Mantar are a two-piece from Hamburg, Germany who just released their debut album Death By Burning. In his review (read here) of Willie Cross described the album as "although Mantar aren’t necessarily rewriting the book on the genres they employ, Death By Burning is an endlessly heavy album that bodes nothing but good things for the duo’s future." Here Willie asks guitarist and vocalist Hanno some questions about the band, the album and about the 'sludge' label.
(((o))): What are the origins of Mantar?
Hanno: We know each other for almost 16 years. 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 I came up with the idea to form a new band…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 friend´s studio where we can rehearse as well. Today we are mainly surprised to be already asked to play Roadburn Festival. Everything is going quite fast. We are beyond stoked to play shows like that after having played our first show only 8 month ago!
(((o))): What is the driving force behind the band, in terms of musical vision and motivation?
Hanno: Well, I think we just share the same vision of a musical aesthetic. We both have the same urge to play music. We don't have any message to spread. We just like to play music in a violent way. That's all. We don't talk much about music, we just let it happen. And actually there is no need to talk about the music in general as we know each other pretty well. We started early making our own music, playing in bands, doing shows. Next to that we both started listening to (heavy) music pretty early as well. It kinda shapes your skills and your general idea of how a “heavy” band has to sound I guess. The songs for Mantar came pretty easy. We know each other for a long time but just made it last year to finally get together as a band, even though we always wanted that. Something in us seemed to have been waiting for us to get together. There was a strong urge to create something. That´s why it came all that fast and turned out to be that powerfull I guess.
(((o))): What motivated the band to make Death By Burning as a DIY production?
Hanno: We just have a strong DIY work ethic. We come from a punk rock background. We did the record with close friends in Hamburg (Germany), like we did the artwork, videos and all other stuff, too. We want to keep the control over our outputs. Money is an issue as well. We did the record pretty quick, self-produced and for less money bands usually spend on the production. If you have a strong vision you don´t need much money to create a good record. Furthermore I like working in the studio. I am used to it and know about the gear. It's good fun. I always did my own recordings. I started back in the days with 4 track recorders and therefore I still like to work pretty basic.
(((o))): What were Mantar’s strongest influences on Death By Burning?
Hanno: It might sound a little aimless but actually we didn't think about too much about the music that we were supposed to create. Basically I really enjoy dark, heavy music like black metal, doom metal and also have a pretty heavy punk background. Erinc, the drummer is more on the groovy side, which means that he manages to make “real songs” out of my destructive ambitions, haha. The strongest influence might have been the two of us together in one room going berserk and playing as hard as possible. So the strongest influence and the urge of the record has been the pleasure of pure honest rage.
(((o))): In terms of production, how did the record turn out so heavy- even without the presence of a bass guitar?
Hanno: The main reason might be that the band actually IS heavy. Furthermore we are using equipment for at least 4 people combined with a good amount of violence. I use three amps at the same time and some special FX pedals to get that low end. I use bass amplifiers, too. 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. 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. The record is basically what the band stands for. Raw display of power. If you know your gear/equipment you can create a hell lot of bass. There is no need for a bass guitar to raise some hell.
(((o))): What are the lyrical themes motivated by?
Hanno: The urge of man for the final battle. The return to nature. And for sure the general sickness of mankind. I dont't judge though, I just tell. We don´t have any certain message. I don't care what people think. I dont want them to act according to my lyrics. Our only message is the power of the music.
(((o))): Are 'The Berserker’s Path', 'The Huntsmen', and 'The Stoning' a trilogy of sorts? And if so, what is the story that is being told?
Hanno: I like the fact that you think that this might be an option. It could be, but it's not though. But at least the first of the three songs deal with the issues I have mentioned above. As a matter of fact there is some kind of fascination for old Northern warriors ('The Berserker's Path') and the power of nature in general ('The Huntsmen').
Hanno: We just knew pretty early that Death By Burning was going to be the name of the record. It just sounds cool. And might give you a slight idea of what you can expect from the record. It's a good expression for a heavy band without any gimmicks. When I discovered the painting for the cover artwork it was magic. I immediately knew that this needs to be our cover. That painting is called The Crown from a great American artist called Aron Wiesenfeld. I think it describes our music better than we ever could. That kind of nothingness in the face of the girl with the burning crown…just epic. Furthermore death by burning is an expression that can express much more than just getting burned alive on the stake. We asked Aron about using The Crown as the cover art and he kindly agreed. So it’s a fucking honor for us to have such a wonderful piece of art to represent our music. He sure is an incredible artist.
(((o))): Why does the band say, “don’t call it sludge”?
Hanno: Personally I just 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 particularly good. It's pretty worn out these days and a lot of bands use it nowadays as a brand because they don't have any own character or don't 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. I don't have the intension of making music for a certain kind of “scene” or even worse, target group.
Maybe I am not educated enough with that musical genre but for me a lot of bands, branded as sludge sound all the same to me. Don't want to make anyone down here, I just never had the intension of playing “sludge”. A couple of years ago I didn't even know what that is.
(((o))): Does Mantar plan on playing live shows? If so, will it just be the two members performing?
Hanno: Yes indeed, as mentioned above we have absolutely no problems with putting on a fat sound.
We already played a couple of shows and got a lot of positive feedback. We will play many more shows soon and there are no plans for expanding the lineup. It can be worse getting beat up by two people full of rage than by five lads that aren't sure about their own mission, you know?
(((o))): What are the band’s plans for the future?
Hanno: I hope we will literally play the whole world. Would love to play the UK asap, same with the United 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 and Greece 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.
(((o))): Thank you very much for answering my questions, is there anything you would like to add?
Hanno: Thanks for your support, Willie. And thank you for your interest and your questions. We really appreciate that.
Death By Burning is now out through Svart Records and available here.