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Rise Of The Machine: The untold story of Fear Factory's Demanufacture

In the summer of ’95, Fear Factory unleashed a futuristic masterpiece that would influence metal for decades. As they prepare to tour Demanufacture in full, we get its inside story...

It’s easy to forget that the future is created in the here and now.

When Fear Factory released second album Demanufacture in 1995, it pointedly and powerfully predicted both metal’s future and the runaway train of interactive technology and artificial intelligence. More importantly, it changed the way heavy music sounded forever.

In truth, Fear Factory were not the most likely candidates for widespread success. Their 1991 debut, Soul Of A New Machine, was an extraordinarily fresh and inventive extreme metal record that took its cues from death metal, grindcore and industrial music, with vocalist Burton C. Bell’s then-unprecedented method of switching from guttural growl to haunting croon proving the element that contributed most to the band’s perceived uniqueness. But it wasn’t until 1993’s similarly groundbreaking Fear Is The Mindkiller remix EP that Burton and guitarist Dino Cazares’s musical vision would be truly brought to life. Comprising new versions of songs from their debut, dismantled and rebuilt by Rhys Fulber of industrial heavyweights Frontline Assembly, the record’s joyous cross-pollination set Fear Factory on the right track and towards the album that would soon define their career.

Fear Is The Mindkiller is what we wanted to be,” Dino says today. “We just didn’t have the technology to do that at first. We didn’t have the keyboard samples or the old-school computers that guys like Rhys were using. So we’d try to emulate the machine with guitars, bass, drums and vocals. If you listen to old industrial bands like KMFDM or Ministry, they’d sample a metal riff and then loop it so it was the same riff over and over. Well, we were trying to copy that.”

“Dino was trying to find a way to turbocharge their music and soup it up a little bit,” explains Rhys. “Fear Is The Mindkiller got the band into industrial clubs where they wouldn’t have been played before. When it came to the next record, they asked me to bring more of that stuff into their music.”

Instrumental in signing Fear Factory to Roadrunner all those years ago, renowned metal A&R Monte Conner (now of Nuclear Blast) plainly saw the potential in the band’s idiosyncratic approach, and he maintains that what they were doing was revolutionary.

“Fear Factory were pioneering from the beginning,” he insists. “Those vocals started on that first album – a brutal death metal band were putting in these poppy choruses, and how groundbreaking was that? But the goal when they were making Demanufacture was to evolve away from death metal and towards something completely new.”

Thanks to the diverse tastes of all involved, Fear Factory were never destined to be another generic metal band. From death metal and industrial to electronica and soundtracks, everything the band loved was coalescing into a new and thrillingly unfamiliar identity. The early 90s were not the most auspicious time for metal in commercial terms, but alongside the likes of Sepultura, Pantera, Machine Head and Korn, Fear Factory were throwing the genre a lifeline by simply devising a new way of doing things.

“We had this vision of how we wanted Fear Factory to sound and it took us a while to grasp and understand our craft, and how to get to that point,” states Burton. “At the time of Demanufacture, everything came together. Lyrically, conceptually and sonically, the arrangements, the production… it all just clicked.”

“We weren’t afraid of taking chances,” Dino adds, “but we were really just doing what we liked. Making bigger choruses or bringing in the techno elements, it was like, ‘This is the shit we like, so let’s do it!’ We had nothing to lose.”

As Fear Factory’s music evolved, so did the band’s conceptual core. Although history may tend to paint the band as sci-fi nerds, perpetually banging on about man’s impending battle with robots, the true inspiration behind *Demanufacture *and its tales of rebellion against a corrupt technologically advanced elite came from the reality of life on the streets of Los Angeles in the first half of the 90s.

“From 1990 to 1995, there were fires, floods and riots,” Dino explains. “In 1994 there was a big earthquake. So we saw LA being destroyed. We saw all the looters, we saw people shooting each other, we saw the National Guard patrolling our streets at night. So we were living it. Burt was able to channel all of that and put it into Demanufacture. The first line you hear on the album is ‘Desensitised by the values of life…’ That was what we saw.” 

Demanufacture was a concept album, but it was inspired by true events,” adds Burton. “We were in a hostile environment. The whole time leading up to the riots, you could sense tension in the air, between everybody. Everyone was a target. No one trusted the police. It was surreal. There were guys on top of buildings with semi-automatic rifles, protecting their goods. We were living in Demanufacture times, fighting against the man and struggling for survival.”

With high expectations, an incendiary concept and a handsome budget from an optimistic Roadrunner, Fear Factory began work on Demanufacture at the legendary Chicago Trax studio, chosen primarily because industrial mainstays like Ministry and Skinny Puppy had recorded there. 

“That studio was a fucking wreck,” Dino recalls with a sigh. “We started recording drums, the computer kept crashing, people were selling drugs out of the studio. We were like, ‘We need to get the fuck out of here!’”

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