Glasgow-based electronic producer Dam Mantle discusses his productive year so far and the common misconception that he is Scottish.
It has been an exciting year for up-and-coming electronic producer Dam Mantle, real name Tom Marshallsay. The Glasgow-based multi-instrumentalist released his latest EP, We, during the summer, toured all over Europe and visited to the US for a handful of live dates, all while completing a degree in fine art at Glasgow School of Art. While the rest of his fellow graduates are struggling to find a job, Marshallsay is playing to packed nightclubs alongside some of the most respected electronic producers in the world. It would be safe to assume that juggling such responsibilities would be a bit of a struggle, but apparently this was not the case.
“I don’t have to worry about it anymore because I finished a few months ago, but I found it fine. I mean, I wouldn’t have done it if it was too difficult – it just meant I had to sacrifice a lot of time that I would have spent making visual work. They do somehow lend themselves to each other, as I attach similar themes to each one.”
Marshallsay has been astounding crowds on a regular basis this year and made appearances alongside Crystal Castles and Gold Panda, but it was his first experience touring the US that had the biggest impact on him. “The States was a real highlight,” he begins. “Travelling down the west coast, the people were really interested and a little less arms-folded than in some cities in England. My only experience of America was in films, so it was quite a strange collision with reality when I saw the place with my own eyes.”
Under the moniker of Dam Mantle, Marshallsay has managed to create a tense, lo-fi sub genre of electronic music using various live percussion instruments and a myriad of influences including ghetto-tech, jungle and hip-hop music. His productions are the kind of IDM that will force some into the middle of the dancefloor with reckless abandon and others to stand and contemplate the meaning behind hit. With such thought-provoking electronic music comes an inevitable gaggle of enthusiasts with weird and wonderful explanations for what it all means. Marshallsay is the first to admit there have been a few – he just can’t remember what any of them said.
“That’s a good question,” he offers after a lengthy pause. “I probably have a really good answer but I am really bad at answering questions like this. I guess I am surprised at how much some people seem to get it in the same way that I do – although I would not be able to describe what that is.”
On his travels Marshallsay has acquired many prized possessions, but it was a trip to the techno capital of Europe that provided him with his most treasured purchase of 2011 so far. “I bought a tape echo when I was in Berlin from this amazing synth shop that mainly sold old German 60s to 80s gear – it’s like an echocord. That has probably been my favourite purchase this year.”
When he isn’t touring the world or working on new music, Marshallsay can be found at home in Glasgow, watering his plants, reading and wandering around record shops looking for inspiration. Don’t be confused: He does not perform these feats at the same time – that would just be weird. Of the music that he has consumed so far this year, there have been a few artists that stand out in his mind.
“Fantastic Mr Fox – although he has not really done that much this year. I have been listening to a lot of Martyn and Mike Slott collaborations, but I guess that was last year – maybe. I was listening to the Thundercat album and Koreless, a guy from Glasgow. I really like the new stuff from Machinedrum, too. There has been so much stuff and my memory gets lost when I try to recount it.”
Another one of Marshallsay’s biggest passions is film. He regularly creates visual art in an attempt to convey what he cannot express through words and often cites controversial filmmaker Harmony Korine as a major influence on his artistic output. However, when asked to reference some of the films that he has enjoyed this year, the producer admits that a hectic schedule has left little time for such leisure activities. “I haven’t been watching that many films this year,” he offers. “I used to watch tonnes. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown was really impressive and I re-watched Stalker again, the Andrey Tarkovskiy film, which I am massively into.”
Marshallsay has been based in Glasgow for several years, which has led many music journalists to publish interviews claiming that he is Glaswegian. This proves one thing: Clearly none of these individuals have ever actually spoken to him because if they had they would not have failed to notice his unmistakable English accent that he developed while growing up in Kent – southeast England for the misinformed.
“I feel really connected to the place but it doesn’t take much research to find out that I wasn’t born in Glasgow. Plus, in a broader sense, place isn’t really that important nowadays. A sound doesn’t necessarily come from places as much as it did before because of the internet and this globalised conversation that we are having.”
When asked to describe why he has chosen to make Glasgow home for the foreseeable future, Marshallsay replies: “Glasgow means so many things to so many different people. To me, it’s the community of people that are around my area and a feeling that the place gives me. I feel pretty settled here. If you want it to be, it can be pretty quite. There are also more than enough things going on that if you want to go out you can. I haven’t really found a city that equals that and makes me want to live there.”
Words: Louis Flood Photo: Meg Sharp
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