Interview by Jordan Sibberas
Mantar are back and more furious than before. Hot off the release of their latest LP, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze, Jordan from Music Injection sat down with axe-slinging, firespitting frontman Hanno Klaenhardt to discuss the record, life on the road and other things.
Jordan: How are you this night/morning?
Hanno: It’s early here, just got up and the sun is shining! I’m good so far.
J: The new album The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze is incredible, are you happy with it?
H: Totally, otherwise it wouldn’t be released! We are very strict with our output, we don’t even send out demos to the label, unless myself and the drummer are super convinced that the material is great. So for this, our third record, we feel very good about it, and how it sounds.
J: The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze has a very clear sounding production, which seems to be counter to the doom/blackened genre’s conventions; was it intentional to produce it this way?
H: first of all we use the same methods, but worked with a different engineer, and he was responsible for the sound. I personally like it better than previous records, and I feel very happy with the depth on the songs. They almost breathe more, like theyre more three dimensional. Also, it’s our third record, I feel like we’ve gotten better as songwriters which adds to the overall sound. So no, we didn’t get together and decide “hey, let’s do a cleaner record”, it happened by working with new people with new ideas. When you work with new people, you it’s a bit of an experiment, but honestly I didn’t think that far into the engineering; we were happy that the sound he produced we liked. Also, he didn’t over-produce, and he didn’t do anything that we hadn’t already done on the first or second record. To be very fair, lately there’s a lot of bands of the “genre” you mentioned, whatever that is, who try to hide behind clean production, but also try to hide in the underground, dirty production, and that becomes very obvious if the production is hiding bad songs. Great studio production also will not hide bad songs.
J: So the trick is to write aggressive songs, and not produce aggressively?
H: We’ve never been part of a genre or scene; therefore we don’t know what is adequate, or what scene codex things you have to use. We don’t care about that shit. In fact, we don’t go to other bands’ shows, collect other bands’ records or read metal magazines; a lot of the bands we get compared to, we find out about after they’ve been brought up. We didn’t even know what “sludge” was as a genre, and we still don’t get it! (laughs) We’ve read about bands now like Down, Crowbar and Eyehategod, and with no disrespect meant, I don’t know how they sound because I don’t own a single record of theirs. It’s not my kind of music, even though I know a lot of my friends are into those bands. I grew up more on classic rock like AC-DC and ZZ Top, or Manowar, as well as grunge like Nirvana, Melvins, Mud Honey, and the whole Seattle thing, and Erinc is into Sisters of Mercy, so we don’t really do the whole metal thing, and we feel like we don’t need to please a metal fanbase. We just do whatever we like, and we don’t think about the production, because I don’t give a shit what other people think a metal production needs to sound like. I don’t want to sound cocky, but that’s just how it is.
J: The last time we spoke was just before Ode To The Flame and at that point an Australian tour was still a long way off; how about now?
H: well, people get in touch to book us Australian shows on a regular basis, and we are always interested, but it’s very far away and thus very expensive, and I don’t want to have to pay for that alone. So, we’re waiting for a proper promoter, but we’d love to. Even as a private person I’d love to visit, we have a lot of friends who have been over or toured there and they always say how much fun it was, so I’d go in a heartbeat. I think with our reputation growing in the last two years, it’s more realistic now. We’ve done a few USA tours, we’ve been to Russia, to Japan, we have had so many South American requests, and I think it’s super realistic that in the next twelve months it’ll happen.
J: Is a Mantar tour as crazy off stage as it is on stage?
H: I don’t think so! (laughs) We have a strong work ethic, and to be able to go crazy onstage means you need to be able to get up early in the morning and get to the shows. We also don’t have a big crew so often we drive ourselves, set up ourselves, put it all back in the van ourselves and sell our own merch. In Europe now we have a small crew sometimes, but it’s all a lot of work, so besides the stage we are usually trying to sleep. It’s exhausting! Honestly I don’t like the tours, other than the onstage part. It’s constantly being around people, and that too can be exhausting. Sometimes though, we do like to party given the chance.
J: Other than yourself and Erinc, does Mantar rely on anyone else to be possible?
H: No, I don’t think so. Of course, we have close friends like the man who produced the first two albums, but we’ve always had a strong vision of what we want to do, with a strong work ethic and will, and that allowed us to do what we have thanks to us working our arses off for ourselves. I’m still working 12 or 18 hours a day, and I probably had a day off last sometime last year, so it’s a tough job. The Mantar family is quite small, we have a tiny hand of people who help and support us, and have from the beginning, mainly friends.
J: One last question; is there a belief or passion that Mantar is a vessel to express?
H: At the beginning, it was only music. We wanted to have this violent ritual of hanging out and playing music. Nowadays it’s changed a little, and I put more effort into the lyrics. There’s more things that I had a hard time leaving out. The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze is about the fires in the minds of the first men, and about setting those fires. It’s a reflection and a morbid fascination with the neverending source of stupidity in mankind. I don’t want to be political, but I report what I see and what I see isn’t any good. The overall situation in the lyrics are about reflection, and in the beginning, we sung a lot about ancient spirits in long forgotten times, and nature and mysticism, but now a large part of it is about fascinating stupidity. Man can refuse to think for themselves and follow false prophets and rubbish leaders. Bottom line is we’ve spent more time and effort lately on lyrics. But, I don’t want to be the kind of person to tell people what to do. I don’t want to work with phrases and slogans, and that’s why I don’t print my lyrics. I’m not here to offer my better idea, I just reflect what I see. I write these lyrics for myself.
Northern Germany’s feral two piece MANTAR have achieved more in five years than most bands twice their age and size. The product of a twenty year friendship between guitarist/vocalist Hanno Klaenhardtand drummer Erinc Sakarya, theirs is a success story born entirely of one thing: hard work, with 3 albums, an EP and a live release already to their name. Releasing their 2014 Svart Records debut»Death By Burning«, an uncompromising clash of stripped-back punk attitude and metal intensity to instant critical acclaim, the band toured relentlessly, gracing stages the world over, including the hallowed likes of Roadburn (NL), Wacken Open Air (D) and Maryland Deathfest (US). They used 2016’s »Ode To The Flame«, their Nuclear Blast Records debut, to further build upon their incendiary live reputation, conquering not only Europe and the US, but Russia, Japan and South Africa.
Now, following a brief period of repose which saw Hanno move to Florida, MANTAR return with »TheModern Art Of Setting Ablaze«, a short, sharp shock that hones the hungry riffs and breath-taking pace of their previous records. “We skipped the bullshit,” explains Hanno. “I wanted 3 or 4 minute songs; bam, bam, bam. Every song different, catchy – that’s what rock and roll is about.”
MANTAR’s metallic genesis is unique in that neither member classes themself as a metalhead. Hanno’s a punk kid that developed a love for black metal later in life. Erinc’s tastes are even further removed, preferring the svelte sadness of the likes of THE SISTERS OF MERCY. “But we have a metal audience and we are a metal band, I guess!” states Hanno proudly, “I take that as a gift.” He’s never listened to more classic metal records than when writing »The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze«, and it shows in the album’s ceaseless, hook-laden riffs and caustically blackened, nihilistic atmosphere. “Riffs, riffs, riffs are the only hard currency for MANTAR – simple as fuck – that’s what I like,” says Hanno. “»The Modern ArtOf Setting Ablaze« is way more metal than the previous two records; on the other hand I think the songs speak for themselves, without the need for genre classification.”
»The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze« is a title in-keeping with Hanno’s symbolic obsession with fire on albums previous; this time disavowing mankind’s tendency to blindly follow those that would lead us into oblivion. This isn’t necessarily a political statement; more a morbid fascination with current smouldering tensions that threaten to set the minds of the masses on fire. »The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze« is the spark that will ignite the flame – especially onstage. “I’m addicted to those moments up there,”impresses Hanno, “being loud, raw and aggressive – setting the stage ablaze, causing violence; that’s what I live for.”
© Tom O’ Boyle
The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze can be purchased in-store as of the 24th of August, or below: