May 20, 2024

Front Line Assembly interview – Catching up with Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber

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(Interview by Evan South) In a candid discussion with Side-Line Magazine’s Evan South, Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber of Delerium and Front Line Assembly shared some insights into their recent tour with Ministry and Gary Numan. The duo also talks about the logistics of sharing resources like lighting and equipment, which contributed to the tour’s success. You’ll further hear more about Matthew Setzer joining the lineup, the revival of Cyberaktif with a new album, “EndGame”, and the potential for a Delerium tour. Lots and lots of info.

SL: It’s the final date of the Ministry/Gary Numan/FLA tour, how has your experience been?

BL: It’s the tour of a lifetime!

RF:  It really is, it doesn’t get much better. These kinds of bands and this kind of tour…

BL:  It’s almost impossible to get three bands to do a tour like this, because most bands at this level, financially it doesn’t work. But on this tour everyone was willing to make it work, hence all the shows have pretty much sold out.

RF: And there’s a lot of camaraderie. Everyone gets along. It’s what we established on the previous tour just carried over, everyone knows each other.  Compared to most tours I’d say it’s a really good group.

BL: It’s a family.

RF: And everyone helps. We get a lot of leeway from Ministry and their crew.

BL: They let us use their stuff, their projector, which is an amazing one! It just doesn’t happen with most bands, you know, everybody’s trying to outdo everybody. But this tour everybody wants everybody else to succeed!

RF:  Everyone knows who they are and where they fit in, and it’s great!

SL:  So you didn’t have to pack in as much equipment, you were able to share?

RF: They let us dip into their lighting production and things that a lot of times would not happen on package tours.  They realize we set the table too, so if we have a good night, they have a good night.  It’s a real cool system.

SL:  Any of these three bands could headline on a given night.  How do you like the supporting role compared to headlining?

BL:  There’s no question, both these artists are much bigger than we are, but it’s the perfect hierarchy, right?

RF: You can’t argue with Ministry, Al’s an icon, he’s a national treasure, Ministry established themselves over the years, and we’re not going to get in front of those kind of crowds on our own! And we’re in front of crowds that seem to like what we’re doing, so it’s just great for everybody, it’s like a win/win.  I personally like going on playing a quick set of all bangers, I like it!  The pressures not on us!

BL: And Gary’s an institution as well!  His history and his amount of hits he’s had…

RF: Everybody knows “Cars”!  Everyone knows that song.  Just to be part of that, it’s hard to believe sometimes.  We remember when that record was new.  And now we hang out with Gary Numan everyday, it’s wild…

SL: Expanding on what you said about a tight, “banger” type set…

RF: We keep our energy level up, so it hits hard the whole time.

SL: Rhys, during this tour you had your own “Tour within a tour” afterparty DJ sets…

RF: Those were just…  Some of them were great, some of them were… eh! (laughs) Sometimes you’re playing on a Tuesday night in the Midwest, so… The weekend ones were all pretty good!

SL: I was hoping there would be an Afterparty tonight, like a “wrap” party, being the last date of the tour!

RF: Honestly, we’re pretty tired… and doing both of those was… yeah.

BL: Gary (Numan) has booked a room in LA for an afterparty for when we play our last show there, it’s going to be a sold out show.  So there’s lots going on.  For Rhys it made sense to do those afterparty DJ gigs, because we were done at 8pm. So from 8 to midnight what do you do, right? Might as well be spinning…

RF: A couple of parties were really good… Montreal, Toronto…

BL: And a lot of fans came and would talk to us, and all the other bands would come down after.  Ministry would come down, Gary Numan’s crew.

RF: Yeah, Ministry’s band and Gary’s band would always be there. I think the first show in Portland even Al was there. Everybody was there, it was great!

BL: It was like an all night exclusive!

SL: You have a new guitarist on this tour, how did Matthew Setzer (Skinny Puppy, London after Midnight) come into the fold with you?

BL: We had Tim Skold for two years and we thought we had built up a really good rapport with him, and then all of a sudden he became unaffordable.  Me and Cevin (Skinny Puppy), had been pretty tight and lifelong friends, and we just finished the new Cyberaktif album, so we were talking every day for a full year. Puppy just finished their tour, so it was just natural, “Let’s ask Matthew,” he’s in our family.

RF: He stepped in pretty easily, he’s a great musician.

BL: And all our fans are Puppy fans, and vice versa, so it seemed like a perfect fit. And he’s skilled, right?

RF: I don’t think people realize he’s a very good musician, multi-instrumentalist.

BL: And he’s a tour guy. He goes on his own, he’s got friends everywhere… it’s amazing.

RF: He’s a real infectious, positive personality, and it’s great to have people like that on tour.  Matthew hasn’t had a bad day, he’s always upbeat, he’s always ready to go. He’s a good fit for us, he’s working out really well.

SL: Bill, you brought up Cyberaktif.  It had only been 33 years!

BL: At least 31 for sure… We go at this rate the next one we’ll be dead! Like Cevin said, the album is called “EndGame”.  Doesn’t sound very hopeful for the future, right?

SL: How did the new Cyberaktif come together? Was it a result of the end of Puppy?

RF: When Cyberaktif started (the new one) there was no end of Puppy.

BL: No, that’s true.

RF: We actually kicked stuff around a few years ago, so Puppy was not over at the time. It seems like it now, but when we started it…

BL: It was a lot of back and forth.

RF: Yeah, it wasn’t “Hey, Puppy’s over”, we just started doing it.

BL: And when Cevin sent tracks initially, me and Rhys looked at each other and we’re like “Well…”

RF: At first we had a hard time figuring it out, and then we just kinda isolated certain parts, and then all of a sudden it all came together really quickly!

BL: Rhys made it for me the way we understand each other, and how I know where I can sing, and what I can do, because at first they were these long jams…

RF: Cevin sent all these really interesting grooves and jams and ideas, so it was a question of taking those and giving them some structure so Bill can go “I got this part here and this part here” because I know that’s how Bill works and that’s what he’s comfortable doing, that’s sort of the sound of Front Line. So what we did was put a structure together and then Bill put the vocals on top of that structure.

BL: It was a real three-way collaboration.

RF: Cevin sent these, there were varying degrees of composition, but they’re all unique sounds and drums, then I put them to arrangement. It was Cevin→me→Bill. It was like a filter.

SL: At what point did you decide it was going to be under the Cyberaktif name?

RF: Pretty much right away.

BL: Yeah, it was definitely going to be Cyberaktif. Cevin just loves the project. He even talked about maybe doing it live, if we figure out how, when and what. He said it’s his favorite thing right now.

RF: Cevin’s very big on it right now. Not that we aren’t, but he’s already big on it.

SL: You think Cyberaktif might become a live project?

BL:  Maybe one time. Cevin wants to make it interesting. He said “I don’t just want two guys and a keyboard and a mic,” whatever that means. But right now we’re letting the album get out there and we’ll see…

RF: The (live) idea has been discussed.  That’s what we can say.

SL: It feels like the Cyberaktif album came together very quickly…

RF: Honestly, the Cyberaktif record we made quicker than any other record in recent memory. It came together really fast. Once we got an idea of what we were doing, we just banged it together. I don’t know why… I think everyone honestly was inspired by just working together.  It wasn’t hurried, it just rolled and fell into place. That doesn’t happen very often, but it happened on this one.

SL: Bill, was it surreal for you thinking this was going to be a Cyberaktif record after 3 decades?

BL: I think me and Cevin both felt like we just completed a big circle. We started Puppy 35-40 years ago, and everything that’s happened in-between, it felt like some kind of closure. It just felt right and good and something that we left unfinished now feels finished. If we don’t do another one, if it (Cyberaktif) doesn’t do anything else, it feels like it was the right thing to do at the time.  With Puppy calling it quits, for now… I’ve heard so many bands do this now. Front 242 has been doing it for a couple years now. I told Al, and he goes “Richard, he says that every year it’s the last tour.” (laughs) Motley Crue has done 4 of them (final tour) now, and now they have a new singer!

RF: Never say never I say…

BL: It was just the right time at the right place, Cevin had some things, Me and Rhys had time, we were all on the same page.  Maybe that will never happen again, but the energy was right, Greg Reely was available… It was like “Silence” (Delerium single), everything had to fall into place. It will probably never be like that again. So it’s a magic record for us, and people love it, and that’s all that matters, right?

SL: Since the Front Line tours have been going so well, what are the chances of another Delerium tour?

RF:  A tour is tough, a tour is way more complicated, especially for acts like that.

BL: That first Delerium tour we did was two tour buses, three singers…

RF: It was the right time, too, I don’t know if that’s possible now.

BL: It was kind of a money losing scenario, but the production was great! I just don’t think labels are willing to do that anymore.

RF: No, it’s a different time now.

SL: It’s been 30 years since your monumental releases “Millenium” and Delerium’s “Semantic Spaces.” You took risks in adding guitar to the FLA and vocals to the Delerium. How important were those releases?

BL: When we released “Millenium,” we did an online thing and people were calling in and it was pretty divided. People were going “What, they picked up guitars!” Remember?

RF: Yeah.

BL: But we knew we did the right thing. We felt like we had to change and do some different things, and no regrets, right?

RF: It expanded the fan base. Regardless of what those people had been like… When we did the Hard Wired tour we had double the audience! We got metal coverage, we were on a metal label that knew how to handle that kind of music… Metal and industrial is pretty interlinked now. A lot of metal heads love industrial music, and that maybe wasn’t the case then. It definitely is now.  Between Fear Factory and that record…

BL: And now “Millenium” is getting re-released by ArtofFact records! Picture disc, the whole thing, as of yesterday they announced it!

RF: It was the right move, because we had to progress. And like I said, when we did the Hard Wired European tour, especially in the UK, we had significantly more people. Also, I think it’s the biggest selling Front Line record. Again, people that don’t like the record they might not realize that was probably our biggest record! I know a lot of people that maybe wouldn’t have been listening to us that listened to that record, so it’s all good. And it all makes more sense now in the whole repertoire.

SL: What did you think of the changes of Delerium, taking it from old world instrumentals to adding the pop element and blowing things wide open?

RF: You can’t even compare the differences…

BL: We didn’t really plan it, either! The first Delerium was just a home project with a few synths and a tape recorder and Dossier records and I was just happy twiddling away and doing stuff, there was no concept of it ever being… with Puppy and the whole Nettwerk contact and we knew people and they were next door. We couldn’t plan it, and then Kristy (singer) showing up…

RF: Again it was just right time, right place. And then it took Delerium into the mainstream, in Canada at least. It completely changed everything. In Canada it really opened a lot of doors for us. It put us on the video channel, places that we had never been before.

BL: That’s the great thing about music and art. You just don’t know who you’re going to affect, who you’re going to reach. We enjoyed the process of making all that music, and then it just came back like that. We had no expectations. We weren’t trying to make singles or trying to be on a major label, we just had carte blanche on everything, right?

RF: Yeah, and it all came together! Anytime you force something, anytime you go out of your way to make a commercial record or commercial song it usually doesn’t work. It has to be a serendipitous event. That’s another example of that.

SL: So to wrap up, what’s next?

BL: The picture disc re-release of “Millenium” is pretty exciting. Rhys has a solo album coming out, right?

RF:  Yeah, more of the techno type stuff.  We got some more shows. We got Mexico with Front 242, we have some European festival dates…

BL: We’re playing the Sick New World festival in Las Vegas in 2 weeks… I’m excited about the 2 shows with Front 242 in Mexico!

RF: Yeah, more live shows and then I think we’re not really going to know until we get home and figure out what’s next. But we still have live shows booked even into November in Europe, I think.

SL: Anything as far as upcoming music?

RF: Not yet, we need to get off the road.

BL: I think we want to do a Delerium album.

RF: Yeah, we talked about that.

BL: And again, you always think you have to re-invent the wheel, because just the way the world is, I think we’ll try to find some sort of group, because everything’s been done now.  I think when we started Delerium, and with Karma, we were one of the first to do that kind of music. But now, if you go on internet radio, there’s channels with that music, right Rhys?

RF: Oh yeah, chill out music forever…

BL: So hopefully you can find your niche, but our sound, whatever that is, people respect that so we’re good with that.

author avatar
Bernard - Side-Line Staff Chief editor
Bernard Van Isacker is the Chief Editor of Side-Line Magazine. With a career spanning more than two decades, Van Isacker has established himself as a respected figure in the darkwave scene.

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