Being only one person in a performance project can only lead to two results. Either they are engaging and charismatic, or impish and forgettable. At least that is what my experiences have entailed. The singer/songwriter type was never my calling card with lone performances, but people that bring their creativity front and center and try to put a new spin on it.
Deepak Mantena works under the moniker Junk Culture, and luckily encompasses all aspects of an interesting solo performer. When I saw him live back in May, he had samplers and an audio board to create and manipulate his music and voice simultaneously, and did it with great intensity until he was caked in man sweat. Sunny keyboard jingles clashed with bass heavy beats, and Deepak moaning over himself upon multiple tracks of voice made for a fitting combination with my eight vodka tonics I had for dinner that night.
I sat down with Deepak at a fancy hotel and we ate caviar. No, wait. I meant I conversed with him through the internet mail.
transBLENDER: Where in the world are you located right now?
Deepak Mantena: I live in Oxford, Mississippi.
tB: How long did it take to put the “west coast” album together compared to the “summer friends” EP?
DM: Took a few months to get West Coast done. Summer Friends took a lot longer because I was touring all the time the year I was making it.
tB: Will you be releasing more material on illegal art?
DM: I’m working on a new record for Illegal Art right now. I just put out a single with them called “Hang Roxy” where my friends Sarah Barthel from Phantogram and Jana Hunter from Lower Dens sing on some of my new stuff.
tB: How did the tour earlier this year with el ten eleven come about? It seemed like an odd pairing to me, but seeing it live you guys complimented each other nicely.
DM: Just through our booking agents. They are nice people and we had a good time on that tour.
tB: Are you really a guidance counselor?
tB: I told mine in middle school “no one likes me and I have no friends.” He said I was being a drama queen, and should try out for football. Was this good advice?
DM: We should all aspire to have the internal fortitude of Tim Riggins and the strong character and temperament of Matt Saracen.
tB: Who is the best live act performing today?
DM: My favorite bands to see are the really raw ones, whether they’ve been at it for a while or not. Or like, house shows where everyone is friends with everyone else, and they’re all into it and having a good time. I think sometimes whether the music is good or bad it really gets elevated into something else in those situations. It’s rare to get that vibe from a club show.
I saw Truman Peyote play earlier this year when I had a day off in Baltimore and that show blew me away. I’d love to tour with them.
tB: Do you carry around a recorder to capture sounds you hear?
DM: I used to do that, to capture stuff and turn it into songs, but I’ve been backing away from that a bit of this new record.
tB: What’s the worst sample you’ve used to create a song, and did you keep it?
DM: I’m not sure. Maybe some old out of tune samples of me playing guitar? I probably kept them!
tB: If you could choose anyone, who would be your on-call muse? (Doesn’t have to be female.)
DM: The cast of Friends.
tB: What phrase do you not like to hear when asked about your music?
tB: Name a record you can’t live without.
DM: “Endless Summer” by Fennesz.