Influential industrial metal band Fear Factory have long been fascinated with futuristic imagery and cerebral sci-fi lyrics, which seem a perfect fit for the band's precise, futuristic metal sound that fuses heavy guitars with programmed drums. And the band's eighth LP, The Industrialist, takes those concepts to new heights in the form of a concept record about an automaton that becomes sentient and eventually turns on humanity. We caught up with the band's singer and primary creative force, Burton C. Bell, to find out more about the record, his summer reading list and his fear of unchecked apathy. Fear Factory play Studio Seven on July 6th.
At what age did you first get interested in sci-fi? I was definitely young. I remember watching the original Star Trek with my father growing up. I was always reading things about UFOs and stuff like that. When Star Wars came out it blew my mind. I was 7-years old.
Are you an avid reader? I read as much as I can. I don't always just read sci-fi though. I mix it up all the time between science-fiction and fiction or philosophy kind of stuff.
What are you reading now? I'm going to be relaxing for the next few days and I'm going to read the last installment of The Hunger Games.
Does the concept of The Industrialist embody some larger fear of yours about technology run amok? I've always had a curiosity about what the soul is. What does a soul entail? Is it just memories or is more than that? It's a question nobody's really going to know. [Ray] Kurzweil doesn't even call it artificial intelligence, he just calls it intelligence. He decided that we as humans have artificial intelligence because we are taught in the same way. Machines and humanity are taught intelligence the same way. I don't fear machines running amok, I fear that humanity becomes so apathetic that they do not pay attention to what the machines are doing to themselves.
So it's a fear of unchecked apathy then? Yeah, it's not going to be machines who kill us. Technology is amazing and the advancements that are made exponentially every year is incredible. But if it goes unchecked, its humanity that's the problem because with machinery, the initial idea, was to help humanity.
Have you ever been to Comic-con? No, but I've always wanted to go! I've always been on tour so I always miss it.
Have you given any thought to publishing your ideas in a different form, maybe as a graphic novel? It's something I think about constantly and actually on this record we're discussing it and researching artists that would be good for it. While we were looking for people to do the album cover, I talked to a couple different graphic artists. One - I forget his name - does the Walking Dead graphic novels, but he was just way too busy. But when I was talking to him about the concept he was stoked because it wasn't a zombie story. He has some really militaristic images that were really incredible and really drew me to him.
Can you tell me about the cover? I know it's got the two F's back-to-back but is that supposed to represent what the automaton at the center of the album looks like? Absolutely, it's supposed to be The Industrialist. A few albums ago, I created the version of the FF logo with the F's back-to-back. It was actually Dave McKean who did the initial concept but I distorted it in a certain way where it kind of looked like a bird skull and then with that same idea, we worked with our artist and said, "We really picture this as a face of a robot."
Do you have a favorite song on the record? I'm leaning toward "God Eater" these days. That track is one of the more experimental songs we've done in a long time. It was an adventurous feat to make it and record it.
Would you consider building a tour around the album a la The Wall or something, where you'd do the whole record in its entirety? I'd love to do Obsolete that way and this record would be perfect as well. The positive feedback we've been getting on this album has been very, very pleasing to me and I can picture this whole record being played out live with the right setting and imagery it'd be sick.
Do you have a favorite concept record? You're going to laugh, but I think my favorite concept record to date is Punky Brüster.
I don't know it. Its not about the TV show, is it? It's a play on the title, but it's a concept record by Devin Townsend from Strapping Young Lad. It came out in like '96 or '97, at the beginning of the hype of that faux-punk sound, like Green Day and The Offspring. He did this concept record making fun of that whole thing. It starts off with a black metal band from south-central Poland playing this little club in Canada and everything goes awry and to avoid getting their butts kicked, they play this cheesy punk riff and they become a massive mega-hit overnight. It's got a story going through the whole thing and some of the best riffs I've ever heard. I just love listening to it. It's a little known gem of Devin Townsend's work.