Interview with vocalist and guitarist Jadran "Conan" Gonzalez
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: June 10, 2014
Interview top picture taken by Stephanie Cabral
Californian Metallers Exmortus have slowly but surely been building a reputation as one of the most hard working and promising Metal acts of the past 6-7 years. Exmortus started out as a typical Thrash/Death Metal combo with some neoclassical influences. However, with every new release, they have taken a step or two toward new musical territories and their sound has always been evolving without being restricted to one category or genre.
Slave to the Sword, Exmortus' third full-length, pushes the band even further from genre restrictions and showcases the band's unique Metal sound and vast talents. The band really tested musical boundaries on Slave to the Sword and recording their most diverse album yet, one that should please Metal fans around the globe.
The Metal Crypt caught up with vocalist/guitarist Conan of Exmortus and asked him about the band's latest work and the recent successful tour with Destruction and Krisiun, among other things... (Thanks to Marco Barbieri of Salem Rose Music for setting up this interview with Conan.)
Luxi: How are you doing there in California? Could things be any better at the moment for you?
Conan: If I'm home things would be better if I were on tour playing my ass off, ha-ha!!
Luxi: How happy are you with Exmortus' third album, Slave to the Sword?
Conan: We are quite satisfied with the album, more so than were for the past two. We put a lot of work into it.
Luxi: How would you say the recording of Slave to the Sword was different the previous albums and what are some of the things that you paid more attention to this time?
Conan: Without a doubt Guitar Pro was a great aid in both the writing and recording processes. We did have the program when we recorded the other two albums but we were way more organized with it on Slave... All the music was mapped out so we were able to knock out tracks quickly and confidently.
Luxi: Would you say Exmortus' latest album is the most rewarding album for you, personally, as far as the music and lyrics are concerned?
Conan: Yes. We've never felt so true to our work before.
Luxi: Musically, your previous albums were definitely more Thrash and Death Metal oriented, whereas Slave to the Sword has a broader sound with less emphasis on the Thrash or Death Metal styles. Was the goal to expand the band's musical horizon, challenge your as songwriting abilities and raise the bar of innovation a bit higher?
Conan: Yes, to both. We definitely like to challenge ourselves. That, in itself, makes things interesting for us, ha-ha!!
Luxi: Were you concerned that you something so complex on Slave to the Sword that it might scare away some of your long-time fans?
Conan: We've matured musically since In Hatred's Flame. The only thing I fear is not being able to write, record and tour. Whatever we're doing, I hope fans, new and old, will appreciate our work for what it is. We hope you believe in Exmortus as much as we do.
Luxi: What made you decide to do Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata (Act 3)" for Slave to the Sword? Was it sort of a test to see if you could turn a well-known classical song into something completely different yet still stay loyal to the original composition? Has Beethoven been an influence on Exmortus, especially during the songwriting process of Slave to the Sword?
Conan: I did listen deeply to a lot of Beethoven during the writing of this album. He was heavy fucking Metal back then and still is to this day. All we did was arrange the third movement of the "Moonlight Sonata" for guitar, bass and drums. Sure the pounding drums and the screaming distortion exaggerate the effect of frantic intensity but the piano piece is inherently shredding Heavy Metal.
Luxi: Since your previous album, Beyond the Fall of Time, the band went though both a line-up and a label change. Were these setbacks for Exmortus or did they actually strengthen the band?
Conan: Things went downhill for us for a while, yes, but we kept on keeping on with our writing and playing. Our work on Slave to the Sword is truly a reflection of ourselves, coming to grim realizations, accepting them and triumphing over them.
Luxi: How easy was it to sit David (Rivera) and Jovanni (Perez) in the Exmortus ranks, replacing Daniel (on bass) and Sean (on guitar) from The Beyond the Fall of Time lineup?
Conan: There is no sitting in these ranks! David and Jovanni (and Aldo before him) came in as brothers of the same vision.
Luxi: What have David and Jovanni brought into Exmortus? Have they contributed to the songwriting capacity, shared some original and unique ideas, or added more instrumental firepower and such?
Conan: They are definitely easy to work with. We always want to work on things together as unit. Each contributes to the show and writing process greatly.
Luxi: How much compromise is there with regards to Exmortus' songwriting process? Searching for the ultimate perfection is obviously something you strive for, even if that slows things down quite drastically, if you know what I am trying to say here...
Conan: Writing and playing together as a band have never been so fluid for us. The sharing of ideas is smooth and disagreements are resolved with clear understanding.
Luxi: Lyrics seem to be an important part of the whole songwriting process for many bands. How important do you find well written lyrics for your band, ones that actually rhyme as seamlessly as possible?
Conan: I don't believe lyrics should rhyme all the time. Repeated rhythms alone can make any chain of words flow. But sure, last-syllable rhyming is definitely important for catchy sing-alongs. Whatever the music calls for and whatever effect is desired is most important.
Luxi: You have classic-looking cover artwork for Slave to the Sword; the album cover painting done by no less but Philip Lawvere, who recently did the cover for Hirax's Immortal Legacy. How did you get in touch with him? I understand he just started painting after being "retired" from the painting biz for about 25 years or so...
Conan: Yes! Crazy coincidence, ha-ha!! We must share a similar vision. Our manager got a hold of Lawvere when we were browsing for artists. We are still stoked about it all. I love what he did with our idea.
Luxi: Did you have any other artists in mind when you started searching for a candidate to work on Slave to the Sword?
Conan: We were checking out artists that have done work for Wizards of the Coast/Magic: the Gathering.
Luxi: Slave to the Sword is Exmortus' third album. How important is this album for Exmortus' career? Is it showing the direction the band might be heading in the future? Undoubtedly, you are always exploring new ground to keep things challenging for yourselves, otherwise things could become tedious and boring, right?
Conan: This album is very important to us. We forged the blade with every ounce of passion in our hearts. Never tedious, never boring. As defenders of the faith, we will always push ourselves for the sake of Metal!
Luxi: You shot a video for "Foe Hammer" off the new record. How was the experience of making the video and, being the curious creature that I am, I need to ask why you choose this song?
Conan: Shooting the video was awesome. It was very easy to work with Ron Underwood. He recorded us rocking out the jam for about 4 hours straight. Lots of sweat! We figured this song would complement the jam room video for "Immortality Made Flesh" and lyric video for the title track.
Luxi: Promoting bands is essential and the less promotion you get, the less people get to hear your music and that could mean poor record sales. Are you happy with Prosthetic Records promotion of the band? Is there anything you'd like them to more of?
Conan: We are still stoked to work with Prosthetic and more stoked on how much they've done for us. In my sincere opinion, I want to know what we, Exmortus, could do better.
Luxi: You did a North American tour with Krisiun and German Thrash legends Destruction just recently, playing nearly 20 shows together. Was the tour a success for Exmortus and how did you get along with the guys in Krisiun and Destruction? Did they (Destruction) treat you well on this tour?
Conan: The tour was great! Both Krisiun and Destruction were very down to earth and it was a great honor to share the stage with them and a great pleasure to be in their company. Good times we had!
Luxi: When will the rest of the world get a taste of Exmortus' energetic and vibrant live performances? Do you have plans for touring other places set in stone, so to speak?
Conan: Nothing set in stone as of yet but the chisel is eager!
Luxi: Just one more thing and then we are done for this interview. There are many people out there that have never heard Exmortus before. Here's your chance to become a true salesman and tell all those people why they should check Exmortus.
Conan: Ha-ha... ya know man, I'm more of a musician than a salesman, so all I have to say is check us out at a show or hear our shit on YouTube. We intend to melt your brains to mush!
Luxi: I want to sincerely thank you for your time with this interview. Hopefully you had as much fun answering my questions as I had writing them down for you. Last, but not least, I also want to wish you all the best with all future endeavors with Exmortus. Stay strong, keep on fighting back and let there be Metal!! \m/. Any last comments, perhaps?
Conan: Thank you! 'Twas a pleasure. Fans & strangers, friends & foes, no matter, we are all slaves to the sword! Hope to see you soon! Cheers!
|Other information about Exmortus on this site|
|Review: In Hatred's Flame|
|Review: In Hatred's Flame|
|Review: Slave to the Sword|
|Review: Ride Forth|
|Interview with vocalist and guitarist Jadran "Conan" Gonzalez on June 17, 2017 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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