Exmortus Interview for PlanetMosh, April 2014


Following successful North American back-to-back tours with Dark Tranquillity and Lich King, California’s young “powershred” foursome Exmortus decided to have a wee chat with PlanetMosh.

Summarizing Slave to the Sword, these ten tracks have a thrash metal backbone, abrasive or ‘harsh’ vocals, and every song is packed to the hilt with lick after lick of fast, confident, unashamed shred guitar. While the crazy shred is not as ‘clean’ as some of the modern masters – Vai, Gilbert, Satriani, etc – it’s very, very energetic, intense, well-composed, and powerful. And it doesn’t have to be that clean: this is extreme metal, built on a loud, ostentatious vibe; music for headbanging and circle-pitting. The band has an energetic, super-entertaining live show as well. These are well-done tunes for those who like their music served sizzling hot.

At one point in time, the band had “Heavy Metal” spray-painted on to the jam room wall, and Iron Maiden electrical-taped to the guitar. That’s dedication: the band seems to be hooked for the long haul, a longer journey in to the realm of heavy music then most. Admonished to categorise them only as Exmortus, I’m briefly taken in to their realm of swords and shreds, for a quick but informative read… Vocalist and guitarist Conan quips about their recent release, various facets of ‘being in a heavy metal band’, and an unwavering belief that they’re slaves to the sword.

As a side note, if you play guitar, don’t “drunk wrestle” after a show.

Hello Exmortus! When I heard Slave to the Sword ‘proper’, the first guys I thought of were Stevie Salas, Chris Impelliteri, and Michael Angelo Batio. I definitely hear “teh shredz” in your music. 

Cool! We love those shredders, and we love to shred!

I also hear carpal tunnel syndrome. What kind of practice routine are you keeping (while not on tour or recording)?!

Haha! We don’t want that! Good warm-ups and good practice usually do the trick. We like to rehearse songs or parts together as much as possible, to address any weaknesses.

How were the tours w/Dark Tranquillity and Lich King?

The tours went very well. Great music and great company every night.

How much crazier would your live set be, with “pyro”? I think you can still use pyro on some of the bigger fest & arena stages!

Haha! That would be pretty damn fun to have. We’ve definitely imagined lights and the works to be a part of our live show.

Slave to the Sword is a really fun disc to listen to. So much speed and bravado. As much as I appreciate smooth jazz and keyboards, it’s just great to hear a metal band be a metal band. Sometimes you’ve just gotta kick some ass.

I’m glad it had that effect on you! If it’s as fun for you to listen to as it is for us to play, then we really feel that the mission was accomplished.

What rock sub-sub-genre should you be filed under? I gather it’s not going to end up next to Fleetwood Mac. :)

That’s a great question. We never liked to categorize ourselves because we just don’t know how to either, since we’re into lots of kinds of music and it all seems to reflect on our own. When we write and when we perform, we never think of categories, we just think of the music and how fun it is to play. We are Exmortus, so please, by all means categorize us as Exmortus. haha.

Can you tell us a bit about your general songwriting process?

We like to use guitar pro to share ideas. It makes things easier and neat. We were psyched and still are psyched about every song.

I first heard you guys on our local college radio “metal station”, so the album has definitely made it’s way in to at least some of the right hands. How has your label, Prosthetic (Records)’s approach been helpful to you guys?

Well, we do live in an age of downloads, so any release can and will be heard before the purchase. Prosthetic are very helpful. They do their job in putting the album out there. You easily found the music and I’m sure you bought your own copy, considering your compliments. Mission accomplished. ;)

Does the term “tour support” mean what it used to? It used to be, that the main tenet of ‘tour support’ meant a label would front the band the money to go on tour. They’d book it, promote it, and front the band the cash to hit the road. Do they still do that, and is that a ‘selling point’ these days, to get signed to a label?

I don’t think it’s been that way for many and for a while. Any support is always great. The selling point for us with Prosthetic is the sick catalog and their enthusiasm towards signing us.

The funniest thing I ‘get’ when I’m listening to the disc is… it could be (accompanied by) one of those “how to shred” instructionals, like the material from German Schauss (Shredding The Composers type stuff). I can see guys buying the tab books, busting their chops, and just melting down, panicking over Slave to the Sword. 

Haha! I would gladly be the instructor.

I loved that I didn’t have to struggle to enjoy the vocals on your latest. That straight-ahead gruff/extreme approach works well because it’s so different from the other ‘shred heavy’ bands floating around. Thank Crom that you guys don’t have some Manowar power metal vocalist. ‘Cause that stuff gets old fast. It’s good, but Manowar (I’m no hater – saw ’em in concert) sort-of beat it to death. 

Haha, good! Power metal vocals can be awesome! Manowar are awesome! haha. We’re always open to different effects.

Could you talk about your live show, how you sequence a set list – that sort of thing? 

We like to rock out anytime and anywhere. We’ll make a set list last-minute, depending on the crowd, considering requests and whatnot. Throw in a cover or two. We just like to have a good time.

Do you have any whack or scary tour stories to share?

We were somewhere in the state of Vermont, driving through a snow storm on our way to Montreal. We lost control and slid off the road into a ditch. It was pretty intense, but everything was alright. Finally decided to get winter tires a couple of days later, haha!

exmortus band goof photo 1

Are you headed for endorsements with Jackson and LTD.?

Jackson is awesome. I’ve always played Jackson and I always will. I should hit them up.

There will come a time when you turn the volume knob counter-clockwise. Do you dread this, or welcome the new musical challenge? Once you conquer “blazing speed”, what’s next?

To me, music isn’t one-dimensional like a knob. Everything is subject to change and that’s awesome. I like to learn and I like to create. Who knows what’s to come?

What are you listening to, for inspiration, for pleasure, or to keep your ‘ears fresh’, these days?

Anything and everything. From disco to rock, maybe classical to pop, there’s always something inspiring in all music.

How much truth is in this: “SoCal is loaded with monster players, and if you don’t have management or something outstanding on offer, talent alone won’t get you the gig.”

It’s management, talent and drive: a musician’s holy trinity.

exmortus - band photo totempole 1

What’s in store for Exmortus in the future? I heard you might be working on new material – is that true?

We’re always jamming out ideas. Just haven’t started on any projects just yet; we still want to do more for “Slave.”

Do you have any parting words for your fans or readers?

Hope to see you soon! Shred on, for we are all Slaves to the Sword!

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About Iris North

My formal position is: editor and music reviewer. I joined the PlanetMosh army in 2012. I enjoy extreme metal, 'shred' guitar, hard rock, prog rock, punk, and... silly pop music!
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