Sunday 2 February 2014

Interview with MANTAR

The next band that I am interviewing have already released one of my fave albums of 2014 and I didn't even review it. That pleasure was bestowed to our very own – Matt “The Machine” Fitton. Matt described today's guest's début album – Death By Burning as:

I have welcomed 2014 into my existence with this album, and the year is already sounding truly righteous thanks to Mantar. This is an album engorged with fat riffs and drumming that sounds like a mammoth stampede, and it's just what you need to get your next 12 months started the right way, the heavy way. 'Death By Burning' is a tremendous marriage of styles and feel, and it will crush you in it's path. And believe me, that is something to be welcomed.”

It's my pleasure to be interviewing MANTAR – the loud as fuck Black-Punk-Sludge-Doom-Riff Destroying Duo from Germany.

Death By Burning is more of an experience than it is an album. This will definitely be in my best records of 2014 list that's for sure. MANTAR have kindly agreed to talk to us at Sludgelord HQ.

Q1 – Hi guys. Thanks for doing this. How are things with you today.

Hi …all is fine here on the Mantarside. We are kinda excited about the release of our debut-album and are already collecting ideas for new songs. Thanks for your interest. All the feedback we are getting from all over the world these days is quite impressive.

Q2 – For people not in the know, can you tell us how the band came about and where it is today.

Erinc: We know each other for 16 years...sorry…more like we are friends for 16 years with a deep respect for each others musical “talent”…yeah indeed. We both played in plenty of bands and hung out together, went to shows…but never happened to start a band with each other. Some time ago hanno came up with the idea to form a new band…just a two-piece…something more on the heavy side. So we met…jammed about 3-4 hours and it worked out fantastic. It got together what belongs together… 

So the rest is history so to speak. We rehearsed and practiced a whole year, got a bunch of songs together and quickly recorded them in a friends studio…in truly DIY-manner. Today we are mainly surprised to be already asked to play roadburn-festival. We are beyond stoked to play shows like that after playing our first show only 8 month ago..

Q3 – So, where did the name MANTAR come from.

Mantar is a Turkish word for mushroom. It’s a good thing... we like mushrooms...but they can be poisonous. Furthermore it just sounds rad and quite powerful. Erinc has Turkish roots…

Q4 – What bands and artists influenced you as musicians. Any particular band or album made you decide to become musicians.

Erinc: I think we both wanted to be musicians since our very early days. My parents had a record of “Ricky King”, a german pop guitarplayer… when I got home from elementary school I listened to that record on a daily basis and wanted to become Ricky King. I guess Hanno just skipped the children songs phase…and immediately got into t AC/DC. A lifetime relationship. For myself..I’m a big fan of the Melvins and Dale Crover. He really has this very unique and revolutionary drumstyle…a totally different point of view to drumming in general combined with rocking the shit out of your set. Love it! Still a big influence to me.

Q5 – Let's talk about your brilliant new album. As we are massive fans of it at Sludgelord HQ. Was it an easy or hard album to write and record for.

Erinc: Well, we´ve got a very unconventional way of songwriting. Nobody is coming up with complete songs. We are gathering ideas, riffs, drumbeats….and use them as “bricks” to build songs. This works great. We never had the feeling of getting stuck somewhere. It all went pretty fluent. Hanno and I complete each other perfectly. Most of the times we don’t talk much about what we are doing. 

It’s an energetic battle of wordless communication. The recording was hard for me…I’m not a fan of studio sessions and we just had 2 days for the drum tracks...and my hands were covered with burning bloody blisters afterwards. That’s why I use gloves for drumming these days. Hanno is way more experienced when it comes to recording…but I remember him losing his voice after every single vocal session…so he needed 2-3 days for regeneration until we could go on every time. That might be the reason the vocals sound so sick… but in the end…we proudly nailed it.

Hanno: As we are a two piece band it´s pretty easy to come up with new songs. The tracks always come out from jamming. If we like stuff we find ourselves repeating it for hours.
We are able to play ourselves in some kind of trance or meditation. Than we know it´s good and worth keeping. The structure of the songs comes pretty naturally as well. We just play the different parts and the final song is kinda self developing.  

It´s a very unique energy between the two of us. Never experienced something like that in other bands before. Writing music ain´t “work” for us. It´s just something that just happens. If it does not, We quit and leave the rehearsal room. No pressure. For the recording work we wanted to keep the (live) energy from the rehearsal room. That´s why we kept it as simple and raw as possible. We used exactly the stuff to record the album that we use live and in the rehearsal room as well. And the result is great. We dig it. Glad to hear you do so, too.

Q6 – From hearing it you would expect MANTAR to be a four piece band as you guys are incredibly loud. What equipment do you use to get that massive sound.

Hanno: Of course we sound like a four piece…cause we are using equipment for at least 4 people combined with a good amount of musical violence. I use three amps at the same time with Marshall and Ampeq cabinets and some special FX Pedals to get that low end. I use bass amplifiers, too. All the classic, old Orange heads and two Petersburg heads which I use for more or less anything. Great JCM 800 copies from Russia from the early 90s. I´ve got three of ´em. Erinc is hitting the drums as hard as possible, that´s quite important, too. He really is an insanely loud drummer. Every second club asks us to put duct tape or shit like that on the cymbals. But we deny to do so and decided only to play shows where we can put the sound on stage that we deliver on the record. That’s it!

Q7 – So how does MANTAR, themselves describe their own sound as I would call it Black-Sludge-Punk and Roll. Probably best if you describe it yourselves.

Hanno: Names and labels mean nothing to us. Call it how you like it best. I think here´s a constant “aggressive” and “dark” urge in the music. I Think Mantar´s sound is very violent and in some way destructive. It´s hard to explain. You know, we don´t even have any message. We just try to channel the raw power of the songs and the result is a pretty sinister sound as far as I experience it. It´s not about playing super fast blast-beats or trying to get yourself a cheesy mean image or something. It´s just about playing as heavy as possible. Pure honest rage. Plus the lyrics might have an obvious dark side as well. 

Even though we want the music to speak for itself. Black is correct, Punk, hell yeah, Roll, yes… from time to time. People might call it sludge, maybe that´s true. Personally I avoid that label. Don´t get me wrong, we did not reinvent the wheel. Never had that ambition though. But i think that the genre "sludge" isn´t something you can rely on any more as a trademark for something particulary good. It´s pretty worn out these days and a lot of bands use it 2013 as a brand because they dont have any own character or dont know about their own roots. Maybe due to the fact they never had any. Don´t get me wrong, I love shitloads of stuff that is branded as "sludge". Great bands out there, but well... some kind of inflation is going on nowadays. And what does sludge mean? That people play slow, heavy music? I don´t have the intension of making music for a certain kind of “scene” or even worse, target group.

Q8 – The album is being released on CD, DD and Vinyl through Svart Records. How did you become involved with Svart. One of our fave labels here at Sludgelord. Awesome label.

Hanno: It is indeed an awesome label. Lots of good stuff. We had other offers from bigger metal labels as well but I am very happy that we got hooked up with Svart. It kinda feels right to us. Old fashioned way: Dropped them a line with some links to the band. Two days later they said: “let´s go!” The deal is fair as well. That was the main reason.

Q9 – What is your favourite song off the album and why.

Erinc: I don’t have one favourite song, but I like “Berzerker’s Path”…it represents the simplicity of heaviness…very dark.

Hanno: I like “White Nights”. We knew right away that this is something special when I came up with that riffing. Epic, dark and very violent in an elegant way.

Q10 – Do you guys tour a lot in - (Sludgelord Note - I forgot to finish this question and send it to the band. But have left it in to show the band's great sense of humour)

? Russia? not yet ;-)

Death By Burning cover art

Q11 – Who designed the excellent album cover. As it's a rather brooding and mysterious album cover. It doesn't tell you what is in store for you when you listen to the album.

Erinc: That painting is called “The Crown” from the great artist Aron Wiesenfeld. Hanno happened to find it and we both decided that it has to be our albumcover. I think it describes our music better than we ever could. That hopelessness in the face of the girl with the burning crown…epic. Death by burning is an expresion that can expresse much more than just getting burned alive on the stake. We asked Aron about using “The Crown” as our cover and he kindly agreed. So it’s a fucking honour for us to have such a wonderful piece of art to represent our music. He sure is an incredible artist.

Q12 – You may know I am a massive fan of the German Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene. Thanks to bands such as Wall, The Moth, Aleph Null, Nightslug and yourselves. Plus many more that I forget to mention. How is the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene currently in Germany. Do you guys play a lot of gigs in your home town or do you have to travel further afield to perform regularly.

Hanno: Our hometown Hamburg is a good place when it comes to the musical style you´ve described. We have good shows over here and even a cool festival. It´s called DRONEBURG. We will play there this year as well. But there are plenty of good cities and venues to play in Germany. I hope we will play all of them… In general we have to admit, that we never have been part of a certain scene or something. We just did or own thing. Even though we fit in pretty well and we´ve good lots of love from all over Germany.

Q13 – Can you recommend any other bands for our readers to check out.

Hanno: Well, especially the young people might not know about these bands. But as we both come from Bremen, a city about 60 miles next to Hamburg, we would like to name some bands from our real hometown. Some of these bands don´t play anymore but still give goose bumps. Like ACME, SYSTRAL or our friends from MÖRSER.

Q14 – What albums are currently rocking your world. Old or new. Any recommendations you like to tell us to check out.

ACME – (everything you can get your hands on)

ORANSSIPAZUZU – Valonielu (Label mates from SVART)

KAMPFAR – Djevelmakt (great classic Black metal – new Record!)

ELDERWIND - Волшебствоживойприроды (atmospheric BM from Russia)

Q15 – Your new album is starting to receive some brilliant praise at the moment. Are you happy with the responses so far. And did you realise you had recorded something special.

Erinc: Indeed…it is an enormous response we get for the album. It’s mind blowing and we are surely happy with that. Having people appreciating your stuff is always cool. Even though we are primarily satisfying ourselves with MANTAR, it’s a gift to know that others also understand and like your music.

Q16 – In 5 words or less, describe the live MANTAR experience.

A Rhinoceros in your face!

Q17 – What is your verdict on the Crowd-Funding Scene that bands and musicians are currently doing asking fans to fund their latest release. Are you a fan and would you consider doing that yourselves.

Hanno: Might be a cool idea. If fans want to have news material to let them pay in advance… smart move. For us, well I don’t know about that. For this record we didn’t spend much money. We recorded it with a close friend in his studio and did all the producing by ourselves.

Q18 - If you could give advice to someone wanting to start a band. What advice would you give them.

Don´t try to satisfy other people´s likings. Understand your gear and learn that everything is possible in DO IT YOURSELF manner. Do not let people talk shit about your band. Be willing to fistfight for your band and bandmates, otherwise look elsewhere. If people consider playing in a band as a hobby look elsewhere. Play what you like the best. On the long run that´s the only possibility to get people seriously interested in your band. Be proud on what you do. Be confident. Playing hard is a good excuse for not taking care of your look. DO NOT expect to make any money. And, last but not least: FUCK SHIT UP!

Q19 – So apart from your new album being released, what other cool plans do you have in 2014. Any plans to tour overseas.

Hanno: I hope we will play literally the whole world. Would love to play UK asap, same with the states. But for now we have to start somewhere. That´s mainly over here right now. In May we will tour Portugal and Spain, and in April we will play Roadburn. Hopefully some festivals during the summer. We have an invitation for Turkey as well and I hope we will fly to south east asia this year, too. I know a lot of people over there and they have a wonderful healthy scene. Especially in Malaysia. I have been there on tour already. If anyone wants us to play anywhere or book a tour, please get in touch. You are more than welcome.

Q20 – Finally guys, Thanks for talking to us. Good luck with the album in 2014. Do you want anything to say to your fans here at Sludgelord.

Thank you very much for all your kind words and honest interest in MANTAR and music in general. You guys make the world a better place. 

I want to thank MANTAR for talking to us here at Sludgelord HQ as we are massive fans of their music. Thanks to Nathan at Svart Records PR for arranging this interview as well.

You can buy Death By Burning on CD, Vinyl, and Cassette Tape.

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