Front Line Assembly
Hard Wired (Metropolis)
An interview with Rhys Fulber
by Lex Marburger
Front Line Assembly has been devastating dance floors since the mid-’80s. Always at the forefront, their mix of dance, industrial, and electro music has always kept them ahead of would be pretenders. With their newest album, Hard Wired (Metropolis), they once again set the standard for electro-industrial bands both here and in Europe. Hard Wired is full of creepy intros, ambient journeys, and brutal assaults. The guitars are both live and sampled, so you get a powerful live band feel, while the samples, which continually bring up immortality and life after death, and the heavy keyboard sound, make it perfect for darkened dance floors and steel cages. I had a chance to talk with Rhys Fulber, who, in addition to the transcription below, had a lot to say about American beers “Like making love in a canoe: Fucking close to water,” as well as – hell, just read for yourself.
The new album, Hard Wired is not much like Millennium, is it?
Really? A lot of people have said it’s quite close, but I don’t think it’s anything like it, personally. It’s not like we backed off from using guitar, it’s just that we did it in a different way. In Millennium, the guitars were sampled for the most part, so they were looping and in-your-face all the time. On Hard Wired, we wanted to use the guitars more for impact, rather than having them chug away. I thought we used them better on Hard Wired than Millennium, because we sat down and thought about how we wanted to use them.
Did your ambient projects (Synesthesia, Delirium…) have anything to do with that?
Well, Synesthesia wasn’t really our project, we were more just producers. We’ve always been into that kind of thing. On Hard Wired we wanted to make an assimilation of all the areas we’ve covered, to make a complete Front Line record. We could go more in the Millennium direction, but we try to make each record different from the last. We learned a lot from Millennium, I think now we know how to integrate everything a little better. For the most part, all the guitars on Hard Wired are played straight to tape, as opposed to all the sampling.
When you tour, you’ll have a live band?
We’ve got Jed (Simon), who plays guitar for Strapping Young Lad, and Adrian (White), who’s the drummer in Strapping, he also plays with us live. They’re KILLER players (Check out the album Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing).
And when does the tour start?
In April, along with Die Krupps and Numb (in Boston on April 14). I think having Die Krupps along will make it a bit of an event. We just traded remixes with them. They did three of our tunes, and we did three of theirs. We sort of slowed down the songs and made them half time, keeping the crunching guitars, but with an FLA feel.
You’ve got another disc coming out?.
Plasticity. It’s taken from the Hard Wired sessions, but we thought it would be cool to release a single that wasn’t on the album. There’re no guitars on it (chuckle). I was just talking to our label in Germany, and it’s funny; people always used to give us shit about having guitars on Millennium, and then we release Plasticity, and everyone asks, “How come you ain’t got no guitars on it?” To me, Millennium sounds so Front Line, I can’t believe that people would think that we were trying to be some sort of Rock band. It’s totally mechanical, it’s aggressive, yeah, but it’s not metal. We do call Jed “Commander Metal” though. When you see him, you’ll understand.
Both he and Adrian are damn good. They play like machines. They’re exactly what we were looking for. We recorded a live album in Germany, which will be coming out with a live video after the American tour, and that’s a really good way for people to hear Front Line ’cause we are a completely live band. We’ll have a light show, some televisions, the works. We always try to make ourselves look like something other than a bunch of guys standing around with keyboards. I mean, on our albums, we try to create an atmosphere with all the ambient stuff, and we do the same with our live shows.
You’ve been playing with some pretty diverse bands (Motörhead, Type O Negative). How do you feel about performing with them?
I look at things from the angle of “Heavy Music,” and you can put Techno, Metal, and Industrial in that category. To me, it’s all kind of similar and deserves not to be over-categorized. I think it should be left as Hard Music, and you could throw lots of people in there… you don’t have to use guitars to be Heavy. I think other people are starting to see that as well, so there’s less of a barrier. The kind of people we usually used to get were the industrial heads, the short-hair guys, “rivet-heads” y’know. But in Germany, we got a big Gothic following, and we get a lot of people who look like they work at banks. So all in all, it’s gotten pretty diverse.
How does the “atmosphere” that you build on your albums translate to live shows?
Bill and I do a lot of improvisation before and after the set, we usually jam out for awhile, getting a very ambient feel. Even though people are there for the beats and guitars, we like to get a little self indulgent and go off on tangents. On the live album, we did a lot of that. We’ve got lots of samples, and I have a tape recorder with a bunch of weird sounds on it. We can certainly make a lot of noise up there. We start the set off with “Mortal,” and we layer a lot of stuff on top of that. It certainly creates a tone when we come in on the heavier songs. It’s really ominous. And we’re really loud.