KATAKLYSM’S MAURIZIO IACONO: THE IRON INTERVIEW
It’s an exciting time to be a Kataklysm fan: this Saturday, the band will kick off their MetalSucks-presented Iron Will Tour (dates here), ripping North America a new one in celebration both of their twentieth anniversary and their new DVD/CD set, The Iron Will: 20 Years Determined (out now on Nuclear Blast). With support coming from Fleshgod Apocalypse, Vital Remains, and our old pals in Rose Funeral, these shows are guaranteed to absolutely destroy every venue at which the trek stops.
In anticipation of the tour, we recently e-mailed some questions to Maurizio Iacono, vocalist for both Kataklysm and Ex Deo and co-founder of Rock the Nation America, Century Media’s own in-house booking agency. After the jump, get Maurizio’s thoughts on twenty years of Kataklysm, the secret to the band’s longevity in this most punishing of businesses, elephants marching riffs, the future of Ex Deo, his work at Rock the Nation, and more.
Holy shit, can you believe Kataklysm has been a band for twenty years? Did you ever think, back in 1992, than you’d last this long?
When we first started, one of the heads of our distribution in Canada told me after we inked with Nuclear Blast, “Enjoy this moment. It might last two years… five if you’re lucky. The industry is rough and trends die fast.” But being the hard head that I am, I told him “We’l see in ten years.” Now it’s been twenty! It feels great, but the most important thing is we feel new, we don’t feel old or tired. We feel the best is yet to come for Kataklysm.
What’s the secret to Kataklysm’s longevity?
Determination and perserverance. Sometimes some people don’t like you and you can’t force them to like you. This has cost Kataklysm a great deal on the touring front. With agents that didnt see our potential… it’s like going to high school and there’s cliques that won’t let you in. You have to form your own clique at some point, you need to get up every time you fall down and be stronger. It’s about the voice in your mind that knows you’re good enough — that voice needs to stay alive. The fans made the whole difference for Kataklysm, the shows got bigger, the message got stronger… as ironic as it seems, the secret to longeveity is time.
I feel like a jackass – I only recently learned that originally, you were Kataklysm’s bass player. How did the transition to front man come about? Do you ever hanker to take over for Stephane [Barbe, bassist]?
Hahaha, it’s all good, I dont even remember being the bass player in the band! At some point we needed to make a decision — Sylvain [Houde, original vocalist] was a very recognized figure, he was becoming popular, and I always thought the frontman is one of the most important pieces of a band, it’s the element that shows confidence and is the voice of the band. So I figured If I take over this position… first , it won’t damage the band too much, since I’m already in the band, and second, the band can last as long as I need it to.
In your opinion, what has been Kataklysm’s high point during these two decades?
Coming back from near death in the late 90s. That was, to this day, the biggest challenge we faced. Also, Kataklysm getting on Ozzfest was numbing. A lot of people were like, “How the fuck they did they get on this?” But we did, and that moment felt great, because it showed people that we didn’t need the elite to get there, we did it on our own. That was a big victory.
What’s been the band’s low point?
I think when we all went our seperate ways, those six months were brutal. It felt like there was no purpose to anything I was doing in life. I was born for this, to hustle and to fight in this industry. My voice matters here. Also, my boys went into depression after the band’s collapse. It said everything it needed to say — fuck the world and everyone that says “YOU CAN’T DO IT.” We dusted ourselves off , got back up, and put gloves on this time.
Can you tell us a little bit about The Iron Will and how it all came together?
I wanted to write a book a few years ago using the Kataklysm story as guideline to help up and coming bands, but I felt like being in my thirties and writing a book seemed a little arrogant — books should be written with time and expereince, and even if I’ve been doing this since I was sixteen years old , I’m still learning. So I felt it was too early to write a book. I preferred to hire a director to put our story on film — I’m more of a film person than a book guy anyway. So we got Tommy Jones to direct, he stayed with us for almost the entire Heaven’s Venom campaign, and he followed us everywhere. We also got some old vintage footage we had and put it all together. It was crazy long, but the end result is great, the reviews have been stellar, and fans get more attached to us as they see the human side of the band that they’ve never seen before.
Are you doing anything especially awesome on this tour to commemorate your anniversary? Can fans expect any surprises or rarities in the set list?
Yeah, we decided to play some oldies and also play some songs we never did live before. To me, this tour is about us going out there and saying “thank you” to our fans. Whomever shows up… we touched their soul, and that’s a happy moment for us. So we’re gonna have a good time and hang with the fans. And I’m not sure when we’ll tour again in the States after this — it will be awhile!
One thing I really love about Kataklysm is that you dudes always have really great elephants marching riffs. So what’s the secret to writing a really kick-ass elephants marching riff? Do you have a favorite from your own catalog? A favorite another band wrote?
This is the first time I’ve heard that phrase! I love it… “ELEPHANT MARCHING RIFF”… that’s RAD!
I think the last riff of “At the Edge of the World” is a riff that makes everyone wanna punch something, and the last riff of “Iron Will”… massive. We like our songs to end with power!
I know it’s not really related to Kataklysm, but can you please tell us a little bit about the booking agency you’ve launched with Century Media, Rock the Nation America? How did you get into booking? How did the partnership with Century come about? Is it safe to assume you think there are benefits, in the current market, to a label having an in-house booking agency?
Remember when I told you that sometimes people dont want you in their clique, or don’t believe it in you, or hold you hostage? That’s why I started my own agency — the only difference is, I won’t do to others what was done to me. I’m about change and respect, I’m not a pencil pusher like many of these booking agents are. I’m out there, bleeding like my fellow friends in other bands, so I understand that struggle, I understand them. I know what they eat when presales are low, I know what they eat when presales are good… I know this business inside and out. This is the difference that Century Media saw this in me and my partner — they say that fire in us and they wanted to be a part of it, of my “clique,” which is open to anyone who has a heart.
Ex Deo also has a new album scheduled to come out later this year, Caligvla. What can you tell us about that? How is it different, if at all, from Romulus? Does Ex Deo have any touring plans?
Ex Deo will be my main focus after we end the touring behind Iron Will. Ex Deo is on fire at the moment — the momentum is big and we will deliver. The new album is very strong, it’s a big leap forward from Romulus [the band’s last album], which was a very good debut, but it was still our first effort. We know where stand now. So this album, I think, is a breath of fresh air — we’ve mixed metal with theater and history in a way that’s never been done before. I have a good feeling about it.
We’ll hit U.S. in October with Septicflesh [dates here] — be sure not to miss it!
Finally, please finish this sentence: “In another twenty years, Kataklysm will be…”