Kataklysm – interview met Maurizio Iacono (vocals)
Maurizio Iacono: “We, as human beings, should always have the freedom of choice, the freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Me and you could not do this interview right now if you did not have freedom of expression..”
Een boompje opzetten met Maurizio Iacono van Kataklysm is altijd een happening waar we naar uitkijken. Hij heeft namelijk immer interessante onderwerpen om over te vertellen en gaat niet over één nacht ijs als het over zijn creatieve exploten gaat. Daar is recentelijk nog een nieuw album ‘Goliath’ bijgekomen, de opvolger van het sereen uitgebrachte (covid-19, you know) album ‘Unconquered’. Dat deze toestanden de band niet klein gekregen hebben, ondanks grote uitdagingen en beproevingen, lezen we in het volgende artikel met de gedreven en sympathieke frontman van het Canadese death metal instituut Kataklysm!
Vera Matthijssens Ι 15 augustus 2023
Hi Maurizio! How are you in Florida? Do you still like it?
Yes, very much. It is a place where you can have the weather and the sun every day, it is hard not to be happy when you got that, you know.
The last time we talked was for ‘Unconquered’ and then we were in the middle of the pandemic of course. It was September 2020. Times have changed, how did you crawl out of this worldwide crisis?
Well, there is also frustration coming out of it, you know, when you ask yourself: ‘what the hell happened?’’ The world just stopped and then we had to reinvent ourselves a lot and we were thinking: ‘how to move forward?’ ‘Unconquered’ was made before the pandemic started, so basically we had a different vision at that time, so it came out during the pandemic and the first six months were the most craziest moments. The album was in the middle of a crazy moment in our lives and then the new one was written towards the end of the pandemic, so in 2022 we started writing the new album and now we are releasing it with a different aspect, you know? This record is way more aggressive and it is way more dramatic in many ways, it includes the effects from what we experienced. We use music as therapy more than anything and I think this is a reflection of our feelings during that time. We made it okay out of it, we were very self-sufficient and the band was in good spirits through all the things, so that helped a lot.
Yes, because I have read that JF Dagenais had covid-19 right after our previous conversation…
Yeah he was one of the first ones to get it and then the whole band got it. I think the whole world got it at some point, but he was one of the first people to get and he got pretty sick of it, you know. He struggled a little bit with it, but in the end he was okay. That was what matters.
That must have been a hard time for you…
Oh yeah, you are kind of vulnerable in that situation. You don’t know how things are going to go and that is a very scary situation. We were talking about it all the time and had a good connection.
But I am glad that you managed to create a new album! Like you said, it is harsher, but we also have a story about David and Goliath, a kind of thing from the Bible and that makes me think of your other band Ex Deo…
Yes, we are all connected with historical figures. To me, what was interested about that story, was that – if you look at it in general – that story was thousands of years ago and now, if you look at society these days you can conclude that things haven’t changed. We are still fighting a monster these days, we are still fighting something bigger than us to make ourselves free or valid or existing and mean something. So I feel that we are still in that battle, you know and what is going on today I believe it is like a modern day Goliath what is going on. I think it is important.
It goes back to biblical things. What do you think about all the wars for certain religions?
The message behind this record is just a reference, right? It is the idea. The band is not a religious band at all. So it is not our thing. I am not a political guy, I am not a religious guy, nor our band either. We are not part of that sort of things and I haven’t been part of any Satanist movement or ideology, because I don’t take it and I don’t believe in it. I know that evil exists, but I am not part of that section or whatever, either if we are overly bombarded by it anyway. Everybody’s a Satanist, everybody believes in certain things, but there is no valid source behind it. I believe right now we are living in a very dark time. I prefer when things are good. Personally. I don’t like when things are going bad for everybody. People who like that, I don’t think they are cool. That is my philosophy behind it. If you have a mythological area of thinking with metal and stuff, I get it, because that is also why the record is called Goliath, because it is centralising on the monster, but I believe, the idea is that we are the people and we are the ones fighting for existence to survive, against something out there which is trying to control everything. Covid-19 gave us that idea of control everything. We were heavily controlled and to me that is evil. When you put someone in chains and say: ‘this has to be’, you don’t have a choice… to me, that is an evil control. We, as human beings, should always have the freedom of choice, the freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Me and you could not do this interview right now if you did not have freedom of expression. We are capable of talking and having a conversation without anyone valuing us, calling us up and not able to continue to talk. So I think it is a fundamental right we need to protect all the time and Goliath is something that I feel we had an oppression happening on the people, worldwide. It was not just one country, it was worldwide. People were losing their jobs, all kinds of stuff happened. The concept of this record is two things: one: it is the story behind that, which is the fighting back in a situation and also it is very social in the sense of ideology or fighting your demons. A song like ‘Dark Wings Of Deception’ is about being deceived by something. You believe in something and then you are deceived and then fighting that demon inside of you. We are in a world that, I believe, has enough goodness in it for us to move forward, because without it, it would be complete chaos, and now I feel that the world is more and more into this dark chaotic state, right? That’s what we are trying to bring a light to that, bring a little bit of thought to that idea, like: ‘this is what’s happening, maybe we should all get together and rise up in the sense of putting a positive touch back into life in general. It is a complex story, but to me it is very iconic. David and Goliath.
I completely understand, because I am also a positive person. I am already happy when I am in my house or my garden with my cat….
Yeah, me with my dog and my cat too.
(laughs) Yeah, in the end we want that, right? But the idea of some religions is good, because it is about forgiving your neighbour, being good to each other, respect each other, wishes and all that, but then religion on the top controls people and that is also evil in my way, whether it is Christian, Muslim or whatever. If you are controlled in any form, controlled by religion or anything, it is not a good thing.
I followed an interesting documentary about the Jews in Antwerp. You know Antwerp is the Diamond city and we have a large Jewish community within society. I wanted to follow it to know more about it, because it is an ultimate closed community. They are very friendly, but they are so strict…
Yeah, they were always very captive. Gold and diamonds. That’s how they were able to make a lot of money and they have a very good structure around them, but they have a lot of jewellery. I think that’s the thing. It can be anybody, but if you are not united in your approach to survive, it is very difficult to mark your footsteps, so… we are consistently divided.
Indeed, we are now with so many nationalities that we cannot communicate together. It is like a Tower of Babel, we all speak different languages, literally and metaphorical…
Society or whoever who is on the top is finding ways to separate people more and more. You have a different colour, different religion, different this and that and you can really go deep into this and think also all these languages were invented because of keeping people separate. Imagine one language and everybody would understand each other, but because we are separated like that, it has always been something that has been imbedded into humanity. If the world is divided, you can control better. The Romans had the divided conquer thing, it is the same. It is the perfection that matters. It is all about control in the end, you know? We need structure, we need it to a certain degree. When it is too much, then it is not good and that is my point you know! Balance everything. You can have everything, but in small doses and not like exaggerations and that’s pretty much the case and that is the message behind the record. I still believe that you get out of the world what you put in. If you contribute, if you work hard, if you believe in things, you are going to get something in return, but if you are not doing consciously anything, all you do is negative, why should you get a reward for that? That is my philosophy around that, you know. If you are positive, everything you want or want to achieve will happen, that is about determination. It is all in the lyrics as well.
Yes and I have the feeling that the second part of the album is more epic, with songs a bit slower and deeper. Do I see that right?
Yes, well it is a very well-balanced record, like for example ‘From The Land Of The Living To The Land Of The Dead’ is in the middle of the album and that is one of the fastest songs we have ever written. Very intense. Then we move away a little bit from that, but we still have the mid-tempo. We always try to do a grand finale as a song. ‘The Sacrifice Of Truth’ is a very big epic song. It was written by Stéphane Barbe, our bass player who has contributed more on this album than he had done since the time that he wrote ‘Shadows & Dust’, so you can feel that this album has a new chemistry with the addition of James Payne, the drummer who has brought that new life in the band, that new energy that we needed in the band, because he is bringing inside this band a positivism of we are all together as a team and we were lacking that with our previous drummer for example for a couple of albums. We needed to fight for identity again and it wasn’t coming together as we wanted. We did good records. ‘Meditations’, ‘Waiting For The End To Come’ and ‘Of Ghosts And Gods’ are important albums for Kataklysm, but we needed that extra soul. James brought that and you can tell that this record is giving us that extra touch, it is a very tough, strong record. It has the highest amount of streaming so far on Spotify for Kataklysm. I am very happy with how it is going so far.
I also have the impression that it sounds a bit more modern. A friend of mine even talked about djent influences…
Well as soon as you are going to downtune the guitars and go from six strings to seven strings, it is going to sound more like Meshuggah for example. So it is going more in that world sound-wise, because they kind of brought that sound out there, but I still think that the playing is very much Kataklysm. You know it is us. Very much because of JF Dagenais’ style and the way he writes and the way he approaches the chorus. So yeah, even though it sounds more modern, but it is still Kataklysm. As soon as you are playing it, you know it is us, just sounding different, you know. We needed to do it, because after fifteen albums, you still need to challenge yourself and change things a little bit. You cannot do the same thing over and over and over again. That is important.
I have seen the video for ‘Bringer Of Vengeance’. It is about the assassination of King Richard I ‘The Lionheart’. Can you go a little bit deeper into that?
Well, we dramatized this story behind him. He was a very popular king in English times and medieval times, but he was a good one. He was not a bad guy, he was actually loved by his people. This video is the sequel to the new video that just came out for ‘Die As A King’. In ‘Die As A King’ he is betrayed by people of his Kingdom and they kill him. ‘Bringer Of Vengeance’ is his song that sees to what happened to his father and he escapes and survives and then he gets strained by people to take his father’s revenge and become the new King. So basically it is a quest of faith and also how things continue to progress and it never ends, like a cycle. That is how I pursuit that and it is also the message of that you sometimes have to be very patient in order to get what you want in life. This case was honouring his father.
That is nice. For the artwork you recruited Eliran Kantor, that is new for you I think?
Yes, I used him on Ex Deo before, on the ‘Immortal Wars’ cover and then I also used him for ‘The Way For The End To Come’ cover of Kataklysm, but he is very biblical and also historic. He is the best guy at the moment in my opinion to depict your vision. So we asked him to do something modernized on the cover of ‘Goliath’, but still from ancient times to make it look fiery and new and he nailed it. He did a great job on the artwork.
Are we going to see Kataklysm in Europe soon?
Well, we are going to do two weeks of festivals and some shows in Europe in August. I look forward to that, we go back to the open air stage. We do Party San, Brutal Assault, Metal Days, a couple of good ones. After that the plan is to prepare a different promotion campaign to continue this record promotion-wise and then we are going to start the campaign in December actually in Canada, because we haven’t played much in our home country. So we will start this campaign over there in the East part of it and then hopefully Europe next year and then hopefully we can achieve nice dates and start promoting this record touring-wise. We are never going to do long tours, but we are going to do substantial tours, so that we can first serve the regions that have always supported Kataklysm.
That is nice… also that you start in Canada…
Yes, it is our home country and we have always been up and back, but now we want to promote it a little bit more and give them the opportunity first.
Do you often go back to Canada?
No, I haven’t been there in a couple of years, because of the pandemic. I mean, I played a tour there and a show with Deicide, but I haven’t been there visiting family or friends for a long time. I am planning on doing it this Christmas maybe. Spend some time with family, because I haven’t seen them in a long time.
But I am very glad that you feel happy in Florida now…
Yes.I live here in Florida, JF lives in Dallas, I am going to leave from here to go to Europe and my drummer lives in Los Angeles and my bass player lives in Canada still, my business is also in Canada.
Times have changed in touring as well. Don’t you have problems to get overseas, because we hear all kinds of rumours that it should be more expensive…
It is not rumours, it is the reality. It is extremely expensive now for a band, because the costs are super high and it is very difficult to manoeuvre, so it has been very tough, you know. If you are a band starting out, it is even harder and if you are a band in the middle, it is going to make the difference between making profit or breaking even or sometimes losing. So it is very tough now for musicians. We are lucky we are in a very solid place as a band, because we worked so hard over the years. We put ourselves in a good position, but still even for us we feel the difference now in post covid-19 era. But like everything, hopefully it will get balanced out later on and things will get better for every band.
A last question before zoom stops. You were one of the first bands to play live again after the pandemic. Did it demand any challenges?
Yes, because the challenges we had were very difficult. We did not know what to expect. We were the first band to finish a tour in the United States. So for us this was a very big challenge, but we were ready for it, because we did it in August. It was the Summer. It was the first Summer that everybody could start moving around, so for us it was like a very important time to try to go out, but after we finished the tour a few people got sick on it because we did it. Everybody got sick, so we were kind of the opening gate.
You are very brave…
Oh yeah! We were lucky. We had many sold out shows and it was very solid. People were waiting for it, you know.
Maurizio, zoom is going to stop after 40 minutes, I am going to give you a big hug…
Same from me, a big hug and hope to meet you in Europe somewhere…