Earlier this year, many Front Line Assembly fans were shocked to hear that the band was now making guitars a big part of their sound on their new album. But the end result proved that any fears were unfounded. The group has managed to incorporate metal guitars without losing their distinct sound. In fact, “Millennium” (Roadrunner) is closer to the band’s intense “Caustic Grip” LP than their last, more dance-oriented “Tactical Neural Implant.” The guitars are just another part of the sonic landscape; they are in no way used to carry along the songs in a traditional rock style. The harsh electronic beats and samples remain very much the foundation of the music. There is one big surprise on the LP, however. “Victim of a Criminal” is a rap song featuring guest vocals by Che the Minister of Defense (of NETTWERK band P.O.W.E.R.) Front Line Assembly’s Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber have put out so many albums that they have trouble keeping track of them. Over the summer they release “Semantic Spaces” under the name Delerium, and a new Intermix name has been completed for release in the near future. As Front Line Assembly, they will be touring early next year.
The following is an interview with Leeb.
What was the reason for using so much guitar on the new album?
Well, I think that we just wanted to like do a different kind of record and just basically broadened our sound and our appeal. And we didn’t want to be so streamlined and so pigeonholed. I think we just got kind of tired of doing that particular style and we wanted to add some new elements. It’s like a painter painting a picture, you’re always using the same three colors and you sort of get bored with it. So I think we wanted to add some color to our big picture. So when we started experimenting with the guitars, we really liked it from the word go and thought ‘wow, this sounds like a whole new kind of Front Line for us.’ Plus, it sounded really tough and we’ve always been into a hard sounds. But it’s still fully electronic, we’ve just added some new sounds so it’s a whole new dimension. We also wanted to challenge the fans that we have, the listeners, because I’ve always been a die-hard purist in electronic music. I mean, if I could change I thought anybody else could, too. This thing is that once you get used to the sounds, then I think people will really like it. Change sometimes takes a while but it’s important, otherwise you don’t grow.
Were you influenced at all by other electronic bands that have started using more guitars?
I don’t really know who you’d consider really electronic that’s done the full metal guitar. Ministry aren’t electronic, they’re just a rock band. Front 242 didn’t use guitars until this last record, and I think that was a real mess. I don’t know anybody who liked that record. But they didn’t use metal guitars, they used weird sounding grunge guitars and couldn’t understand that record at all. I’m not passing judgment on it, but for me I didn’t know what they were doing there. I don’t think anybody’s really done what we have and sounded like we have. Nine Inch Nails don’t really use metal guitars either, they just use distorted guitars and I still think those are more like sort of pop songs that are written and made to sound like industrial songs. I don’t know anyone whose done what we’ve done with the record.
Were the guitar parts played along with tracks, of did you just sample them and sequence them in later?
We did it both ways, but it’s really not a problem because we’ve got such a good guitar player that he can replay all those parts. He’s like a guitar virtuoso, actually, so we’re looking forward to actually using him on tour.
How will he affect the way older songs are performed live?
I don’t know how many old songs we’re going to play. But he can play anything, so I don’t know. Maybe we’ll have to get him to play on “MIndphaser” or something when we play the hits. But we’ll see.
“Victim Of Criminal” marks another drastic change in sound, as it’s a rap song. What made you do that?
Me and Rhys, we like a lot of hip-hop and it was just one of those songs. We got the groove down and thought ‘let’s really do something different and get a guy to rap on it and try to weird out all our fans!’ When we got him in and he did it we really liked it. Again, it’s another area where we grow where you can’t say ‘oh, Front Line Assembly, they’re just a techno band.’ We’re just trying to grow as musicians, trying different venues and working with different artists. That was part of the whole effort for that record.
Do you think you may want to start up another project to explore this style further?
Gee, I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it right now, we have so many other things going on. We’ve probably got too many things going on!
The Front Line Assembly “State Of Mind” sounds quite a bit like the Delerium albums. Did you plan on branching out into these other projects all along?
No, it just sort of happened. I’ve always liked ambient music, before it even became trendy. We were doing ambient music six years ago when most of these people didn’t even know what it was. Now that kind of music’s really hip, techno and ambient and blah, blah, blah. Who was to know. We just had all these different types of music that we like and thought why should we limit ourselves to just one project. We just do whatever we want. If people like it, great, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to buy it. Hey, I don’t buy and read everything I see and hear, I only buy what I want and am selective, so I think it’s the same with our audience. No one is holding a gun to their head.
When did you find that you needed to do these other projects?
Right after we finished the first record! As I said, I like the ambient aspect of industrial music and I think it’s better that we keep them separate. That’s why Delerium was born. At first there were a few tracks on some of the Front Line albums that were kind of ambient, but we thought we should keep them separate.
Do you think that you’ll ever tour as one of the side projects?
I always say never say never. It just really depends. If Delerium all of a sudden becomes a million seller, then who knows. That’s a pretty long shot.
Why was “Strategy of Violence” released under the Noise Unit name when Marc Vernhaegen wasn’t involved and it was just you and Rhys?
Basically, the last time we saw Marc he wasn’t into doing music anymore. And it was my concept from the beginning and my name so we just did it. We tought it was still more of a Euro sounding thing. Marc’s too busy having babies and he’s married so there wasn’t much hope of him working with us. That record’s two years old, it just got re-released on Cleopatra.
When will Front Line Assembly be touring?
Probably in February or March. We’ve got all these other little things to do, a Fear Factory thing. We’re releasing a series of four compilations called “Organisms” 1, 2, 3, and 4 which feature all local bands like Sect. It’s a whole techno compilation thing that me and Rhys put together. We’re pretty busy right now.
Do you have any other new releases coming up?
Well, the Intermix is finished so I guess that will be out in a couple of months.
How many albums have you put out total?
I don’t know, 300? I’ve lost track. Sometimes I think this whole thing’s gone out of control. I don’t even know, to tell you the truth, I’d have to sit down and count them all.
What was the reason for releasing the early material on the “Total Terror” CDs?
That’s all from 1986. Basically, those got released because there were so many bootlegs floating around. I never really wanted to release them but then all these CDs start popping up with them on it. We thought if someone else is going to make this money then we should because they’re our records. So we released them in Europe but they had better covers. I don’t like the covers Cleopatra did, so if you ever see the European ones they’re different.
Why were the covers different?
I don’t know, they changed them and we didn’t know about it. I don’t like them, I think they look kind of stupid and cartoony.
What were the original ones like?
Really industrial, they had a lot of machinery and stuff like that. They looked much more Front Line-y. I don’t think these ones look very Front Line-y at all.
Do you spend all your time making music?
Yeah, we have our own studio so that’s where we always hang out.
So does everything you do get released?
I guess so, why not. That’s what we do it for. We’ve got some stuff lying around that will probably never get put out because it’s maybe too weird, but who know. Maybe one day we’ll release something just called ‘The Weird Collections.’
Why was there a gap of a few months between “Millenniums” release and the tour?
It takes at least 6 or 8 weeks for a release to properly circulate. By that time it will be Christmas and nobody wants to tour at Christmas, and then in January the weather’s too bad around here. Plus we’re going to have to rehearse so it will probably around February or March
What type of venues will you be playing?
I think it will really depend on how well the record does. If it does well we’ll probably take a different approach. It’s hard to say, seeing as we’ve changed our sound we’re kind of curious ourselves of what’s going to happen.
Front Line Assembly’s videos are always very interesting but tend not to be shown much on MTV. Can you describe the “Millennium” video?
The ascetics are basically after kind of a world destruction with just scattered pockets of renegades running around, trying to fight this machinery which has gone bad. It’s looks really futuristic.