We just get together and jam and if it feels good and it sounds good, it sticks around. We might use it as the foundation for a song later or something.
If one word could describe the band Exmortus, that word would be unyielding. Most people don’t know that Exmortus has been around since 2002! That’s right, this band was started 15 years ago by a bunch of teenagers who loved metal. However, perseverance and devotion to a genre can only get you so far. The third vital ingredient is talent and the Exmortus war machine is filled with it.
“Slave to the Sword” should really be slave to the ax or better yet, slave to the game. It’s difficult looking at hardship positively but the gladiators who make up Exmortus will always be ready to fight. They take touring as a challenge, a place to overcome obstacles such as poor sound or bad lighting. They attack their instruments as they tackle the road, forever the student, leaving no doubt they will one day be the master.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with these road warriors again as they kicked of their North American tour in support of Havok. Please enjoy some excerpts of this interview where we discuss their upcoming European tour, the follow up to Ride Forth and Gangster Rap.
David Halbe: Are you excited about the upcoming European tour?
Jadran ‘Conan’ Gonzalez: Oh fuck yes! I think its great timing for the band. We haven’t played there ever, we are super stoked to go!
Dave: Are you happy about heading over there with Havok and Warbringer, bands you’ve toured with before?
Conan: For sure, we’ve known them for such a long time. They’ve done it already.
Dave: So they can show you the ropes?
Conan: Exactly, we’re cool with them and I know they are great company. There should be a lot of great music on this tour and that’s what I’m looking forward to. Of course there’s gonna be a lot of great food out there and I’m trying it all. I love food and I’m going to go for it. I might pay for it later (laughs) but I don’t care!
Dave: (Laughs) You gotta do it man. Do it while you can!
Conan: I’m going to try to man, eat different foods, look around, and get the vibe everywhere I go.
Dave: That’s awesome. So when can we expect a follow-up to Ride Forth?
Conan: Pretty soon I would think. The new record is in the planning stages, we’re in the process of perfecting some stuff.
Dave: So are you past a riffing stage?
Conan: The thing is man, we are always riffing. We just get together and jam and if it feels good and it sounds good, it sticks around. We might use it as the foundation for a song later or something.
Dave: That’s good, only the riffs you remember, fuck yea.
Conan: So we’re writing right now, just trying to get things down one hundred percent.
Dave: Can we expect the same warrior theme?
Conan: I really like that kind of archetype, something timeless, people see it as immortal.
Dave: People are definitely identifying with it.
Conan: I think so.
Dave: How many weeks of footage went into the “Let Us Roam” video?
Conan: It was pretty much that whole tour with Enforcer, Warbringer and Cauldron. It was over the winter so some parts of it were snowy, there was some wicked scenery of the road. You know our merch guy actually filmed it.
Dave: No shit? That’s cool.
Conan: Yea, he pretty much did everything on that.
Dave: Can we expect any new visuals from Exmortus this year?
Conan: You know we’re not taking our guy this time but we could always just shoot some footage ourselves.
Dave: I think you should consider it, build up some momentum.
Conan: Even if we shot it and took it home and did something there. It would be cool to have that footage.
Dave: I agree. Might be worth it. So a lot of people don’t know you’ve actually released 4 albums not just two – Are there any plans to re-release: In Hatred’s Flame & Beyond The Fall Of Time?
Conan: Yes, eventually.
Down in the bowls of Reggies – I reach into my pocket and produce a print out from Ebay with auctions for both CDs – Beyond the Fall of Time goes for about forty bucks but In Hatred’s Flame is listed at over a hundred.
Dave: In Hatred’s Flame is going for over a hundred bucks.
Conan: No shit?
David Rivera: Dude! Some guy was telling me something like that today.
Conan: That’s crazy.
Dave: People know who you are and they’re willing to pay a hundred bucks for your CD!
David (To Conan): Do you have a copy of that one?
Conan: Yea but it’s pretty messed up.
David: I wouldn’t pay a hundred bucks. I’d just download it.
Dave: So what’s the deal with those records?
Conan: I think it’s seven years before you can re-release or re-record it.
Dave: So you’re stuck in limbo?
Conan: Yes, because Earache still owns the rights. I think Beyond the Fall of Time came out in 2011.
Dave: Yea, 2011 and In Hatred’s Flame 2008.
Conan: So we can’t do anything with Beyond the Fall yet but Hatred is a different story.
Dave: That would be cool to do something like that.
Conan: I agree. We’ve already talked to our manager about it so the idea is definitely there.
Dave: Who’s handling bass duties now?
Conan turns to the new Exmortus bass player who’s sitting on a couch talking with David Rivera and Roger Schultz.
Conan: We’ve got the new bass player right here. His name is Cody but we call him ‘Bro-dy’.
Conan introduces me to Phillip Nunez.
Dave: You guys have been burning through bass players, is he gonna be your permanent guy now?
Conan: I hope so. The good thing is we’ve known each other for fucking ever.
Dave: Let’s me guess Whittier?
Conan: Yea, all of us. We all went to the same high school!
Dave: Damn, that high school is like a breeding ground for metal heads!
Conan: (Laughs) Brody is also a guitarist and he’s really good.
Dave: No shit?
David: He can play guitar and I’ll be the bass player!
Dave: So what happened these guys approached you and said ‘do you wanna play bass?’
Philip Nunez: Yea man.
Dave: Good for you bro, these guys are fucking crazy!
Brody: (Chuckles) I know.
David: He can play drums too!
Conan: We played a show with him on drums before, we played a bunch of covers stuff like Yngwie’s “Rising Force”, “Burning For You” by Blue Oyster Cult”, “Love Gun” by Kiss and Iron Maiden “Powerslave”.
Dave: Holy shit! That’s a variety right there!
David: We did “Gates of Babylon” (Rainbow) too!
Dave: Jesus, on the drums you were playing all this shit?
Dave: Damn dude you must be talented, that shit is crazy! Speaking of filling in, tell me about that show you did where you filled in for Johan from Amon Amarth?
Conan: Well, that was in New Mexico. Johan was having some kind of thing and he didn’t want to push it too much. It was good timing because the day after was a day off. He was like ‘I guess I won’t be singing tonight, I will just give myself some rest’ and the other guys in the band asked us, ‘hey, do you guys wanna sing?’
Dave: Did they know you knew the songs?
Conan: Yea, they were just like hey do you guys wanna sing, almost like a joke I think and we were like, we’re down, I knew some of the songs.
Dave: Did they change the set list at all to accommodate the stuff you could sing?
Conan: They did the same set, the thing is I don’t know all the songs so David did one and I did a couple. We didn’t know the other songs that well.
Dave: How did the crowd respond?
Conan: I was surprised they took it well, what’s this skinny Mexican doing out here? Singing songs like Johan? But they liked it, I think it went over good.
Dave: That’s metal legend now.
Conan: Man, it was crazy. I did the first song, “Pursuit of Vikings” and the place went nuts.
Dave: Did they have the whole ship out there?
Conan: No they had this huge helmet!
Dave: Tons of fog and shit? Must have been bad ass!
Conan: Man it was, they had these stairs leading up to the drum set. It was awesome.
Dave: Sounds incredible, so what’s the thought process behind the Conan’s Conquest posts and can we expect more?
Conan: Oh yes indeed. For that, I just felt the need to cover some classic stuff. For me it’s always been a challenge trying to nail those parts on guitar, interpret other instruments. Like violins, they’re tuned differently so interpreting them on guitar can be a little difficult.
Dave: Man, that is a serious challenge, how long does that take to do? How do you decide what passages, just got into the Christmas spirit?
Conan: (Laughs) I’ve been doing it a while actually. It’s comes pretty easy if I’m really into it, I study the pieces a lot before I attempt anything. It’s interesting to me and I thought I might make a couple bucks on the side, those guys are long dead.
Dave: Meaning, nobody owns the copyright to that music?
Conan: Exactly, it’s all public domain so why not sell that? It’s my own interpretation anyway.
Dave: Agreed. How about a solo album made up of those passages?
Conan: That’s the plan, it would be varying styles, all instrumental of course.
Dave: Imagine your reach if you could do that!
Conan: I know man, I plan on releasing material like that sometime in the future.
Dave: That’s kick ass! David, I’ve seen your Facebook posts and I’ve gotta ask. What is it about rap that appeals to you as a musician?
David: (Laughs) Man, I never get this question.
Dave: (Laughs) Hey, that’s why I’m asking!
David: Well, I guess the kind of rap I like is early ‘90s Compton rap. You know NWA, Ice Cube or DJ Quick.
Dave: We’re talking gangster rap kind of shit, West Coast?
David: Yea, I love the funk aspect. I like how Dr.Dre on his album The Chronic uses so many great funk samples like Parliament and old school Dazz and Roger beats. I like that kind of stuff. I grew up listening to stuff like Brothers Johnson with my dad. He grew up in East LA and he always played the oldies. You know how our music has a heart beat in it?
David: Well, that music has the same kind of thing. I like music with a simple groove and a strong heartbeat.
Dave: I get it.
David: Also that music, the lyrics they always seem to walk you through something. Like you know how Ozzy always seems to be telling you stuff but his lyrics always seem to have a double meaning? Like in Suicide Solution he says: “Cause you feel life’s unreal, and you’re living a lie
such a shame who’s to blame and you’re wondering why. Then you ask from your cask is there life after birth? What you sow can mean hell on this earth.”
Dave: I totally know what you mean Ozzy and Dio lyrics have a lot of that. So what is your favorite rap album right now?
David: Probably, Amerkkka’s Most Wanted by Ice Cube.
Dave: I know it, that’s a good one.
David: Or anything by Bone, I’m getting into those guys.
Dave: E 1999 Eternal or Art of War, pretty much anything by Bone is pretty good. You know they are the only rap group to record a song with Easy E., Biggie (The Notorious Big) and TuPac?
David: You’re right man. That’s true.
Dave: Well, thanks a lot for your time tonight guys, I totally appreciate it.
Conan: No problem, good to see you.
David: Yea man, take care.
- Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez – Guitars, Vocals
- Mario Moreno – Drums
- David Rivera – Guitars
- Phillip Nunez – Bass