On August 24th Mantar release their third record: The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze. After setting some of our heart’s ablaze with their violent grooves and destructive aggression, I wanted to get to know how the band created and perpetuated their violent sound. For a two-piece, Mantar know how to make noise. An hour before their blistering set on the Sophie Lancaster stage at Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2018 I had the chance to sit down with Erinc (drums) and Hanno (guitar/noise), the German duo at the heart of the band. Beforehand, I observed them being dragged to-and-fro to participate in a medley of different interviews. Fortunately, perhaps, I was their last interview of the day. I caught up with them in a booming media tent, surrounded by media people milling about, to discuss the nature of touring, the new album, the power of the riff, and non-metal influences.
Akerblogger: Do you get exhausted?
Hanno: Yes, all the time, all the time. I’m exhausted right now!
Akerblogger: How do you recover from all of this? What happens in between?
Hanno: What people don’t know is that I have another band and when we come off stage we just get together and rehearse before Mantar starts again.
Akerblogger: So how do you let the steam off? How do you re-charge your batteries between shows and tours?
Hanno: Personally, for me, it’s most important to do things even between tonight and tomorrow night’s show, to do things that are, as much as possible, not anyway related to being in a band. Sometimes, my fellow musicians in other bands we’re touring with, there’s a day off and they go to see a band. I would never ever do that! When I have a day off on tour I go to the pool, or I just walk alone on the street, I go to restaurants – I love to spend time by myself. Go to wherever, just be alone. Or do something else, but I’d never for instance go to another show. I try to do things that are not any way related to being a professional musician.
Erinc: I would go to a show when I have a day off. As long as I know that it’s an off-day and everything’s fine on the day of the show. Not to misunderstand, we love to be on stage. But when we have a show and you know you have to be on stage and focus on it for 45 minutes to an hour – you have to discover how far you can go, what your body is able to do. This is something we are exploring everyday. We are really exhausted. We haven’t had a long sleep, over four hours, for days.
Hanno: You know, before we started doing this, this festival weekend, we rehearse the whole week before, for the tour that’s coming up in November, already. So this band is a 24/7 job, pretty much. And that’s why we’re very much looking forward to the end of the summer when we can fucking go home! You have no idea man, I could fucking cry, I want to go home so bad! I can’t wait!
Aker: It’s a lot of mental strain. What about the physical exhaustion?
Hanno: The physical stuff I can deal better with because that’s like a reflex now. Even if you’re tired of your professional skateboarding you can still do the kick flips. You can wake us up in the morning and say “you’ve got a show in ten minutes” and it’s gonna be more or less okay. But the mental stuff, that’s the stuff that’s very exhausting. You’re constantly surrounded by people. But on the other hand there’s a certain urge to be in this band and play great shows and make great records, otherwise we wouldn’t do it. There’s something about it we can’t escape, otherwise we could just stay at home and do something else with our lives.
Aker: So, you’re on your third album now – you’re not a new band anymore.
Hanno: No, we’re not a new band. We have 3 records, a live record, and an E.P., so we’re not a new band anymore.
Aker: So would you say you’ve formed a routine now, a cycle that’s repeating?
Hanno: All bands have that to a certain degree: you make a record then you tour, then you make a record then you tour. It makes sense, you know. I personally love nothing more than being on stage but I hate touring. So therefore I prefer writing records, that’s my favourite parts. And recording it. Then again, it gets super stressful to prepare because at first it all sounds super smooth and then we get together and jam some cool ideas. Recording a record for us is just as exhausting.
Erinc: Actually I prefer to be on stage but sometimes you need new songs and those songs have to be written!
Aker: On the topic of the new record then, the idea of the destructive nature of fire is continued from your first two releases. Just looking at the album artwork and some of the song titles – “Eternal Return” and “Anti Eternia” – there seems to be a lot more of a cosmic destructive aspect.
Hanno: I’ve put way more effort into the lyrics this time. We, together, put way more effort into the music. We just thought, hey, even though we might be, for some, a new band, we’re technically not. This is our third record. It’s time to deliver the best possible Mantar record, not a good solid metal record, or black metal record, anymore. It’s time to defend your name and reputation. Therefore you got to deliver an awesome record. That’s what we did, I think. We put a lot of thought and lot of time into the lyrics and music. It’s advanced on any kind of level.
Aker: When I listen to your albums they each seem to work off one another, carrying on a theme and mood. This third album carries ideas from the first two. But there seem to be different elements heard in your single “Age of the Absurd,” percussive elements, rattles, lots of textures.
Hanno: Yeah, even with the drums and stuff like that we put way more detail, but on the other hand you don’t want to get lost in the production process. So with the drumming and the guitars there a lot more details, because we have become better musicians, I presume. But on the other hand, in the production process, it’s still gotta be Mantar. So you have to, on purpose, keep it raw, and very one dimensional, and simple. That’s the other thing, because we don’t want to be fucking Dream Theater or anything you know. We want to be Mantar and bottom line: we’re a freaking punk band. We’re aggressive and that’s what we do: primitive music.
Aker: And this goes back to some previous interviews where you’ve talked of Motorhead and AC/DC as influences, something you want to groove to.
Hanno: That’s my jam.
Aker: And when I go to watch you later, I want to be in the middle, absolutely going for it. It seems you have got that balance between the album and its concept and that energy of the live show. Or, is that quite difficult to bring together?
Hanno: Not for us. I don’t think it’s different. We record the record exactly as we do it live, there’s the same equipment, exactly the same as live. There’s no gimmicks, no layers. It’s life. It might be a tiny bit more raw because we’re drunk but besides that it’s the same beast. I have no problems to play the songs from the studio on the stage.
Aker: Can I ask you about non-metal influences?
Hanno: Sure, there are more than metal influences, trust me.
Aker: A lot of bands I’ve talked to this week have said similar. Two separate bands have referenced Tangerine Dream as being a key influence! You play a raw, punky, black metal etc etc. But there must be so much more that you may have listened to that sticks in your heart that much more.
Erinc: I don’t know. I’d say The Melvins, you may say they’re a metal band – maybe I wouldn’t. They were a main influence for playing slow, powerful stuff.
Hanno: Also, Erinc is a tiny bit older than I am. He has way difference influences than I have. He listened to a lot of 80’s stuff. Sisters of Mercy you liked a lot.
Erinc: Yes, Sisters of Mercy and even like 80’s pop music, so these influences are motivating me to do different stuff.
Hanno: And I grew up on classic rock – AC/DC, Motorhead, that kind of stuff. But I also listen to a lot of punk-rock. Old German 80’s punk-rock is also very primitive music and that’s why I like black metal. When I discovered Darkthrone, for instance, they had the same punk approach that everything is possible and there’s no need to have a good production, you don’t need to have a fancy ass guitar in order to play great music. It’s all about intensity and passion, you know, that’s what it is besides the color of the music. The DIY aspect has always been very important to me, personally as a musician, and that’s why we still, in a lot of sense, have this much of a DIY background, do shit ourselves you know.
When we’re talking about classic rock AC/DC is, for example, a good teacher because that tells you: you’ve gotta have a good riff. It’s the strongest currency. If you don’t have a good riff your song’s gonna suck. And especially if you only have a guitar and drums, you better have a good riff going otherwise it ain’t worth shit.
Aker: Are you angrier people now then when you started the band?
Hanno: No, it’s the opposite I think. I’m always angry in general because I’m a very nervous person. But, I’m way more satisfied with the person I am and life in general, way more now, than I was ten years ago. I mean, the band’s just been going on for five years, but being a young person I was way more destructive and negative than I am now.
Aker: Would that be reflected in the music, then? Is it more reflective?
Hanno: I don’t know, it’s just a good outlet to let some steam off.
Erinc: Yeah, sometimes we get angry at each other on stage but usually that makes the performance better because, like, shit happens, I lose a stick and we get angry at each other.
Aker: It’s a lot more visceral then, it comes from within.
Hanno: We get in a super rage and it gets even better!
Aker: So you’re going to get angry on stage today?
Hanno: I don’t know. You tell me.
The band was angry on stage.