Exclusive Interview: Bill Leeb of Front Line Assembly

Bloody-Disgusting is very excited to bring you an exclusive, in-depth interview with Bill Leeb (Front Line Assembly, Delerium, ex-Skinny Puppy)! I spoke to Bill about everything from the new album to plans for touring to horror as an influence. One thing I can definitely tell you is that this man has a love for the horror genre! 

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Front Line Assembly has a new album coming out called ‘Improvised. Electronic. Device.’ on June 22nd. Make sure to check out FLA at their official MySpace and keep an eye out for a Bloody-Disgusting review of the new album coming soon!

How are you doing?
[laughs] Good. I get a kick out of reading your website title every time. 
Can you take me a bit through the writing and recording process of ‘Improvised. Electronic. Device.’ (I.E.D.)? In a sense, what fit best and where?
Well, one thing for sure, having been doing this for around 20 years, I guess now it’s sort of second nature as far as creating things. It just kind of comes natural, you know? But, this was probably the first album that…all four of us, me, Jeremy (Inkel), Jared (Slingerland) and Chris (Peterson), we all had a lot of input. We had two camps: Jared and Chris have a studio set up and Jeremy has one too and I would float around between both and song ideas would get started and I always thought I’d have the last say and I’d come in and come up with the choruses and change things and so forth. We worked on it for six months and we would put it away for a while and then we didn’t go back to it for four months and then pulled everything up again, so…I think this is the first time that I’ve taken over two years to put a Front Line [Assembly] record together. 
As far as the sounds go, me and Jeremy are both big sci-fi and horror movie fans so whenever you watch a movie [laughs], you register things and sounds and this and that. So, over a period of time, we always had a source and things that inspired and it turned into a big one of ‘those’, you know? This was the first record, apart from Greg (Reely) mixing six of the songs, we also had Ken Marshall who mixes all of the Skinny Puppy stuff and does it live, as well. It’s the first time we used two engineers/producers and Ken brought a lot of his own ideas into the mixing aspect. I think that’s why this whole thing sounds so…I mean, it’s a little more interesting sounding just because of all of the different members whereas in the old days it was just me and Rhys [Fulber] and so I think that way it was kind of more interesting and more fun and maybe that’s why we’re getting some really good feedback as far as the whole thing sounding more revitalized and interesting. 
I’ve listened to the album and it does sound great.
Thanks!
Did you use any new synths or programs in the recording of I.E.D.?
Well, now in the world of virtual programs and synths and effects, he (Jeremy) is always on there doing stuff. I don’t know even half of the things he has. We still have all our analogs, the mini-Moogs, the Pro 1s and all this stuff. Then, Ken Marshall has his own array down in L.A. He’s got all these vocoders and things, all these different effects he put on stuff. Greg also has his own toys and, I think that if you put it all together, there would be a pretty big stack of electronic components that helped create this. Jared is pretty much a guitar player but he took his guitar and ran it through effect synths and came up with a few really cool chords that start songs. 
I still have a storage room full of old gear just sitting there. [laughs] I keep paying the storage fees, like monthly, and I should go down there and pull all of that crap out of there. I lose track of all the stuff but I think that now with all this online or virtual stuff, there’s all these things out there that I don’t focus on myself, I focus more on song writing and lyrics, but Chris and Jeremy are total geeks, so it’s that kind of world now, right? But you need it all: all of it put together creates something that doesn’t sound like it’s out of the box.
Are there any plans to tour in support of I.E.D.?
Well, we’re supposed to do two and a half weeks of all these big festivals in Europe staring July 15th or 16th and then we’re supposed to go back and do a month in October and in between maybe do North America. Do you know the band Atari Teenage Riot?
Of course.
Yeah, they’re supposed to do a whole bunch of shows and we’ve been confirmed to do all the Canadian gigs if we want them. There’s six of them. It’s kind of weird though, because in North America the money to go out, I don’t know if it’s the recession or what but the money is so tight. Rhys and I actually had a discussion, and this is a bit off the beaten path, but I don’t know if touring sells CD’s anymore? I think that people who like your band are going to support you and buy your CD, either through word of mouth or if someone says, ‘’Yeah, they’re new CD is great’’. As far as going to shows goes, if you sell 30 CD’s at a show and you do 30 shows, it doesn’t add up to a whole lot and most people who go to your show usually already have your music. So I’m not sure nowadays. I mean, in the old days, it was definitely a must. People say now that bands have to tour but most bands, unless they’re like Massive Attack, are just breaking even so it’s a bit of a strange time nowadays. So, I’m not sure what to think about that. We’ve got this guy from the agency putting a route together, but nobody wants to go out and just break even. And we’ve toured enough over the years, so…I’m sort of torn. I’m not sure whether I’m really into doing it in that aspect. 
I mean, if we were Nine Inch Nails and we could sell out 5,000 seaters every night, then we could put on a big show and have fun and make a few dollars. But, seems like we’re in that in-between level and if it turns into a struggle thing, well. I mean, the other guys in the band they have jobs and things and I can’t just expect people to drop everything and not have to pay their rent, you know?
Yeah, absolutely. But on a somewhat lighter topic [laughs], what are you listening to these days?
It kind of varies. I like Trentemoller, LCD Sound System, Massive Attack, Disco Unit and I guess I just kind of, it goes all over the place in that sense, you know? I like a few tracks by artists like Goldfrapp, some of the Rammstein stuff is kinda fun, it just kinda goes. Me and my friend went to see a band the other night called Delorean. They’re a synthy indie rock group from Spain that are just traveling around. Jeremy went to see The Misfits but he said that nobody from the original line-up is still in the band so he said it wasn’t that good. They just have the name [laughs]. So, not any one thing but I have a very, sort of eclectic taste.
Industrial music seems to be tied by the media and by society to the goth and horror community. Since you’ve been a part of the genre for a long time, what do you make of this?
It’s kind of like the first band me and Kevin started, Skinny Puppy. We were…I gotta say part of it were the early John Carpenter movies like Halloween and all that stuff and when you listen to the soundtracks they’re all very [laughs] electronic. It also seems that sci-fi movies, I don’t know why, but they all seem to have…like Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk and I guess it all just falls under that umbrella and I think that image just built within itself and it really inspired us. That’s all we used to do in our early days was experiment with funny drugs and get high [laughs] and then Skinny Puppy started and we used to sample everything from Texas Chainsaw [Massacre] to The Legend of Hell House to whatever, you know? I think that’s when the horror genre was really growing and blowing up and it inspired us. So I think it all just goes hand in hand and unfortunately, you get pigeon-holed and you have a much smaller fan base and you’re much more limited. Of course, Marilyn Manson and Trent [Reznor] obviously broke through and Rammstein did as well. So I think it’s all that, the imagery, the sound and I think it has all just fallen together over the years. 
I think journalists have always written our music off and never given it it’s full…you know? It’s like the concept of a guy with a guitar, singing, seems to carry a lot more weight than a band like us, you know? We’re trying to represent in a different way. But it has a place in history. Even tattooing and piercing, even though now that went mainstream, in a sense. I think all of that together created that vision.
So, it sounds like the horror genre has very much influenced you as a musician. 
Oh yeah and sci-fi. I mean, Blade Runner and all that stuff. The futuristic…I mean, sci-fi and horror have always run neck and neck to me. Like, the fear of the unknown: Whether it’s out in space or in your backyard. I think all of that stuff, like pursuing each other, pushing the frontiers, horror movies push the envelope and sometimes so do sci-fi movies such as the evolution of man. And the same thing goes with electronic synthesizers and stuff. With technology, you’re damned with it and you’re damned without it but it opted us out of doing things conventionally and allowed to try new things, making things sound weird or strange. It just felt unlimiting, you know? We were all in punk rock bands where we were limited to four guys with drums, bass and guitars and your vision was just how you were able to play as a band and we just always found that limiting. 
So with drama and presentation and the stage and then guys like Marilyn Manson came along and threw more money down and created bigger stages and more things but I think the concept is completely the same. Guys like Alice Cooper were doing it long before any of us were, you know in the rock palace, but I think it’s always been there and there has always been an audience for it. Even Phantom of the Opera is kind of in the same vein. Is that magazine Fangoria still around?
I think so, yes.
We used to pick that up all the time and our group of friends sort of lived and breathed that and all our walls used to be just full of Alien posters and this and that. And everything’s changed now but I think that was definitely our roots and I think the cinema and electronica and our music went hand in hand and I don’t think one could happen without the other. 
So, last question: What are some of your favorite horror movies?
Well, obviously the entire Alien series, Texas Chainsaw, Blade Runner though that one isn’t really horror, it’s more sci-fi, right?
Yeah, but it definitely has some horror elements behind it.
Yeah. I also like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining was great and all of Stanley Kubrick’s work. I even liked War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise, believe it or not [laughs].
[laughs]
The George A. Romero Night of the Living Dead series. I’m also a huge fan of David Cronenberg, do you know him?
Oh, absolutely!
What was the one with Blondie in it and James Woods?
Videodrome?
Videodrome, that’s it! I don’t know why, but to us, back in the day, we thought that was groundbreaking at the time. I mean, you have to be someone in the 80’s but when that movie came out, or Scanners, the British Press was hailing Cronenberg as the new master of horror and just the concept of what he was putting out, in that William Gibson style, all of that was just totally groundbreaking. 
There was a new movie I saw called Pandorum that wasn’t too bad. It’s not one of my all time favorites, but… 
Also, Halloween and really all of John Carpenter’s early movies. Phantasm and a lot of the old classics we really loved. I mean, the list goes on and on, you know? What’s the other guy, he did Evil Dead?
Sam Raimi.
Yeah, like all the stuff that he did was great, right? And then there’s Hellraiser, isn’t that classic?
Absolutely. I really enjoy all of Clive Barker’s work.
Clive Barker, that’s it! I’m a huge fan of Clive Barker! So, all of that stuff, I don’t know if I’m missing anybody [laughs]. 
I mean, we used to watch that stuff over and over and sample it and then some. 
Anyways, I think those were easily some of my classics. [laughs] I mean, sometimes the B-stuff was better to me than the A-stuff. Even, believe it or not, the first time Nightmare on Elm Street made it’s debut, the first one I though was pretty cool at the time. Me and [Nivek] Ogre, on Christmas Eve, we went and took a hit of acid and watched that movie and there was no one around but us and nobody could care less about Nightmare on Elm Street and then years later it’s a TV show and there were how many more sequels? And there’s the new, right? What’s the director’s name? He’s done some really good B-movies.
Wes Craven.
Wes Craven. I know he did that Scream series but I know he did some good stuff in the early days. 
Like Last House on the Left or The Hills Have Eyes?
Yeah! I’ve seen all his stuff. I always rent it. What’s the guy that did Texas Chainsaw?
Oh, now you got me [laughs]. Tobe Hooper! That’s it!
Yeah, Tobe Hooper. All of those guys, they were like the A-listers of that genre. But I also saw the new Werewolf movie, you know the one with Anthony Hopkins?
Yeah, how was that?
Well, Rick Baker did all the make-up and effects and he has a lot of practice doing wolfmen [laughs]. It was really slick, but, you know it was just a glossy Wolfman movie. It was okay, it didn’t blow me away. 
I think the Silence of the Lambs series is pretty good. Especially the first one, you know? Is that considered horror?
Oh yeah, absolutely!
I think that was a classic movie. I’ve always been a guy from Canada so I’ve always liked Scanners and Videodrome but he [Cronenberg] hasn’t done anything horrific lately. I mean, they’re good and I like them but anyways. All the kind of stuff, we lived for it. We used to write movies in the [Skinny] Puppy days. But that used to be a huge part of our, I mean, especially with Puppy right? It still is. I mean, if you ever see Ogre live, he’s always covered in blood and doing tricks and has that magician illusionist vibe.
I forget exactly how, but he was deeply involved in Repo: The Genetic Opera, right?
Yeah, he was in it. I don’t know, I didn’t care for the way that a lot of the music was in it. I think there should have been a lot more dialogue. And, oh! Before I forget, another classic is the Saw series! I mean, we actually had a song in the first one. We had 33 seconds in the first Saw which, to me, was the best one. I think again, classic series in horror. I can’t remember the director’s name, the guy that did Repo, right?
The director of Repo did two or three of the Saw movies but not the first one.
Yeah. That to me, over the last eight years, well, it surprised me that someone took the time to do something that cool and interesting because for a while, well, I guess horror always has a bit of a bad name with violence and in this political world where everything is going green [laughs], people seem to be uber sensitive about anything that comes out like that. At the same time, UFC is like the biggest sport [laughs], which is guys beating each other to pulps. So yeah, there’s another one. I give a shout out to Saw, which I think was great. 
We also have a song in Resident Evil, in the first one. That one was pretty good too. Believe it or not, I like Milla Jovovich. I think she’s really convincing in that. 
Well, I think that about covers it! Thank you very much and best of luck to you!
It was nice talking to you! I’m gonna check out the website!