Fear Factory's Dino Cazares on living in the technocratic world the act's been singing about

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The group's sound, a blend of melodic vocals, gruff and sweeping atmospherics, crunchy, brutal guitar work and relentless percussion, has often been imitated, but it's the small details in the mix that have always set Fear Factory apart. The band's latest record, 2012's The Industrialist, could sit alongside Killing Joke's most recent release in terms of the primal tones, dreaminess and aggression. We recently had the chance to speak with the good-humored and friendly Dino Cazares about brujeria, Demanufacture, his use of seven-string guitars and how The Industrialist is about the power of discovery.

Westword: You were in Excruciating Terror before Fear Factory. That was kind of around the dawn of the existence of grindcore. How did you become aware of that kind of music and become involved with it?

Dino Cazares: I used to work at a music store on Hollywood Boulevard, and a guy came in saying that his band needed a guitar player, so I said, "Okay, what's the name of your band?" He told me the name of the band, and I said I would go down and try out. I tried out, and it was basically a straight-up grindcore band. There was some good stuff about them, but they didn't have the work ethic that I was looking for. I wanted to make it in the music industry. I wanted it to be my career.

I lasted in the band for about a month. I had another band with Raymond [Herrera] called Ulceration. I thought I kind of wanted to do a band with him. Ulceration had more of a Godflesh vibe. Then I ran into the drummer of Fear Factory and said, "I think the three of us would make a great band." I first got with Burton [C. Bell] and then with Raymond, and I left Excruciating Terror after a month. I literally played one show with them and I was out.

How would you say that Godflesh influenced the early development of Fear Factory?

Just being a fan of Earache Records and everything that was coming out on that label. Everything from Carcass, Napalm Death, Godflesh -- all those bands. Godflesh was probably the one band that hit home with me, just extreme, fucking heavy stuff, heavy industrial stuff like I'd never heard in that extreme before. Burton and I wanted to start a band like that, and that was Ulceration.

So Ulceration was kind of an industrial-ish, grindcore-ish band?

I would call it just a straight-up industrial Godflesh rip-off -- because Godflesh had nothing fast. It just had more the overtones of heavy metal but just tuned way lower and way heavier.

Yeah, because Streetcleaner you could never say is very fast at all like grindcore in its usual form.

Totally. We were totally like Streetcleaner.

What did Brujeria allow you to do and to express that maybe you weren't able to in other bands?

That was my first band, believe it or not. That was the first band I started with a couple of other guys before Fear Factory, but you probably didn't hear about it until after Fear Factory. That was just us wanting to cross boundaries with Latin music. We wanted to sing in Spanish. We noticed no one was really doing extreme metal like that in Spanish. There was a very famous drug lord in Mexico that also believed in the occult and Satanism, and they sacrificed people.

Are you talking about Adolfo Constanzo in Matamoros?

Yes. Exactly. I don't want to go into full detail, but we saw that in the newspaper in 1987 or 1988 or around there. We were like, "Okay, fuck, this is sick." All of a sudden we said, "Let's start a band!" The singer said, "Well, I'm not really a singer, but fuck it, I'll try it." That's kind of how it came about. We just wanted to go somewhere different with it. We took the concept of what happened in Matamoros and just created a band out of it. And that's pretty much what it was. In between Fear Factory records, I was doing those records.

After we finished the second Fear Factory record, Demanufacture, I went in and did a Brujeria record called Raza Odiada, and I think that everything I learned from making the Demanufacture record, when I did the Raza Odiada, the second Brujeria album, the quality of it shot way up compared to the first record [for both bands].

Obviously, years later, I took my Brujeria character, Asesino, and what it was about, the story behind that person, and created my other project Asesino. Basically he's a hired assassin. He was a hired assassin for Brujeria, and now he's got his own army and his own crew, and he kills people. Asesino was a much more extreme version of Brujeria but it has its own vibe, kind of like how Divine Heresy was a much more extreme version of Fear Factory. You know, guitar solos, really fast tempos and so on.

I try to do something a little different for each of my projects. Brujeria was, lyrically, about politics, Satanism and drugs. Asesino, lyrically, was about raping, killing and Satanism. Divine Heresy was definitely lyrically different from Fear Factory. Fear Factory was more futuristic, and Divine Heresy was more everyday stuff.

Continue reading for more from Cazares.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.