“Catatonic black frenzy” – Interview with MANES [ENG]

Author: stark

Bands or artists originating from the metal scene are rather rarely hosted in our magazine. At least in theory, because in practice for such projects as Manes we’ll always find an honorable spot. For me personally, it’s a very important band and their last albums – daring, going beyond any genre frameworks – were hosted regularly in my CD player for many years. In 2011, Manes announced the end of their activities. I wept bitterly. But my tears were premature. A few weeks ago, they announced their comeback. I quickly contacted them. Here’s the result of our conversation about the past, the future, and other demons.

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Hello guys. How are you these days?

Skei: Not bad, not bad… After so many years, it feels nice to be ‘back in action’ again.

Torstein: I’m at about a six out of ten right now. But Manes are revitalised and feeling like a kid after three Red Bulls and a cig.

As far as I can remember, you officially buried Manes in the ground, yet a couple of days ago you announced your new album “Be all / end all”. Should we treat this announcement as an official resurrection or a last attempt to remain in the world of the living, like Carrie’s hand coming out of the grave?

Skei: Yeah, it’s a bit confusing… as always with Manes. It’s an official resurrection, I guess. The band name manes means ‘the souls of the dead’, so we were always dead, in a sense, hehe… We just did some incantations and magick, and reanimated the corpse… ‘Be all end all’ was meant to be our last ‘farewell’, but now that there’s some life in the old corpse again, it will be more like a ‘reactivation’ thing.

Torstein: Officially official, yep. Maybe it’s better to be undead than alive? As far as I remember my Fulci and Romero, the undead are far more vicious and harder to kill (hint: aim for the head).

Why did you actually decide to finish with Manes activities? I think with your last albums (and miniCD) you were on the right track to gain some attention outside the metal playground – did things not go the way you expected?

Skei: Various things.. medical and mental issues.. I have a few conditions and disorders that seriously affect me, my life, and how I think about things.. sometimes these can get a little out of control, and unfortunately Manes suffered from that.. some of these issues are now being ‘fixed’, and things have calmed down so that we can continue.. also, there was some loss of focus/motivation, and the batteries had to be recharged, kind of..

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Why do you think that, at some point, so many bands from Norway reduced or abandoned the extreme metal style in favour of more experimental influences?

Skei: Back when black metal was something new, that was quite experimental too, or at least different. But when it became more mainstream, I guess the people that were attracted to the ‘differentness’ wanted/needed to find other expressions and arenas. And here in Norway, it kind of went completely insane, it was everywhere, you couldn’t escape it, a bunch of “we are real satanists, we drink blood” sensational headlines, and stuff like that… and I guess people became fed up with it.

Torstein: To me it seems to be the other way around. I can’t really name many bands with roots in metal that has gone “experimental”. Maybe Beyond Dawn, Ulver and a handful more. The vast majority seems to wanna become more “professional” and – if not really mainstream – at least “establish themselves” in some degree in the style of their most successful release, or within the confines of a set genre. But that’s ok, I guess, if you’re comfortable in the Entertainment Industry. We’re not, basically, and find a purpose to push on with Manes because we enjoy the creation, connections and concepts we work on (Wow, I hope those three covers it, and I’ve just penned “The Three C’s”).

Avantgarde released an album by Manii a while ago, which is somehow related to Manes – what are the connections and relations between both bands?

Skei: In some ways you can say Manii is the reincarnation of the old ‘black metal’ style Manes. Same lineup as in ‘the old days’, but with a somewhat modernized expression. A little less black, and a bit more doom.

Torstein: Manii is the ressurection of the unity that was the Cernunnus & Sargatanas era of Manes with the three demos (93-95) and the following (debut) album. It’s grim and cold as fuck, so check it out y’all!

You – or at least some of you – also released an album as Kkoagulaa. I have to admit this one was crazy and at some moments it was too much even for me. What was the concept of that album – not in a “lyrical” sense, but rather a creative one? Free improvisation, putting all ideas you liked into one musical entity?

Skei: Yes, it was very conceptual. Old magic/alchemy mottos and ways of thinking, applied to music.. hard to explain.. Take a look at kkoagulaa.wordpress.com, and be even more confused, heh…

How do you recall those good old black metal days? Do you still think of these times or rather look forward to the future?

Skei: Nostalgic in some ways, a little embarassed in other ways. Naïve, a stepping stone… I don’t think much about it, always looking forward, but I’m not trying to forget it or avoid it either.

Torstein: Being obsessed with extreme metal in the early nineties in Norway was kinda special. A magick cocktail of knives and kleenex, drenched in moonshine (with an amazing soundtrack). I can’t imagine anything like that happening again, since much of the obscurity and kinda encapsulated frame of mind has a hard time to bloom on Twitter and Blabbermouth…

Let’s talk a bit about the forthcoming album. Honestly, I really cherish “Vilosophe”, “View” and “How the World Came to an End” and really cannot wait to listen to “Be all / end all”. What’s the plan? When are you going to release it and by who?

Skei: Not sure yet… So far we have test-/rough-mixes of most of the songs, but there’s still some tweaks and adjustments to do. It has mostly been kind of on hiatus since things got a little off-track, but it is now slowly taking shape.. Eivind and Torstein should have full credit for keeping it alive! I kind of ‘detached’ from it early on, but have become more excited about it lately. We have not yet talked much about labels and such, currently it has been busy enough ‘reforming’😀

Torstein: It will be released when it’s ready. We haven’t talked to any labels at all yet, but I guess that’ll happen soon enough. Some of the songs are more-or-less finished and mixed, but some knobs will be turned and some buttons will be pushed before we’re all done with everything, I guess. We’ve really come together as a unit again, and are excited about the things we think matter concerning music, although we have quite different opinions and different taste on many occasions, we still “know” what’s important.

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What can we expect on “Be all / end all”? More sonic experimentations or back to the roots perhaps?

Skei: In my eyes, it’s a kind of mix between all the latest Manes albums, a little experimental, as always, but not different just to be different. Melodic, electronic, catchy, heavy, weird ?

Torstein: Skei sums it up good here, I think.

Will there be any particular lyrical concept on”Be all / end all”?

Skei: Not very unlike our other stuff, perhaps a little less scientific/psychiatric, less melancholia, more biblical, more academic, hehe… Torstein would be the right man to answer this one…

Torstein: There is somewhat of a concept running through some of the stuff, but it’s not like Epic Blockbuster Power Rock with a narrator and a bonus fold-out map etc. It’s still dark and faithless, and at times incoherent psychobabble, but with a touch of the sacred and the unworldly.

On your last two albums (and miniCD) you experimented with many musical genres, but at the same time you didn’t forget that music should give the listener pleasure. Much has been said about the originality of those releases, yet it isn’t in conflict with the fact that there are some simply good and catchy songs – is this an important aspect for you? How people experience your musical creations and that they find pleasure in listening to it?

Skei: A little, yes… Experimentalism shouldn’t get in the way of melody, or rhythms. We want to gel different things together, so it sounds like one thing, instead of frantically jumping between incoherent styles.

Torstein: We experiment for our own sake, and we like stuff that’s unsafe and uneasy, but we still love music. This is the music we like and the music we like to make, so experimentation and exploration is the journey to the songs you end up hearing. Fuck me, that’s some profound shit right there.

What kind of emotions do you want to provoke in the listeners?

Skei: Off-guard, perhaps a little frightened, unsure how to react…

Torstein: I prefer to envision people listening to our stuff with their eyes closed. I think melancholy at times, catatonic black frenzy at other. Nah, I dunno.

I must ask this question: on “How the World Came to an End” there were some hip-hop elements woven into three tracks. I won’t even ask why hip-hop… But why in French? As if hip-hop itself wouldn’t be original enough.

Skei: Why not? The rapper sang in French, so what? It’s just phonemes… By all the reactions it got afterwards, it obviously made a huge impression… We like that😀

Torstein: As far as I remember, he chose to rap in French himself. He speaks French, Arabic, Norwegian and English, so I guess French felt natural on our stuff somehow… It’s cool shit, and it was done because we thought it could be cool – not because it’s original.

I found out on Discogs that you’ve released several net compilations called #40… and so on , but instead of further investigation I’d like to ask you what these are and how we could listen to them.

Skei: They are gone. They were meant to be very temporary, and I removed them all a few days after the last one was posted. Like a concert, if you’re not there, you can’t have it…

On “View” a few interesting Cordell Klier remixes appeared. Would you like to work again with Cordell in the future?

Skei: Yeah, why not?

Torstein: We haven’t been in contact with him in many years, but he is a cool guy and does cool music, so like Skei says; why not…

Also, you appeared on the V:28 tribute released by Cold Meat Industry. Could you tell us something about this experience? Quite an unusual label and company for Manes – or maybe not?

Skei: I’ve known Kristoffer for years, from before he started v:28. He asked if I were interested in doing a remix (or remake) for this remix album, and of course I were.

Torstein: Funfact: The V:28 mainman Kristoffer took many of the Vilosophe-era promo-pictures. We like remixes on a general level, but not in the “take this rocksong and make it danceable” kinda way. There’s something about the creative freedom, on one side, and the creative uncertainty on the other side, that is somehow very alluring.

As we’re more of an ambient/industrial related magazine, I’d like to ask, do you listen to this kind of music? If so, what albums or artists made the strongest impression on you lately?

Skei: Not much industrial, but I like some ambient stuff.. More the feeling and atmosphere of it, than specific bands or artists.

Torstein: I like some industrial stuff, and some ambient stuff as well, but I haven’t dug very deep in the underground of these genres. Laibach, Ministry and NIN are the first bands that pops to mind, but I guess I like some of the same bands as the “industrial fans” appreciate, like Depeche Mode, Swans and Joy Division. Eivind and me play together in another band named Drontheim that has some industrial influences, just to have mentioned it. You’ll find some videos on Drontheim.no if you wanna check it out. None of the songs available now is very industrial, actually, but new stuff will surface soon…

Let’s assume for a moment that you’re about to release a cover album. Which songs would you chose for such a release (excluding those you’ve already done of course)?

Skei: Swans, Coil , maybe some early Darkthrone, or synth-Burzum.

Torstein: We have talked about this many times. I can also remember that we talked about something by Black Heart Procession, which is a favourite for many of us. I’d like to do “Lucifer Sam” by Pink Floyd (Syd Barret), but I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it to the rest of the guys. I think I have…

Is there any step or choice in Manes history you particularly regret?

Skei: Not really… oh yeah, I regret the crappy Hammerheart contract…

Torstein: Not much, no.

Are you interested in other forms of art? Cinema, literature etc? Do you have any favourite writers, directors or painters and if so, does their work have any influence on Manes creativity?

Skei: Yeah, of course… psychiatric documentaries have a big influence, I guess🙂

Torstein: Cinema, literature and art In general is maybe a bigger influence than any particular band or genre. Music is of course important, but not in the way that many/most bands are obvious ripoffs of other bands. These days I’ve been really enjoying the art of Elizabeth McGrath and James Jean, just to name a couple.

Any plans for the future?

Skei: Tons of ideas, as usual.. but concrete plans, hmm… new music , of course, and we have been talking a little about a ‘resurrection ritual’ concert, a comeback celebration gig if you want…

Torstein: Yes, we have initiated a few projects/plans, as Skei mentions. Some sort of “special gig” is in the early stages of planning, the upcoming release of “Be All end All”, as we’ve mentioned earlier, and also maybe a release of some sort before “Be all End All” gets out there.

Thank you very much for the interview! If you’d like to say a few last words to Santa Sangre readers, here’s the time and place.

Skei: You didn’t ask about Lethe, another project I’m doing [what a scatterbrain I am – Stark], so here’s a link for that too: http://www.facebook.com/LetheProject, Youtube and Soundcloud link can be found there.

Torstein: Thanks for the interview. We’re supersocial these days, posting stuff people might find interesting at both http://www.facebook.com/manes.no and http://www.twitter.com/ManesOfficial , so hook up with us there to keep up with us in our life in the fast lane. Chop.

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