Interview: Maurizio Iacono of Ex Deo & Kataklysm

Ex Deo are currently gearing up to release their long awaited new album The Immortal Wars, which we reviewed recently. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to have a chat with the founder and frontman Maurizio over Skype. Amongst other things, we discussed the response to the singles that have been released and how the project came into being. Read on for the full transcription…

Ex Deo are currently gearing up to release the new album The Immortal Wars. How do you feel the response has been to the music you’ve released?

It’s been phenomenal to be honest. We didn’t know what to expect as it’s been five years since the last album and in today’s world, five years is almost like an eternity. When you take too long with some things people might forget you as everything’s so fast moving these days.

Ex Deo has a pretty solid fanbase already, though, so that when this single came out we were confident that it would go down well but at the same time we didn’t know what to expect. It’s been received really well though, and “Rise Of Hannibal” is on 70,000+ views I think.

What made you decide to focus in on The Punic wars instead of the other ones?

We’ve covered some of the previous ones on our other albums but to me this war was the one that changed the course of history. It has a lot of parallels with today’s world and that’s why the album’s called The Immortal Wars. Back then wars used to be based on war and territory and commerce whereas today it’s mainly based on religion. But no, the actual war strategies of it used by Hannibal and Scipio was like a chess game and was actually very interesting to me.

What was it like working with Clemens Wijers from Carach Angren?

I manage Carach Angren actually so I’ve known him for quite a while now. He just seemed to me like the right guy to do it as he has that touch to make things dramatic. I told him exactly what I wanted and he truly delivered on it.

The album was also mixed by Jens Bogren. How did that come about?

Because he’s a Viking and I decided to go with the opposition! But no, he came down to a Kataklysm show in Sweden and we discussed it there and he seemed like the right guy. He’s done a great job and it’s probably the best sounding record we’ve ever done as Ex Deo.

I gather that there’s some crossover between members of Ex-Deo and Kataklysm. Was this intentional or were they interested in the project as well when it started?

The Kataklysm guys have been with me since the beginning and it would have felt strange to start the band with different people. My bass player in Kataklysm is actually a guitar player and has played classical guitar for years so in this band he moved onto guitar. All the guitar solos are done by him and we have another bassist in Ex Deo. So in a way, you could say Ex Deo is a hybrid of Kataklysm in that it’s near enough the same people but the sound is different and obviously the orchestra adds in that extra bit of diversity.

Touching on Kataklysm slightly, you’re doing a tour with Graveworm later this year. Are you looking forward to that?

Absolutely. We started the band in high school and to still be going 25 years later is awesome. It’s also the 15th anniversary of Shadows in Dust so we figured we’d do that but it’s only 40 minutes long. So instead of deciding to play that and then new songs we decided to play another album along with that and make something quite special. Graveworm also toured with us around that timeframe so we’re kind of revisiting the old days with this tour.

Does Ex Deo have any upcoming tour plans or not?

Well, when I announced the hiatus for Ex Deo it was mainly because the band would not be touring. With albums you can come back and do them as they only take a couple of months. With touring however, you need to be there and do a lot of things. Kataklysm is quite busy at the moment and we all have families and kids so we had to pick our battles and we’re not closing the door on Ex Deo for life but it depends upon the interest and what’s there.

What inspired you to start the project?

Well, I grew up in an Italian Catholic family and as a result the Romans are kinda frowned upon in that context!

But no, I was always surrounded by books about it and I decided to do a lot of research into the Roman Empire to try and find good things about it. The more I researched it, the more I fell in love with the idea of evolution and how they shaped the world. They were also the first society that accepted everyone as long as you paid taxes! They’re also pretty metal as they invented crucifixion and there’s a lot of brutality in there that translates perfectly into metal. I wanted to do something different as well so that we wouldn’t grind Kataklysm into the ground by doing an album every year or two years.

Going right back to the early years of Kataklysm, you used to play bass in the band. Do you still play the bass?

I still play sometimes and I also play the guitar. I’ve written quite a lot of songs for Kataklysm in the past and I started the band as a bassist and doing backing vocals. The whole thing then shifted as the vocalist quit and I took over as main vocalist. It was very difficult to leave the bass behind but it’s worked out quite well.

This might seem a bit of an odd question but you used to live in Canada and then moved to Chicago. What made you decide to move there?

Mainly my partner! I then decided to stay here and I’ve had two kids so as a result I’m quite settled here now. It was quite difficult to do things out of Canada so having me here has been helpful for the band. Our guitarist now lives in Texas so there’s two of us in the US and the other two still reside in Montreal. But no, I really like Chicago.

I used to live in Wheaton if you know where that is.

Oh wow! I stay in Naperville, just up the road. I’ll be moving just down the road to Springfield soon but it’s still not too far. That’s really cool man!

Is there any advice you’d give to new bands?

It’s a very different scene to what it was when we started. It used to be very difficult when we started and it was a longer process but these days it’s just over-saturated with the internet and everything. It’s better to grow in the live scene and keep the social media ticking over as you need to make sure that people are saying you are good and you are willing to take criticism. That’s a big one. Be willing to take on advice and criticism from your peers as they’ve been there and done it.

Sum up the band and yourself in three words.

Foy myself…

[thinks for a bit]

Strength, Determination and Asshole!

For the band…

[Thinks for a bit]

Longevity, Strength and Vision.

Ex Deo: facebook | twitter

The Immortal Wars is released on February 24th

NOTE: This video is very much R-rated for sex and violence. Please be aware before viewing.

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