Words & Pics: Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media
Having recently completed a successful tour with Firewind, Sweden’s Manimal are watching their profile rise thanks to some incendiary live shows. When you’re acting as main support to guitar wizard Gus G and his band mates, you have to bring your A-game and thankfully Manimal managed it on more than one occasion on the tour. As our review will attest (link below) the Swedes are more than willing to step up to the plate and deliver when it matters.
Playing in support of latest album ‘Trapped in the Shadows’, MGM spoke to the band on their tour bus prior to the London show you see reviewed.
Henrik Stenroos – Guitars (HS)
Samuel Nyman – Vocals (SN)
Kenny Boufadene – Bass (KB)
André Holmqvist – Drums (AH)
MGM: You’re back on tour, you’re playing a new material, admittedly, it’s been what 18 months or so now, since the second album came out. It was also a hell of a long gap between the previous one and that one. Why the 6 year wait?
SN: Yeah, I would say it was various reasons. We all had kids during that time.
KB: We don’t anymore so that’s…
MGM: You sold them to fund the tour?
SN: [laughs] Yes, okay, we bred kids at that time and also 2 of our band members quit the band. Me and Henrik had to find 2 new guys to replace them. That took some time and also we wanted the material to come out really well. So we spent some extra time polishing the new material, so I guess it’s different, many different variables that made it take so long. It was way too long.
MGM: Was it tough finding these guys? Did you come as a package? Did you know each other? You’re a rhythm section and you’re harmonious so..
KB: No, we’re not linked. I actually talked to Henrik. Met him for the first time and because I was in another band and we needed a rehearsal room. And Henrik is kind of responsible for that and in where we live. So we talked and after a while he said like “Hey, I know a guy who needs employees.” So I started working for Samuel and then from there it was like “Hey, do you play bass?” Yeah so I kind of record on the album. And that was my story.
SN: Yeah. And Andre and us go back a couple of years. We played in 2 different bands and we played the same venues of festivals, so we knew each other. So I would say, we found these guys pretty close to ourselves, but we started looking far away, when we found them pretty close.
MGM: So, after the 4 of you got together, when was that?
SN: Like 2014.
MGM: Alright so from the time the 4 of you got together, the album coming around, then was actually a relatively normal period of time. It was just getting to that position where you could actually go to something. And was the material pre-written?
SN: Yeah, it was like that.
MGM: And what about the sounds you’re looking for because, Trapped in the Shadows has a clear influence from Judas Priest and maybe some Queensryche as well? Would that be fair?
SN: Yeah, can’t argue with that.
MGM: Couldn’t really pick 2 better bands to sort of been inspired your music. Is that from childhood likes or is it a sound you’re particularly looking for?
SN: I would say, a combination of both. I think the main sound is from our previous, our childhood idols like Introspriest, Chris Fark as well as Rammstein, maybe it’s newer bands and also I would say the German power metal scene, bands like Helloween, Camereen.
MGM: In terms of that sound, I mean your producer (Achim Koehler, Primal Fear and Brainstorm), he’s worked with a typical sort of bands that you would expect to, would want to emulate and play along sides. And again, presumably, a choice that you guys had come up with, you really wanted to work with–
KB: Of course, yeah. We knew he had worked with Primal Fear for example.
SN: Yeah. And we like the sound, yeah. And also we thought that the new album had more power riffs, more heavy riffs. We needed that kind of sound to get the album to sound as we wanted it to. Therefore, we turned to Achim Koehler.
KB: He did a great job.
SN: Yeah. He did a great job.
MGM: He gives you that really big sound as well, doesn’t it?
SN: Yeah, for sure.
MGM: And it sounds like you’ve spent your entire budget on the producer.
HS: We did.
KB: True story.
MGM: You’ve also got Udo Dirkschneider guesting on The Journey? It’s obvious, it’s him, when you hear the voice. He doesn’t even need to be introduced on the track. “Oh yeah, we know who that guy is.” How did that come about?
SN: We’re both on the same music label. We have the same publisher in Germany. So, it came naturally. We were sitting down and discussing this, me and Henrik and we wanted to have somebody doing some guest performance on the album, either a guitarist or a vocalist. And then we started to think which vocalist around us were reachable and also would contribute with something to the song because we had picked the song before we picked which guest we wished for. And then, yeah, it all came down to Udo, so we sent a request through our publisher and he responded, etc. “Why not?” And so we did this song and it came out really well.
You hope for it to come out well, of course. But, you never know when you leave your baby to somebody else and then– [Laughs] and have them to look after it and you hope that they’re treated well. You never know, but it came out over expectations I would say.
MGM: Was it a face to face thing or was it a case that is often the way these days, you send them the mix in the mail and you get them back.
SN: Yeah. It was like that. I only spoke with him via email. So there’s no direct contact, unfortunately.
HS: But we knew him before.
SN: Yeah, we knew him from before and he knew about us because we did 2 shows with U.D.O. in Czech Republic in like 2010. So he knew about us. We weren’t strangers to him.
MGM: Gotcha. And given you’ve now set the bar quite high with guests on your albums, who else, if you have the option, apart from Rob Halford obviously.
AH: Yeah, check.
HS: Maybe KK Downing could join us.
MGM: Ken Downing came to watch the band at one of the shows on the UK tour. I saw the photo on your Facebook page.
SN: I don’t know what the tour manager thought when we wrote “Ken Downing plus one” on our guest list. Maybe, I guess he thought like, “Yeah sure, yes good luck.” Yeah, we sent him an invitation through Henrik, who knows this woman. She was your customer when you worked in a record shop and she was always talking about this, “Hey! I know a guy who plays in a band as well.” “Yeah, who’s that?” “Yeah, it’s Ken Downing in Judas Priest. You know them?” Yeah. Henrik say, “I’m a big fan.”
HS: Sort of.
SN: So now, when we were in Wolverhampton seas, Henrik knew that Ken has a place close to over Wolverhampton and then Henrik contacted this woman and asked for– you can always send an invitation to him and tell him that we will write him on the guest list. And then he turned up, you know?
MGM: Just a photo opportunity or did he get on stage with you?
HS: Unfortunately, no.
KB: He watched the entire show, though.
SN: Yeah, he did and he liked our CD because that was the first part. I got a mail from him that he was writing about our CD and it’s really good. It’s really good.
MGM: You can’t ask for a better recommendation. It’s like getting the seal of approval from the Queen.
SN: You can call me Sir now.
MGM: No? What about another guest, a vocalist as Ken’s not going to sing is he?
SN: When you took Rob Halford away from me, yeah, I can come up with anybody else, yeah?
SN: Yeah. Maybe Michael Kiske. He was one of my first role models when it comes to vocalists. I listened a lot to Helloween back in the days, when I was young. I still love the sound of his voice.
MGM: You’re pretty excited knowing that he’s getting back together with the band late this year?
SN: Yeah, we bought tickets. Already bought tickets for his screening show, yeah.
MGM: Looking at the latest album, how’s that seen the band evolve from what you had with the debut? The gap is quite long and the debut I presume also contained a lot of ideas that you had in years earlier than that as well.
So given, by the time you guys joined, the album was almost wrapped in sort of a 12, 15-month window.
SN: I would say, the new songs are more straightforward and more focused on strong vocal harmonies and good heavy riffs, which is what we like. And also, just like the first album, we like to experiment with tempos and rhythms. So, we don’t get the feeling of that you’ll listening to the same song all through the album. We like each song to be it’s own. So, I would say, more focused album and at the same time more straightforward, less progressive, I would say. Even though, there are still progressive elements in there, but less progressive, more straightforward.
MGM: The market for it is definitely growing at the moment. You knew, you guys must be playing to bigger crowds now when you would imagine you would’ve done some 3, 4 years ago, for example.
KB: That’s a revival.
MGM: Maybe that gap is a good thing. Keep coming back when the scene is really flourishing.
HS: The first one to say it. [Laughs]. Good point.
AH: And I think it’s the new song. It’s very important that they work out live.
KB: Yeah, we got to focus on live.
SN: We see ourselves as a live band mainly. And Manimal should be seen live, experienced live. Therefore, we have that in mind when we write the material, if it doesn’t work live then maybe we should skip it.
MGM: Is the majority of the live set from that one is opposed to the debut?
HS: More. We have still 2 old songs.
KB: 3. 3 old songs
SN: Yeah. Probably. Since there are more up tempo beat songs in the new album. Therefore, they are more suitable for a live set, we think. So it’s not a matter that we think that the older songs, they don’t– that the new songs are better or something. It’s just that we think in the live situation, we think they fit better in the sets, the up tempo songs.
MGM: What about new material? 18 months in, you’ve got to be thinking about album number 3.
KB: Yeah. Definitely.
SN: Yeah. On our way to the tour, we stopped by Hamburg in our record label AFM to discuss the next album. So we have already made plans and settled that it will be released next year. 2018. And when we get back from this tour, we will focus 100% of on the new material. We got maybe, half the songs finished. So we just have to focus on finishing the last couple of songs.
MGM: Good timing, It keeps you fresh in everybody’s mind, especially with the touring work that you’re doing as well. It makes, keeps people aware of you, doesn’t it?
HS: And we’re building a following, touring, which is pretty cool.
MGM: Now, the last couple of questions. The band name. I’m old enough to remember the TV series. Where did the name come from? Because to me, when I hear this, it’s something, well that’s the TV series where the guy turns into a eagle, a snake and everything else.
HS: Sounds cool. [Laughs]
SN: It was a word play with man and animal, you know? And we thought, “Yeah, this is a cool name.” Back then, the internet wasn’t like this now. When you search on Google, you’d find exactly what you’re searching for. Back then, I think it was Yahoo! or something. We searched for “Manimal”. Oh, doesn’t seem to be any hits on that. But it turned out later on, that both there was a French metal band called Manimal and I think they quit now. And also, there was this series which is, from what I’ve heard was more of a less of a flop.
MGM: It was terrible.
MGM: It was really awful.
SN: So we have some comments from American people listening to our songs and seen the name and there references of the name is not that good.
MGM: If you ever look up just the opening credits on YouTube, you see– they put like a synthetic skin over this guy’s hand and put air pipes under it, so the skin would bubbled.
HS: I’ve seen that. Yeah, I’ve seen that.
KB: That’s really something we should do in the video, just because– [Laughs]
HS: No, for live. On summer. [Laughs]
SN: We thought it was a cool name and we looked it up, it seemed pretty unique turned out, it wasn’t. But we will stick with it because we think that–
HS: We’re branding it now.
SN: Yeah, we still think it’s a cool name and we will reclaim it. [Laughs]
MGM: I was going to say, any other problem that could’ve had, of course, was the French band.
HS: Oh, yeah.
MGM: Because you say, they would spare you that name?
HS: Yeah. But we were first. We are a couple of years before them.
SN: Yeah. But at the same time, I’m probably sure they made us aware of this that it can be in worst case scenario, there can be a law suit. And it’s almost hard to prove who was first and who owns the right for the name and so and so. But we said that we will take that risk.
HS: And we talked to them.
SN: Yeah, we have spoken to them, like “Hey! Great name, guys.” They laughed back. Through internet, we send emails and stuff. So, they had no problems with sharing the name.
MGM: And of course, you’ve already played dates in the UK on this particular tour. From looking at the photos that you’ve been putting up on the various dates, it’s been a blast. You guys had a great reception.
KB: Yeah, really good, Really good.
AH: Beyond expectations.
SN: Yeah, far beyond.
HS: Because we thought that Germany was like the place to be for us. But it turns out, England is too. It was really good, yeah?
MGM: It’s this type of music that’s really driving a movement. You have a lot of people coming to see you. When are we getting you back?
HS: Well, as we said next year we’re going to release a new album. So, we’ll try to work something out.