Interview with Ole Sveen of Mantric

Ole Sveen, singer, guitar player, and drummer for Mantric talks about the recently released album False Negative, the impact of COVID-19, and more. 

Mantric is a progressive and post-metal band that originated in Olso, Norway. The band formed in 2007, after the disbanding of Extol. The remaining members John Mjaaland, Tor Glidje, and Ole Sveen who had previously played together in Lengsel and Ganglion, decided to continue the songwriting process and change the name of the band to Mantric.

Mantric was signed to Prosthetic Records and released their debut album, The Descent in 2010, followed by Sin in 2015. Their latest album False Negative was released by Solid State Records on April 24th. Ole Sveen, who plays a number of roles within the band, took the time to exchange a few words about False Negative, how the pandemic of COVID-19 is affecting the band, and more.

 LH: How is the Coronavirus affecting the band thus far?
Sveen: As a band, it hasn’t really affected us that much. We live in different cities, so most of our communication takes place via screens anyway. But our everyday lives are of course turned upside down – all of us having kids needing homeschooling while we’re trying to get other stuff done, etc. Experiencing exactly the same challenges as all other healthy persons at our age in the Western parts of the world, I guess. Sure, we’d hope for a proper release party, but we’ll just have to make up for it when fall comes or something. At least, a lot of people have got more time to check out new music while social distancing, so who knows – maybe this will even help us careerwise?

 LH: What was the aim of this new album?
Sveen: We had a pretty clear idea of what we wanted soundwise this time – it should sound big and up to date. And we also agreed that we wanted to make something more straightforward, regarding time signatures. As always, we hold creativity, originality, and diversity important, but we’ve worked hard trying to make the songs go together as an album as well – that the product should make sense altogether. At least for a listener not completely stuck in one genre, that is. 

 LH: What was the writing process like for False Negative?
Sveen: It was pretty similar to how we did it last time. Since we’re living apart and all of us have got kids and full-time jobs, rehearsing twice a week isn’t possible anymore. So what happens is Tor Magne and myself recording ideas and demos at home, sending to the others for feedback and discussion, making new versions, and do this a bunch of times back and forth. Eventually, we got together jamming on the ideas and agreed on the main song structures, before I got into the studio and recorded the drums. Which actually was two years ago now. From there, we continued to refine the ideas, developing them further in Tor Magne’s home studio, as a part of the recording process. So a lot of what you hear on the album sounded very different when we rehearsed it before recording the drums and has been made while in the studio.

 LH: Does everyone in the band contribute to the writing or just one?
Sveen: In Mantric, it has been mainly Tor Magne and myself coming up with the songs, and John Robert has contributed more with ideas of arranging and writing lyrics. Tor Magne has done more than ever this time around, though – doing most of the production-part, making synth lines, vocal melodies, programming drum loops, etc, and writing more lyrics than he’s ever done before, I think.

LH: Mantric album artwork has always been pretty detailed. Is there a reason for that?
Sveen: Well, it’s definitely not thanks to me, that’s for sure. I’m not a very visual person, so I often say “yeah, that looks nice” whatever the others suggest. But both John Robert and Tor Magne usually have lots of thoughts on these things, and then we end up having pretty cool covers in the end, haha.

LH: What influenced the track “The Towering Mountain”?
Sveen: The Towering Mountain is the song on the album where all three of us contributed the most, I think – John Robert writing the lyrics, me coming up with the main riffs for the first part of the song and Tor Magne for the second part. So this would also be the hardest song to answer that question. I wanted something aggressive and punk-like on the album, Tor Magne had these cool ideas for some really heavy more 80’s metal riffs (with ended up including an Ozzy bass-line), and during the studio-session, Tor Magne and John Robert worked together to nail that Type O-tribute part towards the end. Concerning the lyrics, I have no idea. And so we ended up with a song a bit out of the ordinary that I’m really proud of. 

LH: What has the journey been like thus far with Solid State Records?
Sveen: We’re really happy with this signing. We’re kind of back where we started since Solid State licensed our first album with Lengsel back in 2000. And it feels good – they make us get out there, which is what we care about – that as many listeners as possible get to hear our songs and make up their own mind if we suck or not. So it’s cool. 

LH: The previous band Extol was nominated for a Norwegian Grammy award, can you tell me how was that experience?
Sveen: Oh…the truth is, I kind of missed it. Our singer Peter had scheduled his wedding to the same day as the award event, and I didn’t feel that I could leave his wedding party to go to the event. But Tor Magne and John Robert did, and I kind of regret I didn’t too, haha…myself, I arrived at the afterparty at this nice hotel, had a couple of beers, watched the Norwegian celebrities acting drunk and stupid, and then went home. But if Extol didn’t fall apart just at this time, we could probably build further on the attention it gave us and could have opened new doors. 

LH: Tell me a little about how Mantric came together? Who decided on the name of the band?
Sveen: We came together when we were 14-years old. Tor and I had already started a “band” with a couple of others, just before this. But the bass player wasn’t really into practicing, so after a while, we told John Robert he had to buy himself a bass guitar since he was our closest friend and we needed to replace this other guy. That’s when it started, and it resulted in the three of us forming bands like Lengsel and Ganglion, before ending up in Extol together, on the “Blueprint Dives” – album. And when Extol split up, we needed a new name, since we all wanted to work on the material that we already had, which ended up on “the Descent”. My guess would be Tor Magne coming up with the name – at least it wasn’t me – but it might be John as well. And as with all such things – we discussed it until we all agreed. 

LH: What’s the next step for Mantric after this pandemic blows over? What can we expect? 
Sveen: When having promoted “False Negative” as much as we can without touring, I guess we’ll just have to get down to writing more material again, while still waiting for an opportunity to play some shows. So I guess it depends on how long this thing will last – perhaps we’ll have enough material to start recording again before this blows over? But I’d sure love to get on the road and do some live shows again, so hopefully, it won’t take too long! 

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