During a jaunt through Europe, Dino Cazares relaxes outside one of the many cafes that line the sun-drenched avenidas of Barcelona. The Fear Factory guitarist feels right at home, and he oughta — castellano is no problem for the Spanglish-speaking, East Los–bred Cazares, and his burly physique and shoulder-length black hair are of a piece with this Iberian metropolis. “Onstage, the kids relate a lot better to me than Burton,” Cazares chuckles, referring to F.F.‘s gangly singer. “I tell him, you have to speak a little slower than usual.” And while this Spanish burg doesn’t offer the glory of holding court at the Rainbow, for this L.A.-based band it just goes to show that even with a gold record, sometimes you gotta cross an ocean to feel the love.
Rewind a few months to the Sherman Oaks studio where engineers mixed the just-unleashed cyborg-slab DigiMortal, and the band (Burton C. Bell, vocals; Raymond Herrera, drums; Christian Olde-Wolbers, bass; and Cazares, guitar) are discussing the last decade‘s hard-music output. “The ’90s were the three G‘s: grunge, goth and grind,” Cazares says. “Those were just fads, though. The style that we’ve had since the beginning — actual singing, melodic choruses — that‘s now the norm. We’re the ones who paved the way for all these bands.”
If you think Cazares is fronting, don‘t. From Resurrection through Demanufacture to the 545,000-selling Obsolete, F.F.’s tightrope walk of pretty and heavy is unlike anything else in loud rock. Imagine Gregorian thunder, ancient as the echoes of a medieval cathedral, going head-on with spiraling synthesizers, machine-gun-fast double-bass-drum triggers and Bell‘s nightmare vision of tomorrow. And just to prove they’ve kept pace with dance culture‘s knob-twirling wizardry, F.F. invited a cadre of international DJs to cannibalize their entire discography for the smokin’ remix album Remanufacture.
“Our other albums are not only darker thematically, they sound cold,” Cazares says. “I think [DigiMortal] is smoother, more organic. I mean, the kids into Papa Roach and stuff might think it‘s heavy, but other people have come up to me and said it’s our softest album yet,” he explains, waiting a beat, then adding, “That doesn‘t mean they don’t like it . . .”
In a pop culture that has very few surprises left, F.F.‘s angle on dystopian paranoia is actually pretty stale, quaint, kinda like Alvin Toffler’s Third Wave. That‘s why on DigiMortal the band were wise to take the man-vs.-machine rhetoric to its Six Million Dollar Man–esque conclusion and just roll with the atmosphere-aggression blending; when your shit is this tight, theme tends to fall by the wayside. Bell is calculatedly vague if you ask him to decrypt crowd-bouncers like “Edgecrusher,” “What Will Become?” “Byte Block” or “Back the Fuck Up.” “I don’t know,” he says. “It‘s about the uncertainty of where the human race is going.”
Cazares is less prone to mince words, at least about the music. “We recorded this playing live — that was a first for us, because usually everyone lays down their own part using a click track. But we hammered it out at the same time, dumped it into the computer and then used Pro Tools to fuck with the guitar sound or speed up the drums, whatever we want, basically. Let’s let these engineers work, though, since it‘s costing us like $2,000 an hour.”
Meanwhile, you might’ve heard about Brujeria, the invisible band Cazares is rumored to front along with members of Napalm Death, Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. Refusing all interviews and never touring, Brujeria with its Zapatista-guerrillas shtick precedes Slipknot by a good decade. But unlike Slipknot, Brujeria doesn‘t take the secrecy thing very seriously. “They just laugh when they read all the shit that’s written about them,” a publicist from another metal label told me.
It hardly matters, because keeping Fear Factory‘s cyber-doomsayer vibe together is a full-time job. And their rep is as strong as ever with the help of French video director Nick Mathieu and the high-production sheen he gave to the lead single, “DigiMortal.” Unfortunately, there’s such a thing as too high-tech: The video was yanked from MTV after it was discovered that its visual pyrotechnics were a potential hazard for epileptics. “So many light flashes per second can trigger a seizure, I guess,” says Cazares, chortling.
Fast-forward to España. Cazares fesses up to having fallen in love with a Valencian beauty. “I didn‘t propose, but almost.” Despite this and all the good Flemish eatin’ the band enjoyed at Olde-Wolbers‘ parents’ crib when they played Antwerp, Cazares says everyone is anxious to get back to the States and tear shit up. Due to their extreme absorption while playing, F.F. aren‘t really a tear-shit-up kinda band, stage-antics-wise. When I say this to him, there’s a palpable silence on the other end, 6,000 miles away, and it‘s not because the connection’s bad.
“Next time you come out to see us play, I‘m gonna make you eat your words.”