Richard Mentzer of Manimal
Interviewed by Alan Gilkeson
Soaring vocals, flowing rhythms, tasty licks, Manimal walk the fine line between Progressive and Power Metal. Released independently, their new album THE DARKEST ROOM reached number 36 on the Swedish charts, forcing AFM to rise up and sign them. Now the stage is set for Manimal to surprise the Metal world when the album is officially released on June 19th, 2009.
Congrats on the new album and having AFM pick it up. It must be an exciting proposition to be on such are large Metal label? Were there other offers for you to pick from?
Thank you so much and… what can I say, It feels great, a bit unreal to be honest. A year ago we were kind of stuck in this small cage and now, somebody found the key, unlocked it and we’re out – he, he. In some parts all this has a shimmering feel of a fairytale, with us being nervous that someone will wake us up.
The deal with AFM couldn’t be better and thus far the support has been 100% – they believe in us and in this record. To get a deal like this as a newcomer is perhaps not unique but rare, especially these days considering the declining of CD-sales. AFM was one out of three labels that showed interest.
Your album is one of the best self produced and independently recorded albums I have ever heard. Did you invest so much time and money into it believing that somebody would want to distribute the record?
Yes we have invested a lot of money but foremost a great deal of time; it took us well over a year to record, edit, mix, reject, curse, remix… hell yeah. The process was long and winding but we wanted it to sound like what we first set out to do– that or nothing at all. Eventually, after the cooperation with Tobias Lindell (Europe, Lost Horizon, Mustasch) we got it right and it was worth waiting for… obviously. Of course we had a dream that someone would pick it up somehow but we’ve done this for ourselves and for the sheer fun of it.
The drum work on the album is very groove intensive, and at times technical, but mostly streaming and groovy. How do you approach drumming ?
You described my philosophy when it comes to drumming pretty well. My roll is to get things to rock and to groove. I wanna see heads nod and feet tap when we play. The groove is essential and then and only then find interesting parts within the songs were I can implement different techniques and elaborate. If I don’t get that pounding groove the song is dead – this is very important for me and for the band as well.
What are your musical and non-musical influences?
Life itself! I have two sons 2 and 5 and just seeing them grow and evolve gives me every reason I need. And literature of all sorts; Jarry’s “King Ubu” for president… he, he!
Musically I have a few. When it comes to the art of shredding there’s no one like Vinnie Paul of Pantera, core, frustrated power! Then there’s the one and only Mickey Dee, especially the King Diamond years; he is phenomenal creating the flow that just unleash the groove throughout each and every song. Second to none there’s Ian Paice, a drumming Mohammad Ali; The Mule still kicks ass and I see him as the perfect role model because of how he adds heart and soul to his drumming, as well as fury and madness… what can I say… he’s fantastic!
As for other bands and artists I have a broad set-up of influences. As I said Pantera, King Diamond, Deep Purple, Rainbow (Dio-years), Queensryche, Dir en Grey and Rammstein on one side to Bob Marley, David Bowie, Eva Cassidy on the other.
How long has Manimal been together with this current line-up? What do you strive for as a band, both musically and professionally?
With this line-up and under the name of MANIMAL we’ve been together for 7 years now.
Musically we’ve always strived for the perfect song, as how we define it and to stick to our ideals: melodic, groovy and to tell a story.
It’s funny how we found ourselves aiming at new goals as we reach those we’ve set earlier. Right now we want to get out on the road to visit places we’d only dream of six months ago. Now it’s possible. We have been asked for participating in an European tour late this autumn as well as a major world tour supporting a well known act, but as I speak none of this has been confirmed. It’s insane… ha, ha!
How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
Hopefully it has! In some ways I know it has. It can sometimes be difficult to see as you’re so close to it all the time but we’ve definitely found our path. In the early days we were more progressive and experimented a lot more. Today we tend to keep it more clean and strict and have found this to be as challenging as the stuff we did before… or we’re just getting old… ha, ha ha! Anyway we like it and, as it seems, a few others like it as well.
Your brother and you are the rhythm section for the band. Have you guys always played together and do you have a strong bond like say Eddie and Alex, Vinnie Paul and Dimebag, etc.?
My brother Pether joined Hank and myself a couple of years prior to the connecting with Sam, so yes we’ve been playing together for a long time now. Naturally we have strong bonds and this we benefit from in our role as a rhythm section, as you say. We know each other better than anybody else and we use that, creating the feel and the groove that I talked about earlier. It’s a good thing absolutely! Then we can piss each other of sometimes but that’s a different story… he, he!
Was music a big part of your upbringing?
Yes it was!
My father played drums in different bands when I was a kid , still does, and my uncle was a singer in a couple of bands, well known in Sweden (Silver Mountain, Norden Light) so I’ve had music all around me for as long as I can remember. I first began playing the drums when I was visiting my fathers rehearsals as a five year old. My oldest son has now a pair of sticks so I think it runs in the family… not that I or he had/has much of a choice… he, he, he!
Who writes the songs and what types of topics do you try to cover lyrically?
We take part, all four, but the lion share is written by Sam, Hank and myself. Lyrically I take the chance of venting some kind of thought, problem, feeling or whatever needs to come out. For me it’s therapy and as the album was finished we saw that some of the lyrics had the topic of the inner dimensions or whatever you want to call it; it’s about living this life we live, here and now, and how fragile it is in all it’s beauty.
Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out love and think more people should be listening to. What’s one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band or musician?
As mentioned before I really think Bob Marley had something to say and he made a difference and still does. I’m also full of respect as for the work of Rage against the machine and Audioslave when it comes to delivering a message. There’s so much that deserves to be listened to.
Where have you performed? What are your favorite and least favorite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
So far we haven’t played outside Sweden but here we’ve done the big festivals Sweden Rock Festival and Metaltown (Gothenburg), before having released the album!. Along with this, a great number of shows of course but as I said only in Sweden – that’s why we’re so keen to reach outside.
As I mentioned earlier there are plans for this summer and autumn not yet scheduled and I really can’t say anything else about it. We have a couple of shows in Sweden for example the second biggest festival In Sweden this year, Peace and Love in Borlänge the 25th of June. Right now any venue is the favorite venue. The live situation is where the magic’s at.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
It’s always a challenge… ha, ha… as in any marriage. The big challenge right now is finding ways to synchronize our full time jobs outside the music, and the music together with the family life. It’s not us four guys that make MANIMAL it’s four families. Hopefully we will reach a point were we can fully concentrate on the band and the process of touring and eventually the making of another record.
Thanks for a really great album and we look forward to hearing more from Manimal.
Thank you very much… my pleasure! See ya!
Video for Spine Grinder on Youtube: