Get To Know: Dam Mantle
GET TO KNOW: Dam Mantle
WORDS: Colin Brownbill
“I've never really pinned it down to anything, a narrative is created regardless of whether I feel the need to stick to the same palette of sounds or BPM”. As an opening quote that really defines what 22 year-old Tom Marshallsay aka forward-thinking experimentalist, Dam Mantle is all about. Infact, further to that, he’s probably managed to sum up just what defines forefront electronic music in 2012. So much emphasis is put on trying to label a ‘sound’ these days that it can sometimes smother it, and in the case of Dam Mantle, this simply doesn’t apply – certainly not from his perspective anyway.
Originally from Kent before moving to Glasgow to study fine art, Tom featured in a number of bands and a promising solo project before eventually discovering the wonders of record shopping and DJing. Having dabbled with basic beats and electronic exploration, it wasn’t until his move to Glasgow that his sound, direction and influence would be positively shaped into what we know and love today. Citing influences far and wide, there was of course never going to be one singular style or description to fit Tom’s vision, and in doing the research for this feature it quickly became obvious that ‘how would you describe your sound?’ is somewhat of a recurring theme for him (a question we’re admittedly guilty of asking in the upcoming interview).
But having only been making music under the Dam Mantle moniker for three years, there is a certain purity to his artistry, and that doesn’t just come from a madcap ambition to create the indefinable, but a passion to deliver something fresh with every release. From last year’s ‘First Wave’ to the wildly eclectic ‘We EP’, Tom is perhaps one of Glasgow’s most inspiring artists, taking his sound far beyond the horizon of recognised convention…
Check out both the 'We' and 'Grey EP' below as well as recent production for Profisee:
WE EP by Dam Mantle
Grey EP by Dam Mantle
We also had the pleasure of catching up with Tom recently to talk Glasgow, his 'sound' and the jouney up to this point:
Synth: ‘Wonderfully mellow’, ‘electronic loveliness’, ‘infused with love’ – these are all quotes referring to your music. How would you personally describe your sound or do you just regard it simply as ‘music’?
Dam Mantle: I like 'infused with love’; the other two you mentioned probably apply to some of the tracks I’ve made yeh. I guess I feel like I try not to make the same shit twice, which defines the project as much as it probably holds it back. I've never really pinned it down to anything, some sort of narrative is created regardless of whether I feel the need to stick to the same palette of sounds or BPM. I tend to make stuff in clusters so I might spend a couple months making real slow 4/4 stuff and then for some reason to compensate or because of the records I’ve been buying I’ll get the urge to switch things up and make something very different. That's probably why I avoid describing the sound. Maybe if we sat down and had a cup of tea I might be able to get closer to clarifying it all. I like the idea that a particular release represents a sound.
Synth: Listening back to last year’s ‘We EP’ and in attempt to be subjective, we’d describe your sound as hovering somewhere between ambient and bass (‘ambibass’ if you will), do you think that’s a fair assessment and how did you arrive at your current sound?
Dam Mantle: Yeh I guess that term could work with that EP, at least with the third track I feel like I worked out this floating feeling I was looking for, going at some pace but somehow foot stepping in thin air or something. Maybe I have an issue with reducing music to a word, that's not my job, it's yours - so good job. I don't think that EP stuff is necessarily my 'current sound' but it came from putting together a live set of tracks around the same tempo that moved in a similar way. That stuff has a lot to do with Dub I think, or just the history of percussion based music.
Synth: So how did you originally get into electronic music? We understand you previously had a solo project called Animals And War which was more acoustic, were there any particular artists which influenced your development?
Dam Mantle: I think in my late teens when I was still down south, a couple of the bands I was playing in had folded and I started buying records a bit and dabbling in DJ'ing. I'd already been making tracks for a while, really just experiments, often song based or word based, making do with what I had, real 'lo-fi'. I had a bass guitar tutor for a bit, got interested in Jazz and 90's electronica, then I guess as time went on I stuck to making Art and generally being that age and exposing my self to dance music and just gradually started feeling like I wanted to reflect all this different stuff I was getting into. Couple years of being up here I felt a bit better about the shit I was uploading onto Myspace and burning cdrs for people - I just started doing it most of the time without really thinking about it.
Synth: You are originally from Kent but studied Fine Art in Glasgow where Dam Mantle was ultimately born – have you found Glasgow to a particular inspiration and how would you describe the current scene in the city?
Dam Mantle: It's definitely an inspiration yeh, there's a lot going on, but it’s kinda tight in that most stuff is fairly close together. Like any city there are different pockets of scenes that do their own thing, but it does merge a bit, at least from where I’m standing. This is the place where I've managed to focus a little bit and work and play out of, don't know whether its the trees outside my window or what but yeh, I love this city.
Synth: You’ve remixed and produced for the likes of Gold Panada, Kele and Profisee. After releasing the ‘Grey EP’ back in 2010 how quickly did you find things picking up for you? Do you have any advice for producers who might be in a similar place you were three years ago?
Dam Mantle: I felt like it picked up fairly quickly somehow. I had a this huge surge of energy and drive for working on music for a few months around the time I was changing moniker and it just felt right. The cosmos seemed to reward the effort and started playing a bit more, and I guess from then on I've just been trying to enjoy what I do and keep on it - work on what feels right at the time. The advice would be to do what you want and put the ego in check and think about why you're doing what you're doing every now and then.
Synth: You have an upcoming gig with Palace in June, what should people expect from you in a live setting and what else can we look forward to over the rest of 2012?
Dam Mantle: I'm just trying to figure out next release, whatever happens happens, maybe an LP, maybe I’ll put it up for free. I'll definitely be playing new stuff at this thing though, pressing buttons as usual. No ensemble, not yet.
Dam Mantle plays alonside HARA, Machine Drum & Jimmy Edgar for a Palace showcase on June 8th
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