Bill Leeb has been in the electronic music scene since 1985, when he started out with fellow Vancouver boys in Skinny Puppy. Following a need to find his own personal voice he set out on his own and produced music under the name Front Line Assembly, creating a massive body of music from 1987 to now. This eventually wasn’t enough to contain his creative juices and his musical catalog now also includes projects like Delerium, Noise Unit, Intermix, Equinox, and various FLA remix credits.
Front Line Assembly’s newest album, Improvised Electronic Device, came out on June 22. Leeb was kind enough to answer my questions and shed some light on some things I’ve always wondered.
interview by Aaron Andrews
How long did you work on your new album, IED?
This album took the longest out of any Front Line album ever. It almost took three years to make it. In the first year we took about six months writing a bunch of the songs then we decided we’d just walk away for a couple months. We’d never done that before, you know see if you still liked the record. Also all four members were inputting equally, where as before it was just me and Rhys or me and Chris. So it’s kind of a whole new way of doing it like a band almost, which was kind of interesting. In the end we got what we wanted to get. I think we’re all happy with the outcome.
Who else was involved in the making of this album?
Me, Chris Peterson, Jeremy Inkel, and Jared Slingerland. Since we’re on the subject, usually we use Greg Reely to mix the albums but this time we used Greg and Ken (Hiwatt) Marshall, who does all the Skinny Puppy stuff. So this is the first time we’ve used two engineers/mixers. We also have another guitarist on some of the tracks, Justin from a band called Three Inches of Blood. We also did a track with Al Jourgensen of Ministry. We really went around and used a whole bunch of people, I guess after making so many records it got to me. It’s fun to get other people involved and see where we can go with this kind of music. Just see if we can find new ways to turn stones over and stuff.
This album, IED, and the last one, Artificial Soldier, were made with more cast members than most of the previous FLA catalog. Was this intentional or did it just fill out that way?
Well, the thing is because we have a revolving door with Front Line, people sort of come and go, I never say never on anything. So on Artificial it was kind of Rhys had minimal participation on four tracks, he hasn’t toured with us in years and years. So these four guys I just mentioned we played over a hundred shows in a couple years and we formed a good unity. So when it came to working on our next album they wanted to be really involved. I found that the only complaint was there were too many people trying to steer the helm. With Rhys in the old days, and Jeremy and Jared are both 25, you know their pretty young, so it became a bit of a cluster… bomb. You know with everyone trying to get their ideas in.
But on this one there’s no Rhys at all and we’re just forging that idea from Artificial Soldier, it just made for a smoother transition and even though there was more input from everybody it still had more of a calming integral feel from everybody in the band.