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Manticora Interview: Spotlights on the Black Circus

Interview with guitarist Kristian Larsen and vocalist Lars Larsen of Manticora by Vera in June 2007

Manticora is a Danish band with a great talent to write long concepts. Now that the second part of ‘The Black Circus’ is released, we can finally enjoy the complete story as a whole. Put on infectious power metal with a slightly dark progressive touch, this journey takes you to the nineteenth century, New England. This is the right moment to contact the band and ask some details about Manticora and this ambitious enterprise. The answers were all given by guitarist Kristian, except one by vocalist Lars.

As it is the first time we do an interview with you on this medium, let's start with an introduction kind of thing. Who are the founding members of the band, when came it into being and what were the influences of bands that made you decide to make music yourself?

Manticora was formed back in ´96 by Lars and me (Kristian). Back then we were extremely focused on beginning a professional power metal band. We teamed up with Mads on drums and Rene on bass. The four of us created a lot of tracks in our efforts to create our style. The songs are not worth mentioning. Our main influences were Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, Iron Maiden, Forbidden, Metallica, Slayer, a lot of different music. Anyway after a few years we managed to create our first mini CD called ‘Dead End Solution’ and with that a lot of attention both from our management and throughout Europe in general. This was the beginning of Manticora.

You are a Danish band. Where in Denmark are you based and what about the metal scene in your environment?

We're all based in Copenhagen with only ten km between each other. The metal scene in Denmark is like it's always been. No support from anyone, few fans and really bad CD sales in the stores. People in Denmark suffers from the MTV diagnose knowing only whatever they dictate. This is typical thing in Denmark.

You guys seem to have a liking for concepts... last four albums all had a concept. Isn't that a heritage of the progressive scene while being a power metal band?

We're all fascinated by concept albums. We enjoy writing and playing music, live, and if you manage to tell a story along with this we consider the final product as perfect. It's all about entertaining the listener as much as possible. I think that concept albums are addictive for the musician. If you have made one it's difficult to return to the normal trend. I don't think that concept albums are linked to specific genres of metal (and it shouldn't be that way). As long as you manage to wrap the story around the music (or the other way around) the style doesn't matter.

The second part of the 'Black Circus' concept has just been released. The occluding part. Can you tell a bit more about the concept that covered two albums?

I won't describe the details of the concept but instead introduce you to the overall idea.
The story takes place in New England in 1896. A person gets a job in a travelling circus unknowing of its evil intensions. Nothing is what it seems and everything just seems wrong. In "part1" we follow the story through letters he writes to a friend regarding his experience in the circus surroundings. As the concept goes on his letters become more and more twisted, two faced and concerning. It seems as if he dislikes the scenery, population and events that go on around him, but still he won't pack his bags and leave. Instead his interest grows stronger.........he almost consider this scenery as normal........realizing that this is so much more than smoke and mirrors. "Part2" is the conclusion and with it the circus reveals its true intensions. All hell breaks loose and everything becomes pure insanity. But how will our main character respond to this cruel setup? Only the lyrics will reveal this.

At the beginning of the year you switched from Massacre to Locomotive Records (in between two concept albums) Kind of strange in the middle of a huge concept. Can you tell us what happened on the label front?

We had a dream of releasing ‘The Black Circus’ as a double album, but unfortunately Massacre didn't agree with that dream. On top of that our album sales were a bit disappointing for them and they decided to stop our partnership. This is a very short version. This is why we've released two albums with two different record labels. As we recorded both albums at once we needed to release the follow up on another label.
So you recorded both albums in one session? What was done in the additional visits of studio when finishing this second part?

All vocal, bass and drum parts where done in the same session. Guitars and keys where recorded in two sessions.

Now we are talking about the recording process. Jailhouse Studio with Tommy Hansen must have been quite familiar in the meantime. So tell me more about the recording process as a whole of the two albums?

We always enjoy recording at Jailhouse studio with Tommy as producer. ‘The Black Circus’ is no exception. The entire Part1 was recorded, mixed and mastered in the same period of time. As always, the plan was to create the atmosphere the right way, from the beginning. We always start out by recording the drums, then bass, then guitars. All vocal parts are done along with the recordings of the instruments. This way Lars won't ruin his voice by doing everything at once. So normally we split up the day by doing instruments first and then some vocals.

Who did the magnificent artwork of the two albums?
A Russian artist called Leo Hao. He was ready to make our ideas real. It was important for us to have a unique cover artwork that explained to the listener the story in pictures.

Though Manticora is power metal, it sure isn't the kind of happy metal people know, it has a dark, gloomy atmosphere. Any comments on that?

I'm glad you mention that. We always focus on twisting our music in the direction of the general concept mood. In my opinion it's important to have an atmosphere carrying the song. Atmosphere creation is an important tool when we create new songs. Without this we wouldn't continue as musicians. For us the energy and atmosphere of a song weigh 50% of the final song outcome. In my opinion, a song without feeling or mood is no song at all.

Lars, your vocals are extremely special as well, not the kind of usual high pitched power metal shrieks, but ... well... let's say dramatic... Can you describe this a bit and tell us what your influences or achievements are?

Lars: Well, first off, I am simply not able to do a proper high pitch, hahaha. Secondly, I refuse to sound like a girl, by trying to train myself to do the high pitches. It's all a matter of getting the message of the song out, and in my opinion high pitch is not really that cool. It has nothing to do with real singing, if you ask me. I have always been influenced by James Hetfield, Warrel Dane, Bruce Dickinson, Russel Allen and Erik A.K., but I also take influence in opera, like Pavarotti and the others of this genre. Not that I sound anything like that, nor being able to sing like Luciano and the gang, but it's important to feel energy in my own singing, and it comes from the bowels, not the voice chords.

Can you tell a bit more about the videos you have made in your career? Are there new ones planned from the new album?

As for now we've only managed to create live videos and studio diaries. We definitely work on create a music video one day, but as you've probably already have realised Manticora is financially poor band. The overall costs for video creation are simply out of reach at the moment. We're working hard on this at the moment, but we need to search for the right deal first.

Touring is important to get people into your music. What are the plans for touring to support this Black Circus part II? (King Diamond! Great prospects, guys!!!)

Thanks! Our plans of touring are a big subject at the moment. In November we start out our biggest tour ever, supporting King Diamond. Hopefully we'll cover most parts of Europe on this tour. We are looking forward for this tour a lot and we can't wait to get started. Before this tour we need to arrange some live shows around Europe. The plan is to tour as much as possible to promote this concept.

You did a tour with Angra and Edenbridge in 2005. Any fine memories on that one?

I have only good memories from that tour. It was an excellent job for us and we really did some great performances throughout Europe. With that we also got a lot of new fans and this was actually a bit of a breakthrough for us. Angra is a great band and all the guys are great. We had a lot of fun with staff and bands on that tour. The best memory was our soccer game (Denmark - Brazil). We were wiping them out winning 4-0. Also the last show in the town Tours was a great. Totally crazy ending, with all bands on one stage and a jam session with Angra/Manticora playing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs.

What about the experience to play at the American ProgPower fest?

A long trip! But it was definitely worth it. We had a great time in Atlanta and the crowd seemed to like the show. We had a 1½ hour long autograph session after the show so we shouldn't complain haha.

Finn Zierler is an important help for you since many years. I once did an interview with him and he is an engrossing personality! (at for Beyond Twilight). Can you tell us how you got in contact with him and what were the results?

We've known Finn personally for a long time now. Finn is really not important for us in Manticora when it comes to the music creation. We just like what he's good at and that's playing keyboards. Finn is a great element to draw into our music. He has a very complex way of thinking in keyboard sections and that is why we like to use him when we need keyboards done for our songs. As we don't have a keyboard member in the band we need to use as much help as we can get. On ‘The Black Circus’ albums we created the keyboard parts ourselves but left some space open for keyboard solos. Finn did 1 (one) solo and Andreas did the rest with our new keyboarder Ronni Claesen laying down some tracks as well.

But there are more guests on this album! Now is the time to tell a bit more about them!

We've known Andreas (Wuthering Heights, ex-Loch Vostok and ex-Platitute) for a lot of years, and we had him with us when we were touring with Angra. He's a great guy and an excellent keyboard player.
Jacob Hansen (Anubis Gate, Invocator, Beyond Twilight) is doing some guest vocals to give the concept some more depth.
Last we teamed up with Teddy Möller (Loch Vostok, ex-Mayadome) for some growling parts. He has a great voice for doing evil sections.

You recorded a song for a Tankard tribute CD. What's the latest news on this one?

We had great time recording this tribute song. Since Tankard is so far away in terms of genre, it made the recordings even better. Hopefully we'll hear some news from them soon about release dates etc but right now we don't have any news regarding this.

Martin Arendal returned to the band. Can you tell something of his temporary leaving?

Martin never really left the band. He was just unable to be 100% part of Manticora. A lot of work is to be considered when you have to create a new album. Martin decided to join Manticora in the studio to do the guitar soli after the creations of the songs were finished.
Today he's 100% a part of Manticora and will travel with us on the forthcoming tour.

Is keyboardist Andreas Lindahl still in the band?

Andreas has never been in the band. We teamed up with Andreas for live jobs only. He's a very talented keyboarder and a great guy. That's why we chose to use him for touring. Nowadays, we are using a new keyboarder (as said above), called Ronni Claesen.

People can have a Manticora calendar 2008. That's the first meeting with a calendar of 2008 for me. You are pretty early hehe. Where can we get these?

If we want to sell a calendar we need to be in front of ourselves. Hopefully a lot of fans will purchase this calendar. Here is the link to the calendar: -

As recordings of the huge Black Circus epic are already a while ago, maybe you can tell us at which project you are thinking now. Any plans for new concept?

Right now we are focusing on live jobs only and the big tour with King Diamond. Along with the release of pt2 a lot of interviews come and we need to take care of the world press :-)

But of course, people should enjoy now the occlusion of ‘Black Circus’, so final words are for you guys to convince them to buy both parts..........
I think that we have created something unique on our two releases. Hopefully our fans feel the same thing. The metal business is a tough one and we are struggling everyday to keep Manticora alive. Do us a favour and support us by buying our albums, tell the festivals about us etc. Hopefully people will come to our concerts with King Diamond and realize the fact that we are a hard working band focusing 100% on creating quality music.
Indeed, buy these excellent albums and support these guys! In the meantime I learned that the King Diamond tour has been postponed because of health problems of King. That is sad news for Manticora; but let’s hope that they can go on the road with King Diamond later through Europe. Thumbs up!

Geplaatst door Jany op zaterdag 30 juni 2007 - 21:06:38
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