roadrunner finally dropped us and that same day, it seems, other labels were ringing our phone. [Laughs]

We decided to go with Liquid 8, which was originally P3 Entertainment before they were bought out. Everyone there at the label knew everything about the band – things that we didn’t even know! [Laughs] Liquid 8 already had an idea and a goal for the band and wanted to work with us because all of them were huge fans. Once we knew that, we saw something good that we could work with. We started talking with them and things got more serious and we went ahead and inked a deal. It was a smarter move for us because right now we’re a big fish in a smaller bowl and therefore we have more freedom than we would at a major label. We can do things like produce our own record and not worry about whether label will accept it or not. Basically we were given the freedom to do whatever we want and not have to worry about it. We’re afforded complete freedom as artists and we don’t have to worry much about the business side because the label is solidly behind us, which is very good.

MM: I know that the new lineup haven’t able to play together very much since the return. There were a few shows in Australia and now the Jagermeister Tour. How has playing been live since you guys came back?

RH: We got to play about 20 rehearsals before going back out on the road. We played a total of about 10 shows in Australia and 7 so far on the Jagermeister Tour. We’re in Washington DC right now, actually. It feels really comfortable with Byron on bass; it’s definitely working out well. When we played in Australia, that was our first show in 2 ½ years and the first ever with new lineup, and it felt really good. I mean, you’re going to have your usual issues – the sound may be a little off, there are electrical problems, you may be having trouble with your gear, but aside from the usual pitfalls it’s been really good. Being back on the road has been great and this tour has been fucking amazing.

MM: Any future plans lined up as of yet, are you taking it a little slower?

RH: Well, we’ll be finished with the US run of the tour on May 21. After that we have a few weeks off, then we head to Europe for 4 ½ weeks. We’ll probably be doing another US Tour once return stateside. We want to record more frequently than putting out an album every 3 years because that just takes too long! [Laughs] Right now, though, we have no definite plans yet. We’re just enjoying being back.

MM: And I, for one, am very glad you are. Raymond, thank you again for your time and for everything.

RH: My pleasure. Thank you.

Raymond HerreraMM4/21/2004

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