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Deb Rao's Exclusive Interview With Fear Factory Drummer Raymond Herrera

By Debby Rao, Boston Contributor
Friday, October 13, 2006 @ 6:37 AM

New Fear Factory album in pre-

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In the early 90’s, Fear Factory was one of the first bands to start the musical trend of mixing techno, electronica, and metal. Their unique sound of death metal captured the attention of fans worldwide. Over the years, the band has been through a huge musical change with the departure of Dino Cazares.

Fear Factory are back stronger than ever, and still riding high on their 2005 release, "Transgression." Fear Factory will be embarking on the North American Tour Machines at War, which is slated to kick of October 26 in Northern California.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss the upcoming tour, present line-up, and the Making of "Transgression" with Fear Factory drummer Raymond Herrera.

KNAC.COM: Good to hear from you Raymond. Fear Factory are getting ready to embark on the Machines At War Tour, which is slated to begin October 26 in San Francisco. Also on the bill will be Hypocrisy, Suffocation, and Decapitated. What can the fans expect to see on this upcoming tour?

HERRERA: This is one of the heaviest tours that Fear Factory has ever done. Over the years, we have done many tours. We essentially wanted to do more of where the band kind of came from. Fear Factory started out very, very heavy, more on the death metal side than anything else. This tour kind of pays homage to that and the band.

KNAC.COM: I noticed that the fans are actually going to be picking your set list for this. How did that transpire?

HERRERA: Yes, we actually have asked online and said what songs do people want to hear. Because over the year, we have an idea, of what people want to listen to. It has been pretty interesting to see what songs people actually picked. It is pretty good.

KNAC.COM: That is awesome that the fans are getting involved. Will you be playing a lot of songs off of “Transgression? Fear factory has such a huge repertoire, to pick from over their extensive career.

HERRERA: I think we are doing three songs off of “Transgression”. Actually, what it boils down to is, two to three songs off of every record. Because we have six records now, so if we play tow or three songs off of every record, you are talking 18 songs. Every time you do a record, it becomes very interesting to pick what songs, you are going to do, or not going to do. If we played all the songs, that we want to play, we would end up being onstage for three hours. Usually, we play an hour and a half that is usually what we have been setting our sets at.

KNAC.COM: Is there going to be any special stage show, on the upcoming tour?

HERRERA: We have always been more about the band, than the stage show, or theatrics, or pyro. We always have always been very stripped down, when it comes to the show. . It is very honest, and very in your face, and it is more about the music and about the show. It is us playing, and that is pretty much it.

KNAC.COM: The fans will be happy, you are going back to your heavy roots, and this tour is going to be all about that...like Fear Factory in the early 90’s.

HERRERA: For the most part, we always felt, if we are going to do a tour that is very heavy, we should bring back most of the songs that are along the lines of being on the death metal side. Ever since “Demanufacture”, we kind of became more of a polished band, and were more about real songs, and real song structure, and melodies. Where as our first record, was more of a death metal record than anything else.

KNAC.COM: How do you think the fans accepted Transgression?” It is kind of an experimental album, isn’t it?

HERRERA: Yes, you are right, for lack of a better term, it is sort of an experimental album. I kind of really don’t like that word, but that is what it really is, if you have to put it in a category. It is probably more experimental than anything else.

KNAC.COM: “Transgression” is the band’s second record without Dino. Was the song writing process different in any way on this album?

HERRERA: Actually no. Vocals came in extremely late in the game, so couldn’t really write about vocals too much. It was more of collaboration between Christian (Olde Wolbers) and myself, and we just started writing music really young. We started writing music, when we started touring for “Archetype”. Musically the album was a long time coming. There were a couple of songs that didn’t make it on the record that were really heavy and really fast. And probably really would have changed the landscape of the record. So I think the album became an experimental album toward the late stages.

KNAC.COM: Was that because of the record company? Did the new label ever influence the sound of the record?

HERRERA: No, I think it was more of a time issue. I think Burt (Burton C. Bell) towards the end of the cycle there, we kind of ran out of time. He didn’t get to finish vocals on every song that we have, so we kind of went with whatever songs did have vocals on them. The label did kind of stick to their guns, on the date that they chose. They didn’t want a fourth quarter record. They wanted a third quarter record that is what we gave them. We thought that maybe we could push it back if we had to. But we found out, we really couldn’t push it back. In Hindsight, the record is different. I think in sense that it is kind of a good thing. I like the fact that Fear Factory can do things that are kind of out of bounds. They are kind of things that might be taboo. It keeps it interesting. It kind of keeps our fans guessing to what we are going to do next.

KNAC.COM: Right, you never want to make the same record twice.

HERRERA: I mean that is the interesting thing. Essentially “Archetype” is the proof, that the band could still be very heavy, without a member of the band. That was the point of “Archetype”. The funny thing about that is that I remember seeing a lot of reviews and a lot of comments saying that didn’t sound like Fear Factory. Well that was the point. So this time around, we do something different, and they say it is experimental. So I mean, you can never please everybody, but that being said, I actually don’t mind the fact that it is a different record, that if we would have done "Archetype Part Two." We are kind of a band that likes to throw a wrench into the process, and do something a little different. I am surprised that people are not really use to that. I mean look at what we have done over the past fifteen years we have done some stuff that is very different.

KNAC.COM: I understand what you are saying. You can never really please everyone. I like the diversity of the new album. It shows how the band has grown musically over the years. Do you agree?

HERRERA: Yes, it shows diversity, and shows we can do other things that what you are use to us doing. Fear factory from the get co, was dominantly more death meal than anything. There were still a lot of ingredients, in the first fear Factory record that were taboo. The fact that we didn’t have guitar solos, the fact that we had all of these keyboard samples. Things that was very industrial, at the time. The fact that we had a singer that could sing, as well as scream those ingredients on our first record made it very different, although it was death metal.

KNAC.COM: Whose idea was it to combine techno with metal?

HERRERA: You could probably blame that on Dino and I. I have always been into techno; the reason I got into techno was video games. I just always loved techno music. We thought if you were to add a techno beat, or dance groove essentially, underlining a really heavy guitar riff, or vocals, nobody was doing that back then. So we were the guys that said you know what? We are going to try and combine that and add a little bit of an industrial element and connect the two, like electronica, and we did. Soon after that everybody started doing the remixes. A lot of the new ingredients that people call nu-metal, were all the ingredients that we were doing back in the early 90’s. A lot of people actually blame us for the whole nu-metal thing. I guess that could be good, that could be bad. Some people are really against nu-metal. Some people that are really into classic metal like AC/DC and Black Sabbath are really against nu-metal. People that wouldn’t to metal will listen to nu-metal. It is a gateway into liking metal. It has a lot of elements that are even in pop music, or even top forty music.

KNAC.COM: I think it is a good thing. There is room for all kinds of metal actually.

HERRERA: There are so many ways you can turn a regular song, into a death metal song, by making your tones, or making the drums fiercer. You could easily take that track and make it a Top Forty rock song. You can do so many things you can do with the choruses, all of a sudden, it is a catchy chorus. It blurs the whole vision between being really heavy metal, or about being satanic and killing your parents. That has never really been the cause anyway; it kind of got this facade. Now it is totally changed. Metal kind of has a new face now.

KNAC.COM: Whose idea was to do a rendition of the U2 song, "I will follow?"

HERRERA: That was Burt’s idea. We were actually going to do a cover of “New Years Day,” back when we did the “Obsolete” record. Because of certain issues, through the luck we were able to get Gary Numan to do vocals on the "Cars song, we ended up doing "Cars" instead. We kind of always in the back of our minds wanted to do a U2 cover, because that is one of the bands, we all respected. That is my favorite band in the world. So Burt said let’s do "I Will Follow", and I said why not?

KNAC.COM: Let’s talk how the line-up has changed since Dino’s departure. Your bass player is now your guitarist, and has really stepped up to the plate and doing a great job. How do you think Christian’s style differs from Dino’s?

HERRERA: He is doing a great job, and he is incredibly tight. It really blows my mind how much he has progressed as a guitar player. To be quite honest with you, I don’t want to point fingers, or even blame anybody for anything, because it is not even a blame game…the reason that “Transgression” came out very different is because in my honest opinion, on "Archetype", he was still trying to fill in the shoes of Dino. It is kind of like, no matter how good you are, you are going to be the guy just filling in the shoes. I think on “Transgression, he wanted to take what this band does, and take it to a different level. It may not be the next level, but it is going to be at least an equivalent level to a different sound. He wanted to kind of just lay his signature down, and get out of behind the shadows of Dino. The industry, and so many fans, when they see Fear Factory know, they say the band is tighter than it has ever been. This is coming from people I can honestly respect, not just people that are going to tell me what I am going to hear. They are being brutally honest. They say this band has never been this tight before, and I think it a lot of it has to do with Christian. He cares so much as being a perfectionist; it really shows onstage in his playing. Obviously, it was a good move for us to do what we did.

KNAC.COM: Yes, you can always tell when someone is giving 100 percent in their performance onstage and someone is not. I think it always shows in the performance.

HERRERA: Of course, the band is in a better place. Everybody in the band is happy. Everything is moving forward even though we are in a band that is heavy, and angry, you almost have to be angry to be in this business and to this type of music. We really have nothing to be angry (about). Essentially, we have to play angry, because that is the part that we kind of made for ourselves. It is kind of interesting because I still see the anger and aggression onstage, but I know everybody is really happy.

KNAC.COM: Byron (Stroud) also plays bass for Strapping Young Lad. Are there any conflicts of interests between touring with two bands?

HERRERA: Byron has been doing a lot of touring lately. It was really interesting the whole thing worked out, because we were looking for a bass player. I think originally Christian was like, who are we going to have play guitar? I was really pushing for Christian to play guitar, because I know when he joined the band with us originally he was a guitar player and we turned him into a bass player. His picking sound was so tight; we needed someone to that on the bass. So when we were looking for a bass player, one of the first people that Christian mentioned was Byron. We hung out with him, when we were up in Vancouver, doing the Obsolete" record. We got to be friends with the guy. Byron has been on the road nonstop ever since he has joined our band, because of both bands’ album cycles. When we are home, the next week he has to go on tour with Strapping Young Lad.

KNAC.COM: Fear Factory is on Calvin/Liquid 8 Records now. What was your reaction when you heard that you were on the same label with Vanilla Ice? Really Liquid 8 didn’t have much experience working with heavy metal bands.

HERRERA: (Laughter) Actually, we are really good friends with Rob (Van Winkle). We have known Rob for many years. Most people know him as Vanilla Ice. I actually found out about Smokey Robinson and Dolly Parton before I heard about Vanilla Ice being on the label. Calvin/Liquid 8 Records wanted to be involved in metal, but they didn’t really have the history of that. That isn’t something you just jump into. The beautiful thing about the way that worked out is that we were able to call the shots of how, we wanted things to run. It really gave us a lot more freedom to do what we wanted to do. It was all about, how we are going to do things, when are we are going to do things, how far we are going to take things. As far as the music, it is all about what we wanted to write. They didn’t want to get involved in telling us how to do our jobs. This is the most freedom that we ever had. Even with Roadrunner, they have never really been that bad about telling bands what to do. So we were kind of use to that. But being able to be that way on a marketing level, we really had a lot of control on the "Archetype" record. It really worked out for everybody. It was a great feeling, until we started doing the "Transgression" record, and they forced the third quarter date on us. In all honestly, that is only thing that they forced us to do. The songs that are on "Transgression" are fully complete. Essentially, you can never put a stamp on music that is done, because this is creativity. It could go on for 50 years. It depends on when you want to create a deadline for yourself. As much as we do music for ourselves, we do music for our fans. If it wasn’t for our fans, I could just do demos in my basement. But we want to write music for people, as much as we do.

KNAC.COM: How did your headlining tour in Australia go?

HERRERA: Last time we visited Australia, was on the “Archetype” record, which was a couple of years ago. This was the tour for the “Transgression” record. This actually our first sold out tour of Australia. We have always done really well in Australia. I think we are one of the most appeared bands out there. We have been out there seven or eight times .Not only is the flight really brutal, it is really expensive to go out there. The dollar is not worth as much as our dollar. The pay is usually not as high, as you were playing The States. I think we really went above and beyond the call of duty on this last tour, because we brought two American bands with us. We brought out Devil Driver and Dry Kill Logic. These Australians fans are really into metal. They love music. They love going to shows. Their country is amazingly beautiful. Australia is very exotic. I think for a long time there the fans were getting the short end of the stick.

KNAC.COM: Also in 2005, Fear Factory performed on the Gigantour. How did you like working with Dave Mustaine?

HERRERA: Yes, we did that last year. That was a lot of fun. We had Dream Theater out there (and) we had Anthrax on the last few weeks of the tour. It is like a traveling camp. You are with the same people every day. You see everybody for two months. We had such a great time on that tour. Dave really treated us well. The fans were really happy to see a fairly price ticket, for a lot of music. Things like that are more for the fans, than it is for the whole corporate thing. I like that. A lot of the time, fans gets gutted with the really big-ticket prices. A lot of times, it is only maybe one or two bands that they want to see. It was really good to see someone really doing something that was really going to benefit the fans, more than the bands themselves. It is not easy putting a festival together with security. Every body really has to be on the same page. A lot of people are involved in the production side. You are talking 10,000 to 20,000 people.

KNAC.COM: At the metal festival in Missouri the show was stopped because of a girl getting hurt in the audience and Fear Factory didn’t get to perform. What happened?

HERRERA: Saliva had some issues, and they had to pull out of the festival. We got a call at the eleventh hour and they said we really need a band bad to come and do the show. We talked to the promoter, got the contracts all going. We fly there to do the show, and it turns out that (there were) three bands before us and one was American Head Charge. Now I wasn’t there for this but this is what I was told, at the end of their set their guitar player tossed, not threw a bottle. Well it ended up hitting some girl, in the face. The girl started bleeding, the cops came in, making a big deal out of it. They shut it down, twenty minutes later. The next band started to play, and two songs into their set, the cops shot the whole thing down. We didn’t get to play. It was surreal. I never heard anything else about the girl I hope she is ok.

KNAC.COM: Sometimes concerts can get out of control. Will the band be going into the studio after the tour is finished?

HERRERA: Well I have my own studio now. I acquired it with B Real (Cypress Hill). We bought the studio back in January. I am in the studio pretty much all the time. I have my drums set up; I can track at a moment’s notice. I am going to start doing some tracking on the new Fear Factory record, as we are doing pre-production, I am going to just start tracking drums. I can go in there, if it is 2 o’clock in the morning, and do what I want. It is great. I love it.

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