Man Mantis on how his mom helped him craft his first mask and how he connected with Sole
Although he left Denver as a mere mortal eight years ago, Mitch Pond has returned as Man Mantis, a human-insect-hybrid alter ego that produces glitchy, futuristic, hip-hop-centric beats. If the end of the Mayan calendar does in fact bring about the end of the world, it will be a bummer because 2012 was a good year for him creatively. He has a handful of beats on Sole's new album, A Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing, as well as a handful of solo productions on compilations such as Potholes Music's Distant Arcade. In advance of his show at the hi-dive tomorrow night supporting Sole, we caught up with Pond for a quick chat about how his mom helped him craft his first mask, how he connected with Sole and his Hear the Noise project.
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Westword: Have you always been Man Mantis? Or is that a more recent creation?
Man Mantis: It's been a long time. I wasn't always Man Mantis, but when I was maybe a sophomore in college, so '05 or '06, was when I made the change. The name popped up in a class I was taking, and I thought it sounded great. I used to be The Intercooler. I had a Volvo station wagon, and there was a plaque on the back that said Intercooler, which I guess referred to some kind of part. It fell off, and I was like, "I can put that on a chain and wear it around my neck." I got rid of that.
Is the human-insect hybrid significant to the persona?
It came out of the name. I was taking an art class, and a colloquium or artist would come in and talk about their work. There was this guy from South Africa who brought in a bunch of paintings and one of them said Man Mantis with a silhouette of a person. I really liked it. It was explained that the Man Mantis is the native folk lore muse in South Africa. It's the spirit of creativity, and I really like that, too. So I thought "I'll dress up like a mantis and have that gimmick going on."
How hard was it to find a mantis head that fit?
I built my first mantis mask. It was a Jason mask, a cheap Halloween hockey mask, and my mom was visiting me at school, so we went to the fabric store and got some of that gauze dipped in plaster of Paris. I built the first mask out of that and painted it up. I performed in that for a long time, and then I found a Transformers helmet at a thrift store, so I painted that up. It's about time for a new one now. I've been carrying the old one around the country in a backpack, and it's kind of falling apart.
Has 2012 been going well for you?
Yeah, it's been a challenge, psychologically, trying to break into a new media market and leaving the people I was really good friends with behind. I can still get shows in Madison way easier than I can here, which is a little bit weird. I really like getting into the Denver scene. Sole has been a really good person to be connected to. He's into a lot of different stuff. The place where I've been playing most of my shows so far is over at Unit E, the gallery spot. I first went there to see Sole play, that's how I was introduced to it. But it turns out Greg, who's in Rubedo, him and I were friends when we were infants. So I got plugged into that community, and they were the first ones to book me in town.
How did you and Sole first connect?
In 2011, I put out an instrumental album called Cities Without Houses, and it was the album where I decided I was going to break off and do my own thing on an instrumental album that stands by itself and isn't just beats. I worked really hard on it. I learned how to promote myself by doing that album.
I was sending it all over, and it got posted the Bomarr Blog, which is one of the producers from Restiform Bodies, one of the real old anticon acts from back when I was in high school. I got really psyched about it and got in touch with him to say thanks. We talked, and when I told him I was moving to Denver, he told me to get in touch with Sole. When we finally did connect and started sending music back and forth, we realized we knew some of the same people. We started working on songs, and it just clicked from there.