In-person interview with Jean-Francois Dagenais of Kataklysm
By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal
March 23rd 2010, House Of Blues, Hollywood CA
Andrew: Talk a little bit about the upcoming album 'Heaven's Venom'. I believe you've finished writing for it?
JF: That was great. We've been on the road for quite a while in support of the previous album. We did many tours for that one. We started writing for the next album when we were home and we are really inspired to do it this year. I feel that really good stuff came out, more than what we've done on the previous couple of albums. I think we pushed our envelope a little further. The songs are way more intricate to my taste. Actually there are a lot more tempo changes. There are more twisted arrangements. I'm excited about this new album. I don't want to say anything like everybody says like, 'It's the best thing ever' but I really dig it and I hope fans will like it as well.
Andrew: The album name is great. How did you come up with it?
JF: We were having this concept about how there's always something infecting your own paradise, your own kingdom. That's how we came up with the title!
Andrew: How are you managing the set list this tour, considering you have 10 studio albums and only a 45-minute long set?
JF: Actually we didn't want to tour anymore for this album [Prevail]. We were thinking of waiting till the next one comes out, but we got an offer from Kreator so we said lets just do it as we are big Kreator fans. We thought this was a great tour to do, just jumped on it and now we have 45 minutes to play. We try to cover a little bit of every album and we included a few more thrash songs because we are opening for Kreator. But yeah I guess we got a couple of tracks from everywhere. It goes fast when we start playing. We just did a headline tour in Europe and played 17 songs every night and now we are doing 8 or 9, so it goes quick and you feel like you just started when its already over.
Andrew: The inclusion of movie-quote samples in your music interests me. How did that start?
JF: Well, I don't really remember which album we did it first. It was me and Mauricio in the movie theatre watching a movie and we thought, ok this is a cool quote! We just ripped it off and threw it on there. After that it was kind of an ongoing thing for every album. But we don't know if we're still going to keep it for the next album. We'll do it only if we find something classic. If we find something meaningful we'll put it in otherwise we'll do something else like a musical acoustic intro or go straight into the music, I don't know. We'll see (laughs).
Andrew: There were quite a few changes and experimentation with the sound. At what stage did you feel you've found the true Kataklysm sound?
JF: For me the first album I was really proud of in terms of sound and musical direction of the band was 'Shadows and Dust'. Its still one of my favorite records today, because of its song writing and overall sound. I know its already like 8 years old but I still feel its cool. We tried to progress with every record after that but it took a lot to find our way. When you start playing music you have influences and try to find something of your own. Also, when you're young you try to figure out where you want to go because there's no limit. But yeah for me Shadows and Dust was when we found the Kataklysm sound.
Andrew: You produced the previous album 'Prevail' yourself. Talk a little bit about that.
JF: Actually I did a lot of the earlier records as well. We like to do things on our own because we feel we have more control over the final product and our own music. You don't have an external person coming in and changing a bunch of stuff, so its important for us to keep it in the family. I put my name as producer but its really all of us that have worked on it and everybody comes up with ideas. I've always worked in recording studios in my area, working with local bands. Starting from early demos to the second album, I did the mix. That was the first time I did something for one of our records. Since then I've worked on production, recording and stuff. The only difference is that on the last couple of albums we chose a different mixer, just to give it a different vibe. Also, I find that when you go through the whole process of song writing, doing all the demos, producing and recording, when you're coming down the line to the mixing, its tiring and feels nice to just give it away to someone to finish it. I do that for people that record their own albums and send it to me for mixing. It's a good thing because when you start mixing afresh as compared to doing it after going through the whole process. You have different ideas for everything and I like working this way. We never really settled on a formula and we try something different every album.
Andrew: The band's music is described as 'Northern Hyperblast'. Where exactly do the blast beats fit in?
JF: I think for us we use it as a powerful element of surprise, in a sense that we don't really put blast beats all the way from the beginning to the end of the record. We like to use it when its meaningful and when it gives a special punch to the music in certain parts of songs. I think it's a really important element in Kataklysm but its not something we care to be known for. We don't want to be known as the fastest band in the world or the heaviest or whatever. But we've added blast beats since the early days and I think its going to be there till the end of the band.
Andrew: I've heard the new single 'Cross The Line Of Redemption'. Is the music on the upcoming album similar to it?
JF: I would say no actually. The new album is more intricate and interesting from a musician's point of view. Hopefully fans that are not actual musicians will dig it as well. Its more of a musical album, the new one. 'Cross The Line Of Redemption' was actually recorded during the 'Prevail' sessions. But at the time we didn't feel that it fit the record and we decided to keep it for something else. Then we had the headliner tour in Europe and the Kreator tour here, so Nuclear Blast was like why don't we issue a special edition with videos and stuff. I think they only printed 4000 copies of it and we thought we'd just add that track to it. Also on an instrumental song from the last album, we added vocals on it because at the beginning we weren't sure if we wanted to have that as an instrumental or with vocals. We put the instrumental on the album but we felt it was nice for the fans to have the other version as well. I think it's a cool collector's thing to have. If you never bought the 'Prevail' album, its cool to buy it this way too.
Andrew: The band has almost completed 20 years. If somebody told you in 1991 that this is what you would have achieved by 2010, would you have been happy?
JF: Oh yeah, for sure. I would have never believed that we would make it this far. We started like any other band in high school, doing this as a hobby. We did our first two demos and got a record deal with Nuclear Blast. We're still in shock that we got it (laughs). We never thought we would go this far. Every year we were thinking that we don't know what's going to happen the next year and we just rolled with it. We always said that the day we don't have fun anymore or don't enjoy doing this, we're just going to quit and do something like, doing studio albums and once in a while do a couple of shows or something like that. But that day never came and over the years we felt like it went so fast. Twenty years later, we still feel young, Travelling the world is amazing and we get to meet so many cool people in every city that we play. We love the lifestyle and the music. We are totally into it and hopefully we'll be around for another 20 years!
Andrew: Can we expect more tours after you're done recording 'Heaven's Venom', possibly a headline tour?
JF: We would love to. We are actually starting to look at the touring schedule for early next year. The album will be done in June but it won't be released up until January. We're talking to Nuclear Blast about that and that's what they have in mind. First tour will be probably after that, going to Europe as headliner and then here in the States as headliner. After that may be if we get opportunities to tour with other bands who are friends of ours, we'll jump on that. That's the plan so far. From now till then, we're doing Wacken which is probably the only festival other than the 'Heavy Montreal' thing with Slayer and a bunch of other great bands.
Check out the band's official website.