Rhys Fulber of Front Line Assembly interviewed about “Mechanical Soul”

With COVID-19 postponing touring plans last year, Front Line Assembly instead focused its energies on new music, resulting in the recently released “Mechanical Soul.” As usual, the group takes its dark, aggressive electronic music into new directions while remaining true to its own unique sound. “Mechanical Soul” features guest appearances from Front 242’s Jean-Luc DeMeyer and Fear Factory’s Dino Cazeres.

Front Line Assembly was started up in 1987 by Bill Leeb, who had been an early member of Skinny Puppy. Rhys Fulber appeared on a few tracks on the first Front Line Assembly album “The Initial Command” (1987) before becoming a full-time member for “Caustic Grip” (1990). The duo has also worked together on side projects as Delerium, Intermix, and Synæsthesia. Other commitments kept Fulber away from Front Line Assembly at various times, but he was on the previous album, “Wake Up the Coma” (2019).

In an email interview, Fulber discussed “Mechanical Soul.”

What was the timeframe for making Mechanical Soul? Had work started before the planned/postponed “Industrial Strength” tour? Did the pandemic have an impact on the overall process?

Rhys Fulber: We started the bulk of the album just after the first covid wave. We knew we weren’t going on tour for a while yet, so we wanted to focus on some more music. We had one song, “Glass and Leather” already but the rest we started around that time. I was still in Los Angeles then so our working in separate cities was already pandemic-like. It actually ended up influencing the record in a positive way, as it took me back up to Canada where we could record the vocals for “Unknown “together, and also I think some of the lyrical themes came from all of this.

Did you have any specific goals or concepts going into making the album?

Rhys Fulber: Other than the JG Ballard theme of “Glass and Leather”, not really. We just started working on songs and the album sort of pulled its own identity together as the songs began to take shape. We had a lot of bits and pieces compiled over a period of time and then started Front Lining them all and it developed its own cohesion though they all had different starting points.

How did you come to work with Jean-Luc De Meyer on “Barbarians”?

Rhys Fulber: It was a vocal from an older track we already had. Bill thought it never got a chance to really shine so we build a whole new song around it. Rather than record vocals to a track we have this was the opposite direction – build the piece around an existing vocal. Jean-Luc has such a unique voice and lyrical style it deserves to be highlighted.

“Stifle” features Dino Cazares from Fear Factory, who you’ve worked with in the past. How did this track come together? Did he add guitar to an in-progress song, or was it built around it?

Rhys Fulber: This was a track I had leftover from the sessions I did for the game Cyberpunk 2077. I did some tracks for the game and this one didn’t make it in, so I played it for Bill and he got inspired and wrote the lyric and vocal. Afterward, he suggested we add some guitar stabs so I just asked Dino if he could lay some down, and of course, he did exactly what it needed.

There have been many side projects, and you’ve had solo releases and worked on other things as well. Are there any major things that you feel define Front Line Assembly from a creative standpoint? (Particular tools/sounds, compositional process, etc.?)

Rhys Fulber: I think it’s a style and structure. FLA usually has a chorus of some sort so its easier to tell which songs will work best, though this album did have few arrangements that were slightly more linear for us because of their origins. Like “Glass and Leather,” which was originally going to be for a solo techno release of mine that I asked Bill to try a guest vocal on but then the vocals defined the chorus and structure, so that made it FLA…

Mechanical Soul and other music from Front Line Assembly can be purchased here.

Be sure to check out our extensive collection of other Front Line Assembly-related interviews.