Lisa Selvaggio: So you’re keeping really busy lately with all of your bands, particularly being on tour right now for Fear Factory and doing interviews for City of Fire. How’s everything been overall?
Byron Stroud: I’m kinda used to it because back in the day I’d do Strapping Young Lad and Zimmer’s Hole, my two bands. We’d tour together. And then I joined Fear Factory, and I had three bands. So I’ve been pretty used to it. In the last few years, we’ve had some time off, concentrating on getting things going with City of Fire. And now it’s coming up again where all of a sudden I have to think about scheduling City of Fire around Fear Factory. I think as long as you communicate with all the people involved (agents, managers, and band members) and let everybody know what your plans are, you can make anything work. The good thing about Fear Factory is that Dino’s got Divine Heresy so he’s got that as well, and, of course, Burton’s got Ascension of the Watchers, and Gene plays in like every single metal band on the planet ::laughs:: so there’s tons of shit going on. So we just basically try to figure out what’s happening as much as possible, make sure everyone knows what our plans are, and it’s actually pretty manageable.
LS: Is it any easier or harder to establish a new group like City of Fire when you are already so well known in the scene (any more pressure; easier to get your music out there; etc.)?
BS: I thought it would be a little harder, but I think because the record is nothing like the other bands we play in, and people seem to be really enjoying it, it’s been pretty easy. The Strapping fans, the Fear Factory fans, are all digging this, which is kinda surprising. I can see how some guys leave bands and have a really hard time getting a new band together and off the ground, but this one seems the music speaks for itself and people are really enjoying it, and it’s coming together quite easily. I’m a little surprised about that, actually. I think if we had made a full-on metal album, a bit of Fear Factory sound in it and stuff, I don’t think people would be behind it as much as they are.
LS: The band itself seems to be based upon the idea of internal, driving fire and creative expression. For those readers who haven’t yet heard the album or read the lyrics, what can you tell us about the meanings behind the songs themselves, individually and/or collectively?
BS: Musically, we just wanted to do something that was, like I said, that wasn’t like the other bands we played in. We wanted to make a record that was something we were all into. Burton and I had been discussing it for a long time, since I joined Fear Factory, that we had a lot of the same influences and stuff, so musically, we wanted to explore our influences and from bands we were really into. So we started writing songs and they started coming together that way, and we were really happy. And lyrically, Burton wrote a love record; it’s about life, love, and losses, and that’s something he’s never really had the chance to write before. It really was quite emotional for him on a lot of the songs on the record.
LS: So, being that you’re promoting the band, what can we expect from City of Fire in the near future?
BS: We’re looking at doing a tour in the States in December/January. We’re gonna tour as much as possible and then next year we’ll probably take 6 months before we settle down to do a new Fear Factory album or whatever and then we’re gonna tour the hell out of it. We got so many songs down. The cool thing about City of Fire is that it’s not just a project, this is a band, and we knew that from the first song we recorded together. We were like, oh my god, there’s so much creativity with this band; we could’ve recorded 30, 40 songs. So there’s gonna be lots more from us in the future.
LS: Based on your experience, now that CDs aren’t really selling, what are the best ways for bands to make money?
BS: Definitely touring. I haven’t been home pretty much since December, because of the Fear Factory stuff that’s coming out. We hit the road and it’s like you gotta make it up on touring. We’re playing the same size shows, the same amount of people come out and know the songs but a 1/3 of them, or less than that even, 1/4 of ‘em, actually bought the record. So you gotta get out there and collect money from the door, them buying tickets and t-shirts and whatever else you’re supplying them with.
Rob Acocella: Now that they’re saving money not buying music, are they spending more on t-shirts?
BS: Yeah, I think so.
RA: At least you make it up then.
BS: Yeah, it’s harder work, but it’s fine. You have to get out there and make other stuff available. So you have bands now that have 10 different t-shirt designs, underwear, stickers, socks ::laughs:: because people will buy it. It’s not unheard of for somebody to drop their credit card on the table and say “gimme one of everything.” That happens often. You can make money but you have to get out there and work it.
LS: Do you find that social media now allows you to get any closer to fans, or is it simply nothing more than a promotional outlet to advertise what you’re up to?
BS: Well, when it really started to come about, I thought I’d get closer to the fans, but then you find out a lot of them aren’t really fans, and once you start hearing all that hurtful shit, ::laughs:: it’s like, you don’t even fuckin’ know me, what are you talking about? They get personal or they tell you you suck or you hear 10 times that you’re fat, you say fuck it, I don’t even wanna go on this thing anymore. ::laughs:: So now it just ends up being a promotional tool. You just don’t wanna deal with these 12-year-old kids in their parents’ basement talkin’ shit. In one case, I love it because it gets my music out there, and on the other hand, I hate it because I don’t want to deal with it; I don’t have time for it in my life. I don’t have Facebook anymore for that reason, because it just got so clogged up with fans, and I appreciate it and I try to be on top of it, but when people start talking shit about you because you’re not replying to emails or posts on the wall, it becomes a pain in the ass. It’s like, I don’t have time for that, I have multiple bands and I have businesses to run. I have a motorcycle shop, a rehearsal studio, a production company. I don’t have time to be on my computer all day checking my Facebook. ::laughs::
RA: I never knew you had a motorcycle shop.
BS: Yeah, myself and the singer from Zimmer’s Hole, he built custom choppers, and I love to ride bikes, and when we had extra time after Fear Factory and Strapping; so first thing I did was got a record deal for Zimmer’s Hole so we could do a new record and then we talked about putting a motorcycle shop together. I thought to myself, what do I love to do? I love playing music, I love riding motorcycles. So we found a space where we could have some rehearsal spaces and bands could jam (3 Inches of Blood is one of our bands in there), and on the other half of the shop we had a motorcycle shop and a couple friends of ours could build bikes. It’s an awesome little complex.
LS: Going back to what City of Fire is all about – finding inspiration even in a bleak environment – I’m sure you can find inspiration pretty much wherever you go in the world we currently live in. Is there anything going on right now, nationally or globally even, that really gets your fire burning?
BS: Obviously, the oil spill in the Gulf is making everybody so angry, especially Burton is losing his fuckin’ mind off it. He’s going off every night and making a speech on stage and whatnot. We end up talking about boycotting oil and stuff like that. We were talking about them (BP) being held accountable for what they’ve done. We still like to drive our cars and tour busses ::laughs:: but there’s gotta be something done. Somebody’s gotta be held accountable, somebody’s gotta pay, go to jail; something’s gotta happen. It’s driving us crazy. So I’m sure the next City of Fire of Fear Factory record will be full of that stuff.
LS: You guys are signed to your own indy record label, correct?
BS: It is. I put together a production company, and our first project was City of Fire. The idea was to start our own thing and get it rolling, try to figure out this business and try to do it a different way. So we made a record and put it on the Internet and did some self-promotion and sold a few copies online and whatnot, and realized it’s not quite there yet, you still need to get the stores, still need to get the distribution. So we started talking to Candlelight about a licensing deal and basically we recorded 3 extra tracks for people to hopefully want to pick up the record again. And Candlelight is super behind it, cross-promotion with Fear Factory and everything, and they loved the record. So that’s the route we’re gonna go with now.
LS: With being on an indy label, what are the benefits and drawbacks as opposed to being on a well-established label?
BS: Pretty much we get to whatever the hell we want. This is my thing, we’re gonna do this, and that’s the way it’s gonna be. There’s no pressure, timelines, or all that stuff. The downfall to that is you don’t have the networking that a lot of labels have. Candlelight, Century Media, and all those labels, they have all these people getting records from them and the media’s in their back pockets. We didn’t have that so we had to outsource for that stuff. That’s why we ended up going to Candlelight for licensing because we just couldn’t do it on our own; it was too much work for myself and three partners. But we got to do what we wanted and make a record we wanted. Whereas a lot of times, before any recording money is given, they wanna hear demos and they’re a little taken aback like “oh you’re a little more serious this time with the music.” With City of Fire we didn’t have to worry about what anybody else thought about it.
LS: Lots of luck on the rest of your tour with Fear Factory. It’s always a great show when you guys play. Do you guys change-up the setlist?
BS: There’s obviously the same songs we play every night, like “Edgecrusher” and “Mechanize” and “Powershifter” and “Fear Campaign” and “Demanufacture” and “Replica.” But then everything else kinda gets moved around. It depends on how many bands are on the bill and how long we can play for.
LS: Anything else you wanna add?
BS: We want people to know this isn’t a side project, it’s an actual band. Burton and I look at this as our future, and there’s gonna be more records to come and more touring. It’s gonna be a good time.
For more photos: DIGImmortal Photo