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Fear Factory | Archetype | interview | Raymond Herrera | metal | Lollipop
Archetype (Liquid 8)
An Interview with drummer Raymond "The Machine" Herrera
There is a lot of anger on Archetype, a lot of reflection on what Fear Factory has been through in the past two years.
Everybody seems really excited about the record. The day it leaked on the Internet was ridiculous. I got at least 150 emails from people telling me how much they loved it. The response would've been a lot worse if the record sucked. Some say what we're doing is what we did on Demanufacture, and that it's nothing new to hype over. But then other say "Fuck, it sounds GREAT because they went back to their roots!"
Unlike Digimortal, where eyebrows were raised, like, "Fear Factory is really tired."
(laughs) I actually like that record a lot, but it could've been a lot angrier, and the songs could've been a lot more developed. A lot of people like to slam that record, and that's cool, because everyone needs to have "one of those records" that everyone talks shit about.
With Archetype, you show what it's like to improve and move on from those times.
It really helped that people were so pessimistic about FF moving on without Dino. We were finishing "Slave Labor" and laughing "People are going to be like, 'holy shit!'" (laughs)
Digimortalwas your "experimental" record...
It was. A lot of people refer to it as our ...And Justice For All. I love that record, but it got the worst reviews ever!
Your drumming and timing are absolutely impeccable, unlike anything I've ever heard. What have you done to improve/perfect your technique?
Well, growing up with metal, it was all pretty much the same when it came to the drumming. It's always a one, two fast beat, and every four bars, there's a roll, and then a slow middle part with slow rolls. I wasn't into that whole idea. I wanted to do something totally different and change the landscape of metal. The other thing I didn't like about metal is that the drums always sounded like shit! That's where the whole idea of triggers came into play. I thought, "If I can get my drums to sound like a professional record AND be as fast as Slayer, that would be some new shit right there." Other factors were the way I play, and the way I write music. I'm one of the few drummers who actually writes music for the band, and yet I don't play guitar. When you hear FF songs, you can tell a drummer writes them. I'm locking in with the guitars, or the guitars are locking in with me, however you want to put it.
You're the foundation of FF. That's why I call you Raymond "The Machine" Fearrera.
(laughs) I've gotten that nickname before. A couple years ago, I started using an MPC (Midi Production Center). It's a drum sampler that's huge in hip-hop. Hip-hop artists use it to make beats and sample bass lines. Christian showed me how to use it, and it sounded interesting because I'm always trying to come up with different beats and new patterns. That's what FF is all about. So I pretty much wrote all of the tracks for Archetype with this MPC. I can use it on tour to write and save beats at any time. It's a different way of working, and it's allowed me to write beats that I couldn't even play yet. For example, I wrote the main part of the intro to "Slave Labor" at like four in the morning on the MPC. I played it for Christian the next morning, and he was like, "That's sick!" I looked at him and said, "Dude, I don't even think I can play this." And sure enough, I got on the drum kit and had trouble playing it even at half tempo. That piece of equipment alone is going to help me write so much more material at an accelerated rate.
You're going to be the new spokesperson for this unit and introduce the equipment of hip-hop into the metal world.
It's really big in the hip-hop world because it's so easy to use! I can take Burt's vocals and dump them into the unit and then write a beat around them. It's so bad ass! Because of the simplicity of its use in the hip-hop world, I turned it into something difficult and different. I am proof of what a live drummer can do with a piece of equipment like that.
One of the other things we wanted to change on this record was the use of a click track. See, the best way to keep the keyboards in time was if I followed a click track. What happens is all the songs end up with the same tempo and beat from beginning to end, and it makes the album stale. On Demanufacture, we didn't really do much with tempo changes, but on Obsolete, we had a lot of changes with keying up and slowing down. So what we did on Archetype was during the parts a drummer would naturally speed up, we really sped it up.
Are you now comfortable playing all the Archetype stuff live?
Totally. I can play the songs faster than they're recorded now.
Do you prefer this route of really fast tempos, or are you interested in having tempos change from slow to really fast, like on Obsolete?
In the future, the songs that are brutal are going to be fucking brutal. Before, every song we wrote was directed toward being a single. On this record, we made everything as sick as possible. Then, when we write the "other" types of songs, they're more epic, like "Resurrection," and that's when I tone down and play the way a regular drummer plays.
Archetypedoesn't follow the "man and machine" concept. Is FF still writing along those lines?
No. Not really. We're all huge sci-fi freaks, but I think the whole theme was hindering FF, because it made us a fairytale band rather than a real band. It overshadowed the music. And it was hard for Burt to write. Just to make a good record is really hard to do, and here he is trying to write a story, one that'll make sense from beginning to end, and we don't even know how the music is going to be written yet, you know?
A lot of people like Burton's concepts, but wish he'd write a book and focus the lyrics more on reality.
Burt did just that on this album. He started writing about topics that are very real, very now. And he had a lot to write about. He had a lot of anger. There was a lot of shit going on that we had to deal with legally and personally, and it was fuel for Burt's lyrics.
At least 65% of the people who were talking shit on the forums are the very ones praising you now.
(laughs) Exactly! I want people who were talking shit months ago to hear the record and then go back and read what they wrote. To me, that's the ultimate redemption. I held off saying anything, but sometimes, I read what those people were saying like "Do they really think all these things? These people have no idea..." We knew when we finished this record that people were going to eat their words. This record is our "shut the fuck up" record. We've gone back to the basics and are doing what we do best.
Some people were talking shit like "Yeah, they're washed up," and we're like what? People you think are your fans are suddenly talking shit because you decide to make a change. Right away, they turn on you.
That's why I rant in the forums. I'm there because FF are going stronger than ever! You came through together and have a lot of faith in each other.
Right! I have a lot of faith in Burt and Christian, and now in Byron, who started working with us right as we finished the record. Christian went over the tracks with him, and he did really well on the Australia tour. Way better than I thought he'd do.
Really? Strapping Young Lad is so tight, you'd think he'd get it immediately.
I love SYL, but Byron's picking technique is very different from FF's style. Byron has to play the bass like a guitar now.
What's it like being signed to Liquid 8 Records compared to Roadrunner?
Musically, Roadrunner gave us a lot of freedom, but they were opinionated about the music AS we were writing it. We don't like people telling us what they like and don't like when we're not even done yet. It's like having a painting halfway done and having people critique it. The label we're with now doesn't tell us what we should or shouldn't do.
Like trying to make a great movie, and some studio exec edits it because they think they know better than the director.
Yeah. There've been too many edits, in a sense. On Digimortal, that happened a lot. The "fat" was trimmed off a lot of songs, but "the fat" is needed to make them go somewhere new. Archetype is what we want to create, without the extra input. We're really proud of the record, but I was really excited with Digimortal too. But it wasn't heavy enough. I knew it needed to be heavier, but that was the main issue: People made the album sound too soft. It really wasn't. It was the fact that it was trimmed that made it sound too "clean" and over-produced. There was too much technology going on.
Burton's said that about Obsolete as well.
I don't think Obsolete was too polished. It had a really raw sound because of the bass. The drums sounded very hi-tech, but they still had this realness to them.
At the Big Day Out in Australia, when the cat was out of the bag and everyone realized it was FF and rushed the stage, how did that feel?
We weren't sure how the whole thing was going to go down. We have a lot of fans in Australia, but we came in unannounced, and there were rumors flying before we even got there. Once we started, people freaked out and rushed the stage. After the first show, everyone knew who the secret band was, so the next shows were just sick!
What can you tell us about the DVD/Digipack?
The DVD will have footage of us hanging out, shooting the video, the listening party, and everything else that Fear Factory's been doing recently. One good thing that's came out of this downloading issue is that now we have to work even harder to give the fans something worthwhile. We had to work harder on the packaging, the art, and the whole look of the album to give fans something more interactive.
Fear Factory has always been more than just the music, and I'd really like to see the visuals enhanced before the end of time.
(laughs) We still have a lot of records to do. The band is nowhere near done.
I'm sorry, can you repeat that?
(laughs) There's still a lot to be done. We'll make records until people don't want them anymore. If we weren't in this for the fans, we'd still just record shit for ourselves. I can't sit here and tell you that we're just doing this for ourselves and if people don't like it, they can go fuck themselves. That's just not true! People want us to come back with the heavy shit, and that's exactly what we're here to do.
Your friendliness and dedication to your fans makes people want to bend the rules for you and help you out.
And we bend the rules and give it right back! Shit, it's not cheap to put out a DVD and get it done right, ya know? We're going out of our way to give people a killer CD, a killer DVD package, and killer videos.
When you say "yes" to more, you never know who'll be there to invest and get involved. You're networking your ideas now more than ever.
That's part of the excitement! Getting ready to go on tour and seeing all the old faces and meeting new people. Who knows who we'll meet next or what game we'll be on next or what tour we'll do next?
The majority of people looking for great new music are young'uns. A lot of kids want to plug into your music and be a part of it, to be inspired to produce something great themselves maybe five years down the road, you know?
That's very true. That was us, ten years ago. I mean, I'm still a fan! I love hearing new shit everyday and taking music to the next level. That's what music is all about. That's what life is all about: Admiring something and wanting to do it too, to be a part of it, and to make it even better.
How do you rejuvenate between tours? What do you do during downtime? Do you just sit around, play games, and eat burritos all day?
(laughs) Yeah, I eat burritos and sit on my ass with my hat over my face and close my eyes to the world. (laughs) I'm personally not a fan of touring, but I understand that it's a necessity with this type of music. I enjoy working out and lifting weights a lot. On tour, I don't get burned out. I only really bust my ass for an hour. The rest of the time, it's a mental thing. I have my video games and email to keep in touch with people, and I'm fine. I could be on tour for three years straight and never be drained. The only thing that could drain me is the fact that I'm getting older, and maybe my body can't take as much as it used to. We haven't played live in two years, and practicing for three or four hours is not the same as doing a show. In the studio, it took me three 12-hour days to do this album. So it was spread throughout the day, whereas a show is all compact. The live show is like sprinting, and practicing is a good solid jog. At first, I was concerned because it'd been two years since I'd played hard, but after touring this short tour, I realized that I'm in better shape than drummers younger than I am, and that made me feel better.
Tell us about the cover of "School."
Christian and I weren't sure if we wanted to do a cover song this time around, but we could tell Burt really wanted to do one. He's loved Nirvana since the first album. He already had the song on tape, ready for us to learn, even though he knew we weren't sure we even wanted to do one. (laughs) We listened to it and thought, "We could turn this into a FF track." One of the things I didn't like about "Cars" was that we didn't change it enough. We kept it just like the original. We did it on purpose, because every cover we'd done before that we'd totally changed: We'd made them FF style. With "Cars," we gave it the FF sound, but didn't change the style.
There was a lot of controversy about that cover.
Yeah, there was. But to me, Gary Numan was the founder of electronics. He was the first guy to use all those sounds and synths that made me go "What the fuck is this?" So to work with him was a dream come true. For the Nirvana cover, we knew we had to Fear Factory it out, put some precision stuff in there, make it sick. It turned out exactly the way we wanted it.
What's up with a covers EP?
Christian and I have been talking about doing a covers album. And I'm not talking about the stuff we've already covered. Maybe a Terrorizer song, songs by Sodom, Kreator, and Gorilla Biscuits. Slayer's Undisputed Attitude inspired the idea. That was done very, very well. You hear that covers record, and the Rage one, and that's what we want to do. That goes back to the thing of being inspired as a fan. We want to take what those bands did, take their sickest songs, and then take them to the next level. And then the next band will hear our record and say "I want to do that even better!"
You should definitely go for it. Do anything and everything because you can now.
Exactly. One of the beautiful things about this business is that we're the boss. We can decide to put out a remix record, and we're actually working on it. We can do whatever we want. One of the things we've been thinking about for the cover album is to ask the forums what they think we should cover.
Alain already started that. I don't know how many pages it is so far, but it's pretty long.
Yeah, I'm actually impressed with some of the ideas. Little things like that are something we want to do more of. We weren't in touch with our fans much in the past, but we want to be now.
If it wasn't for the forums, I wouldn't have the contacts I have now. Your little community has really pulled together to make people aware of what's going on with FF, as well as getting to know one another.
We have the personal emails for each of us on there, and I get a lot of email from people with new ideas. I tell anyone who wants in on something to send me some info and then we'll get things rolling. I had one guy, a huge fan, email me about his idea to release our record in South Africa. We were trying to figure out how to get to all the different countries when he happened to email. So we contacted him, as well as our label, and sure enough, three weeks later, this guy is in charge of the new album in his country. Now we're setting up a tour there as well, all thanks to him emailing me.
People in many countries have stated that FF wasn't allowed in their country, and that dumbfounds me.
There are a lot of places we've never been, but that had a lot to do with the people booking us, and a lot of legal stuff. Because we'd never been to some of these countries, they weren't sure how many shows we could do, and there was a lot of political stuff involved. But now, we have one booking agency covering us worldwide. We no longer have two or three companies fighting each other. We're touring countries this summertime that we've never been to before. Everything's being redone from the bottom up, from the music writing, to the label, to the promotion and marketing, to the radio. We think of all the shit we went through, and all the places we went to, and all the stuff we had to blow through to get here, and it's really amazing.
You took the initiative and refused to be lead astray.
Exactly. It ended up that the three of us stuck together, no matter what. When shit got ugly, we put our heads down and just kept writing. And when we popped our heads back up, it'd all worked itself out.
Are you working on new shit yet?
We have a lot of leftover parts we just couldn't fit it into Archetype. Christian has a set-up so we can save whatever catches us at the time. It's kind of like a junkyard. When we're on tour, we'll go through those pieces and take the best out and start writing the next record, slowly but surely.
Will Byron contribute to future writing?
He hasn't yet contributed music-wise because of the timeframe he came in, but if he comes up with something dope, yeah, of course we're going to use it. Just like when Christian joined the band during Demanufacture when Dino and I already had a lot set, but then he wrote a lot for Obsolete.
Christian definitely belongs with a guitar in his hands. In recent live pics, he looks so happy, right where he belongs.
It's the same toy, in a sense. But there's so much we had to prove with this record because of everything that's happened. Not only with the whole band breaking up for a while, but also with all the shit people talked. We had so many levels of proving ourselves on this record that it really made the record that much better.