One thing I learned during this interview is that, while Dam Mantle (aka Tom Marshallsay) goes to university in Glasgow, he isn’t actually Scottish. I also learned the word “creolisation” which Tom uses to describe the kind of art he likes. As it happens, “creolized” is a pretty good description of his new Purple Arrow EP. What starts out as jamming hip-hop influenced electronic music soon loses its nature, bending into all kinds of hybrid states. Songs grow and mutate, fly off on intercontinental tangents. They end up as clockwork lullabies or dance anthems for dark forests. You can stream a couple of those tracks here and be sure to check out his live session broadcast last night on BBC Radio 1 (UK only, I’m afraid). You can download “Theatre” by signing up at his website.
The last time we spoke you recommended “The Bringer of Jollity” by Holst to me as it was the last song that “nearly bought you to tears.” Has anything made you cry yet?
I think Dancer in the Dark by Lars Von Trier was the last thing that made me cry. I think I have been on a similar verge of emotional collapse many times on a dancefloor when there was soul in the music. Whether or not liquid comes from my eyes or not, I’m certainly very interested in this side of human emotion and how it is portrayed/reflected in art, be it literature, painting, music etc. It’s a feeling that isn’t as well explored in electronic music, it seems.
You’re studying fine art. Who are your favourite artists?
Mainly video artists; Harmony Korine’s films and soundtracks have had a big impact on me. I’m interested in Altermodernity or Hypermodernity and the creolisation of cultures. I have an affinity for Marcus Coates, Yoshua Okon, Henry Coombes and alternative modes of storytelling.
Your music is pretty hard to pin down. How would you describe it?
I don’t know how to describe it, it changes its shape a lot so I wouldn’t ever want to pin it down to any set explanation. I let the music that I listened to on daytime radio when I was younger influence me as much as what I’d go out and buy from a record shop, everything i have ever heard is part of my/our experience and i want everything to filter in somehow.
Glasgow has a great reputation for electronic music. Why do you think that is? What is it about Glasgow that makes people want to make weird boxes make weird noises?
The weather, maybe. I don’t go out enough to be able to speak about the “scene.” People are making electronic music everywhere, right, but I don’t think people feel as much pressure to conform to fashions/styles up here as they would in other cities.
If musicians twinned like towns, you’d probably get twinned with Dam-Funk because of your names. You could be his eccentric Scottish cousin.
Well I’m not Scottish [SW: OOPS] but yeah I could be his cus. He could do impersonations of my Kentish accent.
You use lots of strange instruments on your records. What is the weirdest thing you’ve “played” on any of your songs?
A children’s drum machine inside a box with mics outside it, or recordings of children on the train. I guess that could be seen as “weird.”
I know you used to record alone, but now you’ve got a band. Is that just for live shows or has it changed the way you record/write?
Not a whole band, no. I play with my friend Calum when playing live. I still make everything alone, I’ve always been more productive that way. In the future i keep imagining that i will have a full band of sorts. I am always interested in collaboration, have been working on a couple of things with people from different musical backgrounds.
Who are the “Two Women” in the song on your EP?
They’re singing about rites of passage or about chopping down trees, although maybe they’re ghosts of past relationships of mine singing together on a doorstep in front of a dilapidated mansion in Africa.
Dam Mantle’s Purple Arrow EP is out 13th September on Growing Records.