domingo, 25 de octubre de 2015

Interview with Maahlas

If I remember correctly, at the end of last year did the review of the first disc of this very interesting band called Maahlas. From that moment, I had in mind to do an interview with this band. Why did not this interview before? Why do we do now? The answer is simple: Maahlas are working on their new album, so I thought this is the right time to do the interview. And, considering the final result, I think I was right. With you, Levent Ultanor, singer of Maahlas.

Puro Ruido: Hello! Greetings from Cordoba, Argentina. How is everything there? Here Manel, from the blog Puro Ruido (Pure Noise)
Levent: Hello Manel and Puro Ruido. Love that name! All is well here in Oslo; we are having a lovely autumn and heading towards a blistering sub zero winter again… and we can't wait.

PR: Well, let's get down to business. "Nightmare Years" is a great album, so I do not find it strange that have harvested many good reviews worldwide. But what follows from now on? From what I read, you are composing and rehearsing for a new album entitled "Cypher", right?
L: Thank you so much. We are very satisfied with Nightmare Years. And the attention it has gotten from around the world has surprised us. Its such a boost to get such reviews from people who obviously love but also know music.
What follows is as you have gathered; CYPHER. Thats still a working title but i'm starting to feel more and more that it will stick.

PR: Through Facebook, we can read and know when and where Maahlas formed. But why was born the band? What was it that motivated you to create this group so singular?
L: Well… there was really no conscious intention behind creation of Maahlas. As you probably know, Cuno is the mastermind behind the project. And he can't help but produce ridiculous amounts of ridiculously excellent riffs. I mean.. I myself AM a fan :)
As to how we got together… Cuno first invited me to do vocals on a song; just for fun. I agreed to do it; but i hadn't written lyrics for the song (writing is a very long process for me), so he just gave me some old lyrics one of his old friends had written; “Wizard and the West Passage”. Not my kind of topic nor style of writing but anyway, long story short; we had a fun time recording it and thought it turned out quiet good considering next to no rehearsals. After that Cuno put together most of the material on Nightmare Years and convinced me that we can make it a monster together. And it did take time, plenty frustration and many long nights, but we did it.

PR: How is the songwriting process? That is, how do they work when creating new songs? They start with a basic idea, and from there made everything together? Or Cuneyt made music, and Levent  the lyrics and vocal melodies? 
L: Yes, Cuneyt makes all the music… he writes the drums and the bass lines too… Hell, If he could sing he would do that too, then i wouldn't be writing this interview :)
Sometimes he writes a song in one night (for example… Nightmare Years), other times a song will take days and days til perfection. Towards the end of the process we sit down and listen and play with details together… He is a very humble musician for his talents and abilities. He is so far the only one i have worked with who 100% pushes the music forward and not his ego. If a suggestion from me or his wife or his cat would be better for the song he would say “man thats better, lets do that” and trash his original idea.
At the same time he really knows exactly what works and what just doesn't and could hear and torture me with a 1/64th timing error til i got it just right :)
On the other side i torture him for months with my obsessions about the story and lyrics, the syllables and the phrasing fitting a particular pattern i want… Its pure hell. And at the end not many know what i'm talking about anyway :)

PR: I have read reviews where the critic finds it difficult when classifying Maahlas music. But I like that there is no definitive tag for the music that you make. Was that the idea from the beginning? Create extreme music, but not to be Black Metal, nor Death Metal, and be all that at the same time?
L: Not really… there was never a written down rule with our musical thinking. Cuno has his particular style but its really not a formula like many other bands… he really does meld with his musical inspirations and create something quiet unique. We don't even think its extreme music; there is some blast beat roughness on the album but we really feel that its actually very mild and melodic. I think that might have a lot to do with our choice of the mastering style. The first master we got was so sharp and rough; we just turned to each other with raised eyebrows, and with no words said, “woow, thats way hard” to each other. So after we went through many, many mixes, many written guidelines for our mastering engineer and 3-4 rounds of mastering we managed to mild it down and got the final sound we wanted.

PR: Continuing with the previous question, limits are self-imposed to create songs? Or prefer feel free and do what you want to do without worrying about the others?
L: I can honestly say that we just do this for ourselves… We couldn't function like this otherwise… Don't misunderstand, we love it that people like what we do, we really enjoy that and it does give it all a meaning. Its all about communication; if you like our work, we feel heard. That means a lot.
For example; I hope you have noticed that there are no repeating choruses on the album. Even though the lyrics have the same melody and rhythm, the words are always evolving with the story… My thinking is that i have just so many words to convey my story in a song and I don't have time for catchy repeating, easy to sing choruses which people will jump up and down singing… Business wise, and strategically its a very bad idea… but we really are not good strategists :)

PR: Question regarding the line-up. Lucass has become a full time member of Maahlas? Or record the drums on the new album and then continue as a duo?
L: We are still a duo as of today; but Lucass has been putting in a lot of good work for Maahlas and seems to really want to be a full time member; so we will see what time will bring. In the meantime after having, unsuccessfully, auditioned many guitar players, we have also met a guitar player to match Cuno; we are very excited with this new line up and practicing for a gig in Oslo in January as well as writing the new songs for the next album. The single is not far away ;)

PR: You define yourselves as an independent band. What are the reasons why you choose to be independent? Artistic freedom? Manage your own time?
L: Both. But also remember that we are a relatively new band. We realize, thanks to reviews as from Puro ruido and others, that we create good music, but we are lousy at self promotion… We need to get more material out; music and other media, play a zillion concerts and get noticed. If we get the attention of a powerful label, theres no reason why we won't consider what they can do for us. Oh we have a vision for a Maahlas live show that will make you think you died and went to metal heaven :)

PR: Well, last question. Many fans of the old school are complaining because the current music is not like the Metal from 30 or 40 years ago. But it should not be so? I mean, do not believe it is healthy and positive that Metal music has diversified and varied with over the years?
L: Well i'm with you Manel; I truly don't get those guys… I mean, seriously, don't they evolve? Doesn't their ears want a fresh beat or melody? I do still love some of my childhood favorites but theres just so incredibly much great music out there now, it would be a crime to just listen to one style…

PR: Ok, that's all. Thank you very much for your time, and above all, thank you for your music. Do you want to add anything else?
L: Your welcome Manel but, thank you. You guys really do give us independent (yet undiscovered ;) bands from the frozen edge of the world hope in this jungle of noise.
Please keep in touch with Maahlas and follow us on facebook for updates, previews and release dates.

Long live Puro Ruido!
Levent, Maahlas.

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