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1. Aloha Draconic, write down a few lines to introduce your band.
Greetings, Mag the Vampire and all the readers, we're Manatark, a band playing blackened extreme metal from Estonia, one of the remotest corners of way up north in Europe. We've been around since 1998, with the last couple of years taking it at the most serious level, and already "getting there". The band started as my solo project, grew into a brotherhood and now we're a 4-piece whirlwind of terror - me as Draconic on guitar and vox, Benton on guitar, Martin on bass and Suss on drums.

2. Why did you searched other members and created a full band?
The most straightforward answer would be - so that we could perform live! When I released the album-length demo "Roosteitk", it got a surprisingly good response and it kind of made me think that this band could be a lot more than just another studio project. First we performed with a drum-machine, and boy, did that suck! Now we're "the real thing", and I dare to say, that when conditions are right and everything works out, then we're able to give exceptionally good concerts that puts the crowd into some kind of… furious trance. Good response from the European tour with Mayhem was a proof of that!

3. Compare the newborn with the first (and previous) album "Viimanegi Veri".
Every album you make is like your newborn baby - you love it the most and it seems like the best thing you've ever managed to create. I feel the same way about "Chaos Engine", our last album, but that said, I still think that "Viimanegi Veri" is a damn good album. And it has a totally unique feeling for me. I am of pagan way of thinking, and that CD was a kind of pure blackened representation of the feelings that go with it. It doesn't matter how it sounds, it doesn't matter how the guitars sound or how the vocals stand out - it's my baby and I love it no matter what. But again - I *know* that "Chaos Engine" is much more sophisticated, it is a totally different level and a totally new furious approach. With "Chaos Engine" we broke through - we got a record deal, went on high-profile tour across Europe and got so much good response, that it is a serious and vital boost to make a new, even better album.

4. I think "Chaos Engine" is quite an original album in black metal terms, how are most incoming reactions at this moment?
I am glad you consider it original, I wouldn't be happy playing some kind of generic copy of classical (black) metal riffs, and be the umpteenth copy of some Norwegian legend. We're striving for our own sound, own characteristic riffing and now that we have one of the most talented drummers in the local scene, crazy drumpatterns as well! The reactions… if we go for the review's then on the average we're the 7,5/10 band. There's some criticism that I really like, and there's a lot of maximum support that makes me wonder if we've really managed to touch that sacred inner sanctum of soul, that everybody is so keen to guard? That is the greatest feeling in the world - to find people who vibrate on the same frequency with you, that you can actually communicate with through music. Some of the reactions are pure confusion, and that I consider positive too. "Chaos Engine" should not be so easily digested, it's not "kick your boots off and make out with your girlfriend" kind of music. It's a vision of terror, a savage journey into the dark side of the soul, and it is supposed to leave you wondering - "what the f*uck just happened?" I guess you can see that I am pretty damn pleased with the response, I think that we've taken the maximum out of a very difficult situation.

5. Most favourite artists from the band members aren't black metal orientated, that has got something to do with it?
I would be very surprised if our wide musical tastes had nothing to do with the way the band sounds! Yes, it seems that we listen to almost every genre of music in the world, but it's not as simple as that. I cannot speak for all the members, but for me music is not about styles, it's about emotions. There is this certain emotion that I am looking for, and I can find that in electronic music, rock, jazz, glam or black metal - there's really no difference. I am able to enjoy artists such as Ulver from start to finish, from earliest works to the latest stuff (for those who don't know the band - they started with classical Norwegian black metal, moved into noise and somewhat industrial sounding strange stuff and I guess now they can be described as a weird mixture of jazzy trip-hop, hehe). It's all the same approach, all the same feeling. I enjoy some legendary black and death metal bands just as much as I do Nick Cave and Tori Amos. Hate us or love us for that, but this is how the essence of the music in Manatark is born.

6. I think the drum sound lacks a lot of power and it are the bass kicks and snare hits that sound flat and weak. Luckily the double bass drums aren't mixed too loud on the CD, otherwise I couldn't stand it. What's your opinion on this matter?
Twelve points and a pint of beer for saying it straight! No doubt - I love the album just how it is, and no doubt - I'd never go for the same setup we used on the CD. The really shitty thing is that over here we're a kind of a pioneers of metal, everything we do we have figured out for ourselves. That might sound funny in the world where you are picked up by labels just like that, you get a producer and a sound engineers who are both into metal and actually know what they are doing and know what sounds good. There's no such thing (you may call it metal infrastructure) in Estonia. I mean damnit - when we recorded the first demo with another band in '94, we didn't even have a proper guitar amp to plug into, so we played with a stompbox… straight to the mixing desk… And we weren't so young or anything, around 17. And now, 10 years later, we are only getting to know the specifics and magic of certain sounds, but with such niche genre as extreme metal, and such sensitive instruments as drums, there's still shitloads of work to do. I'm not going to tell you the budget of the album but believe me, you wouldn't know weather to laugh or cry! Anyway, there are no excuses when it comes to anything - sound, concept or performance. We have to deliver top grade music, we have to have the sharpest edge and justify the trust people put into us. It's all been a vast experience, and although deep inside I am totally satisfied with Chaos Engine, I can tell you, that the next album is going to be a total blast.

7. This time, lyrics are written in English, how come. Actually, what are you singing about?
In the previous works I was concentrating more on my inner self, meaning pagan heritage and everything that comes with it. Logically, my native language Estonian was the sincerest and best possible medium for the job. Now, that we are concentrating more on the beauty of the beast inside men, and now that most of our fans actually are not from the local scene, English is the only way to go further. I've been thinking about putting forward another album in Estonian, but that's food for thought in the future. What I am singing about? Sometimes I wish I knew who is singing these things through me! I love to ponder about the concepts of the Fall of Man in different mythologies, and the theme of "Chaos Engine" concentrates on the forbidden fruit, the apple of good and evil. Isn't it strange for gods, in whatever pantheon they belong to, to punish men for their most primeval instinct - yearning for knowledge? Manatark is saying: it is better to live a wholesome life and burn in hell, than be part of the mass and dwell in the nothingness of heaven! Hah, I could go on ranting like this for hours, and this idea is nothing that original, but when you add some beastly poetry and a good insight of mythology into that, then I believe, we have a piece of art in our hands!

8. Manatark has signed on Metal Age Productions? What's the deal all about? How many albums, promised tours, merchandise...
I'd never discuss such details in an interview, but let me tell you, that we are very satisfied with the promotional work Metal Age is doing - it is always better to be a top band in an underground label than to be the dirt in some major one, to be bought off the market so to speak. And after the European tour it is clear that the label is interested in continuing the co-operation, so yes, the next album, maybe albums, are going to be released under MAP.

9. Any future plans yet?
Well, which band could answer, that they have no future plans? Probably the ones splitting up tomorrow. We have no such plans, instead we're plotting more concerts everywhere, smaller tours in certain metal scenes, and of course, the new album! I am currently getting our webpage ( updated and recording demos for the new album - hopes are high and for a very good reason. We realize, that right now we have blasted many doors open, and it is now up to us to show, if we belong to the top of the metal scene or not.

10. How was the tour with Mayhem like? How did people react on Manatark?
The tour was a vast experience, nothing we had ever had before. Living and travelling in the nightliner, living through the hard spots and enjoying all the good points, analysing each of our performance, hewing our skills… That is something I recommend to any band that is seriously getting started. We saw quite a few countries I hadn't been to, met some excellent people in all the scenes and I can only hope that they really liked Manatark. There's always excellent shows and there's mediocre ones, but we always try our best, we're always there for the people and likewise, people are always there for us. The magic that is happening between the performers and the audience cannot be described in words, it has to be experienced. It has to be felt in the spine, with every nerve of your body. We felt the magic not once of twice, but most part of the tour, so I guess we were successful. With Manatark the case is that it is always good when people have listened to the CD before the show, but being a young band, that cannot be wholly expected. Then again, people can come to the show, listen to the CD afterwards and then come to see us again and then get the whole blast of what they might have missed the last time.

11. I saw Mayhem in Hasselt (Belgium) and they played rather sloppy with way less old songs. I heard some stories about Maniac and his drunk ass acting behaviour. But how are the guys of Mayhem in person?
They're no monsters and they're no saints. What I like about the Mayhem guys is that they're all a kind of certain personalities, each have their own attitudes and credos. In the first part of the tour everyone kept to themselves and the atmosphere was pretty dense, but on the second half everyone sort of opened up, and I daresay that by the end of (our part of) the tour, everybody felt a little bit sad about departing. As I said before, all gigs are different, and unfortuanetely you cannot judge a band just by one gig. On the tour I saw both bad and good days of Mayhem, and the same goes for Manatark and Defiled, the third band on the tour. Maniac is a very cool guy, sometimes he goes over the edge but that is up to the band decide, where the limit is, I cannot possibly be a judge of that. And isn't that what the people expect of Mayhem - pure fucking mayhem and armageddon? I mean you cannot be pissed off at a Mayhem concert when you get hit by a pighead or when you think that the vocalist has missed your favourite line of the song, right? The band has an unearthly aura around them, but the guys on stage are only humans, and they are only able to deliver what a human being can. So people shouldn't be surprised when there aren't any lightning bolts coming out of the venue roof and sir Satan making a surprise guest appearance in the middle of the set ;).

12. What about the Estonian scene, how's metal life over there? Much connected with the Finnish underground or perhaps there's more like an overall Baltic scene?
We're ok, getting stronger. My generation is actually the oldest metal generation doing their stuff here, and there's some more bands besides Manatark that have the gunpowder to break through. And what's most important, new bands are coming. Me and our drummer are running a local club here, it's been going on for some years now and I am sure that has been a boost for the new generation - they can count on some stagetime with good equipment and professional help. We're getting more connections with the Finnish scene each day, we are in very good relationship with Impaled Nazarene and some other Finnish bands. The good thing about that scene is that Estonians and the Finns have a kind of a same cultural background, and we pretty much think the same way. We have the same jokes, we have the same passions (mainly for alcohol and wimmen ;), so getting along is no problem. As for close history, we're more connected with the other Baltic states, Latvia and Lithuania. We have excellent friends there, and since our metal scenes look pretty much the same, there has been a lot of help and exchange of experience between these countries. We're not so close culturally, but performing in Latvia and Lithuania is always a blast, it seems that people over there are really into what we're doing!

13. Some Manatrak ex-members are now playing in another great Estonian black metal band Loits. Runes and other symbols NSBM bands use are visible ontheir website. Has Manatark got something to do with Nazism or NSBM in general?
Manatark has nothing to do with politics, period. And you can be damn sure that Loits has nothing to do with Nazism (by the way: I will probably be playing session guitar on their European tour, when it comes next year). I have no idea what most of the NSBM metal bands in the post-socialist countries are thinking, and in fact, I don't even want to know, I pretty much despise all that. What Loits is singing about, and promoting, is the Estonian soldiers in the II World War, who fought on the German side against the Russians, so that the genocide that the Soviets conducted over here, could not happen again. Yes, they wore the German uniform, and yes, they kicked more ass than most of the troops in the war (just read about the Tannenberg front under the town Narva), but that doesn't make them Nazis. Hey, the Germans specifically annihilated every effort for us to regain independence, so we have the same grudge against the Third Reich than we do for the Soviets. The guys who held the line against the Russians in 1944, and bought some time at the cost of their lives, so that more people could be evacuated into Sweden and so on from the red terror, are true heroes for Estonia, and although Loits utilizes the life-rune in the symbolics, they have nothing to do with Nazism, they just cherish the memory of these heroes! This is like I look at things, I am sure some people may disagree, especially those east of us, but that doesn't change anything.

14. And All members are active in other bands or projects. Can you tell a bit more of it?
Well yes, I am personally in two bands besides Manatark - Tharaphita is playing a kind of pagan heavy metal, where I do guitar-synth, and Kantor Voy is a progressive rock band where I do vocals (I am pretty sure you would consider the band quite faggy, hehe)! Then our bassist Martin just quit his other band Must Missa, so he's only in Manatark now, our guitarist Benton is my partner in Tharaphita, he's also doing a kind of dirty rockenroll project Hellroad Orange, and our drummer Suss is in Must Missa as well, plus he's doing a lot of tribute bands (for Black Sabbath, Metallica etc). So far we've been able to share our time and duties, I always secretly hope that Manatark is the most important for them ;).

15. Do you think a band hailing from Estonia got the same opportunities like bands from other countries? I mean, Scandinavian bands are looked upon as the best in the genre and every metalhead is more likely to listen toNorwegian or Swedish bands. Will labels and tour promoters think the same about this, you think?
Ooh, we definitely DON'T have the same opportunities. I mean some bands get signed for multiple albums just cause they come from Norway… They have a history of metal, many generations who can give all the advice and be as a rolemodel for the new bands, and of course the "metal infrastructure" I mentioned above. Then again - they have all that because they have worked hard for it, and thus deserve it. We have a shitty hand of cards, but that doesn't mean that the game is over - we're always trying the best, we'll keep our eyes and ears open and some day it is definitely going to pay off. The problem with old and big metal scenes is that there are bands that are very good, and then there's a whole bunch of high-quality copy-cats. If our dear reader is looking for some fresh ideas and a new approach, then I think that taking a peek at bands that don't come from the Mekas of European Metal can be worthwhile, give it a try! I am sure that the major tour promoters and labels will realize that some day as well, but that is only when the overall mentality of their business (i.e. the guys'n'gals going to shows and buying albums) changes. I hope that Manatark is in the frontline of such change.

16. The next four questions have got nothing to do with metal in general, but I can't help myself not asking them, hehe... I don't know whether you follow soccer, as in the Worldcup of 2006, or not, but Estonia has to qualify themselves in a group with Portugal and Russia as big teams. Do you think they'll make it?
Today we beat Luxemburg 4:0, and we're a leader of our group, but that of course is not a ticket to the finals, eh? Anyway, we've recently beaten Russia 2:0 and perhaps we can manage a draw against Portugal, so who knows! You would of course be disappointed, cause we play the boring type of defensive game with quick counterattacks, but hey, give us a chance ;)!

17. We all know live in Scandinavia is very expensive, especially food and drinks. Here in a Belgium pub we pay around 1,50 euro for 20cl beer and around 5 euro for a package of cigarettes (don't smoke myself though). What it's like in Estonia or the other Baltic states?
The beer in a pub can cost as few as 1 eur for 0.5 litres downtown, but usually it is like 1.7 eur for 0.5 litres. So hey, this is a nice place to be. To be honest I have no idea about cigarette prices, cause I don't smoke as well. But it should be around 2 euros per pack. We're pretty much the same as other west-oriented post-socialist countries in Europe, I guess that's why the Finns have a certain type of tourism when it comes to Estonia, it is totally-non-surprisingly called "vodkatourism" ;). Heh, some guys from north won't even leave the harbour (you have to take a boat to get from Finland to Estonia), they just do their shopping and go back to the boat to drink!

18. Estonia must have quite a lot of cultural history, could you tell us something your country is well known for? (Here in Belgium we are known for our famous chocolate and beer, to give a quick example.)
No you're not, you are known for Hercule Poirot exclusively, :))). Actually I don't know what we should be known for… We have exceptionally nice nature, so many forests that it would make a West-European weap, Estonians are quiet by nature, but when they get pissed, hell breaks loose. Ah, we have this herb-liquor called "Old Tallinn" that seems to be very popular abroad and I guess we've got some headlines in foreign newspapers about our IT-oriented society (our government has this IT-government stuff, so that they don't really use much paper at all, everything is done in their infranet or something). That's about it! But when you come over, I have a beautiful Hansiatic old town of Tallinn to show you, lots of mystersious pubs next to 800-year old city walls and yes, some of the prettiest girls on Earth!

19. Who are Estonia's hottest and most beautiful women? Very important, haha.
Indeed! Well, if you're into supermodels, you can check out Carmen Kass, I guess she's actually the best-known Estonian in the world. But skin and bones is not really my cup of tea so I could point out any of the thousands of pretty girls I see every day. Our interesting geographical position has put a tiny bit of eastern blood into our veins, so our blondes also have a certain trait of magic in them that makes your knees weak, man. Ugh, I better stop right here!

20. Last magical lines are yours:
Well, dear Mag the Vampire, thanks a ton for this interview and I hope that reading this wasn't a waste of your time, dear readers. We'll have the next album coming out in about half a year, so if you enjoyed "Chaos Engine", then you're definitely in for a treat! So check for updates as often as possible and we hope to see you all on some tour… soon!

Zine: Vampire Magazine

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