May 10, 2014

MaNga Blue Jean Interview / May 2014

MaNga has a recording studio of their own which they call "StudioN" in a gloomy office building in Maslak. There are mainly photo studios in it. MaNga's studio is deep inside the building and you can't tell from outside that it's maNga's sanctuary. Ozgur welcomes Dogu Yucel. Right behind him is a poster of Spa. He shows Dogu around the studio. There is a chat corner upstairs. The carpets are lovely. Downstairs is the recording area. Ozgur half in joke introduces the place as "This is where we create the magic!". 
This studio has been their dream since they moved to Istanbul. We've seen where they make magic. Now we'll find out how they make it. 

Q: We understand that some songs have written in English first. Which songs are they?

O: 'Hint Kumasi' ('Indian Silk') was  'Today', but its vocal melody was transformed a lot. 'Bir Varmis Bir Yokmus' was 'What I've Done'. 'Isiklari Sondurseler Bile' and 'Parti' had also English versions, but we hadn't put a title on them. 'All We Need is Everyone' was transformed into 'Eriyorum Nihayete'. 

Q: Will you record the English versions, too?

Y: Yes. We're working with Stephen Aiello who's the song writer of 30 Seconds To Mars for 'Parti'. He's just sent some samples. We're gonna hold a meeting on Skype, because they're on tour with Linkin Park right now. We're thinking about working with several song writers instead of one on this English album. 

Q: How did you get in touch with 30 Seconds To Mars?

Y: We reached them through our agent TCI in New York. We're very excited, because this is something we've never done before. 

F: He also recorded the song with his own voice. 

C: It's very good actually. 

Y: I personally think that if we can get closer to them in the long term, we can do something together. 

Q: In general, it seems that the keyword for this album is 'hope'. So is the title, 'Even If They Turn Off the Lights'. How did you come up with this title?

Y: We made the song first, but hardly came up with the title. We changed it a lot. We weren't satisfied with it. It didn't reflect the song properly. It was the strongest lyrics that Ferman has ever written. I proposed it to be the title. I said, "That's it!". You can put any kind of philosophy in it. It's so open to anything. We liked it and it became the title. 

F: And then it was the turn for the album cover. 

Y: We liked the cover very much. There is a man diving into the bottom of the sea. But when you turn it upside down it looks like him going up to the surface. There is also a light beam. We were jumping down off the cliffs somewhere (in Antalya). This is one of the photos Charles Richards took underwater. Then we thought that we haven't released an album since 2009, excluding "e-akustik". During this time, Turkey had gone through a lot of things. Everybody was confused. The things were gloomy and pessimistic. When we've seen the cover, we came up with "Even If They Turn Off the Lights". The cover and the title together made us think "OK, we've got a very nice story here!". Even though it seems as the things are going very bad, we shouldn't lose hope! Everybody has to keep their hopes high. After all these years, we wanted to come back more positively with something optimistic, not with "Oh, we're dead, doomed!". There are again some dark songs, but in overall we made songs in a fast tempo, contrary to what we've done so far. 

Q: I wonder what triggered this song.

F: Let's see...The words just came out of my mouth all of a sudden. I even wondered why. Then the rest of the lyrics came out easily like a thread of silk.  

Q: Why is "Even If They Turn Off the Lights", not "Even If The Lights Go Out"? Who is the null subject on the title? Who are "They"?

F: I can't exactly say it. Because until you asked about it... (I've never given it a thought).

C: In fact, it has a general meaning. Anything you can't control and affects your life is "Them". You do nothing. There are fights out there. Everybody's feeling demoralized, depressed and you can't fix it. 

Y: In fact, we like leaving the songs with a loose end. We think this is more magical. You can think about something political, about your own relationship with your girl friend or your father according to your perception. It's more beautiful and universal this way.

F: I did it that way anyway. I started thinking about the opposite sex, but then it went to a more general direction and I felt that it would be more significant that way. I was like "I have so many wounds that more than that is not possible; I'm dead, done...They surrounds us with so many walls...". And then I was thinking about my past relationships, and then the depressive and gloomy periods we've gone through...I was looking around. Especially young people was talking so desperate...I saw that on the one hand, on the other hand I was referring to my past relationships. So it expanded rapidly. "Even if I'm incapable of using my hands and arms, I won't give in without you" summarizes it all.

Y: You can interpret "You" as "Hope" as well.

Q: For instance, I deciphered "you" as "freedom", because there are some verses like "one day for sure we will break down these walls".

Y: We later realized that we were influenced by the conditions of the country we live in. Not only the lyrics, but the music also has a search for hope. What can we do as citizens? We know what we can do legally. We can vote. Our second alternative is to make music and reach out to people in some way. I was talking to my father the other day about the state of the country, that making alternative music now is very hard compared to 10 years ago. He said, "You have a very powerful weapon. You're not a political party, but you can make thousands of people gather in one place and even though there are differences of opinion among them, they come together. What you need to do is to keep doing that, inspiring people". Maybe some of them don't understand the message we give but a few understands and if we can make a difference in their lives...that I believe it. The kids who have never listened to rock music before start to listen to rock music, first to us and then to foreign bands in the countryside. We have such a deep effect on them. We embraced it and this album is a reflection of it.

Q: You prefer to give subliminal messages rather than direct messages. 

Y: People nowadays react to a lot of things. Impossible not to. We have contradictions within us. We don't want to say something we would regret. We don't want to say "How stupid we were!" when we arrive at the age of 45. Things you defend blindly can change. Things you had never expected can happen. Then you may say "The way I thought was very rigid". We are a multi-colored society. There are people of all kinds. We should not be separated. The only way to do that is to try to understand each other. It's wrong to split people up into two sections as "you" and "us". In fact, we have to understand the people who think differently from us. Even if they don't try to understand you. Because when you do the same, you're no different from them. So we'd like to keep this profile as much as we can. 

Q: Duman is doing just the opposite and give direct messages. What do you think about that?

F: Direct interpretation goes very well with Duman. 

C: Kaan is a very sincere and direct person. He can easily (verbalize) express his all feelings. So you don't think it's strange to hear such direct mottos from them. And this is their distinctive style. Every band has their own distinctive stand. 

Y: It's is a matter of preference. We love Duman. Before making our proffessional album, we used to go to their concerts in Ankara.

C: Ferman had mentioned to me about maNga for the first time at a Duman concert. He was like "We have established a rock band and are looking for a bassist". 

O: There is an illusion about being direct or obvious. The other day, I watched "We Could Be The Same" video again. Black flags, gas masks, teenagers with sticks in their hands, helicopters in the air...

F: We were clairvoyants then...(Laughters...)

O: We made that video 3 years ago. If we happen to revise and re-release that video, people probably will say "What the hell are you doing?!". Or our songs such as "Kapkac", Libido" on our 2004 debut album...

Y: We give messages if we want to anyway. Now we're 34 years old. I don't even think we can make a song like "Kapkac" now. Not that I don't like that song, but we made that song in our state of mind at that age. This album has a different characteristic. In the process of this album, we made lots of trips abroad; we had different experiences and observed the workings of the music industry abroad. We gained some good things and they are reflected in this album. 

Q: So that's why this album has a more universal sound. "Sehr-i Huzun" was more from here...

Y: We call that "Istanbul album". We talked about it the other day. This album has no city in it.

Q: Yes, it may be New York, Ankara or London.

Y: That's why there are songs which started with English lyrics. We don't think this is a completed form of something. We're heading somewhere and maybe we are on the most important phase to get there. I feel that way now. Soon everything will fit into place. But this is our best album ever. As an artist, I can say this album satisfied me the most. 

Q: The first album or "Sehr-i Huzun" had a wholeness, but in this one each song has a different mood.

C: One of the reasons why is that some songs are born not from Ferman's or Yagmur's ideas, but starting to play with no ideas at all. And our state of mind during the recording of that particular song are automatically reflected in the album. It's an album that we broke the boundaries.

F: I and Yagmur used synthesizer a lot and it has also an effect on that. One more thing, we always used to listen to different genres, but that was it. And we were so strict about some genres. For the first time on this album, we opened our subconsious mind to different styles and we used the final outcome. "Parti" and "Bir Varmis Bir Yokmus" are not from 2 different albums; they seem more like songs from 2 different bands. In the past, we could have opposed that strictly, but now we say "yes, we made both of them". There is nobody who interferes with our business. 

Y: If we get something of Seattle sound, we don't say "wait a minute, we were playing nu-metal once, so let's change it into that!". In the past, we used to say just that and resist against it. Because we had a pattern of our own creation. We stretched that pattern a little bit here. We also have songs of our old pattern. We didn't want to give people a big shock. But we're heading somewhere and this album is a messenger of a change to come.

F: I'm a little chickened out of the next album. One song is hip hop, second song is reggae, third one is a folk song, next one is arabesque...(Laughters...)

C: Since people have an established perception of maNga in their minds, they are surprised when they first listen to this album. But then they get the mood in the album.

F: I checked out Eksi Sozluk for the first time after a long time. Someone posted that he loved the album. Then he edited his post, 'What the hell is "Does Anyone Have Extra Love?"? You're 35, for God's sake! Oh, come on!' (Laughters...)

Q: I was just going to ask about that. You said in an interview that there is no rock band who make music for the teenagers under the age of 15. 

F: Yes, there isn't. And yes, "Does Anyone Have Extra Love?" is a song for the teenagers. I'll always claim that. 

Q: Some bands are mislabeled as an adolescent band, such as Linkin Park...

O: But their latest song is seven minutes long with an intro highly progressive (he refers to "Guilty All the Same"). 

Y: In America, there is no such labeling as adolescent band, middle-aged band...I think this is about the market here being so messy. It's like "it's black, if not white, no color in between". We either love it or hate it. There is a perception such as being a teenager is like hell. We were all teenagers once. Those kids are the future of this country. We shouldn't lose our contact with them. If we lose, we'll have to leave them alone with arabesque-like pop or rock music. Because that's the only type of music they can reach. They only get what's given them on TV. We at least can be a different alternative for them to pick among them. 

F: There is something dangerous here: I'm afraid that 15/16-year-old kids get into mood like "I'm dead, I'm done, I feel pain, my girl friend has left me, I'm in a mess". Because that kind of songs puts you into that mood. Sometimes I see tweets from a 20-something like this. Man, you're 20 for God's sake, get another girl and move on! Are you crazy? (Laughters...) If we stop having fun, if everybody gets into that mood, the next generation 10 years from now will be very spooky. Everyone will make arabesque music...

Q: I'm wondering that if I was 15 years old, there were no such bands like maNga, Pentagram, Duman and I didn't know much about the alternative bands, I could easily think that there was only love and separations in life because of the available bands and singers. 

Y: Only it's not love, but it's just a bad reflections of love. Nothing positive. Just separation, cheating...

F: "Parti" is a love song, but it focuses on the beauty of the moment.

Y: I surfed around the TV channels on the day the video released, and I couldn't stand it much longer. 

F: It was not the case before.

Q: I remember the first release of the video of Kargo's song "Sairin Elinde". It's now very difficult to air a video like that.

O: And there was an "Arabic Whore". Just think about its lyrics and the video...If now, TV watchdog RTUK (Turkish Radio & TV Supreme Council) would intercept it. 

F: Could the video of "Dream" of Ünlü be aired now? Is it possible? They would say "This is nasty!!" (In the video of this song, the lead singer of the band knocks the door of the woman whom he was with the night before at the end of the video. The woman opens the door and greets him with her underwear on. Then she takes off her wig and it turns out she is actually a man or a transsexual). 

Y: They wouldn't even play it.

O: Dogu, the interview won't go to a good direction. ( Laughters...)

Y: But it's true. We can't say "we have a great music industry, everything is great." We shouldn't say it.

O: We released "Sehr-i Huzun". The music in the world was changing. They were saying that there were no CDs, audio cassettes any more. But they adapted themselves to the changing system so quicky. This is our 4th album and we could only make it after so many achievements. It's impossible for a newly-founded band to do it now. We did our own recording, we did our own photography...Poll Production said "Super! We release it." And we released it. But if you're not a band who proved itself like us, it's really very hard to make it under these circumstances. That's why there is no new band now. When we first came out, it was a time that alternative music exploded. There were so many venues we can play. There are very few music venues in Istanbul you can perform. You can't find sponsors except for some familiar brands.

Y: Now the only good thing is that foreign bands come here more often.  But they only come to Istanbul. The most people in other cities can't go to those concerts. When you view from a wider angle, they only listen to what's played on radios and TV.

Q: One of the signatures of maNga music was the scratches. Have you ever thought about putting some scratches into the songs?

Y: We haven't. We didn't need it. We didn't want it. It was Efe's signature. It wouldn't be ethical to hire someone to put scratches in. We'd like people to listen to these 4 guys' music from now on. We've put an end to that era with a DJ musically.

C: We didn't plan it. Our way of thinking changed into that.

Q: What are your favorite instrumental partitions of one another?

C: Ozgur's keeping beat from the rim in "Hint Kumasi" is quite interesting and unusually rare. And Yagmur's arpeggio on the verse in "Romantik Sizofren" is very nice.

O: Ferman's vocals in the folk song are fantastic. Yagmur's arpeggio "Romantik Sizofren" and the guitar parts which pay homage to '90s' Seattle sound after that. The bass parts in "Parti"...

F: I'd say "arpeggios in "Romantik Sizofren".

Y: This is the album Ozgur expressed himself the best anyway. When drums blare so cheerfully, it's impossible for you to turn the guitars' volume down (Laughters...). Ferman sings up as high as never before in "Eriyorum Nihayete". 

F: Yagmur made me very angry when we recorded those vocals. He forced and forced me...I was gonna die up there. My throat got fired.

Y: But he took the song to such an extent that...Because the woman rebels against the life in that song. And the best way to express rebellion is the human voice. Ferman's going up to high notes carried the song to an upper level.

F: You do that at the concerts then...(Laughters...).


We hear some pompous lines from 1965 Turkish drama film "Time to Love" by Metin Erksan in "Hint Kumasi (Indian Silk)". It's about a poor painter who falls in love with a photograph of a woman while at work in a massive summer villa. The poor guys says, "I'm in love only and only with your photograph". How maNga did come up with this idea? The original version of the song was "Today" and in that section Ferman talks like poetry. The band likes that dramatic mood and first they thought about using a stage actor's voice instead of Ferman's, and then using some lines from an old Turkish movie. Ozgur suggested "Time to Love" (Sevmek Zamani) and got in touch with the assistant of the movie's director late Metin Erksan of 14 years, Ozlem Havuzlu. He says, "They liked the idea, too. When we ever make a video, we possibly can use some scenes from the movie".


The story behind the song "Eriyorum Nihayete" (I'm Coming to An End) is also interesting. Ferman tells about it: When Emmanuel died, Hurriyet newspaper's columnist Yilmaz Ozdil wrote an article about her. He was saying that everybody was talking about Emmanuel but we had a Seher Şeniz once. And he added her suicide letter to his column. The words she used in that letter were very interesting, such as "Wrap me in a white bathrope, burn my wigs, scatter the ashes". I quoted them. It was like a rebellion. I imagined how she must have been lonely and what she would go through. I fictionalized it a bit. 

Seher Şeniz was famous for her erotic movies in the 60's and 70's. She was the first Turk to appear in Playboy Magazine. Even though she entered the world of striptease at a young age, she was an extraordinary person who admitted how much she was embarrased to undress. She attempted suicide in 1984 and at her 2nd attempt in 1992 she died. In the song, there are some direct lines from her suicide letter. Ferman gave some tips about he may possibly write a short story about her life for his BJ column "Off-key Stories". 

Translated by Inci