Interview mit Tor-Helge Skei von Manes

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Four years after „Be All End All“ MANES release „Slow Motion Death Sequence“, a much more mature album. In an interview, Tor-Helge Skei, a pioneer of the Norwegian avant-garde formation, explains why he still sees it as „just another album“ and why he would not change anything about his predecessor, even from today’s perspective.

Besides Asgeir (and Rune) there are four additional vocalists on „Slow Motion Death Sequence“. Could you give us a short overview, who they are and why you invited them to participate?
Asgeir is (and has always been) our ‚main‘ vocalist, but we often work with other people, because different voices matches different moods, but also to ’stir things up‘ a little. Asgeir did the main vocals, Ana Carolina Ojeda (from Mourning Sun) came to the studio and recorded tons of vocals, much more than what we used for the actual album. Rune (our drummer) did some spoken word passages. Anna Murphy (Lethe, ex-Eluveitie, Cellar Darling) had already done vocals for a couple of the songs, that were originally planned for Lethe, but we kept the vocals because they fit perfectly, and had become an important part of the songs themselves. Tom Engelsøy (who have been singing for us on most of our latest concerts) did vocals for one song that didn’t end up on the album, and finally, Rune (Folgerø) recorded a few lines he came up with during earlier live-rehearsals.

The most prominent one is Anna Murphy, known from Eluveitie and Lethe – as a result, the album reminds to Lethe where she comes in. Why did you decide to mix this up?
For some reason, Lethe has always had a strong connection to MANES, almost as if it is another part of the same thing. I like working with her in Lethe, i like her voice, she understands what we want to do, and how we work. So this choice was quite easy. And, as i mentioned earlier, a couple of the songs were initially meant for Lethe. So it might not be too weird that they feel a little Lethe-ish. I personally can’t hear much of that, as i listen to the songs in a completely different way because i have worked with them for so long, and in so many versions.

The album is entitled „Slow Motion Death Sequence“ – what’s the idea behind that title?
Oh.. as with a lot of things – that’s a long-winded story. but generally … it came up as one of several working titles, when we had just started to work on the album. It immediately ‚felt right‘, it had a bunch of alternative interpretations, it had the right amount of darkness to it, and gives the listener a little hint at what direction we want them to look. As soon as the title came up, it influenced how we looked at the music, what we wanted to achieve with the album. So, in that way, we knew it was the perfect title. And ashkan’s artwork strengthened it even more!

What is the album about, and an how important part of the entire piece of art are the lyrics for you?
We don’t have concept- or theme-albums, actually. But we often have an over-hanging feeling or mood we want to put across. We think it’s important to give the listener an ability to put something of themselves into their interpretations, let there be some space to ‚read betweren the lines‘, in a way. So, we give hints, and points in various directions and let the individual do the rest. For me personally, lyrics aren‘t very important, actually. Song titles are important, but not the specific words and their ordering. I focus much more on the feeling you get when listening to the words and phonemes, the sound of it. And different languages give rise to different emotions and moods. Especially languages you don’t understand, like latin or french.

What can we see on the artwork? Can you tell us a bit about the picture in the background and the idea behind that collage?
The idea is ashkan’s. We talked about the album, what we wanted to tell with it, what kind of atmosphere we were looking for, and he came up with some variations of artwork. It fits remarkably well!

How would you describe the album musicwise in comparison to it’s predecessor, „Be All End All“?
Not sure. I can’t hear much differences in the various albums we have released. I hear more of the background things, the time period it was made in, what fascinated us at that time etc., like looking through a family photo album. „Be All End All“ was originally meant as the ‚opposite‘ part of „How The World Came To An End“, as if we were making a yin and a yang, two opposites, and they became two albums. We had a long break inbetween both albums, but decided to finish it, before we started working on a new one.

Musicwise, it is a bit more focussed and coherent then the last album, I’d say – would you subscribe that?
No idea. Musically, the main thing i can hear (i think?) is that there’s a bit more guitars on it, but apart from that, i think of it as „another album“, really. But we were all more involved, as a band, during the finalization of the album, we were more often in the same room, discussing parts and deciding what we should do, etc. Maybe that influenced the final result.

What do you think about „Be All End All“ from today’s point of view – would you do it exactly the same today, or are there things you’d change?
No, I wouldn’t change anything. That is like asking if you would change anything in your earlier life. It became what it became, what it had to become. Like with all albums, we had no goals or things we wanted to achieve, except for making the album, the way we wanted it to be.

You’re playing extremely seldom live – can we expect at least some shows to promote „Slow Motion Death Sequence“?
No, i don’t think so. We will do some appearances and gigs, but no touring. Most importantly, none of us is very interested in that, but also, there’s too much other stuff getting in the way, like family, work, health, and so on.

Thank you for the interview! Please let us do a short brainstorming in the end of this interview. What comes in your mind first reading the following terms:
Donald Trump: politics, pass
Black Metal: a different state of mind
Electronic music: exciting, except for the dance-stuff
Your favorite album at the moment: not sure, probably a Brothomstates-album, maybe ‚qtio‘
MANES in 10 years: still MANES.

Once again thanks for your time. The last words are yours – is there anything left you want to tell our readers?
Listen to the new album, you might like it!

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