Interview with Byron Stroud, Fear Factory/City of Fire (January 2010)

 

Byron Stroud has been around the heavy-metal block a few times: thrash band Caustic Thought in the early '90s, Fear Factory since 2003, Devin Townsend's Strapping Young Lad and his own humorous side project, Zimmers Hole.

The bassistís new Vancouver-based band, City Of Fire, featuring Fear Factory's Burton C. Bell on vocals, as well as fellow friends from Caustic Thought, have created a surprisingly organic and melodic album full of great and diverse songs. With a new Fear Factory album due Feb. 9th, a brief City Of Fire tour under his belt, Byron can't help but feel stoked about his bands' future.

Calling from Vancouver, Byron spoke with me about City Of Fire, Devin Townsend and the new Fear Factory album.

City Of Fire has really been creating a buzz within the metal world and getting great reviews and write-ups. How's that make you feel?

I'm real happy. A couple of guys in the band I played with before in a band called Caustic Thought, Devin and Jed Simon also were in it, we learned our chops in that band. It's fun to play with old friends again and we wanted to make a record that we've always wanted to make. Same with Burton. I'm glad people have been liking it, and it's getting good response and we'd like to take it as far as we can.

Tell me how you, Burton and the other members got together to create City of Fire.

In March of Ď08, Bob Wagner (drums) and Ian White (guitars) contacted me about doing a Caustic Thought reunion show in Vancouver. Jed was going to do it too but had to drop out, so Terry "Sho" Murray stepped in to play the show, and it went well. Then we had a meeting and decided to start jamming full time again because we realized we had something really cool. We started demoing the songs in August of '08, and I thought this would be music that Burton would be down with because of our time hanging out with each other in Fear Factory. I knew he would like it. So we did demos without vocals and sent them to Burton, then we flew him out to Vancouver in November of '08 and started demoing the tracks to some kick-ass songs. Then he flew back out in January of '09 and we started to record the album, and here we are now.

Is the band's name a direct reference to the city of Vancouver?

Well, yeah, absolutely. It's just becoming so hard to find a great band name lately. When you think of something and then go on the Internet, 20 other bands have the same name! Burton's always loved the vibe here in Vancouver, since we recorded a Fear Factory album here.

He's always loved Vancouver and loved making music here. It wasn't my favorite name, but we felt it represented the sound the band has. Even the artwork has a picture of the city on it. It just represents the creativity that Burton has while in Vancouver.

Was there any pressure on you to this this album?

No, not at all! We did it all ourselves. We formed our own label, we financed the record ourselves, there were no deadlines, no record company pressure to make the record, we didn't have to send off demos.

It was amazing.

With the way the record industry has been changing, did you feel that you needed total control over the album?

I think so. Even in Zimmers Hole when we were signed to Century Media, we had such a small budget that we ended up having to put our own money into it anyways and they were getting the benefits. Why go into debt while the record company reaps all the benefits? So we decided to skip all that and have the music be sold on our label and we'll figure out that shit ourselves. There is a downfall, though: It doesn't reach as many people, but we've done pretty well on our own.

With members from Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad and Zimmers Hole, City Of Fire does have these bandsí influences, but it also is a mix of other elements not known to the aforementioned bands. How did you create such a great mix of songs?

We had a lot of songs! Sixteen or 17 written. There are influences of our own past and sounds of the early '90s on the record itself. We didn't want songs that sounded the same, with a similar chorus or verse. We wanted them to be as diverse as possible within our sound.

We worked to make it a diverse record from front to back, to have character and a different sound, and I think that's what we created.

You've been involved in the metal scene for a while and have played in some influential bands. What do you think of the current metal scene?

I haven't really checked out the current metal scene. I'm just so busy with my own music that I find it hard to find other bands that I enjoy. I'm busy with making City Of Fire, sessions and tours with Fear Factory that I don't listen to too much outside music because I might wind up stealing someone elseís sound, so I avoid listening to anything else. I haven't listened to any other stuff except my own music, but once I'm off tour I can relax and listen to what's out there. But right now, I can't say what I like or don't like, other than my own music.

How did you decide to do a cover of The Cult's "Rain"?

It was always a song that reminded me of Vancouver, where it rains a lot. I'm not a huge fan of The Cult, but it's a heavy song. I used to suggest playing it while in Fear Factory, and nobody was into it. But since we had more control over this record, I mentioned it again to Burton, and we wanted to make it heavy like Godflesh. I don't know if we achieved that, but we made a cool version, and it plays off the other songs on the record well.

What kind of tours have you been on lately?

City Of Fire did a brief West Coast tour in November. We did eight dates and finished up in Vancouver. We wanted to get out and play live because we really hadn't played together as a band except for in the studio. We had some good shows and got good response, then I went to LA to rehearse for Fear Factory, then we went and played in South America and the shows were great. City Of Fire had to postpone the UK tour that was supposed to happen at the beginning of January because of finances. It really sucks, but we just couldn't get the financial backing. Maybe another time of the year when we can go so people can see the show that they deserve to see. We're trying to get a proper release of the album. We have labels interested that I don't want to disclose at this time, but hopefully it will happen in six months.

What's the word on the new Fear Factory album?

It's kick-ass! It sounds good. It's back to our roots. Dino has something to prove. It's the perfect mix of Fear Factory and Strapping Young Lad.

How's Dino getting along with the rest of the band after being away for so long?

Dino's getting along well, but he and Burton had some things to work out. They've been rekindling their friendship and worked out their differences and they're buddies again. When we all got back together, the music just started flowing. The music is more mechanical and, as I said, back to the roots, like on "Demanufacture." It has that "machine" sound, it's more brutal. Dino's guitar playing kept getting better and better, more technical and brutal, and there's catchy choruses that Burton is known for.

Will you be collaborating with Devin Townsend on anything in the future?

Well, Devin's basically a genius, but a tortured genius. Doing SYL was hard on him. Coming up with the lyrics to go with that music was exhausting for him. And when he stopped doing SYL, we were kind of expecting it, so we try not to force him to come back. He never really got to enjoy success, he was tortured by it. It was emotionally draining making SYL records and playing shows. He's doing his own thing now. He's an amazing guy to work with and play live with. We're basically all available for him. We have no plans (to play together again), but I can't see it not happening someday.

What's next for City Of Fire?

Take it to the world and play live. The average fan needs to hear it live, for us to just get on the road and play.

Care to say something to your fans?

For the Fear Factory fans, get ready for the new record "Mechanize" on Candlelight Records out on February 9th. City Of Fire fans, go to cityoffire.com and check out what we're all about. Hopefully you'll like it.

 

Interviewed by Kelley Simms
City of Fire - City of Fire

Album available on ShoStroud Productions/Cyclone Empire.

Website: www.cityoffire.com