Manes

 •  Posted in: Kogaionon Interviews

Everybody wants to find as many as possible in an interview with a band and that is the reason why usually even the very first lines start from the chosen logo. In this very case, the word "Manes" has much significance in many languages. Well, Cern (guitars, electronics, programming, sequencing), the band's leader says that this word represents actually a prophet from a religious sect (Manichaeismus), who lived around year 300. The sect used to deal with the conflict between light and darkness or to be precise with the invasion of darkness into the realm of light. In Latin, the term might have as a euphemistic significance "souls of the deceased" worshipped as divinities. Dis Manibus formula is often met engraved on sepulchers with the meaning of "dedicated to the MANES-gods"! In a metaphorical view, this term could suggest as well both "underworld" and "realm of death". Most certainly, Cern, alias Tor-Helge Skei, had desired for this title to have a connotation related to dark, Cold, infernal...

   Tell me, Cernunnus, am I wrong? And it all happened 11 years ago... How do you see now "the old times"?

   " You are right. The Latin meaning was the main reason for choosing the MANES name. Later I found a lot of different meanings. In some Eastern European language it means something like menstruation blood or pus... another cool meaning, hehe... The name stuck, even if the music has changed over the years, perhaps because I like the word, and it kind of describes my average mood and interests?!"

   Torstein: "And why rename MANES? In my ears it's still cold, dark and infernal, but more so at heart than in the use of a distinct set of distortion presets and vocals."

   If I correctly recall, at that time, you used to perform in ATROX. I assume you invested in some equipment and then decided to explore a new territory throughout this very project. You also had the intention to play in PERIFA, yet you finally decided to go on with MANES solely, especially after you met Sargatanas. Do you think there might be something I forgot to mention about the beginning of this project?

   "I played for a very short time in Perifa, but that was at a time where I began to lose interest in the traditional band concept, rehearsals, live, etc... So it didn't last too long, but at least I got Sargatanas to join MANES.. Also, the old MANES was not to be a social activity..."

   Torstein: "I think both of you forgot to mention Suffocation hehe... Suffocation started back in '88 I believe, and was the name of ATROX before they changed name - for obvious reasons."

   In 3 years you've released 3 demos that didn't go just unnoticed, on contrary, since 2 of them were later re-printed on CD. Thanks to those materials, MANES earned the status of a cult band. Don't you find slightly "out of line" this very characterization as long as you practically were completely unknown and your materials were sold relatively less in number? Tell me something about the 3 demos-sound, lyrics, feed back, etc

   "The demos were not really released to spread the name, but as some kind of test recordings for ourselves. We didn't actively spread those tapes that much, but got a lot of help from the tape trader scene. In some ways, some people found these demos attractive and interesting, so they spread those for us... It was all very black metal back then, fortunately, some barriers and borders have been torn down now..."

   Torstein: "When taking about cult-status you have to consider that such a thing is completely outside the actual band and music. As for earning such a status, that's not a general thing. A cult-following is something that describes a small group of dedicated followers not a scene as a whole - and it's not something a band can control or influence, so I feel the first part of your question is quite a paradox...."

   I remember that, by that time, there were rumors that MANES had signed a contract with Moribund for 2 CDs and an EP. What happened? What went wrong?

   "The main reason for this deal to go wrong was my physical condition back then. My condition (I have colitis ulcerosa) got extremely bad, and I was hospitalized for a few years, removed most of the intestines, medications, etc... This didn't really motivate me to do any musical stuff. Both me, and probably everybody else thought that there would be no more Cernunnus, and no more MANES, so all contacts with everybody got lost. After some years, I got better, and MANES continued. Things were different, so this was the start of phase #2 really, meaning there were no obligations, no history... only forward..."

   An absolutely remarkable thing was that, on an extreme Metal backbone (many rushed in labeling as Norwegian Black Metal) you actually build an innovative sound and I might even define it as well as "weird" with quite haunting keyboards and bewitching vocals. In the same manner was also the debut album, the one released at Hammerheart. What can you tell me about that material? What about the feed back and the sells?

   "I don't know any sales figures, as I'm not that good at doing paper work, administration or economics... a few thousands..."

   Torstein: "The debut album consisted of re-recordings of different tracks from the 3 demos."

   If we think about, the album was released in 1999 but the music belonged to many years back......I know you had many offers, at that time, either from NAP or Avantgarde or elsewhere. What might have determined you to choose for the Dutch label?

   "There were a few concrete offers, and some interest... But, as I already said, I'm not on negotiation so I kind of just signed on the first paper that dumped into my mailbox, and it happened to be Hammerheart... I think... he, he..."

   I have also heard some rumors connected with major troubles with your healthy that you had to face, both physically and psychically.

   "Yes, my physical health is fucking ridiculous, the body is ripped apart and it is just about able to work and survive. I feel completely crippled physically, and this of course affects me psychically... I'm a wreck in all ways you can look at it... I just have to live with it. It makes me think and appreciate things a little bit differently, but, such is life... I think... he, he..."

 

   Well that was almost all about past or, to be more precise, the first chapter of MANES existence, a chapter rather veiled by inactivity, maybe lack of inspiration and perhaps lack of motivation...and it happened that Sargatanas also left the band. Well once he left, the sound has radically changed...in fact the whole concept has been "modified". Should I drop the conclusion he might have been a kind of brake that didn't let MANES evolve? Correct me if I am wrong... Why did he leave, anyway?

   "Sargatanas left because he weren't interested in the traditional band concept. He was involved in phase #2, but not in phase #3... We had a few rehearsals with some different people, and he found that this was nothing for him... Nothing serious..."

   Torstein: "Sargatanas leaving MANES had nothing to do with the evolution of the band on a musical level - more so when it comes to band activity. The last songs written for the debut album is dated back to '95, and the evolution has had a steady pace ever since..."

   The official statement regarding the break up with Hammerheart sounds rather too diplomatic: both our directions and ideologies were different; we kept the terms for our promise and contract and so did they for a single album, as we initially agreed, bla, bla... On the other hand, your assertion is categorical: Emi &co represents ambitious professional and open minded persons, absolutely not limited or else. Should I understand that Hammerheart failed to understand and accept your new orientation? Nevertheless, the Dutch label is definitely bigger than Code666, so don't you think the investment in promotion would have been more substantial than in the case of the Italian label?

   "No, Hammerheart didn't really fail. They were interested in the Black MANES, I was not interested in that MANES anymore, and so, didn't do any promotion, or anything, nothing at all really... I had already left the (still floating) ship... Swosh, really.... Promotion and investment is for them...for the guys.... My, or our, interest is in the music creation side of the business. Let the money people do everything else."

   Torstein: "I guess there wasn't much active communication between HHR and MANES, so the contract with them just ended and neither HHR nor MANES did anything to stop it. Nothing more spectacular than that! Then, after a while, MANES started rehearsing again, without focus on any particular release nor bound by any sort of contract - but more so for the jamming and the experimentation."

   I'd say that from the moment you signed with Code666, MANES has shown a completely new approach as far as music, attitude and line up are regarded. The Italian label declares your style as Neo Avant Metal. Frankly, I find hard to believe MANES could be ever framed in a way or another, to a style or another. Without making a polemic here, don't you find this description rather exaggerated if not somehow limiting?

   "I kind of agree with you. The style description is something Code666 came up with, for marketing and promotional purposes, probably. This is something I don't like to partake in, so, let them do whatever they think is necessary... he he..."

   Torstein: "First of all; Code666 has nothing to do with how we sound at all, but that's not something I need to explain, right? And another thing; such descriptions like that 'Neo Avant Metal' thing just sounds rather silly to me, but as Cern said - let Code666 do whatever they feel they need to do to make money. That is what they do: marketing, promo etc. - pushing music."

   If it was up to me, I would say that the actual MANES sound could correspond to: Melancholic Pop with electronic elements, distorted guitars, trip-hop shades (reminding me of Garm/ULVER), gothic pop Rock in new Katatonia style and PORTISHEAD, RADIOHEAD, APHEX TWIN, MASSIVE ATTACK echoes featuring trance techno effects and shy hues of GGFH (Industrial). What do you say? Is it my range of related styles a little overreacted? Can we say, in a joking way, that all in all it is about a Zombie Metal, he, he?

   "You have a good, wide selection of styles there... Zombie Metal... brains, BRAINES."

   Torstein: "I think of bands like Necrophagia etc when you say Zombie Metal - or White Zombie for that matter... How about Popcore or Black Hop or something..."

   I must confess... Vilosophe left me speechless! It is an excellent avant-garde album, well structured dimensioned and performed. Congratulations! Tell me how was the feed back? I assume that those angry genuine Black Metal fans definitely had some critiques to bring up for this new Dance orientation, right? I believe you would rather gather fans from other stylistic camps (if not already!), which definitely must be more "domestic" and nonconformist. ULVER, for example, expresses no interest for the traditional Nordic Black Metal fans.

   "Actually, we have heard very little from the old school Black Metal scene, probably because they didn't like it, except from those that think that what they think is really important... Seems like a very varied (and small) selection of people appreciated Vilosophe for what it is, instead of what they hoped it would be... But fortunately there is more and more cross-breeding between different styles, more musical hybrids and bastards..."

   Taking in account your new musical approach, I wouldn't be surprised if you criticized Black Metal scene. SATYRICON or DIMMU BORGIR seem to be for you solely some banal and with no verticality bands. Don't you think you gather many enemies simply declaring such? Is it still the fashion that rules the market and not only... Nuclear Blast or EMI actually earn good money upon so called True Black Metal spirit...

   "We don't care if we get enemies... I should be able to tell people what I personally think, shouldn't I? And being politically correct is not something for MANES... Is my opinion about things so important, that people are getting upset if I say or mean something wrong? Don't (didn't?) think so..."

   Torstein: "It's nothing personal - just honest concern: the whole Black Metal genre is completely watered out in terms of music, compared to what it used to be of course. And on another level: Black Metal has become its worst enemy in terms of commercial consumer marketing. A few bands and individuals still cling to their swords, but in my ears (and eyes) it's a lost cause. And it is truly a shame."

   Oddly, more or less so, even THE KOVENANT contests Satyr's attitude regarding Black Metal. What do you think about THE KOVENANT' sound? They are pretty criticized but it is their merit to have "smashed" the common Black Metal pattern importing new influences. Could people be that conservative or limited? Does any change always scare? (Musically speaking and not only I would appreciate a frank opinion of yours)

   "Strange as it may seem, I have never heard the Kovenant... I heard their earliest stuff, and didn't like it. Haven't been listening to what they were doing after that... I heard they were along the lines of Rammstein?!"

   Torstein: "I wouldn't call Kovenant Metal at all anymore... And I don't like their music. It's like the budget version of bands like NIN and Ministry (which I like) - along the lines of Deathstarts from Sweden. Not my cup of blood at all... But let them do what the Hell they want to do."

   Let us speak a little about the new line up. Asgeir Hatlen is your vocal and his voice's inflections actually prove good pop Rock aptitudes. And I find it normal as long as he plays as well in MASON or PROJECT GODDOG. What can you tell me about him? What kind of person is he related to you, for example? Does he sympathize with Metal trend?

   "He isn't into Metal at all, not that much Rock either, I think. I don't have much contact with him, except for rehearsals and recordings."

   Torstein : "Yeah, he's totally indifferent to everything related to metal. I think he's into some rock stuff like A Perfect Circle and Tool, but that's about as close as you come..."

   In order to achieve a complete harmony, you asked for Tommy Sebastian's help, well known from GRIFFIN. Well, having such a Heavy voice, I must say that vocal section simply is amazing. Where from the idea of bringing him? And after all, why he? Couldn't Asgeir face the challenge by himself?

   "To create a contrast, a difference."

   Torstein: "Tommy Sebastian only sang for Griffin on their two first albums. Now he's in some other Rock/Punk kind of band, I think... We know him well, and we thought his vocal-style would fit with some of our stuff, so that's why he's on Vilosophe, I guess. He's got cool vocals..."

   You might find it strange, but I must confess that the vocals remind me of Ozzy. If it was to be guided by impressions only, I would say there are some parts that lead even to David Bowie, Rob Smith (THE CURE) or... Justin Timberlake. Am I experiencing a trance or this could be true? Has anyone noticed that before? Tell me what you think...about such?

   "We've heard those Ozzy and Bowie comparisons before, and I understand, I think, why..."

   Eivind Fjoselde is your guitar player but in the same time he plays along Cern in ATROX. What can you tell me about him?

   "I don't play in ATROX! He and Torstein are probably the ones that push MANES towards the Metal spectrum..."

   Torstein: "Eiving von Fjøselheisenburg is a poppers-junkie. That's all you need to know. And another thing: I wouldn't say that I personally push MANES towards metal at all, although I guess it's only Eivind and me that (still) listen to metal in MANES. But, however, none of us listen only to Metal."

   Rune Hoemsnes is already a celebrity for the drums in THE 3RD AND THE MORTAL. Could it be the fact he is from Trondheim as well? His drums are simply chaotic, without rhythm or synchronism... but absolutely fascinating...

   "His drumming combines with the programmed stuff extremely well."

   Torstein: "Our celebrity drummer Rune is very skilled and has a very organic and jazzy approach in his drumming - which is cool. He's from Trondheim too, yeah, and Trondheim isn't exactly a metropolis in a global perspective, so we basically just asked him one day."

   Torstein, you and Cern know each other for a long time, how come that you joined him only recently? Why so late? Was your Death Metal band, CHTON, much more important? I assume that live activity is most important to you when it is about CHTON... But still I found strange for an IMMOLATION fan to perform else. Death Metal discharges energy, aggressiveness but nothing more. Where am I mistaken?

   Torstein: "MANES wasn't looking for any new members before I joined, so that's the reason for that. Doing gigs is a driving factor with CHTON, yes, and like you said; it's like a fix of energy and raw aggression for us, and hopefully for the crowd. If you find it strange that I can manage to be both a 'fan' of Immolation and play bass in MANES, that's a shame - I do, and it's no problem at all. I listen to lots of Death, Thrash, Black, Doom etc., but also stuff that has nothing to do with Metal at all. CHTON and MANES have two different agendas when it comes to music. Where the goal for CHTON is stage and studio, MANES has the path as a goal in itself with the creative process - which is also the main reason for me to be equally active in both bands... If anyone wants more info on CHTON, check out www.CHTON.com."

   Now, since we reviewed the entire line up, I am still obsessed by one question: is MANES a band or solely a project? All members are involved in other more or less famous bands as well, but definitely pretty much more "active" and with a larger discography than MANES'... Or perhaps the experimental dimension (the OTHER side!) of each of you has just found a correspondence and its place in MANES?

   "MANES is probably somewhere in the middle between a band and a project. Since all members have other projects, there is no pressure, no steam not getting out of anyone. We can take our time, and do things in our own tempo. Also, as you have mentioned, you can think of MANES as cooperation between various people, to get their alternative ideas out... Not a hybrid, but a bastard, a mutant..."

   I know you performed live one single time with RED HARVEST. There is the intention of experiencing this again, but still no certainty. How would MANES look like in a live performance? I assume it is not the case of spooky pyrotechnical effects or other dragons, mascots...yet something exquisite...Well what it would be that special? As for the instruments...I suppose Cern would need to carry his laptop everywhere... Your music is still based on an electronic backbone...some would name it synthetic..., tell me, do you think that classical means are "dead and buried"? Is it over the era of classical instruments while computer becomes the master?

   "We have some grandiose plans, but..."

   Torstein: "Yeah, we have some grandiose plans for live shows - well, maybe not truly grandiose, but we don't want it to be a typical rock-gig with all that comes with that term. We want it to be more suitable for the music we play... What that'll look like, time will tell, but we certainly hope it'll be cool enough... As for computer becoming master etc. - that's all a little 50ies-Flash Gordon-view of The Future, I feel. I think there is room for both the banjo and the sequencer for many years to come..."

   Cern, I remember, once upon a time..., you used to coordinate a fanzine, Stigma Diabolicum. What happened? I guess in 1995 you were just about to release #3 and afterwards......it all was silent. What was the motivation you had when you firstly decided to print a fanzine? Perhaps solely the desire of being deeply involved in metal scene, he, he? Today there are many more labels and magazines than fans...!

   "Same as with BM, I lost interest in the whole scene stuff... It became something different from what I was interested in. So, instead of doing like the rest (adapting, conforming), I just jumped off the train..."

   Torstein: "I think issue 3 was released, but I'm not sure... Anyway; it was a damn shame that Stigma Diabolicum #4 never was released at least. I've read the interviews that was supposed to be in there, and some of them are truly entertaining, with bands like Mayhem, Sodom, Darkthrone, Tormentor, Samael, Merciless, Sepultura, Asphyx, Entombed, Embryonic (pre-Emperor), Beherit, Immolation (!), Amputation (pre-Immortal) etc etc.... Bloody Hell! "

   Here I come again at your tracks. They are extremely complex, knotty, rich in "texture" but absolutely charming. What can you tell me about role of both lyrics and music? Where do they complete each other and where do they substitute? I assume there are themes like despair, lack of hope and other special mental moods are sufficiently developed here, right?

   "Yes, you're right about the themes..."

   Torstein: "The music and lyrics try to complete each other, like you say, but there is no grand plan behind the completion/substitution there. Asgeir is the main man when it comes to vocal-lines, and has 'given' more importance to some phrases and lyrical tid-bits than others with his emphasis etc. You're also spot-on concerning lyrical themes. Buckets filled to the rim of good old'fashioned misery were poured onto the music... BTW: The music being charming isn't really a good thing, is it?"

   Once I listened to the album for more than 10 times, I can say that Vilosophe is guided by one single rule: there are no limits! On the other hand, perhaps I might be a little out of line if saying that this album is a mental one, practically addressed to a different category and plastically saying, especially to intellectuals? You listen to music, read the lyrics but in the essence you need to read between lines and you need to open yourself to the creative impulse, which is in here and to its inspiration but solely in a Dark manner. A friend of mine said that this kind of music is perfectly accompanied by a drug...

   "It's not really meant for intellectuals or anything... It just became what it is... You're right in that you have to put something of yourself into it, to get a whole picture. We left some holes in there that you need to fill in yourself... Nothing is served on a silver plate..."

   Torstein: "MANES is the perfect score for an early morning overdose."

   If artistically speaking there are no limits what about the social life, religious or political ones? How do you stand? Which are your guiding lines?

   "My main driving force is the opposite of the normal, traditional, expected..."

   Torstein: "Are you asking about our political and religious stance? That is, of course, completely individual within the band, but personally I'm not dumb enough to be sure of anything..."

   How do you earn your existence? Who are you when music is out of the question? Is music an escape from the unfortunate routine where each of us is selling his body in order to earn money? Do you have big families, responsibilities?

   "Eivind is working, Asgeir is doing some stock market stuff, he, he, Rune and Torstein are studying (both of them film and media I think), and I'm not doing anything. I think that creativity and artistry is more a driving force than escapism, I think, I think. Money is not generally a big issue here in Norway. Everybody gets enough money to have a place to live and food to eat."

   Up to the way you perform music I wouldn't be surprised of your tastes in listening to music. Yet, can you help me, telling me what your musical choices are? Other hobbies: movies, books?

   "My tastes are quite varied, but generally I'm into 3D stuff: Dark, Depressive, and different stuff. He, he. (alphabetically): a perfect circle, amon tubin, anathema, autecre, aphex twin, beyond dawn, biosphere, black heart procession, björk, brothomstates, chi-a.d., cure, delusion, depeche mode, devil doll, dødheimsgard, eat static, fantomas, g.g.f.h., godspeed you black emperors, hawkwind, katatonia, krøyt, massive attack, mogwai, monumentum, morphine, morte macabre, nodens ictus, nurse with wound, orbital, ozric tentacles, peeping tom, pink floyd, pj harvey, portishead, primal scream, prodigy, raison d'être, red harvest, sadness, samael, scanner, scorn, seigmen, ship of fools, shpongle, sigur ros, st. germaine, subgud, swans, tangerine dream, third and the mortal, thorns, tiamat, tool, tricky, ulver, voivod, windham hell, xploding plastix... That's what I feel I like today. Tomorrow I will probably come out with a completely different list... I think..."

   Torstein: "Ok, I can pull a few movie favorites then: The Godfather I+II & Apocalypse Now (Coppola), The Kingdom + some other stuff (Von Trier), Fight Club & Se7en (Fincher), Ereaserhead, Blue Velvet & Mulholland Drive + + (Lynch), Pi & Req. for a dream (Aronofsky), Nekromantic & Der Todesking (Buttgereit) etc etc. And we mustn't forget stuff like Spinal Tap, Alien, Monty Python stuff, almost all the Kubrick's films, some Fulci films and some of the Tarantiono's films and some Tarkovski etc. etc."

   The last track of the album is a recited one, in German, like featuring a passage of a soundtrack, probably 'The death King'. To be frank, I understood nothing. Can you help me here as well? What is its purpose? It looks like it wouldn't have any connection with the rest of the album...

   "Its main purpose, in my opinion, is to disturb you, awaken you, a contrast. It has some connection with the album as a whole, especially the lyrics (both used and unused) and samples have a concrete connection.."

   Torstein: "If you don't understand a word of German, like me, it's more like an ambient track. If you understand German you would hear a man telling about his troubles with his wife, and his way out of the troubles. The essence of this passage can be traced to both some of the lyrics and to the cover-artwork/concept..."

   I noticed that your photos are rather odd. You do have weird ammunition: bikes, weapons with thorns, sun glasses... What is it that you want to express with this image of yours? Is it perhaps an act of visual art and no thing else?

   "Again, it's a revolt against the common sense, rules, laws, dogmas, expectations, hopes... or whatever."

   There was initially a discussion about your own web site, but things seem to move slowly. Don't you think that a web site would be of a great help and comfort both for you and your fans? Internet is not a fashion anymore, but a bare necessity!!!

   "Ehhh, I haven't had internet access in many years! It doesn't really bother me that much, as I don't care too much about what other people are doing or reacting... email would simplify things a lot, though."

   Torstein: "We have a man of some sort working on a website, but I don't know when it'll be ready... Maybe some time in 2004? Our first idea for a website was to create a site for massive interaction and possibilities, but when we found out we didn't have the finances to do something like that we just went for a cheap dude who will make a standard promo-site with some pictures and blah blah blah... That's ok."

   The name of the album has a strange connection (at least resonant) with philosophy. Where from this words-game? What is the significance of this title? In other words...I need help again in reading between lines.

   "A) vile (adj. 1. shameful and disgusting, 2. bad). B) philosophy (1.the search for knowledge, esp. concerning nature and the meaning of existence, 2. system of thought resulting from such a search, 3. calm acceptance of events; self control in the face of suffering or danger)."

 

   Tell me about life in Trondheim, how is it like to live there? What could I visit there? What could I visit in Norway? You don't seem too keen to get into UE... So there must be some interesting things about your country...

   "I think Trondheim is a pretty boring place to be, but I would probably think so in any other town too... I'm not that social, so I don't care that much about what's outside the door..."

   Torstein: "Norway has a priest for prime minister... That's fucked. Other than that Norway is ok: cold like hell in winter, but nice to look at from inside."

   ATROX and MANES are now under the same label and both have released albums in the same year. Could it be just a simple coincidence or maybe one helped the other...and both got lucky... Most certainly it seems like ATROX had the role of catalyzing the process. Am I wrong? It is only left to hear tomorrow that CHTON signs with code666.

   "You are right in that. ATROX was first in contact with Code666... CHTON has signed with another label."

   Torstein: "Eivind told Emi of Code666, after signing there with ATROX, that he also played in MANES, and that MANES was without a deal... Emi offered us an OK deal, and now we're on Code666 with MANES. Code666 would never be the perfect home for CHTON with their 'alternative' profile. CHTON has signed with Retribute Records from the UK."

   Gentlemen, I do thank you and I do appreciate your patience and support and, of course I wish you well and best luck in the world. Torstein, you were telling me it wasn't that sure whether you might record an album or an EP including some old tracks remixed. Should we expect a new album for year 2004? How it is supposed to sound? Any special guests? And since I have not the lyrics of your latest album, I would like to end this discussion with the significance of this: I was never free I was chosen...would you explain a little? This said, so long!

   "BTW: Cern TH Skei answered most of the questions - where not indicated... We have started to think about some new stuff, nothing more specific. Probably some live shows. The new stuff is more varied, I think, a bit different, but some similarities. No, I won't explain it, this is one of those things you need to read between lines, and come up with an answer that fits you; you and only you...

   Torstein: "Yeah, we've got more than enough material to start building an album I think. 'Varied' may be a keyword... Thanks for your time and space man! Ta-ta."

December 2003.