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Bremen, Germany’s Mantar are a force to reckon with live. Loosely a sludge band, Guitarist and singer Hanno Klänhardt and drummer Erinc Sakarya play with the swagger and hooks of 70’s monster rock band on their second album, 2016’s Ode to the Flame. Both opening for Cobalt’s Fall 2016 tour and on stage at California Deathfest, the duo captivated attention and energized sluggish concertgoers. Klänhardt especially mesmerizes, twig-thin and brimming with raw energy, stalking the stage with a gibson Les Paul that’s bigger than he is. When he sings “Cross the Cross”, Klänhardt seems like he could spit venom.

In private, though Klänhardt is a thoughtful and inquisitive man. He spoke with us on the Seattle date of his tour with Cobalt about Mantar’s reign of destruction and why, according to Klänhardt, his band’s midnless destruction is a very good thing.

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Mantar is a German band, but I understand Erinc Sakarya is from Turkey and you recently cancelled a show there?

Yeah. Erinc has Turkish roots. His family is from Turkey. A lot of people know him especially in Istanbul and Ankara, but, most of all Istanbul. They have like a very, very strong metal underground scene.

I had no idea.

Yeah. Big. Very good bands, definitely. They invited us to come play a show so we had to fly. It was all lined up. And then like a week before we're supposed to play, there were terrorists attacks. So, they cancelled the show. That was kind of a bummer for us.But, we're definitely still gonna do it. We just postponed. But, it sucks because that's what these motherfuckers want is to cause some atmosphere of fear. And, that was the problem because the promoter called us up saying, "Hey, we can still do the show but don't expect any people when no one dares to go out."

Knocking on wood, we're fortunate that nothing like that has happened in the United States as of yet, which is good. America takes its security pretty seriously.

Oh, I'm well aware. Ask me, man. We gotta go through all these visa hassles. It's so difficult to get actually your artist visas in order to play a tour. And, if you don't have this artist visa and just come in. And they find out that you're supposed to play one show where you lose money, they're still gonna send you home on your own expense and give you a ban for 5 or most likely 10 years. My girlfriend is from Florida and I actually recently moved to Florida so I have to be careful with all that. I'm not good with big cities in general. I just like my peace and quiet. North of Florida is perfect for me. You sit on the porch, watch some alligators, have some beers, be on my own. Can't get no better.

If you don't mind me asking, how'd you guys meet?

We met at a festival in 2012. The Fest. The first show we played with the Melvins at The Fest in 2014.

You guys with Melvins makes a whole lot of sense. Some people have said that they feel that there is some, sort of, sonic similarity. I'm not certain that I agree, but I've heard that from people.

Especially Erinc as a drummer is a big fans of The Melvins' Dale Crover. You cant hear that, I guess, but we do not sound like the Melvins. But, have we listened to the Melvins a whole lot? Guilty. The band's great, I have to admit it. I didn't listen to them much lately but when I was like 16 or 17, it was like I pretty much listen to them on a daily basis. And, if you want it or not, subconsciously, you probably have the influence getting in your own creative process.

You're from Hamburg, right?

We're from Bremen actually. It's like 60 miles from Hamburg. It's half a million people. It's a nice town, and, I love that city. We both lived in Hamburg due to work and that's where we started the band. But we consider ourselves as a Bremen band because when we started playing music in general, it was all about the Bremen scene.

How did you meet? How did Erinc got from Turkey to Bremen?

He's actually been born already in Germany. His parents came due to work back decades ago. We met in the late '90s when I was literally just a kid. We had all these local shows at a squat right by my parent's house. And I used to go there by the age of 14 and set up the PA and, you know, started organizing shows. But, most of the time, I just set up the PA so I can get in for free. In the shows you got free beers.

Unlike Germany, this is a country that isn't kind to the arts.

Mm-hmm. It's so different from touring Europe. But, honestly, I like it a lot, the people. And, we always have been welcomed very warm and well by the audience, so far.

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Ode to the Flame struck me as very different from Death by Burning.

I mean when we recorded Death by Burning, which is like it's very raw, in your face. And, we recorded that record literally when we'd been in a band for three months. It wasn't supposed to be a record. It was just like, we wanted to put out a demo tape, like an old-fashioned cassette. Because it's still a thing for me. I like tapes a whole lot. We've just been a band for like three years now. And, when we recorded the Ode to the Flame, we'd just played 150 shows in a row, pretty much. I think we just learned what we're good at and skipped the parts that we're not so good at. We just concentrated on our strength and cut out everything else, put a bit more effort on the actually songwriting process.

You can tell.

Yeah. It's just, I wouldn't say better songs but just a little bit more thought put in it. I like both records a whole lot and because the ingredients remain to be the same, it's very raw. Mantar, in general, is a very one-dimensional band. It's in your face. We either have a strong rift, or a good drum beat, or a best-case scenario, we have both at the same time. But, this is not about background vocals. It's not about solos, it's not about keyboards, it's not about crazy interludes. This is just like in your face, very raw display of power.

When I saw you at Maryland Deathfest with the shirt off and stomping around I thought to myself, "There's something sexual in the music here," not necessarily in the lyrics, but that was a vibe that I got.

Yeah. I mean, sex is primitive, rock and roll is primitive. It has the same origin. I mean the fact while we play bare-chested, it's the same reason why we play face to face. It has nothing to do with the show. It's just like because we sweat a whole lot because it is very exhausting. And, we play face to face because we started playing face to face onstage. Because when we started playing the first shows, we needed to make sure that we have some, sort of, eye contact, "Hey, now, the next part is coming." So, we communicate by looking. Because, if you're a two piece, you have to 100% rely on the other person. There's not, "Okay, I'll just groove with the bass player now". No. It's just two people and we have to be in sync. That's why we play face to face and it was just practical reasons that we started that. We just kept that because we like seeing each other while we play. We like the whole idea that this ritual thing, making music together and everyone is involved or is invited. Not involved, invited to witness and experience what we're doing but, most of all, we play for us. And to underline that, we play face to face and not with the face into the audience.

It's interesting that you talk about the rawness of it because weirdly enough, the thing that struck me about Ode to the Flame, more so than Death by Burning, was you seemed to have an interest in iconography or mantras.

No, I like the idea. It's just I'd like to spread simple messages in a good way. I like to... Let me put it thisway. I don't care too much about creating art. I wanna cause stress.

You want to cause stress?

Yes, I wanna punch people on the face and not have a hippie-ish get together with debating about lyrics. For like 30 minutes, I'm the one with the microphone on stage. And if you like it, you're more than welcome to be part of it. If you don't, I don't care. But, it's us raising hell and it's all about aggression. We really like violence. And, it's like this display of the violence. I really appreciate that. Do you know the satisfaction when you throw a bottle on a concrete wall?

I do. Yes.

That's how I feel when I play in this band, which is like the beauty of destruction.

The beauty of destruction. The way you word it like that, it strikes me as something more akin to what I'm used to hearing from a hardcore band athan a metal band. Contemporary metal in America seems very contemplative.

I don't know that word. What does that mean?

Contemplative, interested in thinking about itself.

Yeah. No, not Mantar. We, in a good way, are a very one-dimensional band. We have like a simple message and a simple mission and this is just like fash it up. This is just like be aggressive, enjoy it. And not like in a tough-guy, bullshit, New-York hardcore way. Not in this macho, I'm the boss, blah, blah, blah. You're invited either if you're like a 12-year-old schoolgirl or 35-year-old, skinhead dude. I don't care as long as you like rage and experience rage, you're at the right party. Don't get me wrong. I'm not uninterested in intellectualism but I do not enter the stage willing to debate what I'm doing.

It's unilateral.

Kinda. Yeah. This is what I do, I hope you like it. If you don't, I can't change anything about it. It's just like...how do you say it? I don't know the English word. Where you let the air out of the tire, how is this thing called?

Well, I think, maybe what you're looking for is release. Catharsis.

Exactly. That's the word I was looking for.

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Diana Lungu

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Do you personally have any philosophy that you live by?

Let me put it this way. I have some life philosophy I would love to live by but not always succeed. But, I think that's my philosophy, to always try to do your best and make it better the next time. I try not to take life too seriously because you're not gonna get out alive anyhow out of life. But, I take seriously things like friendship, and devotion, and passion and a certain inner urge. That word is very important for me. And it sounds it's hippie-ish, but I try to be the best person I can be, you know? But, on the other hand, I don't like to put myself under pressure. So, to have a certain life philosophy may result in disappointment of yourself. So, I don't wanna put too much pressure on myself. I just wanna go with the flow sometimes. I don't try to spread a certain message, in general, with my music. I would like that we sit down and have a talk, have some beers. I would probably learn a whole lot from you and then you would learn a whole lot from me. But with Mantar, I do not on purpose. I exclusively do not try to spread a message because I do not care what people think and I do not want people act according to my lyrics or something like that. I just don't want that. This is my thing. You're invited to see it but this is my thing. And I want it to remain my thing. I did not start to play music to change someone's life.

What if you did change someone's life?

That's cool. But if I did not it doesn't matter. I said I just play music because I like this rage. I feel positive about this violence on stage. It sounds like Mantar would be like this completely empty, simple pleasure but it's not that. I see so many bands talking, trying to make a big thing out of the lyrics. You know, I just don't believe in gimmicks. I don't believe in pretending that you are something worth more than the people listening to you. I do believe in this 30 or 60 minutes I'm on stage, that I deliver a certain atmosphere that people are supposed to enjoy. But I'm not doing this in order to change someone's life or something like that. I just wanna play and it sounds cheesy but I would the same if I have no people listening to my music. I just like how it feels to play this music. I really like it. And I'm very, very grateful and I do not take anything for granted. I don't take for granted that we play pretty much the whole world, that we actually sell some records, that we've been touring so much, that we're getting, especially in Europe, actually paid for this. I'm very, very grateful. But I would do the same if it just would be arranging me back in the rehearsal room. Because that's just a part of my life and I really appreciate that people are actually enjoying it.

I run into some bands that also try to harness violence but sort of have this like supremely negative outlook on life.

I don't have that. Not at all. I'm a very positive person. I like life. I do like being alive and there's a lot of things in the world I adore and love. And, I like darkness but I don't like sadness.

So, you'd never write a sad Mantar song ever?

Mantar songs are not sad. No. They might be extreme in the lyrics and destructive, but, they're not sad. I mean, the whole new record, when you have songs like "Praise the Plague" and all that kind of stuff for example. And the record title again, Death by Burning and then you have Ode to the Flame, Ode to the Flame even is one more step further. I really like the beauty of destruction. I like the fire as an element, as a symbol of having the power to wipe out any kind of plague. To set anything on zero and let everything grow back. I really like to vanish everything, you know?

Just like this is what the lyrics are all about. It's not against certain people. It's not against certain religion. It's not against certain ideas. It's more than that. It's against everything. It's just like wipe out everything and restart from zero. Reset everything to zero. That's why we refer to the fire thing so much because fire has the power and the beauty to reset everything to zero and I like that. Nothing left and glass and ashes. It's just that's something I really, really adore and, this is not negative to me. This is just like the circle of life.

A forest needs to burn down to grow anew.

Exactly. A big part of the record is people taking themselves so serious. No matter if it's fucking wannabe, black metal bad guys with corpse paint on. No. Whatever, man. You know? Or if it's the whole world, the whole ofmankind taking themselves too serious because they think they are the big shots nowadays, ruling over the rest of the species and the world.

But, if you look it from a different perspective, it is just super small amount of time until we're gonna be wiped out again. And, I like being alive. I'm very grateful for being a living thing, to be here on earth. But I know I'm not worth more than any animal, or plant, or anything. I'm just part of the whole thing. It's just gonna be a question and a matter of time until I, will be nothing like ashes in space again.

I'm completely fine with that thought. It doesn't scare me. Actually, I think I'm a kind of a spiritual person. I think that things are out there. That we're so much more than a certain species or something like that. And, that's why like in the small cosmos, I think gimmicks are bullshit. When you just define yourself about such little things or the whole human race, I mean it's just like we're on the edge. We're at the last few hundred years. Everybody knows. And, that's part of the game and, I think, it always has been part of the plan. I do believe in plans.

I don't know that I have any say in the plan, but I can say I spent a decent amount of time thinking about... Let's be like very narrow and say the collapse of my nation. Like I see that as a realistic possibility in my lifetime and, while that does raise anxiety...

Does it?

It does.

Because you're afraid of death?

No.

Why does it raise anxiety then?

Because I enjoy the freedom to live in peace with the people I love. And I cherish it.

Okay.

The end of civilization would probably also mean my death.

Mm-hmm. Most likely.

But, when I think of, let's say, the downfall of civilization, I think when the short period of bloodshed is done, won't there be so much peace? For me, maybe.

Mm-hmm.

At least a private peace.

I understand what you're saying. Just, I don't know why death became so important to me on the new record when it was like Ode to the Flame. I just like being obsessed with the idea of resetting everything.

Not that I wanna reinvent the wheel in playing heavy music. It's not about the music. It's just like about the lyrics. And, I usually do not talk about the lyrics a whole lot but when people ask me what's the record about, it's about setting everything to zero. Restart everything. I think maybe I'm so obsessed with the beauty of destruction and the beauty of violence or something like that because for me, that's not negative. For me, terrorism is negative. Beating people up in a bar is negative. Beating up your wife or your family is negative. Being a dick is negative.

But the whole thing, like the whole human race, the whole world, the whole planet Earth, being in bloom in several million years later, implodes and be nothing like dust again. For me, it's just normal. It's my kind of thinking. It's just gonna be a matter of time and that's [the situation] again, do not take yourself too seriously. Do not take the world too seriously as you know it. Because there's so much going on, and I'm not referring to politics at all. But in a higher meaning, kind of, spiritual sense, that we don't even see yet and don't understand yet. And, thinking of that makes me think, or proves to me that it's a waste of time taking things too seriously. People are obsessed with work. That scares me when people say, "I'm so afraid I'm gonna lose my job."

All that literally means nothing and, I really honestly do believe that 99% of the human fears do not mean anything. That keeps me calm and let me sleep at night. Because, if I would start, you probably would go crazy to see the politics going on. See the left wing full of hate, the right wing full of hate. No matter what you do, you can't choose the right thing anyhow except being a good person.

What I do believe is: try to be the best person you can be. Be a good friend, try to help out, give more than you take, take only if you have to. This is not some hippie shit, it's just like some simple rules for me to live by. I do believe in forgiving myself too. Because all I'm saying sounds very smart and clever, but in the end, I'm just another dick. I had put a lot of pressure on myself when I was younger and I did not like that. I don't wanna go back. And, once again, do not take your life too seriously, you're not gonna get out alive. I really do believe in that.

I'm reminded of a famous quote by Nina Simone. Someone asked her, "What does freedom mean?" And, she said, "No fear."

And to put that even a little bit further, I think that the most fear I had in my entire life was fear of myself. I don't wanna have that anymore. Fear, because I was too worried about what could have or could happen. Dude, all this talking is philosophic, how do you say it?

Philosophical.

Yeah. Nothing wrong with that. It's just hard for me to build a bridge over to Mantar because I literally cannot say what Mantar has to do with all that. It's just me, the person behind Mantar. When it comes to Mantar, it's just a tiny part of my existence. I don't like musicians telling, "Hey! I'm offering, I'm displaying my whole life, you can look right into my soul." I'm pretty sure there are musicians who do that kind of music. I don't. Especially not with Mantar. I wanna fuck things up. Kill, destroy, and fuck things up. That's what I like with Mantar. I'm just on a destructive mission here in a positive way.

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