» Maurizio Iacono - Ex Deo
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Interview conducted November 30 2009
Interview published December 09 2009

For Maurizio Iacono, Ex Deo is his way of honoring and glorifying the majesty of Ancient Rome. After having witnessed a powerful and awe inspiring set, sharing the stage that night with such talent as Blackguard and headliners Ensiferum; I was given the golden opportunity to speak with Maurizio backstage. He discussed the new album, 'Romulus', tour setbacks, future plans, and, to my astonishment and great benefit, he even divulged a few exclusives to be shared among the Metal Covenant fanbase!

Therefore, I introduced myself, handed Maurizio my Metal Covenant business card, and we began the interview…

Allison: What inspired you to create this new project?

  • Maurizio: Since I was very young, my family has been into Roman and Italian history. I got really into it when I visited Italy for the first time with them in 2000. This was the land of my ancestors. I arrived in Rome and as soon as I got to the airport, history was like (boom!). There's nothing like it in the entire world. I was mesmerized! I was hanging out by my cousin's house, right? Next to him he's got this pillar. You would walk literally two minutes from his house to a pillar that was there 2,000 years. He was like, "What's your deal?" I said, "I don't think you understand, this is 2,000 years old. Where I come from, that just doesn't exist." For him, that was normal. For me, it wasn't.

Allison: That sounds fascinating...

  • Maurizio: So that's really what got me into it, and I wanted to do something that dealt with the Roman Empire. Metal was the music that made sense for it. So for me, it was the answer. I think a lot of people that listen to metal are very intelligent. It's not like your normal average Joe that follows everybody else. I think people that listen to metal want something different. They're educated people. They want something more than just music. They want the whole package. I think that what we do with Ex Deo represents that.

Allison: Am I to assume that you really never wanted to release a Kataklysm album dealing with Roman themes?

  • Maurizio: No, it's two different things. Kataklysm is my normal, social type of band. Ex Deo is exploring my historical values and who I am, what my culture is all about. To be honest with you, I can't be complete without both of them. I need Kataklysm for what it brings to my everyday life, but I need Ex Deo for who I am as a person. It's a double-edge sword. We have a great time playing Ex Deo stuff. My drummer loves it. He doesn't have to do blast beats! To me, Ex Deo is a great project, and I'm having a great time doing it.

Allison: You do seem very passionate about this.

  • Maurizio: I'm going to tell you something that no one else knows. We had the Paganfest tour. It's the first time that Ex Deo visited Italy. We arrived in Milan, and there were six bands playing. We asked the promoter to play later, because we were second, and with the history of the band, it was important for the Italians there. However, we were repeatedly turned down. We had finally given up until we got a phone call on our way to the show. One of the buses caught on fire! We couldn't get to the show. It wasn't gonna happen. It was on fire. It was done.


  • Maurizio: We stopped at the gas station where they were parked. I got there, and the bus was on fire. The singer of Unleashed, Johnny Hedlund, came to me. He told me, "Your gods have sank our boat." I was like, "What do you mean?" He pointed to a huge Agip sign. (Agip is the biggest petroleum company in Italy.) Their symbol is the wolf of Romulus. I've never seen such a big sign. It was as big as a building. It was huge! Their bus stopped at this gas station then caught on fire on its way to Italy. This big sign was glowing yellow with the wolf twins. Unleashed couldn't make the show.

Allison: What a strange twist of fate...

  • Maurizio: Later when we played, people went ape shit. There were people freaking out, crying. It was insane. 1,500 people, "Romulus" starts, everybody's jumping; but it wouldn't have happened if the entire package would have made it. To me, this was a sign.

Allison: Sounds like divine intervention.

  • Maurizio: And I'm going to tell you something that's even crazier than that. Yesterday's show in Chicago was our first time ever in America. We arrived at Logan Square Auditorium and the entire place was red-wine colored with eagles everywhere and a pillar outside. A guy told me the person who built the building was into Roman history. This was our first time in America, and this was there. Our tour got cancelled, and we couldn't play all the dates. We stop in Chicago, and it was in a place like that; and the show, well it was unbelievable! People were singing the songs lyric for lyric. I was so happy. I think the Gods are on our side.

Allison: Do you speak Latin?

  • Maurizio: No, but I am very impressed with that. I actually had an interview right before you with a guy that teaches Latin in school. He showed the "Romulus" video to his students in class, and the kids loved it. They were really mesmerized by it. Latin is such a difficult language to learn. When I was in Europe for the Pagan festival, the various people with whom I interviewed often said they hated learning Latin in school. All over Europe, it is part of the curriculum. However, they loved the Roman history behind it. Romulus, Remus... you need to know this. It is part of European culture.

Allison: It is such a shame that Hypocrisy did not make this tour due to Visa denial. I know it must be frustrating that you had to miss most of this tour due to work permit issues. What was the main cause of this?

  • Maurizio: Some of our crew had never had Visas before, and the U.S. government is imposing these new laws. That's why Hypocrisy is not here. It was difficult, but we got them before Hypocrisy. We knew we were gonna be here.

Allison: Do you do most of the songwriting or is it more of a collaborative effort?

  • Maurizio: It is collaborative, but I do a lot of it. To me, it has to be this way. We watched movies like "Spartacus" and "Gladiator" while recording, because our music has to fit a certain image. I know where we've got to go and the guys follow me. This is our first test, and I think the next one is going to be on a different level because of the influence and education the band's got now. There's actually a really cool thing going on right now. In January, the Starz network is coming out with a new series. It's called "Spartacus: Blood and Sand." I watched the preview, and it's mindblowing. The action is crazy! It's gonna last two seasons. (He turns to Michael the MettleAngel as they banter about Roman history.) Hannibal, crucifixions along the Appian Way, my hero: Spartacus, Greek Mythology, the Punic Wars...

Allison: It sounds to me like all things lead to Rome!

  • Maurizio: Now you've got the (working) title for the new album, 'Along the Appian Way.' You're the only people in the world that know that!

Allison: Thank you for that vital tidbit! So what's your favorite song on 'Romulus'?

  • Maurizio: I like "Storm the Gates of Alesia" a lot. It's a very honest song. I like "In Her Dark Embrace" as well. It's one of the good ones on the record because it really deals with what Rome was all about.

Allison: You use quite a bit of vocal variation on 'Romulus' with low growls, high-pitched screams, and spoken word. This is a different style for you. How did you manage to achieve this?

  • Maurizio: I did a lot of different things for this project. To me, it was about keeping it as epic and real as I could. One thing was important: to be like a narrator: death metal growls, black metal screams, and the narrating middle ground; not a lot of bands are doing that.

Allison: This is a pretty unique album. Did you draw on any outside musical influences?

  • Maurizio: No, not really. Our influences were very limited as far as other bands are concerned. One thing we really did was watch a lot of movies, getting into the classical elements of music writing. We took posters of movies like Spartacus and Gladiator and blew them up, because if the music doesn't fit the image, then we're fucking up. If you saw the show tonight and it felt like the closest thing to Rome in Cleveland, then we did it right. Rome is huge and we wanted to portray that on stage.

You must stay very busy touring with both Ex Deo and Kataklysm while managing several bands. How do you create the time to write music and manage while on the road?

  • Maurizio: To me, it's a lifestyle. I have to adapt. I started doing metal as a musician, then I started managing because I learned how it works. I wanted to help bands. I don't want them to suffer in bad situations. All the bands I work with are happy and to me, that's really important. It's really tough to do both bands, but like I told you before, both complete me. Kataklysm takes care of my everyday life, but Ex Deo takes care of my soul. It's really important to have both: heart and soul.

Allison: Are you excited to tour as Kataklysm with Kreator this Spring?

  • Maurizio: I'm very excited, because Kreator is one of my favorite bands. Mille and I are good friends. I can't wait to tour with Kataklysm!

Allison: Well, thanks again for doing this interview. We'll see you in Louisville!

  • Maurizio: Take care.

See also: review of the gig the same night
See also: review of the album Romulus

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