Fear Factorys Dino har gått igenom en hel del de senaste åren. Stämningar och bråk med föredetta medlemmar och sångaren Burton C Bell är inte längre med i bandet. Dock är det han som står för sången på nya “Aggression continuum” Vi ringde upp gitarristen i LA och trots allt han gått igenom ser han positivt på livet. Vi pratade tonårslivet på Sunset Strip och hur bristen på parkering tydligen blev ett av Sunset Strips orsaker till kollapsen, första turnéerna med Ozzfest, att samla ihop mynt från scengolvet, förlora sin mamma i tidig ålder och det faktum att vem som helst kan bli den nya sångaren i Fear Factory.
– Who knows? It could be Caitlyn Jenner singing. I´m open as long as they can handle the position.
I just realized today that Cher was born in El Centro, California where you grew up.
(laughs) That´s what you want to bring up?
Well, was she like a city treasure down there?
Yeah, she was very well known down there as well of course. One of our claims to fame being from a small town. Not only her, but the next town over was the home of Daisy Duke from the “Dukes of Hazzard” She was from the town next to El Centro, Brawley. Then we had Donald Logue, the actor and a guy I went to school with. He was in the CBGB´s movie and “Law and order” He´s been on a lot of a shows.
What was it like growing up in El Centro?
El Centro is essentially a border town. It´s about seven miles from the Mexican border. Small town with maybe 50.000 people. A large agricultural area where they grew a lot of vegetables, watermelons, lettuce, sugar beans etc. At the time you had rich, white farmers and you had the Mexicans that worked the fields. My father wanted to be a farmer and he was a professional baseball player in Mexico and when he retired he bought a bunch of land on the California side and I grew up on the ranch.
What did your parents feel about you becoming a musician?
My dad wasn´t exactly for it. He wanted me to be a baseball player. We had so much land that my dad built batting cages, so we could learn how to swing it. We were really close to a baseball field so we were there all the time, so he was definitely training us to be professional baseball players. Around the time I was 14-15 I started to rebel and started going against what he wanted and more of what I wanted, which was to be a musician. My mother was always for it, but she passed away when I was 15 so she wasn´t there unfortunately for all of it. That motivated me even more to wanting to become a professional musician. By the time I graduated high school, I was 17 and I moved to Los Angeles. I got on a bus since it was only three hours away. It seemed far away especially coming from a small town and coming to LA was a big cultural shock for me. There were a lot of things that I´d never experienced and a lot of things that I´d never seen till I got to the city. My sister was living here since she went to college here. She had an apartment here so when I first came I got to stay with her and then I got a job and so on and so on.
What was it that piqued your interest in music and metal and hard rock?
Come on! AC/DC when I was nine years old. I saw them on the Don Kirshner show or if it was Midnight Special? One of those two. It was in ´75 or ´76 and I was like “That´s what I wanna do!” I tried to buy as many AC/DC records as possible. I had older sisters and brothers that really turned me on to other music as well. One brother was listening to the Sex Pistols and The Clash and another brother who was into Frank Zappa and Led Zeppelin and old Scorpions. One of my sisters was into Elton John and Pink Floyd and it was more about getting high and tripping on acid. My other sister was into Queen. Whatever that was popular. I got a mixture of everything and my dad was into mariachi music and my mother was into 50´s rock and roll. I got a big melting pot of all that stuff, but when I heard AC/DC and Black Sabbath and the old Scorpions, it progressed from there. Then it went to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and Van Halen. Then when the 80´s came around it was the first Metallica record and early Mötley Crüe like “Shout at the devil” More heavier guitar driven stuff and I really dove into it. I was 14 and got an electric guitar, a distortion pedal, amplifiers and tried to learn all that and it progressed from there.
What was the first metal show you ever saw?
The US Festival in 1983. I was 15 and my sister took me. That was the first metal concert I went to. It was Van Halen, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne. I think the only band that I didn´t like was Triumph. My first extreme metal concert was Venom, Exodus and Slayer and right after that it was Metallica and Armored Saint and then Accept on the “Metal heart” tour. I started seeing all these killer bands.
You must´ve arrived in LA right when the whole Sunset Strip scene was taking off?
It was massive when I got there. When I was hanging out on Sunset Strip I did like some of the bands, but not really all the bands. Some of it was just too glam, like overly glam. I liked Ratt and Mötley Crüe and Dokken, but some of the bands went a little too far. I liked hanging out there because that´s where all the girls were. Cars couldn´t even drive through because there were so many people and flyers and makeup and hairspray. Chicks wearing nothing. It was great. It was definitely a party and a different time, a different era. Then the city of West Hollywood started to complain because there were so many fucking flyers everywhere and they looked at it as trash. People complained because they couldn´t find parking because everybody came from everywhere else and they parked all around there. They started to make a lot of rules like you couldn´t park there and you had to have a certain permit to park on certain streets and it started to kill the vibe. Not only Nirvana and bands like them killed that vibe, but it was also because the city was complaining about it. There were a lot more restrictions in that area at that time and it was a perfect time for Nirvana and the whole grunge thing to come in and kind of wipe it out. It´s just a musical shift that happens. Music shifts all the time.
Did you ever see GNR back then?
I saw them at a place called Scream, which wasn´t on the Strip. It was outside the Strip. I thought it was pretty fucking intense. I just thought they were a bunch of drug addicts, like biker looking drug addicts. I liked it because it wasn´t the typical glam at all. It was something that was like a harder Aerosmith. More distortion on the guitar, screechy vocals… I mean, there was also a different side of glam too. There was the glam where the guys were wearing makeup and spandex and even skirts and then you had stuff like GNR that was more on the glam, biker side. Even Mötley Crüe changed with “Girls girls girls” Even that look changed and they went heavier, so there was like a shift as well within the glam scene. Certain bands survived it and certain didn´t.
Do you get nostalgic about that time because it was so different?
Oh, of course! Someone even asked me “How did you survive it? How did Fear Factory come out when metal was going down?” I always tell them that we had more of an alternative difference about us. If you watched MTV back in the day, you had the glam scene and Headbanger´s Ball and then om Sunday you 120 Minutes and that was the Cure, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and Goth stuff. I always felt that in some ways we were a little part of that and a little part of the grindcore scene, because at that time, even though like thrash and stuff like that was going back down under, there was this grindcore, death metal scene that was growing and was not affected by grunge at all. I kind of thought we were a mixture of all those bands to where that scene didn´t affect us. Like when certain scenes were dying, it didn´t really affect us at all because I thought we had some difference about us to make us survive.
It´s pretty amazing that your first album turns 30 next year. It´s a lifetime.
Yeah, it is a lifetime. And the band´s been around through the years. What´s it going to be another ten years from now? It´s crazy. I´m just happy that I´m sitting here and am able to do it.
You´re turning 55 later this year. How do you feel about ageing?
You´re life changes and you have a different perspective on life. Unfortunately I don´t have any kids, I´m divorced, so I´m pretty much single and enjoying it. I look forward to another few more years. I look at it like, if the Rolling Stones can be able to do it, why can´t I? A lot of people retire at my age. I´m getting up there and I´m just behind those other guys like Dave Mustaine, nearing 60. I think it´s going to be cool and I can´t wait. I don´t really feel too bad now, but let´s see what happens. My knees are still ok, my hips are still ok and my mind´s still there and I´ve still got the passion for it.
It´s been 25 years since the first Ozzfest and you played there. What are your memories from that? It must´ve been quite a big thing for Fear factory back then?
There were two of them in ´96. One in Arizona and one in San Bernardino. I thought it was amazing and I thought it was going to be just those two festivals, but then the following year it was like “Hey, we´re going to do a whole tour and we want you guys to be on it!” It was really great because all the buses were parked next to each other, everybody had dressing rooms close to each other, so it was like a big summer camp. Everybody got along and everybody were partying with each other. The main persons that were leading the partying was Pantera. Every day outside of their bus there was a barbeque, they always had a lot of Coors Light, a lot of alcohol and they invited everybody to come party. It was cool because everybody went from bus to bus. I believe Marilyn Manson was on that one too I think. Everybody was just hanging out and no egos. I miss it. Have you ever seen an ice luge? A big old brick of ice and at the top they pour alcohol and at the bottom you´ve got to put your mouth and drink the shots. Almost every night on tour we were doing that. It was amazing. Then we did it again in ´99 and things changed. The party stopped and it got more restricted and no more stealing golf carts, no more ice luges, less people could come backstage.
On that first Ozzfest, did you get to meet Ozzy?
Oh yeah! We toured a lot with Ozzy just before that in 1995. A full US tour and a full European tour. In the US it was kind of crazy because in the US the band hadn´t broken yet and people still didn´t know who we were, so when we toured with Ozzy it was mainly an older crowd and a lot of Ozzy fans and Sabbath fans and they were not into Fear Factory at all. We were getting a lot of beer thrown at us, we were getting a lot of coins and stuff like that. I remember that after we performed we were picking up the change on the floor because we were broke. It was like “Hey man, there´s probably a couple of bucks here, man!” It was difficult in that way, but when we got to Europe and the UK, “Demanufacture” had had time to grow out there so by the time we got there we had a lot of fans. Same thing when we got back to the US and did the Ozzfest. By that time the album had started to grow and a lot more people started to hear about us and right after that we went on tour with Megadeth and Iron Maiden. We did a lot of stuff on that record. And the same thing with “Obsolete” We went on tour with Rob Zombie and Slayer and at that point we were able to headline ourselves. We didn´t headline until halfway through “Obsolete” We were always waiting and building. That´s when the band really took off.
The new album then? With all the stuff that you´ve been through lately with the band, what would you say is the biggest lesson you´ve learned?
(laughs) To learn how to deal with stress. That´s one of the biggest lessons, because when I was going through all this stuff I had to go to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack, but it was stress and it was brutal. Try to avoid lawsuits. (laughs) That´s another big lesson and I also learned that a lot of people can´t handle the stress. A lot of people just handle it differently and some people want to run away from it and get away from it as much as possible. I understand that, but in some ways you´re going to have to deal with certain things head on.
Has it made you stronger in a way?
No, because I thought I´ve always been strong and I can handle a lot of stuff. This is probably one of the worst things that I´ve had to handle… I mean, my mother died when I was 14 years old and that´s brutal. I was too young for that and that was probably the hardest thing. When my mother passed away I became this quiet kid, really focusing on the music and I missed a lot of school for six months and I had to go to a special program to catch up. I didn´t think I was going to come out of that, but luckily six months later I was able to get out of it, bounce back, take my tests, graduate school and get the fuck out of El Centro. Nothing against the town, but at the time I needed to get out of there and just start my career. That´s how I look at it. That was probably one of the hardest things I had to go through, losing my mom. More than these lawsuits. Lawsuits are just about money. Sure, it´s about relationships, but nobody died.
With “Aggression continuum”, is the latest album always the best one?
Of course. I believe in myself, I believe in what I do and what I create, so yes, every record has to be better than the next one and I really thrive through. I don´t fear change or what people are going to say. With every success there´s failure and you have to learn how to deal with the failure. Sometimes it can be brutal and you just have to move on. People always love to tell you what you can´t do and that´s what drives me.
Finally, could the next singer be a woman?
Yes. It could be, because there are some very talented females out there and there has been forever. I love bands like Holy Moses. That was heavy shit. A lot of people don´t remember that band. There´s been a million female singers that´s been amazing over the years and I´m very happy that females are becoming more predominant in this heavier music. There has been a lot of backlash for me saying that it could be a female singer… some guys, I just can´t believe the stuff they say. I just can´t believe it.
Me neither and it is 2021 so you´d think people would´ve come a bit further, but I guess not.
Yeah. Sometimes I wonder if people still like music? I hear so much negative stuff about every band, not just my band. Do people still enjoy music? I know they don´t buy it. I´m open to male or female. Gender does not play a role in my decision of who I choose to be the singer. If it´s anybody, they also have to know how to represent the past. We do have a 30 year legacy and a big body of music. I look forward to what we can create fresh in the future.
Whoever it is, I´m looking forward to it.
Who knows? It could be Caitlyn Jenner singing. I´m open as long as they can handle the position.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen