Interview with Maurizio Iacono from Kataklysm

 Filip Vanhoof    27 juli 2018

Sometimes people f*ck things up. Case in point: humble me. During Graspop Metal Meeting 2018 I had the awesome opportunity to have a little chat with vocalist Maurizio Iacono from the Canadian Death Metal band Kataklysm. He proved to be a very chatty nice guy who wasn't upset at me when I had to admit to my own utter shame that the recorder that I use wasn't recording a damn second, although I surely did hit that record button. When intelligence or technology fails, an interviewer has to rely on the goodwill of the interviewee to help him out a little. So thank you mister Iacono, for just starting all over again on your own, no questions asked, well played! The interview continued, the band still had to play later that day during the Guns N' Roses concert, and they managed to get the Metal Dome crowded and gave a wonderful live performance too. Well deserved too.

© Jens De Haes

....."The whole thing?"

I'm afraid so, my recorder didn't record anything, and I'm pretty sure that I did hit the button upon your arrival here.

Haha ok, but like you were saying, to answer why the record sounds so fresh to you, I think it's because we have recorded this new record as a whole band, working on songs in the same room. We haven't done that in over 10 years, you know. We do have a long career, and now we all live so far away from each other. I'm in Chicago, somebody in Dallas and the other ones live in Canada. That's what happens when the technology is there to aid, with our phones or tablets, you lose the element of humanity. We had so much fun being able to write the songs together again in one room, you know, teasing each other 'Ah I can't believe you came up with that shitty riff' haha, but it's really interesting to bounce ideas off each other to reach some stuff that you usually wouldn't accept when you don't have that human interaction. We were able to filter more, and some things happen on the spot that are very difficult to reproduce. A song like Shadows And Dust was written in an hour and a half to two hours. Boom! Reign In Blood from Slayer? Written in an hour.

Lightening in a bottle!

Exactly, and that won't happen when you all work separately behind a computer. On a computer, and when you're lucky enough to have a great idea, the other person will check it a day later and that breaks the spell. Now, all together, we have no choice, and we rediscovered the band with that. I think we're going to continue in that direction. 

The producer was new as well.

The fact that we recorded the album together was a big plus, and so was the new producer we hired, somebody who isn't used to Death Metal.

True, what was his name? I read it but forgot about it.  I blame the festival. He did Anthrax too.

Jay Ruston, indeed Anthrax, but also Stone Sour. We loved the production work he did for Anthrax. We thought "wow that's different" because the emphasis was a lot on percussion, the guitars were clean, yet you could hear the bass and everything that was going on. So I loved the different feeling to it. And I thought that if he'd be able to reproduce what he did in a more extreme fashion we might end up with a big sounding record. So yeah, we took a gamble. He's Canadian too and he said "yeah I'd love to work with a Canadian band too". That helped too because usually they won't touch music like this. And he loved it, he also thought it was a great experience and in the end he helped us a lot.

You actually hear more often that producers do their thing for bands that don't necessarily lies in their comfort zone.  

Also, and the fact that you know, he never did anything with triggers before. 

Hold on, you lost me there. My technical knowledge is awful I'm afraid.

The samples that you use doing extreme metal. It's difficult to use organic drums because they're going to get lost in the sound. What I mean is that, when you do blast beats, and you go super-fast with the kicks, It is an electronic sample that goes over the kicks and the snare to bring it higher so that when you're blast beating it's clean and there's no waving. Because it's impossible to do as a human. So, he wasn't used to that because he does rock bands like the Foo Fighters. What's actually funny about this record, something that freaked us out in the beginning, was that we did this record organically with him, so that goes for the drummer too. He did play it as organic as possible.  But than the first track Guillotine came out and it was so perfect as far as the cutting and everything that they were like "these guys used a machine". 

Well that's not what you wanted to hear.

Haha no, it had the opposite effect. We said we were going to come out with a real heavy track to surprise people and the opposite effect happened where people were like "it's too well done to be done organically". And we were like "no! We did, what the fuck!", haha! And when the other songs came out, that don't feature that extreme element, than nobody said anything. 

People will always find something to complain about of course.

True, but I must say that after 13 records, we always get great support and we know people are enjoying it. We're able to bring two worlds together and that's difficult to do these days, having your own identity.

Was the pressure high after the JUNO award?

Yeah, well surely in Canada. It's always a big pressure, it's so commercial. It's like the Grammy's for Canada. 20 Years ago we were just a metal band, now people look at us and say "oh, so you exist". When we won, we all went there with our hair down, standing between artists like Drake and other rappers, like the Weekend. All Canadians of course. 

That was one of my questions on my list here, how's the Canadian scene? There is no such thing as 'Canadian Metal' and I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of bands that I know where I had no idea they were Canadian. Except the awesome Devin Townsend and you guys.

Well we have The Agonist. And of course Cryptopsy. They opened a lot of doors for us, they have been around for a long time. Pioneers in our industry. And Anvil and all these others. There are so many actually. But they all share that they have their own identity. To be able to go over the border and get popularity there you have to have your own identity. You can't be 'one of those bands'. Everybody is super extreme here, complicated and technical, crazy or super progressive like Devin

Doing 100 things at the same time.

The genius, a madman really. We have a simple, groove oriented approach and we stay straight to the point. A street type of metal mentality. That's really the opposite of how the inhabitants here are haha. We do feel like an outsider, always feeling a bit out of the element here. I guess that sometimes it works to be different.



Well that explains the song OutsiderAbout Narcissistthat's a song that didn't convince me in the beginning. But after a while it got stuck in my head though I thought it was too catchy to begin with. 

Hmhm, absolutely! That's the effect we wanted it to have. It was purposely done so and when we did the video we had people who were against that change, the label included. But we knew this would be a big song live. People are going to be like "oh there's no bass drums, no blast beats, you have like 3 riffs in the song, your damn kid can play it!". And I'm like: exactly! We wanted to create a song that everybody is going to remember, that's going to stay in your head and it's going to be an AC/DC-Death Metal track that everybody will remember. We never did the tribal kind of thing so we thought we'd try it out. And now we're playing it live and you know what? Everybody is singing it!  



Kataklysm created a killer live track.

Yes indeed, we played it for the first time in the US on our release shows and at With Full Force and we had the whole place in front jumping when we started playing that song. Well okay, not jumping!  But headbanging, singing and joining us in the fun. 

Haha, that's true, who wants to jump, I never understood that. But I bet it's like in the clip. When the atmosphere builds up your moves in particular help it reach a certain height from where it all gets loose.

The drums are so big in it and it's so rythmic, it's really difficult to say that it's not catchy. It has the whole "gagagaga! gagagaga!" thing going on and now we probably have the best sound ever live. Our sound guy is excellent. And the guy who mastered this album, New Yorker Paul Logus who used to do Pantera too, really taught us how to get to that super attacking kind of sound. 

Your voice seems to improve in time, like a fine wine. Like it got some kind of boost over time. 

Cool thank you, I'm trying less to impress as a Death Metal vocalist and try to be more how I am and what I'm comfortable with. My type of range which is a more mid-range type of vocal delivery. It's almost like I can do a little bit of Napalm Death meets At The Gates. I can pronounce my words and that's cool and super difficult to do. But for me it comes natural and maybe it's my trademark. And a good thing about that change:  I'm less losing my voice now. It's easier in the studio too. It actually took me years, over a decade, of fighting what people think I should sound like before accepting that people will always have their ideas. I decided that I wanted to be comfortable with myself. Whatever comes up when I'm angry. After all these years it's pretty normal to me. I shouldn't be drinking this here before the show haha, but I'll be fine. 

You guys play the Metal Dome today, the best stage in my humble opinion. 

Oh cool yeah, we usually do Marquees a lot

The Dome has more atmosphere as the stage is wider than the other ones, and the interior design gives that little extra advantage for a good show.

We're playing at the same time with Guns N' Roses who play like 3,5 hours so we hope that some people will move to our stage for 1,5 hour to come and see us haha. 

I don't see an issue, GNR probably does a 1,5 hour drum solo followed by a long guitar solo...

So we can offer an escape during those moments haha. But seriously, I heard we've been well advertised here in Belgium so we do expect a good number of people tonight.

Is it a presentation show for Medidations or will it be a best off set?

Oh it will have a little bit of everything. We mix our best off with some new songs on Meditations. We will be touring with Hypocrisy after this summer and we keep some songs from that last album for those shows. Tonight we'll play an average set.

I'm looking forward to that tour with Hypocrisy. I believe it's a co-headlining tour.

Yeah, we both play the same amount of time. Around 70 minutes each. Peter might come in, we did talk about that. If he's not too drunk after the show as they play first. He's a great friend. In Sweden they play last, that only seemed fair to me! We're cool like that.