Had a chance to chat with singer/guitarist Conan from EXMORTUS not too long ago. As a big-time fan of the band, I was really looking forward to this one, and he did not disappoint. We discussed new album The Sound of Steel and some other things. Have a look:
Amps: I’ve been hot on your band for four years and countless articles now. Can you believe this is our FIRST interview?
Conan: I know, right? It’s crazy. But I’m glad it came together.
Amps: I think you really outdid yourselves with The Sound of Steel. “Strength and Honor” is my favorite. “Turn the Tide” and “Victory or Death!” are stellar as well.
Conan: Nice! You like the last half of the record, that’s good.
Amps: I am always the guy whose favorite song is somewhere in the middle or latter half of an album for some reason. And are those high-pitched vocals all you?
Conan: That’s me, I recorded them. Live I’ll do the highs and one of the other guys will do the harsh back-ups. I had done some highs before, but it was always just a single pitch. But on these songs I wanted to have a little more melody, and it sounded like it would fit.
Amps: I’ve caught your live show several times. Last year you played with HAVOK. If that wasn’t the tour that needed to happen, I don’t know WHAT was. So much fun!
Conan: We did a lot of shows with those guys last year in North America and Europe. That was fuckin’ awesome, touring with them and hanging out with them every day. They’re killer guys, too!
Amps: Having WARBRINGER’S Chase Becker (guitar) and Carlos Cruz (drums) do the record with you, did that change the way you write? Also, very cool to see Adrian Aguilar now on the drummer’s throne.
Conan: It affects the writing process a little bit. Even if the new members don’t write a part or a riff, it still affects how I approach the writing process. I like to pay attention to how the player plays in general, and so we get the best out of everyone. You’ve listened to the album, so you know it’s still EXMORTUS but you can hear the different flavors, different kinds of fills and solos going on because of different members. But overall it’s the same vision, the same idea, the same EXMORTUS. And Adrian is fucking killer, man. Wait till you see him live!
Amps: What are you listening to right now? Old stuff, new stuff, rock, metal, polka (please don’t say polka)?
Conan: (Laughs) When I’m driving I listen to a lot of Classical music. I’m a Classical nerd.
Amps: Away from music, what does Conan do to relax and unwind?
Conan: If I have enough energy I try to go hiking here and there. Lately I’ve been watching movies, listening to music. I’ve been collecting some Classical vinyl, trying to get all my favorite pieces of work while also trying out stuff I’ve never listened to before. I like to play video games even though I haven’t done so in almost a year because I’ve been so busy with work and traveling.
Amps: From inception to recording, how long did this record take to do?
Conan: There were breaks here and there from actual writing. I had half the album written last summer. I had some ideas, and then Mario and David left, so I took a break so I could work on my chops, and practice some stuff in the Classical realm. I started writing again in November of 2017 so we could record in January. It takes time to write a record, but what really gets it done is deadlines. I set a deadline for myself and Boom!
Amps: Do you get riff and melody ideas all the time, or do you just write when the mood takes you?
Conan: I always have shit going on in my mind. I think what helps is listening to all kinds of music. I’ll be at the supermarket and hear a pop song with a cool melody and then it gets ruined by some generic transition. I want it to go a different way, and that mindset affects how I write sometimes, you know? Not that EXMORTUS writes poppy music (laughs), but I’ll come up with a bunch of random shit sometimes and who knows where it might go.
Amps: Five years from now where do you see EXMORTUS?
Conan: Well, since things have picked up and little by little and we’re expanding the terrain I see us hitting South America, Japan, Russia, everywhere. I would love to tour the whole world and keep expanding and building the EXMORTUS name, musically and merch-wise.
Amps: You mentioned movies earlier. What are some of your favorites, and what were the last few that wowed you?
Conan: That’s a good question. I’m a Star Wars nerd but I’m not real happy with the new one. You can watch it and enjoy it, but months later you might not feel the same way. I love The Lord of the Rings and horror movies. I haven’t seen some of the Best Picture nominees because I was in Europe when a lot of them were released.
Amps: What would you hope that John Q. Listener takes away from this record when the last note of “Victory or Death!” rings out?
Conan: I hope they enjoy it. I hope they’re surprised by some of the different ideas on the record. And I hope they can say, “Oh that’s similar to what they’ve done before, but there’s a cool new twist on it,” with the different writing styles and different members. I hope they choose this as their new favorite EXMORTUS record. I am very proud of it, so I hope that happens.
Amps: What would you like to say to all the EXMORTUS fans out there in the world?
Conan: I hope to see them wherever they may fuckin’ be. We have an album out in Japan for the first time, and we’re not gonna stop. We’re gonna travel and tour, and we hope to see you there! Come say hi if you see us!
I had fun talking with Conan. He’s a cool dude, plus the band has put out arguably the best album of their young career with The Sound of Steel. So it was fun discussing that.There are a few dates left on this U.S. tour, so if EXMORTUS is hitting your town for one of them, drop everything and GO!! Their live set is fantastic! The remaining shows are HERE.
LIVE IMAGE: JONATHAN AREVALO VIDEOGRAPHY/PHOTOGRAPHY