The 405 Interview // Junk Culture
A lot has been said about technology ruining our life. The internet is often at the top of the list of reasons why children can be so messed up, a close second going to the various computer consoles on the market and I'm sure someone out there blames the iPod for all unsolved murders. Regardless of our paranoia, advancements in technology makes the art of creating music a whole lot easier, or at least cheaper and Deepak Mantena, a.k.a. Junk Culture, is certainly using it all to hi... (continued)
A lot has been said about technology ruining our life. The internet is often at the top of the list of reasons why children can be so messed up, a close second going to the various computer consoles on the market and I'm sure someone out there blames the iPod for all unsolved murders. Regardless of our paranoia, advancements in technology makes the art of creating music a whole lot easier, or at least cheaper and Deepak Mantena, a.k.a. Junk Culture, is certainly using it all to his advantage. How did you get started in making your micro-sample compositions? It was a pretty natural transition. I started making music on a four track with not much more than a guitar and my voice, but early on I learned about making music on computers. I remember I used this slow old computer with software by Cakewalk. I got into sampling phrases of guitar or piano I recorded and looping that. In a way my compositional methods were always sample based. Is it fair to call your sampling ethos 'pan-generational' given the sheer number of eras that seems to be drawn from? I'd say my general sampling ethos is more simply just about feeling. If some sound evokes an emotional response from me, whether it's a dog barking or the chorus of a current top 50 hit or some jam from the 80s, I think it's fair game to sample. I'm personally attracted to the challenge of transforming that sample into something out of the context you're familiar with it while still preserving some that excitement or emotional spark. Your live show consists of you and another person. Do you feel like this sets you apart from other electronic artists who mostly rely on a one man, on laptop operation? While I've got huge respect for laptop based artists like my friend Gregg in Girl Talk and Four Tet and others, it was never my intention to be viewed as a 'laptop' artist. I grew up playing music in 'bands' with guitars and drums and all that. DJ and dance culture was lost on me then. When I play live now, I've got a drummer with me, I sing a lot on songs, and I'm actively triggering samples. On top of that we project visuals that are synchronized with the songs. It'd be impossible to do that live without using a computer, but the computer is just incidental and not the focus. What would you say 'West Coast' (the EP) is about, if it has an overarching theme? Taking the songs individually they are a kind of personal journal. When I was making the tracks they invoked nostalgia and a lot of the song titles are references to personal stuff. As a whole, I feel there's a narrative in the material. As an exercise when I was writing some the material and sequencing it, I thought of the EP as a 20 minute time capsule of culture. I was thinking it'd be interesting to compress our culture into audio form and shoot it into space as a desperate attempt to pass on what we know and have going for us to anyone out there. That said, it's not my intention to be heavy-handed about my concepts to listeners. I'm happy if people listen to it and enjoy it, no matter what they think the theme is or how it was made or whatever.
What was the motivation for the name Junk Culture? Would you say your music is influenced by the name in any way?
I got tired of the old name I was putting out material as and as I was working on new stuff, I kept it in the back of my mind that I needed to think of something new. I was thumbing through my record collection one day and saw OMD's Junk Culture and it just clicked. In a way, some of music became influenced by the name after the fact.
Who is your dream team for a tour?
Me on vocals and gÃ¼iro, Pharoah Sanders on electric guitar, Larry Bird on organ, Prince on electronic drums, and Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim on marimba. As far as dream bands to tour with, I'd say the exact same people.
Personally, there are times when the quality of the gear has determined the final style. Has this happened to you or ever led to a breakthrough with a song?
I used to be a huge gear nerd and it was probably the least fruitful era of my music career. I made a conscious effort not to care about gear as much with Junk Culture stuff. I interned at a studio here in Oxford, Mississippi and there's hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment in the place. Tons of people like The Walkmen and Animal Collective have recorded records there that I'm really into. But I also have friends who have put out records made in their bedroom using the cheapest and shittiest gear possible equipment because that's all that was available to them, and I love their records too! Who cares if you have some fucking vintage ribbon mic or $8000 compressor or channel strip or something - lifeâs too short, I just want to record some jams!
Just reminding myself of things like that makes it very easy for me not to give a shit about gear. That's not to say that interesting gear or production techniques can't be inspiring. One track on the record, Watson's Glassy Stare, was completely inspired by the sound that came out of these compression and distortion software plugins.
What has the reaction been to your music from the people you know?
I used to keep the music stuff I do pretty close to the chest, so I'd say mostly friends were surprised when they found out about it. As I've started to play out more though, I'd say people I know are definitely more aware and at the same time really supportive, which is awesome.
What does the rest of 2010 have in store for Junk Culture?
Right now I'm working on a new EP that I hope will be out by the end of summer. I'm planning on getting back on the road to tour in the US again this summer. I'm also working on a comedy web series with my brother I'm about pretty pumped about called Celery TV (http://celerystudios.com).
What's your favourite palindrome?
I'm gonna keep it in the family - my brother's name is Nitin.
You can visit Junk Culture by heading to www.myspace.com/nojunkculture and make sure you check out our review of 'West Coast' by clicking here.
Interview questions by Matthew Olmos
Junk CultureInterviewCelery Tv