Mantar being a-two-man-outfit hailing from Germany has gained the ultimate following during the past few years. Mantar’s debut album Death By Burning got the excellent feedback and responds. The band’s newest opus Ode To The Flame is another piece of great slap from Mantar catapulting them into another dimension of the success. Metal-Rules.Com talked with the band’s vocalist/guitarist Hanno about the second album ODE TO THE FLAME and of course a little bit how everything started out in the first place.
Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen
Guten abend – Hows it going there in the Mantar camp ?
Alright so far. Enjoying my last days in my new home in Florida before I go back to Europe and start the festival season 2016. Excited!
We know each other for more than 18 years. Met in Bremen in the late 90s when i was playing with my kid-punk band in a local squat. We remained friends and always wanted to play in a band together but for several reasons that just happened a couple of years ago when we started playing as a two piece band called MANTAR. In 2012/2013. We both lived in Hamburg at that time. We just wanted to record a demo and put out a tape for friends and maybe play some small local shows. Well, It came different than we thought. It´s pretty much the first band we both are in that gets the chance to do all these things. Pretty funny how long it actually took us to even form a band considering how fast it went to get attention once we had our shit together. Maybe it was the right time to do so.
Did you have other older bands in the past before founding Mantar ?
Yeah, but mostly unknown local bands. Nothing you would have had heard about.
Mantar as a name has an interesting meaning behind, as a matter of fact you could shed more light the meaning of the name and how and where you got it ?
Due to the fact Erinc has Turkish roots we were thinking about the idea of choosing a Turkish name. I liked that idea. He came up with MANTAR, which as far as I know means something like mushroom or something like that. But names don´t mean shit. It just sound cool, hard and aggressive. Fits quite good for a band with the same characteristics.
When you started Mantar, did you have a clear vision of how Mantar is supposed to sound and look in the first place, or has the sound evolved into the entire new direction and approach ?
Well, we just got together and started jamming along. 2 hours later we knew we have a solid new band. Probably the best stuff we´ve ever did in our lives. But no, we didn’t have a masterplan and still don´t have any. We just always try to play as hard and intense as possible. We like to groove. I think that´s something we both could agree on. I love Erinc´s simple drumming. Fuck all those gimmicks.
Which bands and artists influenced you as musicians in the first place ? How have these influences effected on how Mantar sounds ?
I grew up on punk. The whole attitude, you know, this whole DIY thing was very important for me. When I was you, pretty much at the same time, I got into thrash Metal as well, as it had kinda the same vibe to me. Fast and aggressive. But my love with heavy/rock music starts well earlier than that, back in the late 80’s, when I was a kid, my dad gave me two AC/DC tapes (Highway To Hell & If You Want Blood…) that changed my life. Till this day nothing even comes close. This band is GOD to me. The whole beat, the simple riffs… This band had more influence on me than all other bands together is used to listen to. Black Metal for example came much much later into my life. Even though I really enjoy this dark atmosphere a lot. Erinc was a Kid in the heayday of Grunge music. He grew up on The Melvins, Nirvana, Mudhoney and stuff. Our roots ain´t necessarily in “Metal” music…
I don´t think we chose any kind of influence on purpose, as said, we just try to play as heavy and intense as wen can. The result is what you hear. You know, it´s always hard to describe your on music or try to analyse it. Maybe we just should´t. But more important than certain styles of music or other bands, it´s more a certain feeling that´s important for us. It´s gotta be simple and most of all, it has to groove. I think a lot of bands in any kind of extreme music genre forget about the basic and primitive needs of men. They have so many gimmicks, but don´t not how to groove and roll. We do.
Mantar is a two-man outfit consisting the singer/guitarist and the drummer, but it is interesting you have no bass player involved in the line-up, not on albums, not at the stage either. Was it a determinated and mutual decision to operate as a two piece ?
No. When we started simply no one else wanted to join. Easy as that. We figured out pretty quick though that we are able to raise some serious hell anyhow even without further members. It´s not about the quantity of the members. It´s about the energy and rage between the musicians.
Do you think you could add the bassist to the rank for example in the live situation or do you rather remain as a two piece at the stage as well ?
I think further members, no matter how talented, would just weaken this energy between Erinc and me. We know each other so good as friends as well as musicians we THINK and ACT like a machine when we play. No one could keep up with that.
As far as the sounds and the music of Mantar is concerned, how would you like to describe your style ? I find it a hybrid mix of sludge, doom and a bit of black and death metal…. do you share my opinion ?
As said. Names don’t mean shit. Labels and genres don´t mean a lot to us. You would have no idea how uneducated we are when it comes to all these subgenres. I do like a lot of bands that are labeled the way you described us, but to be honest I don´t know what we do or don´t. We just play and enjoy the beauty of destruction. Primal rage. Even if we would understand all these genres and what you gotta do to fit in our possibilities as musicians are very limited. What you hear on the record is what we can do best. We concentrate on that and skip the rest. Call it whatever you want. No offense. I guess labels are important for young people or a so called “scene” to justify their taste in music or their licking for a certain band. I am too old for this. We always stayed away from any certain “scene”. Never regretted that.
The second Mantar album named ODE TO THE FLAME came out on Nuclear Blast whereas the previous album DEATH BY BURNING was released on Svart. Did Nuclear Blast come into the picture and what made you ink the deal with them after all ?
The step toward NB was mostly a step toward a way better infrastructure. You have no idea how many people wrote us and asked why they cant get the record in their store next door or why the record is 20 bucks shipping. As the band grows we wanted to make sure to get the chance to push the record to the people. You know, we are not a super wannabe important underground elite bullshit band. We just wanna play and everyone who enjoys it is invited. And surprisingly that´s a whole lot of people so we wanted to make sure have a good partner that works well all over the world. When we decided to do another record we thought either to go even more underground or thinking big. All in between wasnt an option. So we went for the label with the most fair deal regarding our artist freedom and the best distribution to make sure everyone have access to the record. For me most important was that no matter which label pretty much just leaves us and our music alone.
Was the deal with Svart for one album or did you have an option for the second one ?
One album. They only do that. Good label.
I can’t help asking if you were pleased with the way how Svart worked ?
They did great products and did everything we asked for when it comes to packaging and so on. Of course they know though that their possibilities are limited when it comes to promotion and all that stuff. But they don´t bother. They work with very simple and fair deals for (mostly) smaller bands. Surprisingly a lot of people got interested in MANTAR and we wanted to move on a little bit. I guess they understand and I am very glad we worked with Svart. Great Bands, great way of making “business”.
Now being on Nuclear Blast, what is the biggest difference between the small label Svart and a huge multinational label Nuclear Blast ?
Well, first of all there is not a big difference for us at all. That´s why we signed with them. We have a very strong DIY background and like to do things exactly how we want them to be. All bands should work like that. That´s what makes a band unique. Nuclear Blast just helps us pushing our shit to the people. But they pretty much leave us alone. They understand our vision.
The recording was pretty much the same. Again, no prodcuer, just a friend who recorded us where we usually rehearse. Pretty simple, no gimmicks. Hard and raw. A lot of the songs weren´t even finished when we hit the studio. That´s a good way to keep thing exciting. To much comfort makes your record weak. (your band too)
Did you record the album in Hamburg from the beginning to the end or did you use other studio to expand the soundworld of Mantar ?
We recorded the drums in our hometown Bremen in a friend´s studio. We work a lot with natural room sounds to make it sound big. That why we were looking for a bigger drum room. I love how the drums sound. Good choice.
As for the lyrical content, what kind of topics do you deal with them in the lyrics and where do you ladle all the inspirations and ideas for lyrics ?
To be honest I don´t really know. I don´t write with a certain topic or plan. I just take a piece of paper and a pen and let it flow. It sounds cheesy but my lyrics write themselves pretty much alone. I just start putting words together and the outcome almost everytime is the same kind of theme I explained above. I have no Idea where all this dark extreme and drastic content comes from. Maybe there is a side of me that comes to live as soon MANTAR starts to play. Don´t get me wrong, I am no poser and not even a misanthropic person. For me all this dark stuff is no gimmick or image and my lyrics ain´t just “occult” either. I leave that to retro rock bands and bands who need stereotypes. I wouldn’t call my lyrics “negative” either, it´s just drastic. I always try to put it in a poetic context though. I leave the preaching to other bands. We have no other message than destruction.
In general are you pleased with ODE TO THE FLAME and how it turned and sounds or do you find some things which should have been carried in other way ?
If it would not be 100% what we wanted and had in mind it would not come out. We inked the Deal with the record label AFTER we finished the record to keep the freedom of not releasing a second album at all. We were not interested in making a step backwards with a worse album than the first one.
I am very confident that all people who liked the first record gonna enjoy the new one too. We didnt try to change the band at all. We know what we like. But of course we may have figured out what we are especially good in. I guess we improved the things we liked and are good in and skipped the rest. The new record is a status quo of MANTAR 2016. The best we can do. If you like it, great, if not, nothing we could do about it. I do think though we totally still have the grooving, rocking vibe as that´s definitely one of our best skills. But it´s true that this record probably turned out to be catchier but also even darker and sinister than DBB. I think we were just looking for new extremes and limits. But we really did not put to much brain in it, trust me. We are a very simple band. With simple goals. One of ´em is to be as violent as possible. Maybe we just learned in the last two years what we are especially good in and made that strength even better. As said before, next to that you wanna try some new things as you don´t wanna play exactly the same stuff all the time. And obviously I like the dark, black metal, melodic stuff a lot… so I might have improved my way of guitar playing a little bit. Overall it´s still important though not to lose your identity as a band. We like what we do. We don´t have to reinvent the wheel. People like that, I guess… But if you wanna listen to real experimental melodic and “interesting” music we still are the wrong band for you. We want to create stress not art.
What kind of process was to create, compose and write the Mantar songs for ODE TO THE FLAME ? And how do you start creating a platform for a song ? Which comes firstly : lyrics or music ?
Most stuff is created while jamming a long in the rehearsal room with the two of us. Sometimes I bring a riff. But if it works you won´t know before we both play and jam on it. So sometimes things don´t work out at all and other stuff were you didn’t have any expectations seem to work just fine. We try to write fast, simple and focused. We don´t write songs for 2 years, we want them to sound spontaneous and raw. That´s why we enter the studio by the time when they are only 80-90 % finished to benefit from the “magic of the moment”. I complete the lyrics on the day I record the vocals. Most lyrics are made out of oparts that I write down whenever I feel like it in a little notebook I have. When we record I put together the parts that seem to fit best together.
I took a glance at the video clips of your recording process and it looked it was very intensive, but when doing the vocals do you have to be under the certain mood to reach the right vibe for the vocals ?
I don´t drink or take any drugs during the weeks of recording to be as focused as possible. I sleep very little and usually very bad. I don´t like studio too much. But I need to come in this focus were I can´t think about anything else than the songs and the music. Doing vocals is just a part of the process. That´what takes the longest time. Because I am not a professional singer or even professional technical “death” metal singer. I just want it sound as fucked up and pissed as anyhow possible. So I lose my voice after every song we did for at least 48 hours. But the result is quite convincing, don´t you think?
As a two man band, what kind of technology advances do you use in order to create such a massive, to be honest, crushing the sounds of which Mantar is known for ?
Volume is like a third member for us. We try to play as loud as wen can. Play I play a whole lot of amplifiers and cabinets at the same time. Big bass cabs too to bring the low end. Next to the technical part much more important is how the band plays together. A stated before we know each other very well. We THINK the same when we play. We become one. A machine so to speak.
I came across the video footage of St. Pauli Sessions, could you tell a bit more about the session ? Did you ask people to jam into the studio ? Did you wanna test the music sounds in the studio environment ?
Well, we just wanted to prove that we totally can put the record sound on stage and that we are able to pull of the same wall of sound live. We used and still use the same equipment for recording as well as for playing live. We thought it was a cool idea to prove it. So we invited a few friends bought some beer and just played the songs for them.
How many songs were played in the St.Pauli Sessions ?
Only 8 as we just started the band and couldn’t play the other two back then, haha. We just played 3 or 4 shows at that time. We didn’t even start touring.
I have witnessed Mantar as far as I can remember four times : Roadburn, Jalometalli and Summer Breeze and Wacken I have paid to how the drumset had been placed on the (right) side of the stage and the micstand was in front of the drum set, I assume there is some obvious purpose for that ?
That´s just how we started to play in our rehearsal room when we started to practice. We did that most of all for practical reasons to see what the other onje is doing and to communicate with our eyes during the songs. When we started playing shows we just kept it that way as we still totally were a brand new band and needed that for orientation. Nowadays we just do it as we are used to it. Furthermore I like they idea not playing FOR the people but having the people watching us doing OUR thing.
In general have you been utterly surprised to see the amount of interest by metal fans and press toward Mantar, obviously you didn’t expect when working on the first release ?
Yes. It was very strange and surprising. WE are grateful and take none of it for granted. Plus we don´t tale ourselves too serious. We take our band serious but not ourselves as persons. So we don´t think we are the coolest dudes ever just because people like our little band.
What is the next coming up for Mantar ? Obviously gigs ?
First I am gonna hang some more time in Florida where I live nowadays when we don´t tour and slowly get my power back as the last two years have been very exhausting to be honest. After that we will play a whole bunch of festivals all over europe and North America and hope to see as many people as possible at the shows. Plus we´ll do a few small club shows to try the new material. We will travel countries we never have been to before and spend pretty much all summer in planes i am afraid. After the summer we will eventually tour Europe and the US and finally have two albums to play live. That´s awesome. If you can, stop by and have some beers with us. Overall we are very happy to play countried we have never been before. Having this band is a great way to explore the world. All in all I just hope to have a good time. That´s all. If it stops to be any fun it´s over.
I for one thank you for your time for doing the interview,,, but the last words are yours ….
Thanks for your ongoing and steady interest in MANTAR and your support. Spread the word and enjoy the new record.
The official Mantar sites :