Kataklysm have been crushing the world with their brand of Death Metal for 28 years. They have a staggering 13 studio albums under their belt, not to mention live DVDs and other releases. Always pushing the boundaries of just how heavy metal can get, their latest room rumbler Meditations was unleashed in 2018 being recognised as one of the bands most brutal to date. Now they are re-visiting our shores for the first time in 6 years, and also bringing good mates Hypocrisy along for a massive double death uppercut right to your face.
Metal-Roos: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today! I should start with the usual, you guys excited to be coming over to our shores once again?
Absolutely we’re stoked about Australia, we’re stoked about coming in playing with you for you guys because we haven’t been there in years. We loved it so much the last two times we were there. We get to play all over the world but sometimes, when you go really far into different territories it’s even more special. For us Australia is the other side of the world… coming from Canada. So, you never know if you’ll get the chance to go back. It’s so hard to get promoters and agents to get you to come from so far away it’s such an expense. We’re so excited to be back, and we will really make it worth it for everyone who’s coming to those shows. We’re preparing a massive set and we’re going to bring it 250%!
M-R: You mentioned it’s very difficult to get out here, what is the biggest challenge you face in coming to Oz?
The flight, it’s such a long flight to get there. Also, Kataklysm is a band where we live in four different cities. I live in Dallas Texas our singer lives in Chicago and the other two are in Canada, so getting on tour and making sure the promoters can bring us there is one of the biggest problems that we have, the travelling expense. Otherwise we’re good to go, we love to travel, we love to play, we try to go as many places as we can, it’s just expensive to bring us over. Luckily, we have good people from the booking agency over there getting everything organised for us.
M-R: You have toured with Hypocrisy before, but about twenty years ago, how has touring evolved for you guys? What are some of the biggest differences in taking on the road now compared to the old days?
Everything is different now! We’re talking about if we go back twenty to twenty-five years ago there was no GPS, we just drive somewhere. Some of the first tours we did in the van, we drove from city to city, driving ourselves, looking at the map trying to figure out where to go, calling the promoter when you get to the city asking ‘Where the hell’s the club?’ and trying to get directions. There is internet now. Back then there was no internet, everything was done by phone call and by fax machine, which was like brand new back in the day. It’s insane the evolution, the curve of how things went. Now it’s so much more fun to tour, the logistics are so much easier, the people we work with, everything is done to a much more professional level a more comfortable level, so I love touring nowadays. On the other hand, fans are pretty much the same. They were going crazy for the shows back then and they still go crazy now!
Also, more people know the songs and more about the catalogue of the band. It’s so easy now to go online and download or stream music nowadays, so more people know our stuff. Back in the day people who had the record made a copy for their friends or things like that, it was good old-school times, which I like. It’s definitely easier for a band nowadays to tour, to make music and to do this for a living. It’s the same for Hypocrisy, we toured together twenty years ago and now we started this year in Europe, now it’s Australia then Japan and some more stuff later. We are talking about South America and something in America as well, like doing a full world tour with this thing but we’re very excited to come and play for you guys next.
M-R: Unfortunately moshing and stage diving is basically illegal in Australia. But Kataklysm tend to incite some serious pits, especially during the monstrous As I Slither. Can you think of the most insane crowd that you have seen so far, what happened?
It depends, sometimes you play a small club show where things go absolutely wild, there’s people everywhere on stage, people in the crowd going mental, stage diving, moshing and circle pits. Then sometimes we play those massive open-air festivals. Last summer we played a festival called Metal Days and were headlining one of the nights. There was probably like 20,000 people there and the size of the circle pit was something I’ve never seen before in my life. I was on stage looking at it and thinking “Wooow!”. it was massive, some people capture it on their phone, so there should be some footage online. But it was the most massive thing I’ve seen while on stage.
M-R: I was lucky enough to see you at Wacken Open Air in 2015, at 10.30 in the morning. While it was a great way to enjoy some breakfast cocktails, playing so early must be a very strange experience what is the biggest challenges about performing so early in the day? Or festivals in general?
Oh, you were there?! It was absolutely a challenge because as a band when you’re on the road you’re on a tight schedule, especially with those open airs. When you saw us, we were actually touring Europe, we did nineteen open air festivals that summer. When we arrived at Wacken, our tour manager told us that we had to wake up early because we’re on at 10:30 or whatever, it was crazy. When you’re used to going very late every night and then you have to wake up early it sucks. You have to get sound-check done, all your gear and everything ready for your show. We woke up had a coffee did sound check then had a shot of whiskey and went on stage!
You say your prayers that that everything will go all right. The energy of the people helped us, that one morning was crazy because it rained in the days before so there was mud everywhere! It was so hard to walk around and the mosh pit at that show saw everyone covered in mud!
M-R: The band went back to their roots for Meditations creating as a team. I read that some of the tracks appeared very quickly, is there one that stands out? How much did the songs evolve as the recording process took place?
Yeah, we had the opportunity to all be in the same room while writing this record. This changed a lot of things for us, it was so easy to bounce ideas back and forth when you’re together in the same room. In the last few records, because we live in different cities, we actually wrote ideas on Pro Tools and via Skype, exchanging files building songs that way. This time we were all together so we had ideas for every song then when we came home, me and the drummer worked on the songs together. He is also into the production and arrangement side of things, so, we were working together, arranging and piecing things together. The difference between when were in the room and the extra work we put in, changing the songs was about 25 to 30% but most of the main ideas and the big picture of the song is pretty much done when we’re all together. It was mostly details, like, we don’t want riffs to repeat themselves too many times or drag on too long. Sometimes when you’re writing the original song you want to repeat it ten times but then you realise you only really need like four bars of certain things. Certain riffs you realise that could be a great chorus and we move them along. It’s just like moving puzzle pieces around a little bit so you can unlock the full potential of the song and once you have that it’s all good and you record the vocals and that’s how we work.
M-R: When writing for an album, do you try not to listen to any music, as to not sway your own creative process? How do you ‘get in the zone’ so to speak?
I don’t listen too much to music outside of what I do, I work in a recording studio as a sound engineer and mixer, so I get to listen to music and work on music all day long. When it comes to Kataklysm, I have a style of where I want things to go, but I try to be really spontaneous about it and not get let myself be influenced by any of the stuff I’m working on. I don’t want to copy or try to be like someone else out there you know, I want to be like me, as the guitar player and I want us as the band to sound like Kataklysm. I try not to but sometimes you don’t even realise that you get influenced by something and you listen to a song back and be like “man, that sounds like somebody else”. When I realised this, I change them to make sure that doesn’t happen. Sometimes you don’t realise it and you just do it, and you think “whatever” and just leave it there. I prefer to be as original as much as I can but it’s harder and harder with all the great music that out there these days.
M-R: Can you tell me what some of the issues addressed on the album are? Does it have a concept?
It’s a song by song thing but the whole album is underneath the title Meditations. The idea is that heavy metal for us is a meditation. That’s where we go to clear our minds about stuff. When we play together, we feel like we’re connecting, so that’s kind of the idea behind the album title. There are different themes tackled on the record, Guillotine, the first song, is about revenge in a way. In the second song Outsider, we talk a little bit about ourselves as a band. We feel we never really fit with any kind of group of other bands, we kind of do our own thing. People are telling us we have our own sound, so that’s the outsider team. We always felt like we were outsiders, in our own world. It’s even hard for us to put ourselves on certain tours because we don’t really sound like many bands, we’re too heavy for some and not heavy enough for others, it’s weird! Also, with our fans we feel we have a family of fans that are different, and they love what we do. Altogether we’re all the outsiders, you know? Those are the main themes tackled on the album.
M-R: In the video for Outsider, it shows you guys playing to a basically empty bar, with a cool twist at the end. But I wanted to know, can you remember when the last time Kataklysm played in a venue like that? Can you give us an insight on the story behind the clip?
That was the idea! We wanted to do something special. One of the things we were talking about with the video producer was as a band, we really don’t care about playing small venues, or big place or a big festival we love it all! we just go on stage and we give our 200% no matter what. So that was the idea, going all out in a small crappy bar. It does happen! This last US tour we did we were supporting Soulfly in America and you don’t play huge venues every night. There are some smaller cities that don’t even have a huge venue, the only place to play is a small 250 cap bar, but you play anyway because what else are you going to do? Drive twenty hours to another city or just stop in the middle and play? It’s a big country, so you have to stop and play smaller venues. We personally as a band love it and we always have had great experiences in those situations. We feel like we connect with the fans more when they’re so close, you know, you’re in the face of people. The cool twist at the end was an idea of the producer and we all loved it and said “yeah let’s go for it” like a Twilight Zone type of thing.
The other thing I wanted to say is the guy in the video which has no nose, he is an actor who is an ex-US military and his nose was actually was blown off in Afghanistan. He actually has no nose, so his face just looks like a skull, it’s so incredible, it was awesome that guy wanted to do that scene for us. Most of my friends were like “that was some great CGI work on that guys face” and we’re like “No, this is real! That was real life, we don’t have that kind of money to do the CGI” so everything has to be as real as possible.
M-R: Meditations has seen some fantastic success, peaking at number 52 on the Billboard Top Current Album chart. Did this feel like a massive achievement for the band?
We are in this because we’re in love with what we do. Of course, it’s always nice to have a pat on the back and recognition for doing a good job. It feels like every record we’re making up a little bit more ground, getting a little bit more solid on our feet. It’s been a slow build, a slow and steady upward slope, but we’re getting more and more popular and in a comfortable zone. We enjoy what we do and at the same time we’re making enough money from doing this to be able to live a nice life and as a bunch of metal head in their forties we really appreciate that is happening for us. At the moment it just makes us want to get out more, tour more, work harder on the next record that’s coming. We’re very thankful for everyone that supports us and we’re going to keep going and see how far we can push this.
Interview Date: 2019-03-26
Interviewer: Jonathan Hurley