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Interview with Draconic

First of all I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions to the readers of Metalius. Who are the persons behind MANATARK, could you please introduce ourselves into the world of Manatark?

Hell-ho there, and here's some info on the current line-up:
Draconic - vox, guitar, synthesizers on recordings, artistic leader of the band
Benton - guitar, recently moved from bass to guitar
Martin - bass, new member but a really old friend of the band, maker of custom guitars
Suss - drums, one of the most talented drummers in the scene

By talking about Metal, only a few metalheads will think of Estonia, probably most people know your country only because of several soccer games or the approaching joining of the European Community. What's the state of metal in Estonia, is there any existing metal scene or are you some kind of lone fighter in a "metalless desert"?

Estonia is by no means a metalless desert :), I think there are 4-5 bands that are very good and should be breaking out any moment now, and a couple of dozen bands, that are working hard and "getting there". We have regular club events, my own club just opened a new metal bar, plus we are doing all sorts of "star shows" with worldclass bands and an annual summer festival - in fact times have never been better for Estonian metal! On the other side, we're still lacking a good printed magazine, distributors and stuff like that. I hope more active people will be attracted to the scene by our hard work, and that we will start growing even faster!

Let's talk about your new album "Chaos Engine". By listening for the first time, I was a little bit astonished about several elements which are not usual for common Black Metal, it's some kind of industrial stuff used by bands as Nine Inch Nails for example. Already the intro "The Principle" or "Four Walls" shows it really clear. On the other hand especially these details make the album more interesting by developing a special kind of atmosphere. For example listening to "Lies, Blasphemy, Deceit" is like sitting in the cinema, watching a very exciting movie and feeling the thrill of the dramatical climax - a goose flesh is guaranteed. What's the first reactions from fans and critics?

I am actually happy that you consider us unusual and innovative. I think there is no point in making music, or at least spreading the message aggressively, if you have nothing to say or to contribute to the music that already exists. So - thanks! The response to the album ranges from extremely good to average. I think the ones that rate the album with maximum points are the ones who really grasp the message and meaning of Manatark - to cherish the artistic creativity and proud, spontanious and furious side of it. "Chaos Engine" can be an album, that seduces you with the first listening, but I would recommend everyone not to use it as a tapestry (music you put on to read a book, surf the web or make out with your girlfriend). It is meant for listening, and I really mean Listening. Bite the apple, see what happens. Do the words "good" and "evil" get a new meaning, do you feel like you can step aside and watch the swirling chaos from a distance? Good, we're in the same seat, heading full speed to explore the depths of human conciousness! If not, then you will probably feel one with some of the critics, that concentrate on some sound issues or whatever, not on the artistic point of the album. Response from fans, however, has been excellent! We are glad to be a band, that gives good performances with people standing in awe everywhere we go, and we appreciate all the warm words after concerts! We have the trust of the local metal scene and that's also something that counts!

I don't remember where or when, but I know that I read something about Manatark as a "One Man-Project", dominated by Draconic and his musical genius. Is it still true or what should I have in mind concerning the songwriting of Manatark? Is it a democratic process or more authoritarian?

It's pretty authoritarian, but I'm a benign dictator ;)! Manatark used to be my solo project, but that period ended with all the extra members for live performances. With one man making decisions it's much easier to do a band, all the processes are so much faster if I have the trust of other bandmembers, then we don't have to waste time on "democratic processes" that would take ages. There are definitely some downsides to this, but I hope that with the next album, where everyone is contributing with their musical genius (goddamn, we have some excellent musicians in the band!) we will be about 666 times stronger than ever, I am really looking forward to the next studio experience. But as always, all the lyrics and music will be composed according to my vision, I hope you will like it ;).

Where do the ideas for the lyrics come from? Is there a special story behind the words on Chaos Engine? What or who would you call "Chaos Engine" in the end - the human being in general or more the elemental forces of the universe?

I applaud the form of your question, it has actually nailed the bullseye! There is a story, and it is indeed a story about Man being the destructive Chaos Engine of our world. I'm not sharing advice, I am not condemning or approving anything on the album, I am singing through the Beast in Man, that is, proud it's work, watching mankind marching towards it's own destruction. Of course, that need not be - I personally think that one of the greatest error of our current civilization is the neglection of the Beast, condemning the innovative and beastly side of Man. You can see it in various mythologies, when humans actually become humans by doing something prohibited by the Gods - be that stealing fire and light, or biting the forbidden fruit. In mythologies that is considered a sin, punished by the Gods - but in truth, symbolically that is the actual start of real life for Humans. "To be as God" - and "Chaos Engine" bashes everything from the way of that credo.

I really like the whole artwork from Chaos Engine, cover as well as complete booklet. Who had the idea for the "apple-motif" and the black-white design? Is there any special statement behind this theme, particularly of the mysterious message "That apple was a portal to your world of scarlet dreams" in the middle of the booklet? Or is it more a accidental selection to use this artwork?

Nothing is accidental on that album, hehe! I chose the apple motiv on the basis that I explained in the last question - funny as it may sound, apple is one of the most frequent symbols of power in various mythologies - be that Apple of Discord (War of Troy), Idunn's apples in Norse mythologies, Apple of Eden, Apples of Hesperides or whatever. Hence the slogan "That apple [of good and evil] was a portal to your world of scarlet dreams [of being as God]". I also chose the black and white design cause I wanted everything simple and contrastic, I think that with white pages in the middle of the blackish layout work very well!

Once more I would like to learn more details about the country where you come from. I think that most of the German people don't know Estonia very well, in the same way as all three Baltic nations are unknown, maybe even exotic for most Germans. And I don't expect that joining the European Community will fill this gap in one's knowledge immediately. What should everybody know about Estonia, what's really important to become acquainted with the Estonian population and mentality?

Estonia is a northern country with a culture that is both Finno-Ugric, Scandinavic and Germanic at the same time. Our history is a bloody one, with major forces of the Middle Ages battling over every inch of the land and with long occupations by the Germans, Swedes and, most destructively, by Russians. Estonians are a reserved and thoughtful hardworking folk - our parties never get going, but once they do, we're almost unable to stop. History has left a lot of scars in our nature so we are very careful when choosing our friends and allies. But hopefully all the brighter days are ahead, we have done unbelievably lots of work over the past decade of total independence, and I am sure we will be a worthy and respected partner to everyone approaching us. Should you come over, you will most probably notice the welcoming nature of our people, the marvellous forested landscapes and lots of medieval architecture of our Hansiatic towns.

Almost 50 years Estonia was a part of the Soviet Union, since 1992 you are a independent state - what do you expect from joining the "United Europe"? What are your hopes and expectations - for Estonia and for yourself specifically?

I think that joining the EU is a good thing, but a lot of people and lots of my friends disagree. I think what we are most afraid of, is that EU, with all it's stability, will hinder the rapid economical growth, that we have worked hard to achieve, and that all the liberal regulations will endanger the survival of our precious culture and language. It might not be a big issue in Germany, but when you think that there's only a million of us left, and then look at the demographical and social situation of our neighbour Russia, then the hair on my neck stands up. We know, that we fit in perfectly into the family of EU, we know that we will not be a bloodsucking leech, that we do our share and contribute greatly, but what we don't know is weather if the other countries are ready to understand the fears and problems we have with preserving our nation.

Concerning your music you're more "Scandinavian orientated", which isn't really surprising if you think about the geographical neighbourhood to Norway, Sweden or Finland. Some critics compare your style to the early Dimmu Borgir, and I think that's not completely wrong. What do you think about this comparison - praising compliment or heavy burden? Do you generally have some kind of musical idols or bands which influenced your own style?

Let's be honest - styles and classifications are just to make the picture more clear. Yes, we are more like Dimmu than for instance Abruptum. But somehow I fear that when someone compares one band to Dimmu, they mean "black metal with synths", which is basically saying the same as "rock with guitars", i.e. nothing. Yes, we play blackened metal, we have some synth parts, but the aim and feeling (that in my humble opinion are what matter the most) of the music is completely different. The music of Manatark is influenced by a horde of different styles and bands. From metal, I love lots of early '90s death metal, and from the black side, I have always mentioned Enslaved as one of my first favourites. But I also enjoy rock bands like New Model Army and individual freaks like Nick Cave and Tori Amos - so as you can see, the influences are really on a broad scale. All in all - I think we have pretty much our own style (but everyone thinks that, right?) and no, I don't feel offended about any comparisons, be that Dimmu Borgir or Kraftwerk ;).

What's your opinion about the trend, especially in western Europe, to take young people to so called "Casting Shows" to create some kind of "synthetic superstars", regardless whether they have real talent or not. Is it not strange for you as a true and real musician? I think, it's unfair somehow, if you have to work very hard for your own success and on the other hand you see people without a real musical career, which were promoted as much as possible - just to make "quick and easy money"?

Casting shows are funny! No, I don't think it's unfair, considering everything else that is going on around us. I mean yes, it is unfair to have homeless people and pathetic humour-classed stuff like synthetic superstars, but that's the product of our civilization, and there's no point to whine about that. Strangely enough, if you enjoy central heating and electricity then you have to realize that casting shows are all part of that. But I would like to point out that the reason that I don't feel offended about the synthetic superstars is that I refuse to be in the same league with them. Symbolically speaking - we are creating multilayer paintings, that might be appreciated by many generations to come, but they are making childish scribblings on the pavement with chalk, that will be washed away with the next rain. I'd rather suicide than knowingly make music to people who don't have the ability to appreciate it, and I hope it will stay like that as well.

If you hear the catchword "copy kills music", what do you spontaneous think about it?

I would think about the mp3 movement and the results of that to music industry. I'm not going deep into that, and I don't think that mp3 stuff is all wrong, but guys'n'gals, if you really enjoy music of some artist, then please go and buy the album if you can afford it. Otherwise, on some fine day, you may discover that one of your favourite bands has called it quits due to ending up between the wheels of the music industry - the label being in financial catastrophe and band being kicked out on the pavement.

And what's with "bad angry music causes a bad and angry youth"? Prejudice or truth?

Prejudice, cause art doesn't create idiots and neither does it cure them. Extreme music rather helps people to release their aggressive and negative energy into air without being an asshole towards anyone. There will always be people shooting themselves to the sounds of Slayer or claiming that Natural Born Killers made them whack their girlfriend. The roots of their problems lie much deeper than that, and if some movements in the society are claiming that art has made people do this and that, then they are most probably just burying their heads in the sand, and denying their own responsibility.

According to your biography you already did support for bands like Impaled Nazarene, Borknagar and Mayhem. As well you played at the Inferno Festival in Oslo in 2002 - were there some more gigs outside Estonia during the last years? Is it difficult for you to get the chance to play in foreign countries?

So far we've played in Finland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It's not all that hard to get gigs but from now on we would like to work more concentrated, to get gigs in a row to form smaller tours etc. Should any of your readers feel that they could contribute, then let us know!

And is there any chance to see you on German stages or festivals?

The chances are bigger than ever and as I said, we're looking for all sorts of partnerships and contacts. I already know a lot of people who are eagerly waiting for us to appear, and I will tell you this - when we finally reach that stage near you, it will be a blast you will not forget so easily!

Are there any plans for the musical future of Manatark? Do you already have some ideas for new songs?

I've got half the new material finished in my head! I think that this time we will take more time to make it perfect, we will make demos to calculate each passage carefully and experiment with differend moods and feelings. The new material is going to be even more aggressive, but with lots of feelings from the past, making the whole album blasting and deep'n thoughtful at the same time!

At least some final last words you would like to tell to your fans…?

I hope you enjoyed reading the interview, stay tuned to the "Chaos Engine", get all the latest information from and hope to see you all on tours! Bite that apple!

Author: Andres Neitzel
Zine: Metalius Multizine

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