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A Dirty Dozen with OLE HALVARD SVEEN from MANTRIC – April 2020

| 24 April 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Mantric is a rock band out of Oslo, Norway. The core members, Tor (rhythm guitar, vocals, percussion), Ole (vocals, lead guitar), and John (bass/vocals) started creating music together in the 90’s. They began their career in the band Lengsel at the height of the black metal era, then played in the millennium death metal band Extol, until finally regrouping as Mantric in 2007 — a rock oriented group with a progressive metal edge. Mantric released their debut album Descent in 2010, followed by Sin in 2015. The band’s new album False Negative expands the metal genre while maintaining its grit, incorporating synths and cleaner vocals with aggressive instrumentation. False Negative is set for release on Solid State Records on April 24th.” We get singer / lead guitarist Ole to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Our latest album, False Negative is released on the 24th of April. Depending on who’s listening, I think there might be quite a few details that might need some spins before being discovered. There are more synths and sounds this time around, and we’ve been working a lot more on the production than ever before. On some parts, the original drums are replaced by electronic drum patterns, and some of the vocal harmonies you might need good sound to fully grab. Fans of a specific late 90’s doom rock band might enjoy some parts a little extra, and the perfect listener might actually find the bass line from Ozzy’s “No More Tears” hidden somewhere on the record, in a heavier version.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I’ve enjoyed listening to music my whole life, growing up with as diverse music as Bob Dylan, A-ha, Michael Jackson and Dutch Bach-jazz-proggers Ekseption. Then my oldest sister introduced me and by bandmates to harder rock, starting from the age of 10-11. First AC/DC, Accept, Kiss, Metallica etc, and in the early 90’s we really got into harder bands, and it was all about metal from there – thrash, death, doom and blackmetal. It was at this point Mantric’s members decided we should grow our hair long, bought leather jackets and decided to form a band. Before we could even play any instruments. We forced John Robert to buy a bass guitar, since we already had two guitar players, and we’ve been playing together ever since. Since we didn’t really know how to play, we were forced to make our own music from day one, and I guess that made us discover the joy of musical creativity from an early age, which has been the driving force of our 25 years being in a band together.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Tough question, since there have been so many. And so varied. In the beginning we just went to local shows, watching older teenage guys play loud and banging their heads. And we loved it – always on the front row, shaking our semi-long hair during the whole show, and felt really cool. And we listened to all the metal we could get our hands on. But over the years, I’ve been inspired by all kinds of bands and artists. I’ve loved the aggression and punch from Pantera’s VDP and the early Sepultura-albums, the attitude and energy from the Crucified, the complex and original composing on Cynic’s debut, the simple song structures and sad songs by the Cure, Jeff Buckley’s early stage performances, the melancholy of Type O Negative, the intensity and nerve found on Wovenhand-shows, the lyrical smartness sometimes found with Dylan, Nick Cave’s darkness and Prince’s funkiness and creativity.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Ooooh…can’t spend days on this, so from the top of my head: Radiohead, Scaterd Few (first album), Metallica, The Cure and Faith No More.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Kanye West. Just to see what happened. And we’d probably get some attention from it.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I’d describe it as alternative hard rock, to keep it simple. Over the years, some reviewers have labelled us metalcore. And I genuinely despise metalcore, so that’s hard to swallow. I’ve also been told that I’m obviously inspired by Freddie Mercury as a vocalist. And he was of course a brilliant singer, but I never kind of liked his voice or melodies, so that felt kind of weird. Other times, some listeners react to our music with “yeah, someone’s been listening to a lot of ________ lately”, naming a band we’ve never heard of, which also is kind of annoying.

7. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Hmm…we’re living in different cities now, and all three of us have got families and kids, so we don’t get to hang out as much as we should these days. But if I could choose, I’d leave the cooking to the others, as I find it incredibly boring. Meanwhile, I could go get the drinks. And IF anyone should ironically crack out the acoustic guitar, starting to play “Stairway to Heaven,” I’m afraid it would be me. And it would be really late.

8. When was the last time you were star struck and who was it?

That’d be a long time ago… the only episode coming to mind was ten years ago playing a small festival in Norway with another band, sharing the backstage with Sufjan Stevens and David Eugene Edwards. I was offered a glass of whisky by DEE, said thanks, and luckily, I don’t think I said much more while being there.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

I’ve had dozens of different, ordinary jobs over the years, but I don’t know if I’d choose any of those… some kind of consultant, maybe? Travelling here and there, sharing my load of unqualified crap opinions and getting paid far too much, so that I could buy myself time to spend on playing music as a hobby. Or in a studio, if I had a clue at all about sound and equipment.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

“What do you think of today’s big metal bands, like Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat and the U.S metalcore scene?” Me: *breathing heavily, counting backwards from ten, going to my happy place, answering in a calm voice*: “Umm… I guess taste differs – personally, it makes me want to rip my car stereo apart and throw it out the window while driving when they’re played on the radio, but hey – that’s just me.” And I’m tired of hearing and talking about anything related to Covid-19.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?

At the time when Peter decided to leave Extol, I think we should have found a different vocalist and carried on. We had been working really hard touring the Blueprint Dives album, and was offered a lot of great touring opportunities at that point. And I think that was our chance to step up and really be noticed with our next album. But since David was the only founding member left in Extol at that point, we decided otherwise. So then we founded Mantric and started at the bottom of the ladder again, haha…

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I’d go for Led Zeppelin IV. Don’t really know what my contribution would be, but to witness the creative process and the magic happening would have been awesome. Maybe I could record some shakers and put on some backing vocals, hehe… Bands like Led Zeppelin have always inspired me in the way that they focused on creating something unique, even when making it to the charts. They kept the creativity going and made art, despite the money, the music business and the fame. And I really respect that.




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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