When I heard the music of MANTAR, the duo from Germany, for the first time, I was blown away by their intensity. I didn’t yet the band only consisted out of two, but when I found out I had to know more about them. In an industry where band members fly around like they’re growing on trees, it’s refreshing to find such a raw and heavy act as MANTAR.
The band is releasing “The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze” on August 24th through Nuclear Blast. Which is why we thought it’s time to catch up with the German duo. While waking up to the first day of Tuska Festival, a first single of the album “Age Of The Absurd” was released online. I quickly listened to it and enjoyed the raw energy these guys have in their sound quite much. The same day I met up with the guys backstage to talk about the upcoming album. The image I got from the guys, couldn’t be as far away from reality. In front of me were two chatty, warm guys, talking with a great deal of passion about what they love doing most: making raw and heavy music.
Hi guys! Thank you so much for making the time for this interview. Is this your first time at Tuska?
Hanno: Actually it’s our second time. We played here in 2016 before.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to see a lot from your show. Just a little part. What I saw, I enjoyed a lot though.
Hanno: Did you like it?
Yeah, a lot!
Hanno: I enjoyed it. It was a good show. Honestly, when people ask me how the show has been, I can’t really say too much. I’m very focused and I pretty much do my own thing on stage. I don’t pay too much attention to the crowd’s reaction. No one laughed, it was packed and I heard the audience scream. I gave away some free booze, so I think it was a win-win situation.
Erinç: Actually, I saw two or three people laughing.
Hanno: Laughing? Yeah probably. Laughing about you, not about us.
Erinç: I think they were not laughing about us, they were laughing with us.
Or perhaps they were laughing because they were having fun? When I saw you in the past, at least I did. I knew I wasn’t going to have time to see your show, so I checked you out at Graspop Metal Meeting (Belgium).
Hanno: Hey! How did you like Graspop?
The show was really awesome. The festival, in general, is really different. It’s so much larger and the atmosphere is really different. Belgians are really active as a crowd. I have been going there for over 10 years, so I had different expectations of Tuska Festival, but it has a really cosy and relaxed vibe around here!
Hanno: I know it sounds cliche, so I don’t really want to say it, but Finnish people are, maybe “shy” isn’t the right word, but just more quiet as an audience. They seem to just enjoy and absorb the music. The Belgian audience at Graspop was really nuts. It was great. But you know, it’s a different kind of beast.
Erinç: We really appreciated both times!
Hanno: The Finnish-Belgian friendship will be established here!
(laughs) True! I’m a Belgian, living in Finland. However, sometimes I prefer it here. In Belgium things get pretty wild, always have to be careful as an audience. Anyway, what’s remarkable about your band is that you’re a duo. It seems to be a trend nowadays to have as many band members as possible. They always have an enormous amount of energy, but when you guys play live, it’s even transcending those bands with eight members, even if it’s just the two of you. You don’t need eight people to have a great show and great ambience, what’s your secret? How do you get the same atmosphere when there’s only the two of you?
Hanno: I don’t think it depends on the number of members. As you said, it’s about a certain attitude and about how much you actually enjoy what you are doing. Apparently, we like what we are doing a lot. I don’t want to sound cocky, but we have a certain mission and we go on stage to deliver. We don’t go there to try out things. Our secret is to get a little tipsy, drink some beers and just try to slay. The fact that it’s just the two of us, isn’t anything special. It’s really just about what you do on stage. I know so many 5 to 6 people bands who are boring as fuck.
Erinç: We do what is needed for our music. If one of us misses a note on stage, Hanno on is guitar, me a beat on stage, you can actually hear it. If we would be a band with six members and one guitar player has some technical issues, half of the time you don’t even realize it in the audience. You can hear everything we are doing.
Hanno: It’s also about the songwriting process. You have to know what you can deliver on stage. What we do is write songs that are going to work for just the two of us both on the records and live. It’s pretty much primitive music, for primitive people, made by primitive people.
(laughs) In what sense are you primitive?
Hanno: Well, maybe primitive is not the right word. More raw, I guess. You know, raw and in a certain way one dimensional. We don’t have any gimmicks, there are no guitar solos, there are no crazy keyboard layers or whatever. It’s either a good riff or a good drum beat, in best case scenario you get both. We have a pretty strong background you know. We’re influenced by black metal, whatever metal, we just try to play as hard an intense as possible. Maybe in that sense, we are primitive and raw, we really enjoy the sonic violence. If we miss a note here and there, it really personally doesn’t matter to me too much. It’s more about the big picture you get from us going berzerk.
Talking about this more primitive sound, how do you feel about the music industry constantly striving for perfection, which leads to almost robotic and plastic sounds. Sometimes it’s so extreme that when a band plays live, it sometimes doesn’t sound anything like their studio recordings?
Hanno: We just do the best we can in the studio and on stage, but we’re both not like crazy ass, good musicians. I personally care less about perfection, I care about energy. And a certain vibe.
Erinç: Yeah that vibe, it doesn’t have to be perfect. You have to feel the band is working and playing. When you play live, it can be a little faster or a little louder than on the record.
Hanno: Blood, sweat and tears. (burps) That’s why we hate live recordings, even though we did some. But every time we did some and we approved them, we try very hard not to miss a note. I don’t like doing live recordings, I am ready to play for an audience. I play with the magic of the moment instead of trying to recapture exactly the whole record on stage. For me, live is a different kind of beast. But as I said before, you have to write songs, that you are going to be able to perform on stage in that way. Primitive; guitar and drums, that’s it.
So talking about recording songs, you released a teaser about a new album some months ago. What can you tell us about that new album?
Hanno: Actually we released the first music video “The Age Of The Absurd” this morning and announced the pre-order. The album is going to be called “The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze” and it’s going to be out on August 24th. I don’t want to give you the “this is the best album we’ve ever done” bullshit. But of course, it is… (laughs) For us, it’s exciting, because every new record is a new baby. It means a lot to us, as all parents should do, you should drown all kids that have been born before and only take care of the newborn. (laughs) No seriously, we are pretty excited, thrilled, can’t wait to hit the road again, go on tour, play those songs live. The reactions so far have been really good. Have you heard it?
Yes! I quickly listened to it, before leaving for Tuska.
Hanno: So tell me what you think?
I love it…
Hanno: … Like loooove it? Or like meh, love it? …
… What I like about you guys is the amount of energy you have, nothing has to be perfect. I can tell you’re not a musician, because you need to be a musician, you’re a musician because you love doing it. So, the passion in your music, in this song, is really fascinating to me.
Hanno: Yeah, we like to fuck shit up! (laughs)
How did the songwriting process go with this one, was it any different from the last time?
Hanno: Different, because we now live on different continents. I live in the US, he lives in Germany. This time I prepared most of it. I just a shit ton of riffs, then we met in Germany in our hometown Bremen. We got ourselves a rehearsal place for six weeks and worked on the material. We knocked it off in six weeks. Then, flew together to Florida and recorded it. It all went pretty quickly. That’s it. Very simple. Gotta keep things simple, otherwise, you get lost in the production process. That wouldn’t suit our band.
Erinç: Sounds pretty easy! (laughs)
Hanno: Sounds pretty easy, but it was a pain in the ass. We don’t like studio whole too much. It’s a lot of pressure, it’s nerve wrecking in a way. We argue a lot. There’s a lot of tension. But, I mean. This even more than the previous record, the outcome is so convincing that we immediately were thinking that that’s the shit, we are very satisfied with it. And now the mood is good again, we’re friends again (laughs).
You mention now that you don’t like the studio all that much, how about touring, is that something you enjoy better?
Hanno: I also hate touring, to be honest.
Erinç: Yeah, me too. It’s more fun than studio work though. Because in the studio you try to get everything perfect. We try to get things better and better, the sound, the mixing and the engineering. It’s so much work.
Hanno: I don’t like going on tour either, I like being on stage. I like being together with Erinç. I like being in this band, playing together, doing our thing, doing our magic, doing our ritual. That’s what I enjoy. I don’t like being among people too much, so that’s a bummer about touring, you’re always surrounded by people, but the 60 minutes on stage… That’s the best thing in my life pretty much. That’s awesome. Erinç is more of a social guy, a little bit. When I’m just fresh out of the studio, I think like man thank god it’s over, but once you tour for two years in a row – and we’ve done a shit ton of tours which is a gift. It’s a blessing, that we get the chance to do that all over the world. However, I like the privacy of the studio. I can just focus on my own vision and produce my own record without having too many people around. I get to have a saw and Erinç and I, just do our own thing. Totally different scenarios. This moment right now is the best part of being in a band. We just recorded an album which everyone seems to like and it’s not even out. It’s gonna come out two months from now so right now we just play and enjoy.
Erinç: It’s very exciting!
Unfortunately, I think it’s time to wrap up the interview. So, we have come to the last question already. Do you have any last words or thoughts for our readers?
Hanno: This is for Belgium, right?
No (laughs). It’s actually for Finland.
Hanno: Finland, I wanna tell you something “Fuck Belgium”! I’m kidding (laughs) Finland, it’s been a pleasure! We just talked about it two hours ago… We would love to come back for real shows, club shows, some time for sweaty shit. We hope we can make that happen next year, as soon as possible. Because we play at Jalometalli and we played at Tuska twice. The only club shows we ever did, was in the very first year of us being a touring band in 2014. That was fun, with Unkind. Are they still a band?
Hanno: No one knows (laughs). Unkind, if you are reading/watching this, show up and play with us again. Scandinavia… Is Finland Scandinavia?
I think they prefer to be referred to as the Nordics. (laughs)
Hanno: Anyway, you get what I mean. I’m from Germany. The Nordics are a big thing for us because people are miserable, dark and sinister and that’s something we can cope with quite well.
I guess it’s different for you in comparison to Germany, where there’s a lot of power metal in the scene.
Hanno: (laughs) Don’t get me started! No seriously, we’re gonna be back. Check out the record, blah blah blah, don’t check out the record, don’t give a shit, but at least come to see the show!