Mantar - Interview
Mantar is probably one of the best German extreme metal duos these days. They released their fourth full-length "Pain Is Forever And This The End" a few weeks ago and hit the bull's eye with this one (read review here here). The band is always pretty cryptic in their lyrics nevertheless they are pretty clear in their statements. I had a pretty nice morning chat via Skype with vocalist / guitarist Hanno while he was visiting Germany. Maybe this interview can help some of you to get into the band's thoughts process a little bit more – enjoy reading!
How are things after the corona infection? Everything good again?
Well, Erinc had Corona. We played our first concert in two years in Seattle and that's probably where he got infected. As a consequence we had to cancel our two release shows in Bremen and Dortmund. We were able to make up the show in Bremen, but to cancel the one in Dortmund was really annoying. But that's how it is these days, nothing is guaranteed.
Your new album "Pain Is Forever And This Is The End" has hit like a bomb. Are you satisfied with the feedback and did you expect so much positive feedback?
It would be weird not to be satisfied with it. I don't think we've ever had so much consensus from the press that an album has turned out so well. Of course that's nice, you're happy about it, because a lot of work went into the whole thing. I must say that I did not expect this. I wouldn't have released the album if I wasn't sure that it turned out well, but I would have thought that it would be more polarizing because it's a bit different than the previous albums. But I wanted it that way, because I think it's important that the band also evolves at least in small steps, or at least not always betting on the same horse. But everybody described the album with largely pathetic words as courageous or as the right step at the right time. I'll leave that uncommented, but I'm first and foremost happy that it was well received. A lot of magazines have said it's the best album we've done, which of course is always very subjective and for die-hard fans, no matter what band, the debut is always going to be the best because you only get that surprise effect once in your career. I think musically it's definitely the strongest album.
The title leaves room for many interpretations, one of which could be that the album is your swan song? However, the cover, which features a starry nebula in the Mantar lettering, also suggests infinity of pain and the universal validity of transience as thoughts come...
As a band or writer, you always have a working title as a placeholder. Because actually from the beginning somehow everything went wrong with the record and it all came about in a very shitty time, not only because of Corona but also personally - I write the music and the lyrics alone and there I am very alone in my personal bubble and it was not particularly pleasant - so it was a cynical placeholder. The more time passed, it became clearer and clearer that the title fits like a glove and became a bit of a bitter reality. It is of course completely exaggerated and the same goes for the aspect of the poetry behind it, which is also completely exaggerated, but basically it was important to me not to come up with in a really shitty time with any fucking hold out slogans, where everyone feels like they're going crazy - I think we live in a very poisoned time right now. It was important to me that you also allow this catharsis and say that everything really sucks! I was also really shitty; I was in the hospital a lot and it was all ultra shit. At some point you don't feel like it anymore and the band almost died. Because of the fact that it is so negative and dark, it can always be seen with a twinkle in the eyewink in the last instance. As they say - it's a bit like dancing on graves. It was partly already so shit that one could only laugh and so it is perhaps to be understood.
After the first three albums (I'll leave out the cover album for now) were very rough, you've increasingly allowed quieter influences on the album. How did it come to the change of mind that you are a bit more chilling?
I don't find it chillier at all, quite the opposite I find the album more intense. The problem I have, for example, with the previous album The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze is that there are no dynamic jumps at all and it has one volume from front to back, no highs and lows. I think this album is much more intense. For me it was always clear that I didn't want to make a heavy album, but one that was intense. That's a big difference for me. I've spent my life writing songs with rock structures, working with rock riffs and playing them as hard as I can. Also, if you listen to the debut - those are partly rock n' roll moments and that's the way I write guitar riffs and I think I improved that again on this album. Personally, me - and Erinc not at all- he never had anything to do with metal in his life, have listened to metal, but for me, regardless of the music genre for a good song, the song structure and songwriting was always the most important thing. I grew up listening to classic rock - it was always about AC/DC and stuff and those are also pop song structures, verse - chorus, verse - chorus and it's important to create such special moments. I mean, everybody can play extra loud or extra fast or slow and a lot of genre bands do that, but after the eighth Funeral Doom album from a band, you wonder about some variety, that's important to me. For me, music is always about creating moments that stay in your head, and I think this album does that very well.
Unfortunately there are no lyrics, you can only infer content from the titles. Is there anything else that the songs have in common besides a lot of anger and hate? Some kind of red thread?
The lyrics are in the deluxe box. But I don't know if there is only anger and hate in the songs, that would be clearly too simple. Anger and hate are quickly interpreted as agitating and we are not a political band in that sense. I don't write lyrics to change the world. There is a big difference between calling for change and just observing and I just observe. I just observe and write about what I see. I don't come around the corner with a master plan or a better idea, and that gives me a lot of freedom, even in the lyrics, to partially depict things unadorned as well. I think we live in a time where, simply put, social media plays an important role and everyone has an opinion about everything and everyone wants to be heard. Everyone believes they can and should make a judgment about everything and people want very simple answers to very complex questions and that leads to a very peculiar social climate where it's no longer important whether a thing is really true and truthful, but where it's all about who shouts the loudest and finds the most followers. By followers, I don't mean clicks and likes, but this is an age-old problem - it exists in cults, it exists in religions, politics - on the right as well as on the left, everywhere. I've always been very concerned about how people are willing to give up their brains and let other people think for them, not just politically but emotionally. So how people are willing to make their well-being dependent on other people's moods and visions. That was very much what it was about, I didn't go on tour in the two years of Covid either, I live a pretty secluded life as well. I don't live in a big city, I live with a lot of land around me and that changes the perspective again too. When you're on the outside - man is already very whimsical.
Yes, I can certainly understand that. In my job as a teacher, I'm seeing more and more how stupid some people are. It's much worse than it was 30 years ago...
Sometimes I feel like a fish wondering if it's the others or me behind the glass. Can you still call people stupid when 95% of all people are like that or is it just the norm, if not normal? That's the problem. And I think nothing is colder and harsher than a completely neutral way of looking at things, and that can be beautifully packaged poetically. I also managed to do that better than usual. Otherwise the lyrics were very hateful, but this time there is the song 'Of Frost And Decay' and I like it because it is without this frenzy. I like it when the music is hard but the lyrics are not "Fuck you!" but disarmingly honest.
Did you produce the album in the USA again or where did it come from?
Yes, I made the demos at home with me and then sent them to Erinc and he recorded the drums in Germany because traveling was difficult because of Covid and I was injured all the time. Then I took the drum tracks and recorded the whole record in my house in Florida. I did the same thing with the Grungetown Hooligans. I can record relatively well in my house, I have a lot of space there and also all the technology and it's more comfortable than doing it in the stressful atmosphere of a recording studio.
Let's talk about some songs... who do you hate so much that you want to hang it up and give the rats the opportunity to eat them? I could imagine in my environment only one or two people, haha!!! On the larger related though then also more...
It depends again on the position from which you see the song. I don't have one that I hate that much, but I think we live in such a time where you feel like you're being driven through the village with torches for something you say. Like in the Middle Ages, where you were chased through the village with torches and pitchforks, and 100 years later it turns out that the earth really is round (laughs). But also political opinions - that can be left or right. There's a big difference in how you express your opinion, but basically there's a narrow space of what's politically correct and state-of-the-art right now, and I'm not saying that I necessarily disagree with the current status quo, but I do find it interesting that when a person says they don't vaccinate, a lot of people take that as a personal attack because it goes against their way of thinking. That's what I mean by 'Hang 'Em Low So The Rats Can Get 'Em'. That's not an adequate opinion is it's completely over the top. If you're not with us, you're against us. People have really always been stoned or hung for shit like that and that's what it's all about. I'm out of it. Again, I'm not judging, I'm just reporting.
Can 'Ulysses' be seen as a kind of self-reflection of the band - you never know how the next album will sound ("I close my eyes and sail away - I will never know my way")?
That would be too simple. I don't write from the band's point of view either. The band is more people than just me. It would also be too trivial to sing as a band about not knowing how the next album or from the band will turn out, but of course it is from my personal point of view that like many other artists I have been in a vacuum for the last two years. Everyone knows the saga of Odysseus - you travel the seas for seven years and never arrive and every day you're given seemingly unsolvable new tasks and no matter how sure you are, something always goes wrong. It was also another stock-taking, that's why the song is also the last song on the album, where it's clear that there is no prospect of a happy ending. That's how it feels right now, looking at the world, and with drug references as well. I'm not particularly into drugs, but I've been able to look at people in their personal descent many times. I thought it was an unforgiving conclusion that fit well on a dark record for dark times (laughs). It was important to me to leave the ending open and not give a climax. That wouldn't have fit the record either and that's why there is no hidden track or outro. It was important to me that the last moment of the record remains open.
Why did you, Hanno, actually emigrate to Florida? In Bremen and the surrounding area it is also quite beautiful.
Bremen is super nice and will always be my home, even if not my home. I was in Hamburg for 7 - 8 years before I emigrated and had the feeling that I was done with Germany. Not in a negative sense or because of frustration, but I had great years in Hamburg and there is also always a certain magic when you leave a relationship or a place and you don't do it on negative terms, but it is like leaving the party at the right time. I felt like I wanted to experience something different now and that's how it came about. The band was just in its infancy and then I had no place to live for a year and a half because I had no money and because we were always just touring. At the same time I met a woman when we were touring in the US and that's when it happened. There was then the option to live in Florida in the sun and that fits well into my life and is also very nice.
What are the biggest differences between Florida and Germany?
The southern states are special, but I'm fine with it. I'm also not a New York or Los Angeles guy, where everything is always hip and great. If you really want to get to know America as it really is, you have to go to the Midwest or the southern states. There you experience the USA as it really is, with all the bad but also with the wonderful, beautiful, magical sides. I like the landscape there very much, I can handle the heat well and the people are unspeakably friendly. Southern hospitality is one of those things that is completely unknown in Germany, especially in the north. When I walk through the streets here and meet someone I don't know, I ask how they're doing. Or if I sit down at the bar in a bar and start a conversation, people in Germany think I want to rip them off or beat them up. In the U.S., it's quite normal to strike up a conversation quickly, and people are very friendly to you. People always say that's totally superficial, but I don't care. Nevertheless, a smile is still a smile and a friendly "How are you?" is still a friendly "How are you? At some point I couldn't stand that here anymore. When I get on the S-Bahn in Hamburg and everyone is staring at the floor or at their phones - it's very disconcerting. I realize after 7, 8 years in the USA that there are things I couldn't find my way back to here. And space, even just in Florida - even if you live in the middle of the city, unless you live in one of those apartment complexes, there are almost only single houses that all have a little garden around them. Here, I have to assume that my bedroom wall is someone else's toilet wall and that's completely alienating and feels like a living honeycomb. I think it's creepy and I can't go back there. The weather of course - you're guaranteed to open the window in the morning and have good weather, that's pretty important for your head too. Otherwise, people are people and as we've already established, people alone are totally pleasant and when they're in twos, threes or fours, they're already a hysterical mass. It's exactly the same in America and in Germany. In America, when you go to a bar, there's the guiding principle "don't talk religion, don't talk politics." I'm a very big fan of that, because it gives you the opportunity to meet people you wouldn't have talked to otherwise, and I think that's the greatest gift in the whole world. In Germany, in certain neighborhoods or scene bars, if you're not in Antifa, for example, then you're the enemy there. I mean, you can still have a leftist self-image, but then that doesn't go far enough for some people. Or you go to another neighborhood bar and then you're a leftist because you don't wear a Freiwild T-shirt and don't look like an East German hooligan. This is all too exhausting for me and also too much kindergarten. I am 40 years old and have no time for such shit. That doesn't mean that I see all these people I'm not friends with as an enemy, but I'm totally fine with not being everybody’s darling and that's also way too exhausting.
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- Appalling - Sacrilege - Dec 02
- Dystopia A.D. - Doomsday Psalm - Dec 02
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- Ritual Death - Ritual Death - Dec 05
- Cult Of Eibon - Necronomical Mirror Divination - Dec 09
- Ceremonial Torture - Necronomical Mirror Divination - Dec 09
- Dehiscence - Colony - Dec 09
- Sacrilegion - From Which Nightmares Crawl - Dec 09
- Deathless Legacy - Mater Larvarum - Dec 09