Interview mit Maurizio Iacono von Kataklysm

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The year 2021 is coming to an end, but there’s still one anniversary to celebrate: Canadian death metal institution KATAKLYSM has turned 30! We wish a happy birthday – with 30 questions to Mauricio Iacono about three decades of Northern Hyperblast!

Hi and thanks a lot for taking time for this! 30 years, 30 questions – here we go!
1. How are you doing?

Good !

2. KATAKLYSM was founded in 1991 – 30 years ago. Congratulations on that! A sentence that sums up this incredible time span:
Unbelievable Journey!

3. Let’s go to the beginning: 1992 to 1994 you released several demos and EPs – what kind of memories do you associate with those times?
Everything was new in the extreme world. KATAKLYSM was extremely hungry and wanted to show its teeth. We decided as a band to put together a crazy band that would turn heads. There was no internet – there was stores, tape trading, paper magazines. The world was different!

4. How did you come up with the KATAKLYSM logo with the pentagram and the lightning bolts, which you still use today?
Our drummer at the time did the original design and Sylvain Houde, our singer at the time, modified it. It writes KATAKLYSM around which is pretty cool and different. The bands original name that Sylvain wanted to call the band was CATACLYSMOS, which is latin for Cataklysm .. I didn’t like the sound of it … it sounded like cosmos. So I suggested KATAKLYSM, the English version with K instead of C. It looks better … and there is a little Kreator-influence there.

5. Your EP „The Mystical Gate Of Reincarnation“ from 1993 was released on Nuclear Blast – how did you get the deal with the German label back then?
They received our demo, Markus Staiger, the owner, was blown away by it and released it as a EP immediately. We recorded “The Orb Of Uncreation” as bonus track for it. The EP was a Nuclear Blast best seller for many years.

6. Your debut album „Sorcery“ and the following „Temple of Knowledge (KATAKLYSM Part III)“ together with the EP formed a kind of trilogy, right? Quite ambitious for the beginning?
We were just trying to be ourselves and finding ourselves. Those were primitive times of the band, they have classic vibes in them and they were revolutionary records for that time. The chaos and the different elements that came together … but we weren’t experience yet, so there is innocence in it.

7. How do you explain that so many young bands – you also – want to implement complex concepts right on their first albums – and how, that most bands don’t do that later on?
Well repeating yourself forever is not a good idea, we also matured as musicians and wanted to do more memorable songs versus extreme only approach. This is the key for longevity!

8. Whose face do we see in the cover of „Temple of Knowledge“ – and why?
It’s Sylvain Houde … he thought he was the “Temple Of knowledge“ I guess. (laughs)

9. With your live album from 1998 the term „Northern Hyperblast“ was coined. Is it true that this is a Fear Factory reference?
No, Hyper for speed, Blast for power. It was a term given by fans. At that time KATAKLYSM was most likley the heaviest/chaotic band in the world!

10. And who invented the drum pattern that led to the name?
Ariel Martinez accidentally invented that blast beat, because he was using the kick as metronome to keep time on the songs. This gave Max the chance to go faster as well later on and push the limits … it was a new thing and we kept it.

11. After this album, Sylvain Houde left. What was the reason – and how did it came about that you took over the vocals?
Like in marriage things fall apart sometimes. The visions weren’t the same, Sylvain was fighting some mental illness that in the end created havoc inside the bands writing and social aspects. We broke up the band for a year and restarted it as a four piece, and since I was doing backing vocals already and made more sense for me to take over.

Kataklysm - Victims Of This Fallen World12. „Victims Of This Fallen World“ was then completely different: From the visual point of view as well as from the songwriting point of view everything seems much more modern – and it was the first album with you singing. Please describe this time, obviously there was a big change.
We were in a new phase of finding ourselves, rebuilding the band and we wanted something that would break away the band from the past and Sylvain. It was almost a Death Metal meets Melodic Hardcore type of album. Our influences were changing, but it slowly became part of the new blue print of mixing that commercial sound into the bands past agressions for future releases.

13. What kind of message did you want to send to the world with the almost punky cover and the album title?
That we are changing and we don’t give a fuck. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

14. It is your only studio album that was not released by Nuclear Blast. How did that happen? Why did you leave there at that time – and come back so quickly?
We had broken up as band briefly, Nuclear Blast was going through changes as well, we did not see eye to eye during the “Temple Of Knowledge” campaign. So we decided to sign with a Canadian label and keep some freedom in the way we approached business. It was a good experience to learn from and set the stage for the return to Nuclear Blast.

kataklysm - The Prophecy (Stigmata of the Immaculate)15. „The Prophecy (Stigmata Of The Immaculate)“ was the first album that starts with a film sample – the beginning of a long-lasting tradition. How did that come about back then – and how is that actually legally, is it allowed to just do that?
Samples if under a certain time limit can be used freely. With Prophecy we started to incorporate more of the old vibe and keep the groove element of “Vicims” in that album and started to change the structures to more simplistic manner and less chaotic.

16. In 2001 „Epic (The Poetry Of War)“ was released – many fans see it as the prelude to your career-defining phase. Is that true? What do you associate with this album today?
That album was the introduction of more melodic influences and the beginning of the bands new direction. “Manipulator Of Souls” was a instant hit on that album and quickly became a fan favorite.

17. Why do the fans love „Shadows & Dust“ so much – how do you explain this success?
This is the breakthrough album, which turns 20 years old next year! This album came at a time where the scene was shifting from brutal death metal to melodic death metal and we were there at the right time … everything came together perfect!

18. „Shadows & Dust“ was released in 2002 , „Serenity In Fire“ in 2004 … the speed with which you released albums at that time is enormous – one or two years at the most lay in between. How was that possible, how could you manage that creatively, but also with the recordings and tours?
This is the beginning of what we call “the Trifecta”: “Shadows & Dust”, “Serenity In Fire” and “In The Arms Of Devastation” – back to back triumphs that made KATAKLYSM explode. We were touring a lot for “Epic” and the fire and influences started to burn heavily and we went all out and decided as along as we have ideas, we will put records out and push.

19. When did you decide not to pursue „normal“ jobs anymore, but to put all your eggs in one basket and to try your luck also financially with the band?
We decided at “Epic” that if this is what we want to do full time, we have to give everything. That’s why this avalanche of records came and things started to shape up.

Kataklysm - In The Arms Of Devastation Cover20. „In The Arms Of Devastation“ was the first album you didn’t produce alone. What led to this decision – and are you satisfied with it from today’s point of view?
We don’t like to repeat ourselves and we needed someone fresh. JF was exhausted from playing 150 to 200 shows a year and producing our albums. And this was a good move: Tue Madsen brought our production higher and opened more doors – “In The Arms Of Devastation” was our biggest selling album together with “Prevail” back to back.

21. The album was also your first chart success – number 76, in Germany. How do you explain that?
In that time 76 was like top 10 now! I think we had a strong live show and we had a lyrical and musical connection with our fans: When you came to a KATAKLYSM-concert you felt energy, you felt happy and it was a cool night out with band that loved being there with you. This was important – build for us and organic. We are still the same band doing it for the same reasons: We love the stage and the fans know it.

22. It was also the birth of the „Heartbeast“ – I heard that the original artist was not so happy that the creature on „Prevail“ was drawn by someone else. Is that true?
No, we just thought the original beast was the best drawn one. But they all have their own personality, the latest one for “Unconquered” is bad ass, I think.

23. „Heaven’s Venom“ has a pretty cheesy cover. What do you think: Was that a reason for the fact that the album didn’t really hit?
I dont know about cheesy … but “Push The Venom” and “Ath The Edge Of The World” from that album are two of KATAKLYSMs biggest songs ever. And it was a success … but I agree the cover could of been better.

24. You were also touring constantly back then – did you maybe overdo it a bit, oversaturate the market, so to speak?
Maybe we did. I think sometimes people need a  break – even if you love the band. That’s important. We learn as we go.

25. With „Waiting For The End To Come“ the sales went down significantly, on „Of Ghosts And Gods“ you tried a few new things and it went up again. From today’s point of view: Did you become too complacent?
I think the change of drummer had a little of influence on that as it changed the band a little. And I think “Waiting For The End To Come” is more of an obscure album, although “If I Was God I’d Burn It All“ and “Elevate“ are big songs from that album. I don’t think it’s our best to date but it’s still important. “Of Ghosts And Gods” was a difficult period in my life with a lot of things changing things. When I went to write that album I had things to say and we came in with a strong writing plan. “The Black Sheep” is now the bands biggest hit. It resonated with the metal work immensely. The album was album of the month in Hammer, charted high and was a instant classic. And on top of it we won the JUNO award in Canada (like the grammy) for best Heavy Metal album.

26. I think „Medidations“ was a liberating blow – was it also from the band’s point of view?
“Meditiations” saw a return to more melodic writing, some modern elements incorporated in it and a different, lighter type of production that is more guitar-driven. That album did very well for us and got us some of best numbers – especially on Streaming.

27. Your current album „Unconquered“ couldn’t keep up with that, at least in terms of sales. What was the reason?
Well,  releasing an album in the middle of a pandemic is not the best move, but we felt the band was based on supporting the fans as well. Covid has been brutal and we wanted to release the album regardless. So it had some problem with stores being closed and delays in shipping, but the song “Underneath The Scars” is now the highest streaming song for the bands career, recently beating “The Black Sheep” on spotify! The band is healthy and we were modernizing things with “Unconquered”. There are very big songs on this album that once we are properly able to promote them live will explode such “The Killshot”, “Focused To Destroy You”, “The Way Back Home” and “Icarus Falling”. Remember: We are a live band, so this is how we build our catalogue.

28. The Heartbeast is back, but Olivier Beaudoin left. How did the latter come about?
We had a fall out together during the pandemic and we already had some communication issues and direction issue prior to that. So we felt it was best for both to part ways and it was done in friendly way.

29. You have only one former singer, one former guitarist … but seven former drummers. It’s almost like in „Spinal Tap“. How do you explain that?
Some have singer issues, we had drummer issues. It’s life. (laughs) We now have a fantastic drummer, James Payne, who fits perfect on stage and with his personality too.

30. 30 years are done – what is your plan for the next 20?
I don’t know – but the band will tour less, will focus more on festivals and short runs in the future. That’s the plan. You will not see KATAKLYSM touring Europe as much as before and there will be more EX DEO music before there will be more KATAKLYSM.

Thank you very much for the interview. Let’s wrap it up with our traditional brainstorming – what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the following terms?
Canada: Canadian Bacon
Your favorite death metal album: Deicide – “Once Upon The Cross“
Germany: Beer
Your favorite non-metal album: Metallica – The black album (laughs)
„The best“ KATAKLYSM-album: “Of Ghosts And Gods”  and “In The Arms Of Devastation” (tied)

Anything else you want to share with our readers? The last words are yours!
Thank you! Never loose faith in who you are, especially if you are the back sheep of your environment … and protect your freedoms – this is what metal is all about!

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