An Interview With Ex Deo / Kataklysm Front Man Maurizio Iacono
Band Photo: Kataklysm (?)
Ex Deo is the new band formed by Kataklysm front man Maurizio Iacono so that he could explore the themes of ancient Rome in his music. Maurizio shared with us how the debut album "Romulus" came to be and why he wanted to make an album about Rome. “Romulus” will be released by Nuclear Blast Records on June 19th in Europe and June 30th in North America.
xFiruath: Let’s start out with the basics. What first got you into metal and how long have you been involved in the music industry?
Maurizio: Good question, I keep on forgetting since I started so early. I’ve been into music and metal pretty much for 16 or 17 years now. When I first started I was in my mid-teens. Just like anybody listening to records I became a fan from friends at school giving me tapes. My cousin introduced me to death metal by accident when I heard the Napalm Death “Scum” album, which I guess is really more of a grindcore record. I got into the heavier stuff like that when I was in my mid-teens. I just decided to start my own band. Got signed pretty early, I was 19 years old when I got my record deal with Kataklysm. That’s it, the rest is history. I’ve been in it ever since and now I’m 34.
xFiruath: You’ve got a pretty successful thing going on with Kataklysm, so what made you want to put together Ex Deo?
Maurizio: Ex Deo was more of a personal thing I wanted to do for a long time. I’m of Italian origin and there’s always been an interest in my roots. I wanted to find out more about it. I’ve been going to Italy a lot. I took a trip down there to see my family. I would ask a lot of questions and shove around ideas with them. I just wanted to release a record for a personal thing, but then I couldn’t really do that because it got to just too big of a level. Nuclear Blast totally flipped on the idea and wanted to push it up to the next level.
xFiruath: Obviously there is a heavy Roman theme on the album. Is there any particular period of Roman history or specific character that you are more focused on than any other?
Maurizio: I’m into the ancient Rome more when they were more pagan oriented and into different gods. I’m not really into the more Christian Roman era. Of course Julius Caesar for me is really an icon, I’ve read a lot about him in the different books. I’ve learned a lot of things about him that are very inspiring in a way.
xFiruath: Other than the Roman theme how is Ex Deo different from the other stuff you’ve done with Kataklysm?
Maurizio: It’s definitely more epic. There is a lot more melody going on. This record was a challenge in a way because we didn’t want it to be exactly like Kataklysm. This band was something we did out my love for history and because we wanted to do something different from Kataklysm. We added in a lot of things to make the sound more epic. We wanted to pretty much create a sound track for Rome but in a more extreme way. That’s what we set out to achieve and I think we achieved that. So far it’s got a very strong start. In Europe it’s an acclaimed record at the moment. It’s really doing well. I think it’s going to do well not because of the fictional thing behind it but because it’s an honest album. It’s something that I wanted to do from the beginning and release on a small record label. I wanted to just do it for me since I had time coming up in-between Kataklysm albums. It would really be just for me and people who like history, but it ended up that Nuclear Blast wanted it to be much bigger. I thought if we were going to go all the way we’d better go all the way. I mean we needed the whole image. We did that video and everything else.
xFiruath: Tell me about the video you did for “Romulus.” Where did you shoot at?
Maurizio: I shot that in Serbia. I was doing a festival for Kataklysm in Belgium and I flew straight to Serbia from there. I shot the video with a producer there. They just did a phenomenal job with it. Those guys are big into history too, and I’ve been lucky with that on this record because so many people who have been involved have been so into the idea. I wanted to really give it a “300” feel, which I think we achieved as well. I wanted to bring the Roman theme back in a very realistic way. It was a big challenge as well, but the guys were absolutely professional and we got a killer result. I couldn’t ask for a better video.
xFiruath: I understand that you had a couple of guest musicians on the album also?
Maurizio: Yeah we had Nergal from Behemoth and also Karl Sanders from Nile. Also Obsidian from Keep of Kalessin. They’re good friends of mine and when I came up with the idea I wanted to have some guests on there and make sure they were related to Roman history or historical things in their own music. Those guys already have some sorts of historical things in their own bands. The guys were absolutely into it. They were right away into it, especially Karl Sanders from Nile. If you look at his band it’s all about Egyptian history and we have a song on the record about when Rome came into Egypt so it was a perfect match for him.
xFiruath: What’s Ex Deo’s touring schedule looking like now?
Maurizio: We’re going to do a European tour to start off. It’s going to be in September and October. We’ll go out for the Pagan Fest in Europe. There’s some talks for America. We do have a lot of offers coming in but we aren’t sure yet. It’s got to be something that fits the concept. We don’t want to go out there with a bunch of mixed bands and it doesn’t make sense. This thing has an image and it needs to be with bands that fit that. We’ll see what happens but we’re definitely in talks to go to America. We’ll be bringing the whole Roman theme with us live.
xFiruath: Aside from Ex Deo what’s going on with Kataklysm? Will you still be doing Kataklysm as well?
Maurizio: Oh yeah of course. I had a couple of hundred emails as soon as this was announced from people freaking out thinking Kataklysm was breaking up. The reason I couldn’t do this before is because Kataklysm just kept growing every year and it was very busy. We’re always releasing a record and then touring for a year or two. It’s been an ongoing thing for the last ten years. We decided to take a little break from Kataklysm. We’re up to nine records now and we’ve done so much with it. We need about a year to get away from Kataklysm and get into Ex Deo. It will give us some fresh blood. This record will really help out the next Kataklsym album because it really lit a fire under our asses to try something different. It’s going to be beneficial for the band. As far as a new Kataklysm record I would probably say 2011. We’ll probably start the writing process for that next summer. We’ve still got a few tours lined up though like we’re leaving in a few days for Russia and doing two shows. Then we’re going to do a headliner in Europe for the festival season. No more U.S. dates but we do have another headliner again in January of 2010. That’s the last tour for “Prevail” and that’s going to be with Darkest Hour and some other bands.
xFiruath: So then all of the guys from Kataklysm will be playing with Ex Deo?
Maurizio: Yeah. It wasn’t the initial idea. It was supposed to be something that I was going to do with other people as well but as I started thinking more about it became a time thing. I didn’t want to release a record that was going to take me five years to put together just because I’ve got members of different bands touring at different times. We had to get the thing done. I asked the guys to help me out. I was going to get local people to do it with me in Canada and the States but the guys did the demo for me because of time restrictions. As soon as I got it I was blown away with what they did. It fit perfectly with the concept and they wanted to do it with me. It’s the same guys, the chemistry is same, so it made sense.
xFiruath: Outside of the music you are playing what are you listening to these days?
Maurizio: Wow, what am I listening to? You know I’m not listening to much because my head is about to explode. I’ve been listening to a lot of different things. A lot of old school death metal like Bolt Thrower. I’m more into the ‘90s type of stuff. Iron Maiden. Not a lot of music metal-wise. I need to give myself a break between the back and forth of touring and that non-step business of touring. I need to give my ears a rest.
xFiruath: That’s all my questions. Anything else you wanted to discuss?
Maurizio: I just wanted to thank you for the time and thank everybody for checking out the record and giving it a chance. I think they will be surprised if they listen from start to finish. It’s a very diverse record. Enjoy it and thank you.
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