A Monster Was Unleashed, Be Aware: Our Interview With Mantar

Everyone knows that three’s a crowd so that’s probably why Mantar‘s twin-pronged pummel works so well. Following a rapid rise in stature from their debut, follow-up full-length Ode To The Flame ups the craftsmanship and aggression and delivers a musical beat-down that a band twice their size couldn’t hope to match. We caught up with guitarist Hanno Klänhardt to walk us through the creation of this primal metal masterpiece.

Thanks for giving us some of your time, man. How are things with you today?
I’m good. I’m sitting on the porch in Florida and it’s hot as balls over here.

Are you touring at the moment?
No, my girlfriend lives in Florida. Actually, when we’re not on tour, I spend pretty much all my time over here.

How is the situation there? Over in Europe, we’re hearing a lot about the political situation so, as an outsider, do you notice it much?
Dude, it’s awful. People go crazy over here. Everyone knows that Americans are a little weird, but this thing with Trump… on the other hand, I’m from Germany and the political mood over there is pretty poisoned for some reasons. It seems that wherever you go, shit is totally fucked up.

Do Mantar consider themselves a political band, or do your own politics enter into the music at all?
No, I don’t think we’re a political band. Of course, we have political views and we are political people, but we try to keep the band free of that. We do not have a certain message and I don’t want to preach to the people. There are other bands who can do that way better than us and, actually, I don’t want to do that. I just want to destroy and slay. That’s the only message we have – the beauty of destruction, the music of power – not spreading certain ideas amongst the listeners. I don’t care for that.

Is the new album a continuation on the theme of destruction? There is a pretty solid link with the previous album in their titles.
Obviously, there’s a relation and links to the first record which was Death By Burning and this is Ode To The Flame. We like to keep up a guiding theme of fire. Fire really inspires us, and the idea of this force of nature which is able to set everything to zero and wipe out any plague in the world and doesn’t leave anything behind but ashes and destruction is really cool, and we like that idea.

The new record seems a real move from Death By Burning, not just in the songwriting but also in tone. Was there much of a change in the technical setup with the recording of this album?
No, we pretty much did exactly the same as we did with the first record. Once again, we did not have a producer – it’s pretty much self-produced, just like the first one – and we recorded about 80% of it in the room where we rehearse. It’s very simple, and we use the exact same equipment as we use on stage. We literally just put microphones in front of them, that’s all. I think the sound got better and maybe our skills as musicians or engineering the record got better but we didn’t try to reinvent the band or focus on new techniques. You know, we’re a very primitive band and that’s our approach for production as well. We’re not fucking Dream Theater or something, we’re a very primitive band and the limitation for us is strength. When it comes to production, songwriting and the line-up, we choose all of that on purpose.

Does it help to be a two-piece when it comes to achieving that blunt, primitive sound?
Absolutely, absolutely. That helps a lot because when you have a lot of people then music tends to get complicated, because then you have guitar solos, then you have intros and outros, you have keyboard layers and backing vocals – which can be great, don’t get me wrong! There’re a lot of 5 or 6-piece bands out there we adore, but for Mantar, that’s not what we want. We either have very strong, intense guitar riffs or good, catchy, groovy drumbeats; best-case scenario, we have both. That’s just two ingredients to the soup we’re cooking and we like to keep it that way. That limitation that we chose on purpose is to keep things simple and very one-dimensional because in the end, that’s the rock side of it. Even if it’s super-dark and sinister and heavy, we play rock and roll. We want people to groove, we want them to nod their heads and I think the simpler, the rawer you play, the better. Our musical roots are more Sisters Of Mercy, Mötörhead and AC/DC than any super-awesome, cool underground cult black metal band. I like the sinister and dark atmosphere, but I like to groove and in the end, that’s what we’re best at. That’s pretty much the only thing we’re able to do, but let’s be honest about it, we are not super-good musicians. What you hear on the record is pretty much what we are able to pull off.

When you recorded Death By Burning, Mantar hadn’t really toured but you’ve really made up for it since. Did having some touring under your belt help in the creation of Ode To The Flame?
I think we learned what we were best at and to skip the bullshit. We just learned to concentrate on our strengths due to the fact we played so much in rehearsal rooms and on tour. Dude, we played so much! We’re a very hard-working band and I’m not only referring to touring. We rehearsed because we’ve only played for three years and even in the first year, we travelled Europe and went to the US and stuff like that. We needed to become a good band so when other people were waking with a hangover on a Sunday morning, we met in a rehearsal room and practiced, sometimes seven days a week. Due to all the touring in the last two years and seeing the reaction of the people in a live environment, I just think you learn what works best and you concentrate on your strengths and skip the rest.


“…we’re a very primitive band and that’s our approach for production as well. We’re not fucking Dream Theater or something, we’re a very primitive band and the limitation for us is strength.”

How about personally? Did you and Erinç learn anything new about each other as you have known each other for quite some time?
Yes, I guess so. We’ve known each other for 19 years so we know each other very well anyhow, even if we’ve never played in a band together, but of course you learn or witness a lot about the other person’s character on tour, especially if you’re only a two-piece because you can’t get away. We are like an old married couple. You have to hang together all the damn time which can totally be a pain in the ass and it’s pretty much the only downside of being a two-piece band. Everything else is cool and so much easier and better, but this can be a little intense. You know, we are not the guys who argue all the time. If we are in a fight, again, that’s the good thing of being in a two-piece – you have to solve the problem right away. You have to talk about it, and then you give yourself a hug and everything’s good again. We are very different people. He is always nice, he’s polite and shy and he’s very diplomatic, and I think I’m all of the other shit. But you need that to push a band forward!

You moved onto Nuclear Blast this time around. You come from a very DIY punk background so was it difficult to maintain the old level of control when working with a bigger label?
When I say DIY it doesn’t necessarily have a political connotation, I mean that more in the approach you have as a band, how you do things. For me, the step towards Nuclear Blast was, first of all, a step towards better distribution. We got so many emails from all over the world. “Why can’t I buy your records in New Zealand? Why can’t I buy your new record in the United States? Why do I have to pay $30 shipping?” We thought that obviously there are a lot of people interested in the band, so first of all we should try to get a better infrastructure and besides that, the fact that Nuclear Blast offered us, by far, the most fair deal, was why we went with them. Of course, we still have the DIY spirit because we do all our shirts ourselves, we record our records without a producer, we do the artwork ourselves or, if not ourselves, using very close friends. Videos, pictures, all are done by friends and that’s the thing. You’re not gonna get controlled by business people, that’s what it’s all about. The best thing about Nuclear Blast is that they leave us alone. They just said, “Hey, just give us the artwork and give us the masters and we’re gonna put it out exactly the way you want it.” I said okay, that sounds like a good idea to me.

Your live shows are impressive just for their sheer weight alone. Given that you’re working without a bassist, how did you come to settle on a tone and playing style that has so much bulk behind it?
I’m more of a bassist than I am a guitar player. I learned the bass way before that and I like the bass better so I think my overall style is very simple and is pretty much more like a bass line than as a very fancy guitar riff a lot of times, and when it comes to technique, volume is the third member of Mantar. We just play as loud as possible all the time and I play through three stacks, and one of these stacks is a bass stack. That’s pretty much it on the lower end. It’s not as complicated as you might assume.

How do you see the difference between club and festival shows, as you did quite a lot of the latter recently?
I don’t see a difference for festivals as long as I have a feeling the people are into my music. To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me if it’s 5 or 5000 people as long as the vibe and the energy is good between the audience and the band. It doesn’t matter if I am on a huge open-air stage or a small club but of course it is a little bit more intense, let’s say, in a little venue for 200-400 people that is sold out and I really can taste the sweat and the blood and the tears of the people. A lot of people ask if we play as intense or if you can put on as good a show on a big festival stage and we never have problems with that. We most of all play for ourselves, that’s why we face each other on stage – because we enjoy the destructive rage and fury and ecstasy we are in while playing and people are very invited to join us. If they like what we do, it doesn’t really matter how many of them.

One of the more interesting tracks on the new album is that of “Schwanenstein”. How did a story like that come to end up as a song?
We just discovered that story in a German history book or somewhere and I thought it’s a very cool, dark and sinister story. It’s pretty much like a big monolithic stone on the shore of northern Germany, in the water. In a dark, cold winter in the ‘50s there was ice on the water and three kids from an orphanage went over to the stone and a thunderstorm broke loose. The ice broke loose and they could not go back and finally, when the weather got better and they tried to save the children, they were already covered in ice and frozen on the stone. That’s a pretty mean story because the name of the stone is Schwanenstein, which refers to the story that, in mythology, the swan brings and gives birth to the children, not takes them away, covered them with ice and dying. I was fascinated how something cruel had such a nice, beautiful and elegant name. I actually thought of calling the band Schwanenstein when we started, but Erinç didn’t like it.

Why did you settle on Mantar, then? I think it means something like mushroom, right?
Yeah, it’s Turkish so we just thought it would be cool to pick a Turkish name because there’re not a lot of good bands with a Turkish name out there and due to the fact he has Turkish roots, we thought we’d give it a try. Mantar is a very simple, raw and one-dimensional name which I think goes hand-in-hand with the characteristics of the band in general. Mantar – it’s more about the sound than the meaning. We’re not a fucking psychedelic hippy band so don’t ask me that. I don’t give a fuck about magic mushrooms, man. We are drinkers.


“…we enjoy the destructive rage and fury and ecstasy we are in while playing and people are very invited to join us.”

I’ve heard you classed as both a Hamburg band and as a Bremen band. Which is it?
It’s easy. We both were born and raised in Bremen, we pretty much lived there all of our lives so we socialised in Bremen, we met in Bremen, we started to hang out in Bremen but then a couple of years ago we moved to Hamburg to work and I haven’t lived in Hamburg for more than a year now. Erinç travels back and forth between Bremen and Hamburg because his girlfriend lives in Hamburg. We consider ourselves a Bremen band even though I am homeless, pretty much, so when we are not on tour I live in Florida with my girlfriend.

Hamburg’s music scene is very well established. Is it the same for Bremen?
Yeah, in Hamburg we don’t have a lot to do with a lot of the other bands. We always made our own thing and are very uninterested in what other bands are doing. We don’t collect records, we don’t go to shows, we are very alienated from the rest of the scene because we never wanted to be part of any scene, but when we both grew up in the ‘90s in Germany, in Bremen, that was a very good time. Bremen was a very busy city when it comes to underground culture and different scenes of music and that was awesome. We actually met when I played with my punk band in a squat in ’97. I was a kid and Erinç so we pretty much met in the underground movement and it was a great time but nowadays, it has gotten very slow and we don’t have a lot of very good bands anymore; a lot of venues have closed down, especially the good, self-run DIY spots. It’s sad.

The band have certainly come a long way since the first album, but what have you learned about yourself in the process?
To not take all the bullshit people talk about and say about your band too seriously, whether it’s love or hate. In the end, you’ve got to be confident with the band and the choices you make and the way you approach and play music. It’s cool and we are grateful for all the love we are receiving, but don’t take that too seriously, just try to be the best band you can at any time and as long as you are satisfied with that, that’s all I can say. I’m glad that we have this chance to play all over the world and have people buying and liking our music. We are very grateful and don’t take any of that for granted, but first of all, I’m glad to have that opportunity now, being over 30 years old. You are a little bit more relaxed and you learn to not take yourself too seriously, you don’t make a super-big thing out of it and it’s great. You enjoy it, but I am glad I have these opportunities now where I can actually appreciate them and not in my early 20s where I might have been a cocky bastard about it.

Words: Dave Bowes // Photos: Tim Klöcker – Ode To The Flame is out now via Nuclear Blast
You can also read the interview here:

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed