First of all; Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. How are things in your world?
Ehm well, we are pretty much in a tour right now, we are in the middle of a European tour. We just came back, well that’s not Europe though, we just came back yesterday from South Africa. We played two shows, one in Johannesburg and one in Cape town, and have been to London and Paris and Rotterdam and mostly German shows, and tomorrow we’re going to play Nürnberg, and then Hannover is sold out, and Berlin is going to be packed, Hamburg is sold out. Yeah it’s good, it’s a really successful tour. We are kind of surprised how many people actually show up for this. And then I go back home, once we’re done in two weeks. I live in Florida, and then I fly home. And then Erinc and I are going to meet in Canada to play a Canadian festival, by the end of May. And then fly back to Germany and pretty much start the festival season until late august. And as it looks right now after that we are going to make a very long European tour with another big band we cannot mention yet, but you’ll probably know in a few days (Kadavar).
Wow sounds great!
Yeah! It’s a lot to do though
You have released a new EP on the 31th of march called the Spell. Congratulations on that! I really like the rawness of the tracks. Some call you a rising star, which must feel great!
A rising star? What does that mean?
That you are a newcomer, but going very fast.
Yeah that might be true, that’s due to the fact that we have just been touring for three years and released two records, one live record and one EP already. But on the other hand, what people usually don’t see is that we’ve worked very, very hard, and actually worked pretty much harder than the most bands I know. We have already been in the US four times and we we’re pretty much all over Europe, South Africa, and been to Russia and stuff like that. I mean all that stuff doesn’t come for free. We put a lot of effort and organisation, and sacrifices in that to actually be able to do so. Nevertheless I take that as a compliment and I just appreciate, no matter how the people call us, that it’s positive, that they obviously like what we’re doing. And I just think that’s due to the fact that we did not expect any success at all, and so we never had the chance to change for any audience in favour to be liked or whatever. Do you know what I’m saying? We always did our thing, and people seem to enjoy it, and I think that is why people call it the rising star or whatever. Because there’s this band that gets liked by more and more people. I don’t know, yeah, well thank you! I try to take it as a compliment *laughs*. Ilona, what do you think?
Yeah, it is. It is! Rockhard prized you newcomer of 2016 on #1 place and for instance Abbath was on #8!! That must be rewarding as well! It’s a big compliment…
Yeah that is a compliment, on the other hand... In Germany we say; In the newspapers from today already by tomorrow you wrap up dead stinky fish. So you know, it’s nice, but in the end all those polls and all that shit, doesn’t mean shit. What means a lot is people actually come to your show and buy your records. I mean I like Rockhard magazine, and I like all that, and of course I’m flattered. But in the end all that matters to me is that the people like my music and come out to the shows and get a record and shake my hand at the merch booth. You know, that’s what shows me that we are actually doing a good job. And I’m not talking about my home town, I’m talking about all over the US, and Russia and South Africa and trying to do that all over the world. That’s what success means to me, to be able to travel and play in front of people pretty much everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to sound cocky, but in the end, you know. Next year it’s going to be some other band and Mantar is probably going to be on #8. Seriously I do not care to much about that.
It’s about what’s real
Exactly! That’s what’s real, but of course it is flattering and nice and of course I like it a lot. But in the end, I’ve seen so many bands hyped to the fucking bone, all over the place, and in the magazines and the radio and whatever. And if you do not slay and convince the people live, than you are basically a sucky band.
That’s true *both laugh*
And we come from a garage and always did our thing and just play as intense and raw as possible wherever we play, no matter if we’re in front of thirty people or ten thousand, what we did several times by now. You have to convince them again and again, every single night. And the people won’t believe shit, people are not as stupid as recorders and journalists may think. In the end, voting Mantar #1 newcomer won’t change their mind about the band. What changes their mind is if you are good live, and if your record is good or not, you know, so in the end it is up to the working man, and that’s good! *laughs*
I think you are very humble, when I hear you say this. Standing with both feet on the ground…
Oh yeah! Hell yeah! This is pretty much the first year that we sell out venues and sell a good amount of records. But when we started as a band, man! Did we eat a lot of shit! Absolutely man, we did tours, trust me, nine out of ten bands would have split up after what we have experienced, man! Sleeping on floors, sleeping outside in the rain, sleeping in halfpipes, haven’t eaten for literally days, without food just to be on the road in the fucking USA, and not getting paid, you know all that shit, so. I think you can say maybe it’s not that I’m humble, it’s more that I know that it was a very rocky road to get where we’re today. *laughs* And that’s why I don’t take any things for granted, but I think that’s a good band. If you call that humble, fine, but for me it’s just... I know how much work it was *laughs* And still is, don’t get me wrong! Just due to the fact some things have going well at some parts of the work for us, like playing in front of ten thousand people at Hellfest in France, the next day you play some underground venue in some other country and sixty people show up. That happens you know, and you still have to slay!
You still have to play as if there are ten thousand people in front of you.
Absolutely, you always have to play like you mean it, and that’s how you have to judge a band I think, and not by any polls or whatever. *laughs*
While listening to the Spell, that was my first contact to Mantar by the way, I didn’t realise that the band only exists of two members, it sounds so ‘complete’. How do you make that happen?
Well it’s not even very complicated rocket science, I just try to play as many amplifiers as a five piece band would, you know? I split my guitar signal in two guitar amplifiers and a bass amplifier at the same time, so you could say it’s just all about volume, so I just try to play loud and use as many amplifiers as I can at the same time, that’s pretty much it. There’s no backing tracks and no tricks on stage, so what you hear on the record is exactly the same equipment we use live and vise versa.
So there’s no dubbed guitar parts... *No absolutely not* so it’s just one signal, split in two or several more and some effects on that to change the sound.
Exactly, what you see is what you get, it’s a two piece band and it’s just guitars and drums that’s it.
I haven’t had the chance to see you live yet, though I saw your live videos on Youtube. The one in Hamburg I like that very much. Your performance is very energetic if I may say so. Words like raw and aggressive come to mind. I think it’s refreshing. Is that a choice or did that just happen? That kind of music and that vibe you give on stage?
Let me put it that way, we really enjoy the aggressivity, and the rage, and the joy of destruction. It’s something that we like. I really like being aggressive and I like playing raw, and as intense as really is possible. For me it’s a physical challenge, you know, just being on stage for an hour, and screaming, and moving around, and sweating. It feels good it’s almost like a catharsis, you know. In this period, certain time of the day, I have this 45 or 60 minutes where I just can go berserk, same with Erinc. I like it and of course it’s on purpose, because we enjoy it, it’s the beauty of destruction, can’t get no better in my eyes.
You also have an unconventional stage line-up, you face each other. Is that practical?
If you believe it or not, in the beginning we just thought of doing so, because we already started playing shows when we only had been a band for three or four months. And we needed to do so in order to have eye contact to know what the other one is doing at a particular time, so I know when Erinc was facing me and looking at me, oh now the chorus starts and now the new part begins and now we have a tempo change and stuff like that. So we needed to have eye contact in order to manage to play the songs, you know.
To improvise when somebody suddenly changes something?
Exactly, and to give each other more confidence, because in the end, what you see; the ritual of the Mantar concert is to witness Erinc and me playing in a certain rage and get in some sort of rush. And people are welcome to witness that and look at us, but I do not go on stage in order to face the people and entertain the people and be their clown on stage, you know. I just do it for myself and for the beauty of the experience what I get when the two of us play together, and the people are very welcome to watch us doing that, but it’s not a classic rock show in order; I face the audience and crack jokes and do things in order to get the people pumped, you know. It’s just people watch us doing our natural thing.
Yes! That was exactly my next question. Doesn’t that prohibit you from having contact with your audience?
Well, if I feel like it I sometimes talk to the audience, but it’s not a guarantee that I’m going to do so. I only do that when I feel like it, but sometimes we play shows where I literally do not say a single word, which is not supposed to sound arrogant, it’s just because I’m so busy with the ritual of the show, and so busy and lost in the music that I do not have power and time to entertain the people in a classic rock show kind of way, you know. But sometimes I feel like it and I joke around with the audience and throw beer in the crowd or whatever, but you should not rely on the fact that I want to entertain you like I was in Van Halen or something, your know.
Where other live bands can hide behind a wall of sound made by the other band members, you two are depending on one another. But you also have only one other person to take into account, when having problems or improvising or stuff like that. Which I guess can both be positive, but also negative. What is your view on that?
For me it’s a blessing, because you always have to see it like that, due to the fact that the weapons we have are limited, we have to fight double as strong as other bands and we cannot get lost in some goofy bullshit gimmicks, and wall of sounds and improvisations and all that stuff you mentioned. We just have to be super concentrated and be super on point and due to the fact that we are just two people we know each other just as good as we... I know his drumskills just as exactly good as I know my own guitar skills. We don’t have to talk, we literally know what the other person is going to do in the very next second without talking about it. We could play the show with a blind eye and he still would know what the other one is doing and I think the word is intimacy; we know each other so well that I think we can use the satisfaction word. The sensation you get off us as a band only consisting out of two people is more intense than a five piece band where the fucking keyboarder has no relation to the bass player, or the bass player has nothing to do with the singer or the other guitar player or whatever. But especially due to the fact that it’s just the two of us, only drums and guitar we have to work like the inside of a clock, you know, the mechanics of a clock. We have to be in sync all the time without any exception. And I think if that’s going to work you... I would even say it works pretty much all the time, because we worked a lot on that and we rehearsed a lot in the beginning! Pretty much every day and I think it works out pretty well nowadays. And I think it’s just more intense to be honest without sounding cocky, you know.
You say, you rehearsed a lot together, but if I understand correctly, you and Erinc don’t live exactly near each other. You live in Florida and the other one in Bremen (I suppose).
That is correct, but when we started the band... I mean I just recently, last year, moved to Florida, so when we started being a band we both lived in Hamburg, about 60 miles up from Bremen and so we were able to rehearse a lot in the beginning of the band career.
So how does that work now with rehearsals, working on new material and concert preparations?
We actually do not rehearse anymore, because we tour so much that just we meet a few days before the actual tour starts and just get warm and play for maybe two or three days in order to get back in shape. But we do not rehearse like other bands, like ‘hey let's meet every Tuesday and Thursday for two hours and play.’ And when we create new music, I just write new music on the fly, when I’m traveling or when I’m back home in Florida and Erinc is practicing drums and comes up with new beat ideas and drum patterns. And then we just talk about it or just plan ahead and just give it certain times where we just meet in order to create new music. Like for this summer we are going to rent a rehearsal room for the summer in Bremen and between all the festival shows we are going to be there and just jam on new material in order to create new music and probably write a new record. So of course you have to plan ahead a lot, but it’s actually no problem. I actually think it’s better than meeting every week two times because then the music becomes some sort of obligation, some sort of *sighs* ‘yeah I have to go there’ and it loses the special moment, you know.
If I’m correct Okoi Jones from Bölzer takes on the guest vocals on the title track called ‘the Spell’. How did you come to this collaboration?
Well he’s a good friend of mine, actually Bölzer is a befriended band. We got to know each other in 2014 when Okoi of Bölzer started posting Mantar songs on the Bölzer-page and I saw a lot of people with Bölzer shirts at our shows and they saw a lot of people with Mantar shirts, and so we got in touch and realised that we like each other a whole lot and have a lot of respect of each others art and so we became friends and then early 2015 we did one of our very first tours together in Portugal and Spain. Yeah so we stayed friends and when we recorded and were supposed to put out the EP we we’re thinking; the song ‘The Spell’ itself is quite old, it’s of the first session of the ‘Death by burning’ or the debut record and the other two are rom the ‘ Ode to the Flame’ session. And we never knew what we wanted to do with the actual song ‘The Spell’ because I just had no idea how to sing on it and all that kind of stuff. So I thought it might be a good idea to let a friend try it and actually the first one that came into my mind was Okoi due to the fact that he’s a friend and also he is an artist I really admire and it turned out to be great and obviously we clicked together and I hope it’s not going to be the last time that we are going to do something together because I like the band a lot and he’s a friend.
Yes it sounds good, it sounds really good. As you said, you are currently touring Europe. Are you excited about that?
Of course, I mean don’t get me wrong, I do not like touring to much; I like playing shows but I hate touring, I hate sitting in the van, I hate waiting, I hate soundchecking, I hate it when I can’t sleep well, I do not like to get hammered to much and, you know, the most important thing; I need a lot of time for myself, being alone and that’s very hard on tour. So I enjoy the shows and the sixty minutes on stage especially due to that the fact that a lot of shows are sold out and we are talking about 500 people venues, that’s great, but except for the Rotterdam one, that sucked. *laughs* But the touring itself I do not like it to much to be honest, but I like playing music so that’s what I have to do I guess. It’s part of the thing.
How did you prepare for this tour?
We haven’t played for about a half. The year the last show before the tour started was in Oakland California Deathfest. So we hadn’t played for six months, which is the longest amount of time in the history of the band where we haven’t played a show. So I came back two weeks before the tour started and we actually rehearsed, because we really needed it to get back in shape. And we wanted to play some new songs on this tour so that’s what I did. And next to that we try to stay healthy, but nothing you can do about it, just go with the flow I’d say.
And you just said that this show in Hannover, I only knew the show in Hamburg was sold out, but you also say that the one in Hannover is sold out. That must be something to be proud of!
Well actually Essen was sold out, Jena was sold out, tomorrow will be Nürnberg and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be sold out at the ticket office at night, Hamburg is sold out, Hannover is sold out and I’m pretty sure we’re getting pretty close to a sold out venue in Berlin as well. So I think the majority of shows is going to be sold out. I’m proud of that yeah! I’m very proud of that, of course! Not in a way where I would show off with it, saying ‘hey look at me’. It’s more like; now you get the reward for a lot of work we put in the band for the last three / four years, you know.
So the work finally pays off.
That is correct.
Do you already have some summer festivals confirmed? ‘Cause you said, you are going to play some festivals, do you have some names for us?
Sure, we’re going to play Motocultor in France, we’re going to play Party-San in Germany, we’re going to play Resurrection Fest in Spain, which is very huge. Yeah. And a lot of other huge German ones and some more in France. I don’t know, it’s not this much this year, it’s maybe about fifteen festivals. Oh! Brutal Assault Festival in Czech Republic, we’re going to play that one and we’re going to play Bloodstock the biggest metal festival in the UK as well. We played so many festivals last year that we didn’t feel like playing to much this year, so we only play the really good ones this year *laughs*
You could pick them out?
Yeah we had the very fortunate position to pick what we wanted to do.
Oh that’s great!
Looking at the lyrics on the 3 cds, it makes me wonder where the passion for fire, flames and burning comes from?
Hmm, good question, I think I just like the idea of this ultimate natural power that is able to wipe out every kind of plague. And fire is so extreme in every kind of way; after a good solid fire nothing is left. Everything is burnt to ashes. But the really interesting, and fascinating, and beautiful part of a good fire is what happens after the fire; everything has to be rebuild, and newborn, and you get a completely fresh reset of nature and a fresh start, so to speak. And that’s what I think is very fascinating about fire. It’s not only about the destructive urge or the destructive force of fire, it is also about the beautiful moment and chance of a fresh start.
So you really thought about it. *Oh hell yeah, of course* You are really philosophical about it…
That is correct, I mean it sounds like a negative word, but of course I put a lot of thought in my art, even though I don’t consider myself an artist. I mean, I want to cause distress and not art with my music. I want to be extreme, and passionate and intense but of course I think about it and put a lot of thought in what I’m actually doing, otherwise I could play like a whatnot kind of band. You know? I mean, Mantar is a very important thing of my life, yeah.
The other words or subjects that come to mind in your lyrics a lot are death, destruction and aggression.
Yeah that’s what I like, because those are topics I like, they are fascinating. The most lyrics of course deal with mankind and the behavior of mankind. So the words you just mentioned just come with human behavior and of course... I don’t even judge, it’s more that I report my thought, you know. And when you try to write lyrics about human behavior and human acting and the human race, then of course the words you just mentioned become a very important topic.
Yes, so that is where you draw your inspiration for your music and your lyrics; just the human behavior that you see around you?
Yes, actually you just have to open your eyes, to see how... and I don’t even want to say, how fucked up things are, because I don’t blame humans. I think they are just programmed by nature to be assholes. I don’t blame, I don’t judge, I just report, and when I sing about that kind of stuff or write lyrics about that stuff I treat the human race more like an animal or any other kind of living creature out there. And I just try to observe their behavior. I’m saying, it’s not like ‘hey, people are bad because they create war’, it’s more that people create war and that’s how they do it, but I don’t say that it’s good or it’s bad. I mean it’s obviously fucked up but Mantar is not a political band, I’m not interested in that, especially not in an artificial environment like music. Of course I have political ideas and if you would talk to me about that, that’s a whole different thing, but for the music; I do not want to change the world with this band, absolutely not, I couldn’t care less.
And how does that combine with black, punk, doom kind of metal music? How important is that to you, that style of music specifically?
Well, for me that’s just words, and words don’t mean shit! That’s what I think and labels don’t mean shit, it’s just like that, those are just words journalists use. I never would say ‘hey, I play in a doom metal band or a black metal band or in a punk band.’ For me it’s just all I can say, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not even very educated on these kind of labels. For me it’s just; I play as hard and as intense as I anyhow can, and how people ever want to call it.. Until this day I don’t know if we’re a heavy metal band or not and honestly I don’t care, I just want a HEAVY band, but if it is a heavy metal band, seriously I do not care about that. We did not form a band in order to form a doom, or black, or whatever band, all these things come from journalist or mostly from fans, which is totally fine. I understand why people need labels in order to understand an legitimate their love to a certain kind of music but for me it seriously doesn’t mean a lot.
It’s just a label.
It seriously is just a label, and you know what, labels are like polls; everybody’s darling is tomorrow's everybody’s asshole. You know, everybody is so fucking stoked about doom metal, and stoner rock. I hate those, man, these are the lamest things ‘Wow, you smoke weed? Wow, how extreme! Wow, you got inverted crosses? How extreme, oh wow! You’re a Satanist? Whooo, I’m scared!’ All that bullshit, you know I’ll tell you something, all bands who need gimmicks and labels for their music are not strong enough to let the music speak for itself. That’s my opinion, and if you need a lot of gimmicks and stuff like that, then you’re not a very strong band in my opinion, without wanting to disrespect anything but that’s just my two cents.
I think there is a truth there
Yeah, and don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it if people enjoy what they are doing and all their gimmicks and their whatever camouflage, or whatever they need but I’ll tell you; Erinc and I, without wanting to sound cocky, you can just put the drums and me and the amplifiers in one room with twenty people and we are going to play exactly the same show as we would play with big lights, big sounds, big fireworks and ten thousand people at Hellfest. Seriously! Maybe it’s not going to be as loud, maybe it’s not going to look as cool, but I promise you, we’re just going to spit, and bleed, and sweat the same amount as we would do on a big festival stage. And that’s why people like us in small venues as much as on big venues, because a lot of people become very, very soft and gentle when they start playing the big venues. But for me it’s every night a war again, you have to go out in order to slay, and kill, and destroy and fuck shit up that needs to be the mission for when you go on stage when you play in an extreme band. It’s just what I think.
When I see your gigs on the YouTube channel, and I listen to your music, I really think I would like to see you in a small venue, where you are close and can really see and feel, and where everything is just intimate. I think that would be the best way to see Mantar.
Well, I agree on that and we can totally make that happen cause we still play a lot of very small venues. On the other hand, for the band itself it is also cool to play big festivals because you reach a bigger audience and a lot people who didn’t know you before get a chance see you. But I agree of course it’s every band is more intense in a small venue, you know, every band is more close and more direct in your face in a small venue. That’s why we like it and do it most of the times, I mean festivals is just in summer time, that’s just part of the game.
What will, next to the touring and stuff like that, the rest of 2017 look like for you?
We are going to finish this tour, then we’re going to play the festival season in the summer, and then we are going to come back for a very long-ass European tour, and then the year is pretty much over. And in between that, we’re going to write new music and maybe record a new record in early 2018. You know, we’re not the band that makes long term plans, because I don’t want to have the pressure to deliver. I still want to do this for myself and if other people enjoy it, that’s great, but I don’t want to see it as my job that I have to go to and puke every fucking morning when I wake up because I am forced to do things, you know.
Like an obligation
Yes! Because Erinc and I we both had cool jobs we really liked before we became professional musicians by accident. We had jobs we both liked you know. We’re old, I’m 35 years old, I had a life before the band, big time! I’m glad all that was not happening to me when I was 19 years old, and in four years it’s over, and then the only chance I have is work in a bar. No, I had a good job I really liked and I have a wife and a nice little house. Mantar is important to me, but I do not defy myself over it, you know, I’m the same person if I stop playing in this band. It’s not my whole life, even though if I do something, I do it 110%. But if I don’t want to do it anymore; I’m also happy with doing something new and something else, you know. So no long term plans, no promises, no agenda.
Well the next question was about plans... but let’s make it about dreams; what is a big dream that you wish that may come true?
To stay friends! And even when we do not have the band anymore, we have been friends for many, many years before we started playing in the band. We know each other since 1997 and became a band in 2013 or something. and once we don’t play in the band anymore I still want us to be friends again, just start to go back into bars and to football games again, and remember what a good time we had. I don’t want to have colleagues, I want to have friends.
Yeah, that’s it, everything we have experienced so far is already more than we could have asked for. Being in the United States, I met my wife in the United States, moving to Florida, everything due to the band. I’ve been to Russia, South Africa, all over Europe; I’ve met so many bands, so many childhood heroes, played shows in front of hundreds of thousands of people if you all combine it. We have sold so many records and I’m still so thrilled when I see a person in a Mantar shirt on the street, it’s so exciting, and seeing people with Mantar tattoos, and five hundred or more people go crazy on a sold out show. That is more than we could ever have asked for! So everything by now is already a bonus.
That sounds really good! Do you have any last words for our readers?
Well, First of all thank you for you time and you interest in the band as a journalist, and next to that I’d say check out the band if you haven’t done so yet and I hope you like it, and if you like it come see us live and let us prove that we are worth it, that’s all I can say.
I second that! I really do! Thank you very much for your time, I really liked it and I really enjoy listening to your music, so thank you!
Thank you very much, and yes, stay in touch and maybe when we put out another record I hope to talk to you again, whenever you feel like it.
Yes, sure, please!
Ok Ilona have a good one!
Yes you too!