German duo, MANTAR, are in the midst of tearing through Europe, annihilating one city at a time with their explosive blackened sludge interpretations of punk rock. We caught up with vocalist/guitarist Hanno ahead of their show at the Black Heart in Camden – the van holding the band’s equipment has missed the ferry and their sound check has run late – needless to say the atmosphere is chaotic. A hyperactive Hanno is in good spirits, despite the nightmare situation, and waxes lyrical about tour nightmares and B movies.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from touring?
Do not expect any food in the UK! The last thing I did before I left my flat in Hamburg this morning was make my own sandwiches, because I didn’t know when I’d next get to eat. And no matter where you tour, but especially the U.S, always be prepared for the worst – and I’m not just talking about shitty audiences, although I think we’ve been pretty lucky on that front. I’ve learned that you need to be self-organised, because if you rely on other people you’re gonna get fucked.
What’s your most embarrassing story from life on the road?
A long time ago, when I was maybe 20/21, I was playing in a punk band who were kinda successful. I was crazy and wild and young and had this crazy guitar system without a cable, so I could move more and jump around and shit. You know The Who? They would windmill with the guitar, and I used to do that – I was really good at it. I did that once at a show and my strap broke and the guitar flew across the stage and into the backstage area, so I was stood there without an instrument. Our new, very expensive wireless system flew into the audience and got stolen. That same night, I got fired from the band in front of my girlfriend. That was a shitty as fuck day.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done on tour that you’re willing to admit to?
I’ve never stolen, which I’m pretty proud of, because you have plenty of chances to steal stuff. When I’ve been drunk I’ve caused one or two really bad scenes when bar staff have refused to serve me anymore alcohol. I’m not proud of that, because bartenders work really hard and they’re just doing their job. The last thing they need is some super drunk idiot making a scene because they won’t serve them beer. I’m not proud of that. Nowadays I don’t really drink that much on tour.
What do you guys tend to do with your down time and days off?
Sleeping, reading, being boring as fuck. My favourite thing to do is go on really lonely, long walks. I like to walk for at least 20-30 minutes, to just get a feeling for the city. I like to go to public pools whenever I can and go swimming.
What’s your intoxicant of choice while on tour?
I try to avoid hard liquor, so it’s pretty much just beer. After the show, I’m usually so fucked, because it’s so exhausting playing in this band that I can’t even drink any more. I have a few beers before the show and sometimes during, but afterwards it’s very, very rare that I’m drunk – unless it’s the last day of the tour, then I’ll drink whisky and coke.
Who’s the most obnoxious band that you’ve ever shared a stage with?
That’s an interesting question…it’s hard to say, because it depends on my mood. If you have tonnes of time and you’re relaxed, then you react in a different way. You should always treat your support bands with respect, and we haven’t been treated with respect quite often, and that’s why these days, when we have support bands, I always try to treat them with as much respect as possible. Give them enough space on stage, give them enough time and all that kinda stuff. I hate it when bands behave like assholes, but that doesn’t just go for bands. When I’m super stressed out, I get nervous on stage and it makes me kind of a dick while I’m sound checking. I immediately go to the sound person afterwards and apologise. But even worse than that, is when the crew are dicks! We played in Munich and the fucking lighting guy was an asshole! I tried to explain what kind of light we like and what strobes we wanted, and he was like “yeah…I don’t really like working too hard, so I’m probably not gonna do too much”. I was like “can you please just help us out?” and he was a super asshole about it. That’s at least as bad as another band, because you have to work with the tech people, you don’t have to work with another band.
What’s your favourite city to play in and why?
This is the first tour we’ve played where we’ve actually sold out venues, especially in Germany, like 500 capacity venues. Every city where you have people going crazy is cool. It sounds super cliché, but we played Las Vegas last year and that was awesome. We played Heavy Montreal in Canada too, which was really cool. Barcelona always rules, and London is always really good to us. This is our third time in the same venue, and I hope it’s gonna be good again.
Who would be your dream band to share a stage with?
I have a big punk rock background, I’m not too much into metal, and this summer we’re gonna share a stage with Rancid and I’m looking forward to that, because when I was a kid I was a huge fanboy for them. We’ve played with Obituary a few times and I’ve always loved that, because I love the band. I would absolutely love to play with Bolt Thrower, and maybe Thin Lizzy.
If you were to provide the soundtrack for any movie, what would it be?
I like 80s electronic disco music, like cocaine influenced cold beats, so maybe we’d recreate the soundtrack to Scarface. Also, a much unknown 90s B movie, called Brain Scan. The main character is the kid from Terminator 2. Check that movie out! It’s a shitty storyline but I love it and the soundtrack is just awesome.
If you and Erinc were to get into a fight, who would win?
Physically? Erinc. But when it comes to psychological warfare, definitely me! But yeah, he would fuck me up, he’s twice my size and he’s a bouncer, so he knows what he’s doing.
Interview by Angela Davey