German extreme metal band Mantar release their third full-length album ‘The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze’ on August 24th this year to a lot of positive reviews. Formed in 2012, Mantar is a two-piece monster that plays a fun combination of sludge, black metal, doom and rock’n roll.
Hello Hanno. You’ve probably already heard of all the positive feedback you are getting for ‘The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze’. Is it humbling? Does it fuel the metaphorical fire? Or does it not impact your creativity at all?
Off course. We put a lot of effort in this new album and we are very proud that people see the quality. We are very lucky that we always had a very strong fan base all over the world that is loyal and supportive. We worked harder than ever before for this new release and I am just happy that people can see that. And of course that´s what keeps us going as a band. The positive feedback, the energy from the shows, the general demand for our music. Its great to see that something you do, that you put so much passion into, means so much to some people. If it impacts my creativity.. I don´t know. As I always have been writing music. Since I am 12 years old. And believe me, for the most part of my live people didn´t give a shit about my music and I still think that I did good stuff as well before MANTAR. But yeah, it helps to see that people appreciate what you are doing. So yeah, overall, it fuels the fire.
What is the album art of ‘The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze’ from?
The cover art shows a relief at the entrance of the Böttcherstraße in Bremen called “Der Lichtbringer” (Bringer of Light). Done in 1936 by German artist Bernhard Hoetger who claimed the picture would show the victory of the Third Reich over the powers of darkness, intended to flatter the regime, which, however, rejected his work and listed it as degenerate art and also excluded Hoetger himself from the party. (Joke´s on you, sucker!) After WWII the piece was mainly characterized as a picture of archangel St. Michael as people tried to amend the initial intention of the artwork. The relief hangs to this very day… UNCOMMENTED. Which is exactly the problem. People had 80 years to deal with it or to at least make sure to add some explanations to this piece of art. Instead, people chose to deal with it in a very poor and therefore even more human manner. Trying to forget about it. Trying to deny the initial meaning. Trying to pretend this period of history and the liability of man to blindly follow any sort of leader is over. IT IS NOT. Because, sadly, people are dumb. One person individually MIGHT be intelligent… a whole bunch of them is nothing less than a hysterical mass. Always has been, always will be. The stupidity of man is a never ending source of inspiration. We are living in dangerous times.
On many occasions before, you have made yourself clear that you don’t give a fuck about the ‘scene’. But outside of this scene, what external factor has made an impact on the music of Mantar? Or has it only been the internal flame being channeled through the music?
Both, Erinc (drummer) and I have been obsessed with music since we are kids. So the general love for music has been there way before we even knew what a “scene” is or whatsoever. We didn´t start to play music because we were metalheads or punks or whatever, we were just kids loving music. And when we got together as MANTAR we were already too old to be part of a certain scene I guess. It just didn´t excite me back then to be part of a elite group of people who collect records and love to hear themselves talk. Being part of a certain “genre” or “scene” always restrict people. It´s a guarantee to copy each other. Which is fine by me, if it that what you want and aiming for. We don´t. We are very ignorant in the way we do things. We do not listen to a lot of new music (sorry) nor do we attend shows of other bands too much or read music magazines. We just always loved the feeling of playing as hard and intense as possible. This physical thing in playing heavy music. The destructive rage. The groove. The sweat. You don´t need a “scene” where you want to fit in in order to enjoy that. Personally I can say that when I got my first AC/DC tape as a kid I knew right away what I wanted to do with my life. The minute I heard it nothing was the way it used to be. I think you call that passion. Yes, I guess that´s what it is.
From starting out with a very DIY approach to making music, to releasing a record on Nuclear Blast, one of the biggest metal labels currently, has there been any kind of shift in the way you’ve approached the production side of the music? How have the older fans of Mantar got on with this fact that the band has the ‘big label’ label attached to them?
We never changed our approach. We keep things simple. That’s a big part of the concept of this band. On stage as in the studio. Therefore The production pretty much always have been the same. We put the gear we have on stage into the studio and put microphones in front of it and play. We try not do get lost in the production (which is hard considering all the technical possibilities nowadays) and avoid things we cannot reproduce in a live setting. The biggest difference is the songwriting. I live in the US while Erinc still is in Germany. Therefore I write most of the music by myself and than we meet up to arrange the material I bring into songs ready to record. I think that is a positive development as we need that space apart from each other in order to maintain our creativity. When you tour as much as we do/did it´s hard to motivate yourself to spend even more time together right after it and write songs or jam in the rehearsal room, haha. When we switched to Nuclear Blast after the first record there where only a handful of people who were bitching about that. They were probably afraid that we would change our sound which we didn´t and everything was cool. Never heard a negative word after that. But honestly: no fucks given. I have way other problems than caring about other peoples opinion about our label. Start to complain when we start to suck, otherwise don´t waste my time. The label is perfect for us. They understood that the best way to get good result is to leave us completely alone. And that´s what they do. They don´t even get demos when we record. We just deliver the final master tape. We need to to work very independently and need to be left alone. They respect that. Therefore there still is at least a certain DIY work ethic.
Regarding the fascination with fire, would you say this appeal towards destruction precedes your music? An extension of the question would be, would you have used any other medium of arts to outlet the devastating creativity if not for the heavy music that you got into, or was it the exposure to heavy music that ignited the early flame?
I would think so yes. You have to have a certain urge in order to create this powerful music. I always had this. Always have been very hyper in every way. I hope the band helps. But I dont think the exposure to heavy music has anything to with that. But of course the fascination for this kind of music was certainly there for a kid like me haha. I am not very good in other arts I am afraid. I wish I could paint. What a wonderful majestic art. But I suck in it. The art though that helps me come down and be calm is backing bread. I am a baker and that´s my love next to music. I love baking bread. Being productive and creative with that. Artisan, very old fashioned bread without any chemicals. Just like hundreds of years ago.
Being a very riff-oriented band, if I may say so, is there any temptation at the back of your mind to experiment with your sound and step out of the raw and primitive zone that you have mastered?
Not at this moment, no. We just have a guitar and drums. That´s what we are cooking with. So there is no real plan to change that. Maybe in the future.. who knows. But riffs is what I love. It´s the hardest currency in Rock´n Roll music.
Do you jam or write new music while you are touring?
We usually don´t jam anymore as I am living so far away nowadays. As stated above. Usually I like to write new material when I am home in Florida. That is my favorite place where I feel at home and can relax. I am on my own. That´s how I write the best stuff. Np pressure from the outside. Of course I also sometimes write on tour. When there is a good idea I just record it on my cellphone and use it later or I don´t. In the beginning of the band when we still both were based in Hamburg, Germany we met up several times a week in order to jam and write new music. That was fun as well but the band and times and reality where different back then. We had NO idea that this would become our main job soon after and that ANYONE would give a flying fuck about what we were creating back then. That´s the innocent magic of every beginning. Great times. I miss it sometimes.
You’ve played all around the world by now. Do you have any regions, where you haven’t yet played, that you have in mind to really want to play in?
Well, for years we have been offered tours in South America and we really wanna do that, just as we have tour offers from Australia, which would be cool as well, but time is a problem. I am very confident that we eventually do all that but to be very honest with you I don´t like touring too much. I love being on stage and play and freak out but everything around it that comes with touring I rather hate. Traveling, waiting and the constant presence of people around me. I need to be alone a lot, you know?! But on the other hand I love playing live so I do it. And that why we most likely will do all these things. But we are at a step with this band were we are in the fortunate position that we can chose what we do and when we do that. At least sometimes. And that´s important. Because the last 4 years where nothing but crazy, magic but also super stressful. We need to be careful to maintain the creativity and lust to tour and get out there. I don´t wanna overdo it and lose interest in all this. Its time for us to understand that you need breaks for yourself from time to time to have the power to deliver when you want and need to. The first years we worked harder than everyone I know to make all this happen in a relatively short amount of time. But now I need to learn to relax and enjoy what we have. And to accept the love and interest of the people. I am very grateful for all this.