DH: As a begin could you please tell me a little bit about your artistical development. How did Mana ERG start out?
Mana ERG started out because I didn’t like what was happening to the electronic/industrial scene. The most popular bands in the genre were (and still are) so full of clichés, dance beats and tunes for little children… I was running a small recording studio at the time, so I was in touch with many musicians playing different genres. I asked the ones that I liked the most if they wanted to do something different…and so Mana ERG was born.
DH: Why did you choose the name Mana ERG? What do you want to express with the name?
The words Mana and ERG are totally unrelated to each other. “Mana” in Polynesian cultures is some supernatural, or should I say “extra” natural force that an object or a person may possess. Some “out of the ordinary” quality about something or someone that makes them special. “ERG” on the other hand is the unit of measure of kinetic energy. So one word indicates something rather vague, not fully understandable by logic, almost magical; while the second one is a scientific term that can only refer to something precisely measurable, something that is very “western” and rational. These two contradictory elements are both present in my mind and, as a consequence, in our music. I suppose I could have chosen two completely different words to express the same concept, but when I put these two together they sounded just right…
DH: How do you generelly create a song? Are there any rules, ideas that are initiating the process of writing a song?
It’s almost always the “ERG” element that starts a song. What I mean is that I almost invariably start with a sequenced loop: it can be a synth, a bass, a drum loop or all of these, and the result is a very clinical, mechanical sound. Sometimes nice and clever, but basically dead and meaningless. The lyrics are often scribbled in a hurry while I work at my day job. Working part-time at a major international airport, I get a chance to talk to many people from many different countries. These people can often be distressed, ill, desperate, furious, crazy, scared…it’s hard to believe what can happen during an “ordinary” day at an airport…My songs are often based on stories that these travellers tell me. My lyrics are full of their sentences…
The next step in the construction of a song is to try to sing these lyrics over the loops I’ve already got, while playing the guitar, until they sound right. Later on in the process my collaborators Joe (Erber) and Tiberio, who are my production assistants, add extra keyboards and guitars, while my DJ friend Lee (Stacey) sometimes adds some groovy drum loops on top of mine. The result can be quite nice, but very often I feel that something vital is still missing. These songs can remain in limbo for weeks, if not months, then one day something happens that I can’t really explain. It’s the “mana” effect if you like…It’s like a sudden intuition that has nothing rational about it: my mind seems to go into a trance and my hands seem to know what to do. At the end of this process the song is completely transformed, sometimes beyond recognition. It was like a robot, and now it’s like a living thing…If you asked me what I did to it exactly, I wouldn’t know what to say. It’s the plain truth: I wrote the song, performed it, recorded it and I just don’t have a clue as to how I did it.
DH: Your music seems to me as combining a lot of different styles - mainly electronic with industrial and ambient soundscapes. Can you describe your music style in your own words? Why do you make exactly this kind of music?
I think that music nowadays has been divided into too many categories and genres. Our music is not pure Industrial. It’s not pure anything really… We are only trying to make music for people who live on this planet in the 21st century, using all available “weapons”: electric guitars, computers, classical musicians, coffee machines…anything..
DH: Do you have any bands that had an influence on you and your music in the past?
>br>We have often been compared to the Legendary Pink Dots, which is an honour for us, but until a few months ago I only knew their name and nothing else about them…The bands that influenced me the most are very different: Clock DVA, My Bloody Valentine, Recoil, Laibach, The Residents…
DH: Your new album is called "The Blind Watchmaker". Can you tell us something about the release.
Where did you record the album and how long did it take to record it? The album took 18 months to record in my home studio, and there were times when I thought that I would never finish it. The music was getting more and more complex, almost against my will…We tried the almost impossible task to cross over genres and even generations… I don’t know if we succeded…
DH: There are a lot of electronic experiments on the new album. Do you like experimenting with sounds? Do you think that this makes your music unique and different from other releases and bands?
I don’t consciously want to be “experimental” – Mostly, I try to let myself go and see where the music takes me… I find it a bit funny that some bands sing songs “against” conformity, but their music conforms strictly to the rules of their genre, or even sub-genre…I’m sure there’s lots of good, original, intelligent bands out there, but most labels and distributors don’t want to take risks with them, and so we never find out about them. All that we are encouraged to do is conform, conform, conform…
DH: You are working with a lot of people as guests on your new album. What are the reasons for working together with them. How do get contact to Martin Bowes mastering the new album?
I like having guests in my songs because they can add something unexpected, like a different point of view, or an instrument that I can’t play…As for the mastering, at first I asked Alan Wilder (Depeche Mode, Recoil) because he had enjoyed our previous CD, and I really admire what he does with Recoil. Also, he doesn’t live very far from where we live, in the Sussex countryside, in the South of England. Unfortunately he doesn’t want to use his studio for anybody else. In the end Martin Bowes was a better choice because there are many similarities in the way we work. So I got in touch with him, we got on very well…and the job was done !
DH: On the album there is a song called "Wasps". I like this song very much. What is the song about?
This song can be understood at two different levels. At a personal level, it is about what happened to my house after my father died. At a more general, political level, it’s about what happened to our world when democracy died in America…I sang that song with all my heart. Certainly a dark heart !
DH: Are you planning to play live in Germany? Which further plans do you have with Mana ERG?
At the moment I’m writing the music for a short underground film, and I hope to release an instrumental CD containing the soundtrack and other unreleased material. Then I would really like to release a single with three “not so difficult” songs that maybe would encourage more people to listen to our music… We will be happy to play in Germany if we get the opportunity.
DH: Thank you so much for answering our questions. We wish you good luck for the future. Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?
If you get a chance to listen to Mana ERG, just close your eyes, forget what you read about us, and just let your mind make its own film with many unexpected things happening…
Interview: Andreas Ohle