Mantric Interview

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, August 23, 2010

When Prosthetic Records released Mantric’s The Descent earlier this year, I found it to be a really enjoyable album that mixed elements from just about every sub-genre of metal together into a cohesive style. So when vocalist/guitarist Ole Halvard Sveen emailed me about the opportunity to do an interview I decided to take him up on his offer. We discussed the creation of the album as well as some other topics.

Congratulations on the release of your debut album The Descent. Now that the album has been out for a little while, what kind of response have you received from listeners and critics?

Thanks! The response so far has simply been great – lots of great reviews and a lot of positive feedback on our Myspace and Facebook-sites. We’ve done a lot of interviews in the largest metal-magazines here in Europe, and it seems like the good press coverage over here has had an effect. It’s been a bit more quiet from the U.S. so far, but the reactions have been really positive over there as well.

How long ago did you start working on the material that would end up on The Descent, and were there any big changes between what the songs sounded like originally and what they sound like on the finished album?

I think we started to work at a couple of the songs all the way back in 2006, then under the name Extol. About half the songs were actually first meant for a new Extol-album, but then the only two founding members left at the point decided to leave the band, and it felt right for us to come up with another name. We did a lot of different pre-productions before entering the studio, and some of the songs have been undergoing huge changes over time.

What is the writing process like for Mantric? Your songs have a lot of different textures and are always moving between different tempos and stylistic elements, so I am curious to find out how you put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Usually, it starts out with Tor Magne and myself coming together, sharing ideas we’ve been working on at home on our guitars. Then we start developing these ideas together. Sometimes I switch from guitars to drums after a while, and we start working on the rhythmic parts. When we’re done with the main structure of a song, we’ll record a demo version and start to try out different ideas on the vocals and other instruments, as well as to develop the guitar work further. We also try out the different ideas on rehearsals during the process, letting the other members suggest changes and add new perspectives.

What sort of musical background do your members come from? Based on The Descent I feel as though you are all fairly accomplished musicians and wanted to find out more about what kind of training or other experience you may have had.

The three of us who founded Mantric, John Robert Mjaland, Tor Magne Glidje and myself started playing together around 1992, and we recorded our first full-length six years later, under the band name Lengsel. This was more black metal-influenced progressive metal, and I played the drums and keys on the album, while the others pretty much did what they do in Mantric. Tor and John played with the aforementioned Extol for years, and on the last album I joined them as well. (I guess you could say “The Descent” is a natural progression from the Extol album, “The Blueprint Dives”, and it was mainly Tor and me who wrote the music for that album too). Apart from these bands, we’ve played progressive punk rock with Ganglion, Tor has played with Benea Reach for a while (check them out!), and I also play folk pop with Tim’s Familytree (drums, banjo, mandolin, double bass, accordion etc) and drunken sailors folk punk with Happy Dagger (drums and mandolin). Our drummer Kim Akerholdt played with us in Ganglion, and did the drums for norwegian punk rockers Silver for some years. Our synth player Anders Lidal plays the bass with the stoners in Tsunami, and have also played with Benea Reach and art rockers Serena Maneesh. So I guess you could say we’ve tried a lot of different directions altogether, hehe…

But apart from this, we’re all self-taught, and we’ve always focused more on writing original music than practicing solos and playing as fast and technical as possible – guess you could say creativity has always been our main motivation in music.

Is there a general theme to The Descent or does each song explore different topics?

The latter. It’s hard to give a general statement about what the lyrics are about – it can be about almost anything. -Experiences in life, things we see around us that makes us angry (or happy, for that matter), politics, faith, or simply messages of encouragement that we want to share with our listeners.

You had the opportunity to work with Tue Madsen for mixing and mastering. What was this experience like and how do you feel that he helped the album?

Tue is a music lover that has a genuine interest in good music and creativity, and he also shows understanding for our way of thinking about our music. We know where we want to go sound wise, but have no idea how to get there, so we’re very thankful for the job he did, and really satisfied with the outcome. And he actually mixed the whole album with only a small amount of money paid in advance, before we even had a record deal. We had an agreement that he’d do three songs that we should use to try and get a deal, but a few weeks later he emailed me and told me to send him the rest of the songs right away – said he needed to hear them, and that we would sort out the payment later, “when you get a deal”. A privilege to work with such people!

The Descent was released on Prosthetic Records, which is a record label based out of the United States. Have you been pleased with how they handled the launch of the album and does being on a US label mean that we might be able to see you live in North America in the future?

Well, we sure hope so – we’ve done a few tours in the U.S with Extol, and we’d love to get over there again. Since we’ve dealt strictly with the European office so far, I must admit I’m not really sure how the U.S.-office handled the launch, haha…but hope they’re doing a good job! And we’re very satisfied with what’s been happening in Europe so far, with a lot of press and publicity. Now we just need some tours, something I know our man at the office is working on.

The Norwegian music scene seems to be fairly diverse. What other bands can you recommend that people may not have heard about?

I will of course recommend all the bands I already mentioned that we play with or have played with, hehe…and for those interested in experimental metal, they should check out Shining (do not mix them up with the Swedish band with the same name). Head Disco is another new band, within the alternative hard rock-genre. Another band that I don’t think has gained much attention in the U.S. is Motorpsycho – an alternative rock band that has released several great records (and some weird ones). And there are probably lots of others I should have mentioned that I don’t remember at the moment, or haven’t heard of (don’t have time to keep up with all the new bands and releases).

Cosmos Gaming is a website that covers video games as well as music. Are any of your members into video games, and if so what do they enjoy playing?

At the time where I lived together with Tor, John and a couple of other guys, we spent a lot of time playing different Playstation games in the nighttime – like Tomb Raider, FIFA, Silent Hill, SSX and Tony Hawk. As we’ve now got kids, jobs and family, we unfortunately don’t have much time for it anymore.

If you could put any of your songs into a video game or movie, what song would you choose? Also, what kind of imagery would there be; what would the viewer be seeing or the player be controlling while your music plays?

Maybe “Invasion”, combined with some intense action-scenes? Like the scene at the end of the first Matrix-movie where our heroes enter the enemy’s headquarters… Or following the wildest track on some great new snowboard videogame. Or maybe the song should kick in really loud the very moment when you enter a new room with your video game-character, where you just know that there will be a lot of badass, scary creatures wanting to eat you alive and that you probably won’t make it… yes I’ll go for that one. (The last track on the album, “Uro” is actually featured on a freeskiing-movie from Peak Performance, and I think it fits pretty well, though it holds a completely different atmosphere than “Invasion”).

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Just want to say thanks to everyone supporting us by buying the album, recommending us to friends or requesting our songs on their local radio shows or whatever – as a new, fairly unknown band without management and big pr-budgets, we need all the help we can get to make it possible to get to meet you people on tour – hope to see you! And remember to get some fresh air once in a while between the video games-sessions… 😉

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