Less than two weeks ago, I had the privilege of chatting with Burton C. Bell on his whirlwind year with the recently reformed Fear Factory. With the second leg of their Fear Campaign tour underway, the frontman is lending focus to his latest endeavor, the hard rock pet project City of Fire. Originally formed by Fear Factory bassist Byron Stroud, City of Fire have announced an August 24th North American release of their eponymous debut through Candlelight Records.

While attending a meet-and-greet in support of Mechanize, the singer took a few moments to speak on his involvement with the band, their influences and inspirations, and his balancing act between three full-time gigs.

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How’s the tour been going? I heard you pulled double duty in Vancouver the other night.

The tour’s been going pretty well! And yeah, that’s the first time I’ve actually pulled double duty, playing in two bands. It was very interesting, and it was very fun. We had a great response.

But the Fear Factory tour’s been going really well. You know, the economy is definitely affecting everybody, but we’re still getting a lot of people to the shows.

City of Fire’s debut album will be in stores on August 24th. Are you excited to finally have this record released in the States?

Yes, I am. I’m very, very excited! I’m interested in seeing what the fan response will be, and I’m just ready to get out on the road again.

And Candlelight’s releasing it. Did they pick it up when Fear Factory signed on?

Yeah, they picked it up. They liked what they heard, so they decided to distribute it.

The band has roots predating your addition. How was it coming into an already established group as the new guy?

It was cool, you know. I got to go meet—and it was through Byron—I got to go meet everyone, and it was easy to get to know these guys. I’m a fairly sociable person, so it was easy to hang out with these guys. They’re great musicians, they’re very experienced, and they’re very talented. So it was great to matriculate, and easy to matriculate, “the crew.”

Like you said, your segue into the band was through Byron. What’s it like working with him on such a different sounding project?

It was really cool. It was really, really cool.

Byron and I have been friends for several years now, really good friends. And the fact was that the more we talked, the more we realized that we had the same influences, the same interests, the same inspiration, the same life in music. So it was really cool to finally apply both of our interests to the same band.

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And how did the songwriting process go? Did you contribute musically, or just lyrically?

Both. When I came in, the songs were demo versions, so I definitely had some input with the musical ideas. I wrote one of the tracks on the album, “Emerald,” and I actually played guitar on it. Terry [Murray] and I played guitar together, and the parts that I would come up with vocally would inspire other musical parts. Terry and I would sit down and we’d start coming up with the vocal parts, and we’d actually work on lyrics together. It was pretty cool.

Well there’s an obvious ’70s vibe to the music, but where exactly would you say the City of Fire sound stems from?

It comes from all of our influences of music. Everyone in this band is definitely influenced by the music that we grew up with. We’re all men—40, 41, 42—and there were definitely some good memories of music from the ’70s. Also, from the hard rock era, and the hard rock groove era, from the ’70s, ’80s, and even the early ’90s when Sub Pop (Records) had the regeneration of that sound. I would definitely say that the sound comes from the ’70s, but it’s an expansion of three decades of that sound.

The album features a cover of The Cult’s “Rain” and T-Rex’s “Children of the Revolution.” How were those tracks chosen for inclusion?

Byron always wanted to cover “Rain.” I love that song, and I love that record, so I wanted to do a really decent version of it and make it our own. So we sat down and we came up with that.

“Children of the Revolution” was just like—how did we come up with that? We were sitting there talking. Terry had worked on a couple of songs, and we though that sounded really cool, so we just said, “Hey! Lets do that one!”

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Considering you have two full-time bands with Fear Factory and Ascension of the Watchers, do you consider City of Fire to be more of a side-project, or is it a main priority for you?

I would say it’s a new band. In the era of the industry, for working musicians like myself and Byron, having more than one band is definitely important if you want to keep working. There are several other prominent artists in the industry that have more than just one band, and they’ll work on their one band, and then dedicate time for their other band. That’s what we want to do. This is a project that’s going to continue to work and continue to write music.

You’ve got a tour scheduled in Australia for later on in the year. Are there any plans for a US run?

We are trying to plan a US run! Hopefully in November, but nothing is confirmed yet.

For more information on City of Fire, check out:

www.myspace.com/thecityoffire