"A New Era Begins"
There is a in-depth interview with maNga by Sadi Tirak in Blue Jean Magazine's January 2014 issue. This is the first interview of the new album. They have finished recording and are waiting for the mixes/mastering from abroad.
Sadi Tirak (of Blue Jean mag) visits maNga at their new studio for this interview. He is welcomed by Cem at the entrance of the two-storied studio. He says, "Come on in! The guys are upstairs!". This is almost like a headquarters of the band. He greets Yagmur. He says, "Bro, you make yourself at home, I have some work to do, then I'll be right back!" and he gets inside the control room, with two sound technicians. Cem fixes some coffee for him. Because it's freezing cold outside. And Ferman enters with a bottle of wine in his hands, "I didn't keep you waiting long, right?" he asks. "Have some wine, let's get warm".
Ozgur isn't around. Ferman and Sadi start chattering. Ferman's vocal are heard from the next room where Yagmur is. "Sari saclarini deliii gonlumeee...". Sadi gets startled and asks Ferman what Yagmur is doing. He smiles and explains that they covered "Mihriban" for the tribute album for Musa Eroglu. He says "Yagmur is trying to finalize the recording".
5-10 minutes later, Yagmur finishes the urgent portion of his work and gets out the room. He says, "Bro, you can start listening to the album, come inside."
Sadi gets inside. Even though these are not the final version of the album, it's quite enough to get what to expect from the album. During this interview, they haven't decided on the titles of the album and the songs yet. So the titles are like "Track No.01" on the Mac screen in front of him. He starts listening and Yagmur leaves him alone in the room to provide him with a comfortable listening atmosphere. When he listens to the album half way, Ozgur finally shows up. He waves to him.
Sadi finishes listening and goes to the next room where the band members waiting for him to start the interview below.
Here we go...
BJ: When was the first moment you thought "e-akustik is over and we start a new album"? How did it all start?
Cem: In fact, it started with this studio. We started building it slowly in the middle of 2012 and our first recording was in here around November-December 2012.
Ozgur: "e-akustik" was released in the middle of 2012. We spent the summer of 2012 in concerts. I've seen in the photos I had taken here the other day, that we had started drum recording around October-November 2012.
BJ: How do you describe the creation process?
Ferman: For the first time we feel that it all belongs to us in this album. Of course we do not decide on eveything. All in all, it's a process where you sign on with a production company and with all the marketing techniques. But for the first time we feel so free, both in the production and in our creation process. Every one of us feels quite at ease...in fact we had some outrageous ideas. Not anything as Duman did like going to Ireland, but maybe go to south, rent a house and give it a try...Because after a while what can you possibly find as an inspiration? In my opinion, I didn't think that this studio would be such an inspiration, but everything was so right...We had recorded drums downstairs at an unexpected moment. Even this shows that how it all was so right...I mean all the architectural designs we came up with provided us with an acoustics and all of a sudden unexpectedly we did all the drum recording downstairs. Many similar examples like this connected us to here.
Cem: We used to come here at night in the creation period and we were doing 3,5-4 hour-recording sessions. And then we reviewed all of them to pick some parts that we thought would be useful, like "this is not bad", "this is nice", "we can use this", etc... Actually we discovered how far we could go during this period, with no limits and no plans in our minds. This is completely how we expressed what we felt in that moment and how we described the energy we created in that moment.
Ferman: During the first albums, Yagmur and I used to bring the 80% of the songs from home and Yagmur did the pre-production of the 60-70% of them at home. Yagmur felt comfortable at home, could provide the necessary environment at home. I was like that, too. We used to gather at the studio again, but not for the creation, just for going through what we did at home. But it's just the opposite here. I mean, everyone started to come here and create something here.
We brought some ideas of 4-5 songs from home this time, too, but not much.
Yagmur: 2013 was very busy year for us. Especially many things have happened here in Istanbul. We also went through a series of happenings among us in the band. This is an album where we disentagled ourselves, because we had really got tangled up. We had over-professionalized and our communication with one another got weaker. For a band, that is one of the worst things that could happen. The next step is breaking up. We saw that danger and we had to make some decisions.
BJ: Can we say that this album saved you from breaking up?
Yagmur: Kind of. Even if we didn't break up, we could've started doing bad work or working just for bread and butter. After a while the people wouldn't buy and then maybe we might have broken up. So we think that this is completely "a comeback album".
BJ: How did you get that "comeback" feeling?
Cem: In fact, we go full circle and come to the studio again. It created an aura to be full time at the studio. It has enabled us to connect and hold on to one another.
Ferman: This is like our coffee shop. There is this thing about the bands who play live; after the album release, as the number of concerts increase, you start to change the songs. Because you reach a different vocal technique and you freshen up the song. Yagmur disarranges the usual melody and makes some improvisations. So do Cem and Ozgur. The songs evolve. We always went through this evolving process after the release unfortunately. It's an incredible luxury to have a rehearsal studio, because we record, play, after playing we delete (?) the recording and record again. We start to change it playing over and over again.
BJ: So you say that you had this evolving process at the studio before the concerts, right?
Ferman: It's a great luxury, very nice experience. In that way, the songs kind of brew.
BJ: How free are you when you create the songs? For instance, do you practice self-censorship in the lyrics? Or how effective is the desire to grab people in the process of creating songs?
Yagmur: If you appeal to the general audience, there are some rules of the game. Not only in Turkey, but all over the world. But now WE create these rules by ourselves, without someone forcing us to comply, such as "What should we do?", "Which song should we launch with?", "Which song would be a better promotion for the album?", etc... For that matter, since we know now the marketing part of the deal, we can make reliable decisions now. But in the beginning, we don't think about any formula, or something else. In other albums, there was some formulation, but this time we have put forth our feelings without any initial filtering. You can't insist like "I wanna play it this way!", because you make polyphonic music and your area should be compatible with the areas of the other members. And also, for the first time, we didn't think like "Let's make it short so that it would be appealing for the radios.". But we didn't do the opposite, either. We didn't feel like "We'll make our hardest album!", either. We let it to be hard where it should be hard and also soft where it should be soft. The most important thing about the sound is that we recorded everything as much as possible. We wanted to use synthetic sound as less as possible. Especially we did a very detailed drum recording. And this was reflected in the sound immediately.
Ozgur: I'd like to add to what Yagmur said: Since we make "group music", at some certain points we have to use our personal performances to allow other fellow members to breathe, even if this don't work this way in Turkey. What we'd like to do is, since we're a vocal-based band, not to put the instruments forward, but to make them serve the song in the right way. Previously we couldn't use to do recordings in so much detail. It gives you this comfort to have your own studio, because there is no time limitation. We worked with pleasure on all the recordings and we had this opportunity: Before getting into the actual recording of the song, we rehearsed it and worked on the "where and how can we play it?" part easily. It was fun in that sense.
BJ: Ferman, what did you do? You wrote all the lyrics again, right?
Ferman: Almost yes. The 80-90% of them belong to me.
BJ: Do you think "how does people get them?" after writing one verse?
Do you change the verses thinking that they may be taken amiss?
Ferman: I am free enough, but since I have lots of concert experience, I have this in mind unintentionally: How can the audience join us singing along? Sometimes this causes me to change the lyrics. Especially in the launch song, there is a chorus part and I have written that part imagining the audience's accompaniment. How can we sing this part easily together with the audience? But these are very small changes and don't affect the theme of the song. I put any subject that comes to my mind into lyrics.
BJ: The general "it was always that way" kind of mood of the lyrics in this album somewhat mirror the feeling of negativity. "You suffer something and you sing about it" kind of situation...
Ferman: We always had that...
BJ: This became somewhat your style, right? You write like this...
Ferman: Yes yes...I think this is how I start writing lyrics. When there is a problem. I'd rather write lyrics than tweet. When I see some problem, I can't squeeze it into 3-5 sentences. I'm not good at that.
BJ: But you have some pissed-off tweets...(Laughters...)
Ferman: I sometimes try. That's quite another story. Tweeting is a little tricky...
BJ: Let's talk about the sound...I found this album much more electronic. For instance, one song goes on about 3-3,5 minutes just electronically. You don't have a thought such as "maNga is a rock band.", right?
Ferman: I think this is the most open-minded album of ours. We broke down all our prejudices. We have this song, "Once Upon A Time" or whatever the name will be... The song that we don't know its name yet...(he laughs.) I think that everyone will scrutinize its lyrics. I don't know what it is. I don't call it "grunge", but it started in that mood.
Yagmur: It's about being minor scale or major scale. The most of our songs have minor tonality; that is, sad, gloomy, depressive. But for the first time in this album we have 3-4 major (bright or joyful) songs. We tried something even a little like Seattle major and we were very surprised. This was something that we didn't have in our general structure. I can say in my field that we used a lot old school guitar sound, even a little grunge...or something a little more blues. We think that this is the most optimistic album we've ever made. Of course there are some darker timbres and lyrics in some songs.
BJ: In this respect, I think it's closer to the first album...
Yagmur: Yes yes... It makes you feel enthusiasm. It's certainly very different from "Sehr-i Huzun". We can say that.
BJ: For example, "Does Anyone Have Extra Love?" has the same format with "You'll Draw A Woman"...
Ferman: Yes yes, it has that mood.
BJ: Is that why you want to launch the album with it?
Ferman: We wanted to pay homage to the past...
Cem: But it's not the idea behind the song. It wasn't written with that idea in mind. But later, we kind of thought "Oh yeah, it goes there." And we thought we can pay homage.
Ferman: After we decided on animation for the music video, we actually thought about it as a whole. I mean, it was going to be an animation; it wasn't a song that will be played only on radio or player; it would have a visual aspect to it, so we tried to put timbres that suits it and tried to change its form.
Yagmur: But we're doing it deliberately now, since because it's our own formula. Sometimes I say to Ferman, "Bro, you perform rap...you haven't done it in a long time." We had our signatures. He was that way in the first album, but in the second he moved away from rap. "e-akustik" hasn't that sound at all. We missed our first version; we missed our formula, so we'd thought let's go back to the way we were, when we were 23-24 years old.
BJ: Let's talk about the post-production after the recording...You've sent the recordings abroad...
Ferman: We have sent the mix for the first time. There was a time we had sent it for the mastering before, but the mix is a first.
Ferman: It can't be done here. (Laughters...)
Yagmur: The mixing is very personal and also very artistic. You send the album to 5 different sound engineers and you get utterly different versions from each of them. It's up to you to evaluate them as good or bad. For instance, I naturally listen to the album constantly all throughout the year. The other day I made a calculation and came to a conclusion that I listened to it over 2000-3000 times. And then you're starting to be subjective. Some things settle in your ears and it becomes something like a law. You don't want to hear anything else.
Cem: You think that everything but that form sounds very ugly.
Yagmur: This is a danger. I didn't want to take this risk. I said in the first place, "Let's allocate a budget for mixing and we don't let anyone of the team do it." Because I did the mixing of "e-akustik" myself with the sound engineer in the next room. It turned out to be good, but we thought that we had to give it a try. Because the professional bands generally get someone else do the mixing and the mastering.
Cem: Also, they do the recordings in separate studios.
Yagmur: They record the drums here, guitars there...
Ferman: Because they have a lot of money... (Laughters...) They're like "Where the hell should we spend it?" (Laughters...)
BJ: In a nutshell, we can say "It's a new beginning for maNga", can't we?
Yagmur: Yes... In the first album, we tried and tested everything. Some people liked it, some people didn't. In "Sehr-i Huzun", we were like "let's get matured and do some slow songs". In this one, we have a bit of both; there is the mood of "Sehr-i Huzun" where the lyrics were romantic and well-written and the mood of the first album where the songs were energic. With that, in this one there is a better sound than the first two.
Personally, I witnessed all the phases of the album the most as the producer of the album. I'm thinking that this is the best work of maNga where the band discovered itself...in terms of music and lyrics, as well as in attitudes... And we'd like to celebrate it with good videos and many concerts.
Ozgur: Sometimes it's really hard to make sense and put it into words. You think you can't express it sufficiently. So I'd like to give a good example. It was a pleasant album. In short, this is the only album where we could express ourselves with our blood and sweat. And I find it very sincere because I know and feel how the guys felt during the creation process; and what kind of feelings those lyrics and music arose from. Actually the most important thing for me is, no matter what work of art is, sincerity. Don't we deal with all these to express ourselves in the end, right? It was fun in this respect.
Cem: I want to tell a complete outsider's observation. I'm not a type who can easily like and say "I fell in love with this song, great!". In any case, I always remain aloof and nitpick minor faults. Someone who observed me from the outside and knew me for a long time said to me "This is the first time I see you so excited about something you did". This summarizes all for me.
Ferman: In short, for me this is the most honest work of ours.
THE BOMBSHELL OF KENAN DOGULU
The one of the bombshells of the maNga's new album, is the duet with Kenan Dogulu. The meeting of the two parties is thanks to Yagmur's wife, Nathalie. Because she is one of the choreographers of Kenan Dogulu. When the band offered the duet to Dogulu, they got a very enthusiastic feedback from him who likes maNga very much. They wrote the parts Kenan performed jointly. During this interview, the name of the song wasn't certain yet, but it will probably be the second song they'll make a video.
SOME OTHER REMARKS
- They see the parting with their previous production company Gergedan as a regeneration the both parties needed. They emphasize that it turns into a family relationship to work together with the same people for a long time and causes some blockage.
- As for the contract with Poll Productions which is mainly known for the deals with pop singers, they say it was because of the fact that they always wanted to appeal to the general and the owner of the company Polat Yagci's friendly attitude towards the band.
- They explain that the partition of Efe was because of the musical dispute among them. Ferman says, "Efe's primary function was scratch sounds, but in this album there is no scratch sound. Yagmur has been already creating the electronic sound". Yagmur adds, "I don't wanna say anything negative about the people we worked before, because they helped us a great deal reach this day. But maNga is reborn now".
- They don't want the people to perceive the parts with the electronic timbres as a challenge to Efe.
- They used a line from the old Turkish movie "A Time To Love" for a song that they plan to name "Hint Kumasi" ("Indian fabric" in Turkish, idiom: the bee's kness), but if they can't solve the copyright issue, they may remove that line.
- In the album, there is a song that Yagmur wrote and did backing vocals. It's one of the outstanding songs of the album in terms of the music and the lyrics. Yagmur wrote this song for his wife. After the first listening, Ferman said "we should put this one in the album!".
- There is another song in the album in the format of a folk song. When Ferman went to Sivas for his TV show Kulaktan Kulaga that he made for TRT Muzik, he found this folk song. And maNga turned it into something interesting with an ambient mood. The folk song belonged to Ferman's great grandfather. The song doesn't have a name yet. Ferman called it "Yaranmaz Ask". His uncles said "Call it whatever you like". And he thought this name would be appropriate for a song that was sung 20-30 years ago.
- They picked Michael Patterson for the mixing of the album. Yagmur have done an extensive reseach on the internet and believed he would be the right name. Patterson has worked with various bands such as Limp Bizkit and Nine Inch Nails before.
- MaNga has concentrated on the man-woman relationships rather than the songs with social references like "I'm a Clown" or "Alisirim Gozlerimi Kapamaya / I Get Used to Close My Eyes". Ferman thinks that this is more suited to the overall fairytale-like sound of the album. When pointed out that everyone expected from the band some protest songs after the Gezi protests, they expressed that they supported the protests directly going to the park. They believe that this is a big social movement and a beautiful explosion for a democratic future and it has an aspect to it so romantic that it just can't be attributed to one wing. They don't find it sincere to make a song about Gezi saying "Come on, let's make a song for Gezi!". Nevertheless, Ferman says "There is still some lyrics in the album that touch the subject like "I turned on the TV and things are crazy again!" or "nonsense to be united, everyone got his cut".
- They covered the folk song "Mihriban" for the tribute album for Musa Eroglu which will be out soon. They say that they added some color to the song without spoiling the song's original chemistry.
Last note: The new album is expected to be released in January 2014.
Interview by Sadi Tirak, Blue Jean Magazine
Translated humbly by Inci