Although the band was founded in 1996 (under the name Manticore) and has released eight high-profile albums so far, they are still little known. They are still classified as an insider tip in the Power / Speed Metal area. That could also be related to the fact that they made themselves rare for a while. There were eight years between album No. 7 (Safe) and No. 8 (To Kill To Live To Kill). But now only two years have passed and the ninth album “To Live To Kill To Live” is out. So let’s ask the band about it.
MHF: Hello. I’m Rainer and I write for the Metalhead Forever Magazine. Thank you for letting me do this interview with you. How are you?
Lars: Hi Rainer. No problem at all. Doing fine here – just back from vacation, so batteries are re-charged and I’m all ready to promote the new album.
MHF: Manticora have been around for almost 25 years and have released eight albums so far. Still, you are little known. Please introduce yourself briefly and say something about the history of the band.
Lars: I would say that a band who has sold more than 50.000 albums, is known around the world – some places more than others, of course. 😊
Manticora was formed on May 17th, 1997 to be accurate. Kristian and I played together in a band, called Fear Itself, and when that band split up, we decided to carry on with the style of music, we wanted to play (which is what you’re hearing now). We have toured Europe 9 times and toured North America 2 times. We also played in Japan, as well as playing at Wacken (2 times), Sweden Rock Festival, Copenhell and a lot of other festivals in Europe.
MHF: As far as I know, there are currently two founding members in the band. How did the two manage to find suitable colleagues again and again?
Lars: Well, it’s a matter of doing the correct research, I guess. The guys that have been allowed into the band, have been listened to very thoroughly and also tested on their social skills. You know – no one likes to play in a band with Mr. Douchebag, haha. Also, Kristian and I are both very easy-going people – determined, but easy-going – so we don’t really demand that much from other people than mutual respect, self-control (alcohol consumption, for instance), and a wish to expand one’s musical horizon. The skills can be taught by rehearsing a lot – which is something we also practice.
MHF: How would you describe your sound? Are there any musical role models?
Lars: Influences in the early days were bands like: Metallica, Helloween, Slayer, Testament, Savatage, Gamma Ray, Nevermore, Blind Guardian a.o., but a lot of other influences have hit us during our musical career, which also means that our music is very diverse and estranged from that early period of time…bands like Dream Theater, Pain Of Salvation, Symhony X, System Of A Down and other progressive bands come into mind.
Our musical style is so diverse that it actually sometimes become a problem, since the journalists don’t really know how to label us….and if they are just a tad narrow-minded, they don’t seem to get the music at all. To me, it’s all about exploiting all genres and the musical universe without boundaries. I hate to listen to an album, where all 10-12 songs are within the exact same genre. It really gets boring.
So, to summon up: We play Heavy Metal!
MHF: I saw you live in Hamburg in 2014. In the report I wrote: “The last release was already four years ago and it is slowly time for a successor.” But it took another four years until the release of “To Kill To Live To Kill”. Why was the pause after “Safe” so long?
Lars: Well, writing a novel of 334 pages (+ translating it into English) and writing a double concept album on that same novel does take its time, I guess. We were very focused on not rushing anything. We had no deadline and wanted to do this the 100% correct way without a label, breathing down our necks for a new release. So we have really re-arranged all songs numerous times, until we felt absolutely sure, there’d be no more to alter for the songs to be perfect (in our minds). So from 2014, we spent around 3 years to complete things and the rest of the time was spent, recording, mixing and promoting part one + the book.
MHF: In 2018 the novel “To Kill To Live To Kill” was written by singer Lars F. Larsen. Where did he get the inspiration for this book from?
Lars: I was attacked by 3 assholes back in 1999, where I broke my chin-bone and my nose. All for no apparent reason, than being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I have had nightmares and mental trauma (I believe some kind of PTSD) for 10 years. Then someone (I believe it was my brother), told me to sit down and write something about the attack, as it would help me to get better. It could be anything. I took his advice and sat down, and began to write how I’d eliminate these 3 cocksuckers in my imaginary basement in my imaginary house of evil. Later on, I had a dream about this young Chinese boy, standing on a small hill with a Katana sword, chopping up insects in the air….and then the story suddenly developed into something more than just fragments, and I thought to myself: “Hey Lars – this is actually turning into a novel”.
I presented the idea to Kristian in 2014 after the tour, and we made a decision to do this huge concept. The rest is history.. 😊
For the record: I haven’t had a single nightmare or trace of PTSD, since I pressed the final “enter”, to finish the book!!!
MHF: Please tell us briefly about the content of the book.
Lars: The storyline is divided into 3:
A story of a ruthless hitman, murdering his “clients” (as he calls them).
A story of a complete psychopath, who kills people for fun.
A story of a Japanese Katana sword that goes back to the 15th century – a sword that demands blood.
All 3 stories are of course intertwined.
MHF: Based on this novella you wrote the songs for the double concept album “To Kill To Live To Kill” (2018) / “To Live to Kill to Live” (2020). How did you go about the songwriting?
Lars: All songs were created on Manticora weekend writings, as we called them. We’d meet up on Friday afternoons after work at Kristian’s place (he has a small studio set-up).
We met up, had a cup of coffee and went each our way for an hour. There was one rule: The bpm was set for the song we were about to compose, but other than that, everyone had complete free hands to compose anything they wanted and any way them wanted to do it, as well.
Kristian would take a walk with a dictaphone. I’d be sitting in the living room with an acoustic guitar (that’s how I write riffs). Sebastian would sit in the mini-studio and Stefan mostly sat in an adjacent room, doing riffs on both guitar and dictaphone.
We met up after an hour – recorded ALL riffs into Kristian’s computer (Cuebase), and laid down drums (that we all agreed upon – but a lot of these drums were changed later) and then we began gluing things together. This went on until Sunday morning, and at most of these weekend happening, we had minimum 1 song written.
We had a large whiteboard, where all titles were written and it developed alongside the writing of the book (which was written at the same time as the music). Yes, it was a huge project, but allowing ourselves to take the time to do it this way, we managed to keep track of it all..:-)
MHF: How did you come up with this word game with the two album titles?
Lars: It was something I had in mind from the beginning, when I realized that I was actually writing a book instead of just fragments of how to kill people… 😊
MHF: How hard is it for you that you can’t go on tour with the new album because of the corona pandemic?
Lars: It’s complete bullshit, but I guess we’ll just have to be patient, like everybody else. I don’t want to delve into my views on how to solve this shit, as a lot of people would probably be offended, hahahaha.
MHF: There is a big Rock and Metal scene in Denmark. Do you have contacts with other bands?
Lars: Yeah, we know a lot of bands around the country. After almost 25 years of existence, you tend to build a good network.
MHF: If you include the first year that you existed under the name “Manticore”, then you will celebrate your 25th anniversary next year. Do you have something special planned for this occasion?
Lars: The 25 year-anniversary will be in 2022, so we might have something special up our sleeve, but time will tell. Right now, everything is just so damn insecure, due to that Covid-19 crap. No one can really plan ahead, as we don’t know when the scientists are ready with some kind of vaccine… ☹
MHF: How will the band go on in the next few years? Are there any other albums planned?
Lars: We are not going to start anything up until we know about the situation ahead of us. It’s time to tour around the world, but an unknown enemy is holding us back, so we’ll have to get rid of that invisible wall first.
MHF: Thank you again for the interview. Finally, do you want to say something to the fans?
Lars: Thank you, Rainer.
We surely hope that this new album won’t disappoint, as we have put so much heart and soul into it. It’s even released as a triple-gatefold vinyl with both the albums from the concept on it – the first ever Manticora vinyl! So please take a listen and support the band, by buying the music/merchandise.
Kristian Larsen – Guitars
Lars F. Larsen – Vocals
Stefan Johansson – Guitars
Kasper Gram – Bass
Lawrence Dinamarca – Drums