Interview with Manntis Vocalist Jake Sirokman
***Interview By Lord of The Wasteland
The latest golden boys of Century Media Records are Riverside, California?s Manntis and deservedly so. Packing a lethal dose of aggression behind a guitar tandem that isn?t afraid to lay down some serious solos and riffs, Manntis? debut album, SLEEP IN YOUR GRAVE, was just released on June 28th, 2005 and is sure to be a staple of many year-end favorite lists. The band first struck a chord during the summer of 2004 as they participated in MTV?s THE BATTLE FOR OZZFEST program with the winner landing a coveted spot on Ozzfest 2005. Although Manntis came in third (out of thousands of bands), the track they recorded for the competition??The End?s Where It Begins??is an integral piece of SLEEP IN YOUR GRAVE, showing the band?s diversity and dynamic nature.
I recently conducted an interview with Manntis vocalist Jake Sirokman (AKA ?Jake Daniel?s?) and he tells his side of being reality show stars, landing a major indie label deal and specific instructions on how to play ?beer pong.?
How did Manntis first come together? Can you give Metal Rules a brief history of the band?
The band originated in the fall of 2000. We started off with four members, slowly gained a second vocalist and guitarist, went through a lot of changes and members and here we are today.
What happened to original vocalist Marco Gomez and guitarist Nick Eller? Are they in other bands now?
Things just weren?t really working out. Nick just wasn?t committed enough and Marco had other interests, which actually worked out seeing how we were becoming stronger and a lot harder. The type of music we had been playing had become more of the trend, with the whole screaming/singing thing. We were a little over it.
Who came up with the name Manntis for the band and what does it mean? Wasn?t Manntis one of Godzilla?s enemies in the old Japanese movies (laughs)?
Clint [Gregory], our bass player, thought of it. We practice up at the ?House of Manntis? and we get a lot of Praying Mantises, so he just said, ?What the fuck, why not??
Do you consider yourselves more metal than hardcore, vice versa, or somewhere in the middle?
Metal all the way! Besides Bane, Terror, Comeback Kid, Hatebreed, etc., hardcore music today has taken a huge turn. Hardcore has changed so much through the years that I have been listening to it. I remember back when it was Chain of Strength, Judge, Sick of it All, Gorilla Biscuits and Minor Threat?bands like that who actually stood for something besides pink shirts and shitty swoops. Fuck all that, that isn?t hardcore.
Century Media?s bio of Manntis compares your music to everything from Meshuggah to Killswitch Engage to Zao. That is pretty broad! I see the Killswitch influence but I get more of a Shadows Fall/God Forbid/Hatebreed connection. Can you narrow that down to something a little simpler for someone who hasn?t heard Manntis? music?
Well, actually those were more of our influences than what we sound like. I think you nailed it with your choice of bands, though. We range pretty far in that field, but sorry?can?t really narrow it down.
Congratulations on beating out so many other bands and finishing third on MTV?s ?Battle for Ozzfest!? For those of us who didn?t get the show in our area, can you briefly explain what happened and how this whole ?Battle for Ozzfest? thing actually came about?
Ahh, I knew it was coming! We tried out for what we thought was a chance to play Ozzfest this year and it ended up being a reality show that put Adair [Cobley, guitar] through a six-week adventure consisting of competition. We came, we threw down on the Main Stage in Tampa, Florida and we took third out about a thousand bands.
Would you do something like this again if the opportunity presented itself?
No, we are good where we are.
Forgive me if I?m picking at a still-fresh wound, but what do you think kept you from winning the ?Battle for Ozzfest??
No hard feelings at all. Like I said, we are good where we are. I think for not winning, we are doing very well and we are working extremely hard to get away from the whole MTV ?shadows.? We are a mature metal band that has a lot to show. We are here for a good time and to rock the fuck out.
Has the exposure the band received on the show been a good thing or has it damaged some of the ?underground cred? that many metalheads cannot look past?
A bit of both. More good than bad though. A lot of people will come up after a show and tell us how much they hated the MTV show and they thought we sucked ass on it but they were very impressed with our live show, so I guess that?s pretty cool. People just need to get over it. It?s not like the eight bands on the show were the only bands that tried out.
Did you ever get any feedback from Rob Halford on what he thought of the song you wrote for him?
Just what he told them that day, but nothing as far as the actual recorded version on the album.
Has anyone?s life in the band been greatly altered since being on the TV show? Are you getting recognized by people in grocery stores yet? Any Manntis groupies (laughs)?
Not really. Adair gets noticed all the time in the malls and stores. It?s crazy shit.
With Ozzfest, what sort of preparations did you do to get ready for a show of that size compared with the smaller club shows?
I can?t even explain it. We were very nervous.
Which band(s) were you most excited about seeing live at Ozzfest?
Last year?s Ozzfest was fucking awesome. I liked almost all the bands on the bill. I was very stoked to see Slayer again, not to mention Judas Priest for the first time. Fucking intense. Second stage, got to give it up to Lamb of God, Hatebreed, God Forbid and Unearth.
Did you have any stagefright or any nervousness about performing before such a large crowd?
Yes, 35,000 people were a shit load. Plus, it was very hot out there and we were on before god damn Slayer! Who wouldn?t be?
Can you give us some highlights and lowlights of the Ozzfest? There must be a good road story you can share?!
Not really, but we did have a great time with Big Dave [Moscato, tour manager]. He?s an awesome guy.
Did you actually get to meet Ozzy?
One time, right before we went on.
How did the Otep/Daysend tour go?
Good tour, but don?t forget about Devil Inside, though. Lots of alcohol consumed. We had a blast.
How are fans treating you guys on the tours so far?
Unbelievable. We have a blast with our fans. After the shows, its like fuckin? Woodstock. We just hang with everyone in the parking lot and drink and chill.
?The Hammer Smash Face Tour??was the name cribbed from the similarly-named Cannibal Corpse song?
Hell yeah! That songs the shit. Basically, we like to drink so it is more of a slogan for us.
Your debut CD?SLEEP IN YOUR GRAVE?just got released June 28th. Century Media seems to really be backing it and I?m seeing the CD on store shelves up here already, which is a real benchmark in Canada. Is being signed to a label everything that you had expected?
So far, yes. A lot of people think once you get signed, it?s all about the green?not at all. We aren?t here for the money and fame. We do it because we love to play music. Being up on stage every night is the best high I?ve ever had, not to mention traveling. It?s like a long road trip that never ends.
How are things going with Century Media so far?
I can?t complain. All the guys in the office are just rad dudes that love metal and their job. I couldn?t be happier with them.
Did you get a lot of interest from other labels besides Century Media?
Some, but I?m not one to talk about that.
How did you end up choosing Century Media over other labels?
Well, Century Media is a straight metal label and that?s what we liked about them. We liked them from the start from everything they had to say, plus all the bands on the roster are killer.
Cameron Webb (Danzig, Motorhead) is a big name in heavy music and he produced, mixed and engineered SLEEP IN YOUR GRAVE. What was it like working with him? Did he offer a lot of useful advice in terms of what the band was capable of musically?
Cameron is a good guy. We enjoyed our time with him and he was very easy to work with. He did show us a lot of useful things, had some great advice and he had a very good ear for music. We would love to work with him again.
The big question: With so many metalcore bands out there right now, why should a kid lay down $15 for SLEEP IN YOUR GRAVE?
We are not just another metalcore band out there today. We are a new breed of metal and we are here for the masses, not ourselves. We are not your typical scream/sing band that has 11 of the same sounding songs. We put our hearts in our music and I think you can tell that when you listen to each song. From start to finish on the album, every song leaves a different taste in your mouth.
Eleven songs in 28 minutes?I guess this is the hardcore side of the band coming out (laughs)?
No, when we wrote the album we wanted to get straight to the point. No long intros, no whining choruses?just straight chaos. It was all on our own, so for the fans, we were reaching out to get the point of what were about not, what we can do.
Maybe this is a question for Adair but who are his guitar influences? Doesn?t he know that metal bands circa 2005 aren?t supposed to be laying down solos and shredding like that (laughs)?!?!?
Who says? Adair is 20 years old and shreds his ass off! He was going to Metallica concerts when he was 5 years old. I know most of his influences are Zakk Wylde, the late Dimebag Darrell, Kirk Hammett, Kerry King and many more.
You can belt out the blood-curdling roars and screams but your clean vocals on ?The End?s Where It Begins? are also pretty good. Do you have a soft spot for crooning or were you an all-out aggressive vocalist before this song?
Fuck that! I don?t sing?that?s all Adair.
The title track ripped my face off. That is some killer thrash at the intro and the riffing really curls my toes, too. Being Californians, were you guys influenced by the Bay Area thrash bands at all?
Not really. Jimmie [Sanders, drums] and I listened to a little bit of that shit back in the day but nothing presently. I guess it?s just how we write.
Who is ?Uncle Bruce? (backing vocals)?
He is just a close friend to the band. He came into the studio to help a little and he has that unique voice we needed on the intro to ?Second Life Ahead.?
Forgive me if this is a dumb question but what does the lyric, ?Eight soon will turn to one? on ?The End?s Where It Begins? mean? Does it have to do with the contest?
Yes, it has to do with the eight bands on the show. Rob Halford asked for a song about the whole show and what not.
What is ?beer pong??
It?s the best fucking drinking game ever! Line up six cups on each side of a rectangle table in a pyramid shape, grab a ping-pong ball, get a team of two people on each side and eliminate each cup by tossing the ball into all the cups and whoever kills all the cups is the winner. It?s great for touring.
I see that you are credited with all of the lyrics and the music is credited to ?Manntis,? but who are the main songwriters in the band?
Adair does all the guitar writing. He and Jimmie get it all going.
Who did you write ?Weathered Soul? with?
Our buddy Jeff came to me with some lyrics that he had written and I just basically re-wrote them.
Who is ?The Riverside Brewtality Crue,? as credited for ?all chants??
It?s a family thing. There was a group of us in the studio that did all the chants so we just gave ourselves a name. Now though, it has turned into a family of friends in the Inland Empire.
Are you doing any videos from SLEEP IN YOUR GRAVE?
?Axe of Redemption.? We filmed it a couple of weeks ago and it should make its appearance on MTV?s Headbanger?s Ball and Fuse?s Metal Asylum very soon.
Have you all had to give up your day jobs, etc. to focus on Manntis and the responsibilities that come with the band?
Oh yeah, all of us quit our jobs about two years ago.
Why do you seem to be credited as ?Jake Daniels? in some places and ?Jake Sirokman? in others? Are you a fan of the sour mash whiskey or is this merely a coincidence (laughs)??
Fuck, I love whiskey! You see, my real name is Jacob Daniel Sirokman and as the Jack Daniel?s drinker I am, I decided to make a stage name for myself, which is of course, Jake Daniel?s.
What are your plans for the rest of the year in regards to touring? Any Canadian or European dates down the pipe?
Lot?s of touring all over. Europe is up in the air right now but it?s looking to be in November with The Haunted and God Forbid. Fuck, it will be sick!
**Thanks to George from Century Media Records for his help in setting up the interview and to Jake for taking the time to answer my questions.
***Read my review of SLEEP IN YOUR GRAVE here
Manntis official site