Kicking off our project launch, we sat down with Tom Allman and James Nortey-Glover (Jambo), Mantissa’s resident DJ’s, for a sneak peak inside the world of Mantissa.
Hi Guys. First things first. What is Mantissa?
Tom: “It seems counterintuitive to label this project. Mantissa started as the alias James & I used when we played together, and slowly evolved in to a mix series. Now we’ve got a blog and events series in the pipeline, and there’s a lot of room for this to grow further.”
James: “Whilst it started as just the two of us, it’s grown way beyond this now. Mantissa is very much a community of collaborators, there are a lot of people working behind the scenes to make this what it is.”
It seems like it would be fair to call this an evolution. Jumping back a little, what’s the story behind you guys meeting and at what point did you realise you wanted to collaborate?
Tom: “We met at university, studying on the same course. After sharing some music, we noticed that though our libraries differed a lot, we had a lot of appreciate for each other’s selections. Shortly after, we both started mixing.”
James: “Yeah, we started going out in Bristol to a lot of clubs nights as well. There was a delay before we set up our mix series, but we did this as a bit of fun.”
Tom: “It was really about getting the music we liked out there.”
James: “It started with featuring guest mixes from mates here and there. It was really important for us to provide our guests with total creative freedom. Our radio has always been a space for DJs to publish the mix they want to publish. No restrictions.”
It seems a lot has changed since you started sharing music. Can you talk us through your influences, and your music journey since establishing the project?
Tom: “My first real experience with this culture was through a Joker night in Bristol… it was sick. Comparing that to what I listen today though, and it’s more in the UK bass area. Since, things have really extended throughout house and techno. I also have a love for dub and grime, so there’s a lot of sound floating around for influence.”
James: “For me, before DJ’ing I’ve played violin, and self taught a bit of guitar so there’s always been a huge influence of music in my life. When I started mixing though it was mostly 90s hip hop. There was also a lot of disco, motown and indie. Bloc Party are great artists – nobody can knock them. Maybe don’t mention the indie though. (laughs)”
Tom: “Before dance music all I used to listen to was rock.”
James: “I’ve always loved digging through my aunts old record collection, I still play them all now, that one I opened with in my most recent resident mix with was one of hers. Records make it really nice to find music. It takes time, which makes finding a good track so satisfying. I mean half of these songs don’t even have a name on them, YouTube is way too easy.”
That’s an extensive list. Does all of this come in to play for Mantissa, or does the project have a more focused sound?
Tom: “Our events will definitely be more focused on the house and techno side of our influences – it’s important that we’re shaping a night well for its context. It’s a completely different story for our mix series and online work. Theoretically, there should be no boundaries on this. Hopefully this comes through in our mixing – I’m a big fan of breaking up sets with beat less music, and I know James likes to mix it up with his openers.”
James: “That said, there’s definitely a techno slant for us. Yet we’ve also seen enough in other artists to give encouragement for creative freedom. I’m a big fan of Omar-S, and the way he incorporates such a variety of material in his sets really impresses me. This is something that you see in techno also. If we like a sound, and it fits, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be included. There’s an interview with Theo Parrish where he talks about how it’s insanity to assume that music must be boxed in and closed off from one another – I think there’s a lot of truth in that.”
You talked before about how your libraries are less synchronised and more complimentary. Are there ever problems with creative differences in this project?
Tom: “James leans towards rhythm & soul, and I guess I’m heavier in relation. Our taste and libraries are wide enough to support each other, and allow us to go in a lot of different directions. I think as long as we keep open minds, this keeps things exciting rather than posing problems.”
James: “That said, I’m not particularly good with technology. I don’t get on too well with CDJs, and it’s up to Tom to get that all set up. I prefer to stick to vinyl in my own time.”
Looking forward to the future, what have you got planned for this project?
Tom: “The next few months are really ramping up. We’ve got some very exciting guest mixes scheduled for our radio, and a lot of music lined up for sharing. It was initially our plan to push music out once a week, but given the range of our influence, we might exceed this at times.”
James: “One of the main things we’re focusing on right now is transitioning what we’ve built online in to events. Providing a playground to test this out in a different environment, with a physical audience in front of us is a really exciting development.”
There are currently a lot of brands producing radio features and occupying London's event spaces. What made you want to go this extra step, and how will you offer your listeners something different?
James: “This is really about doing something ourselves. We’ve been to a lot of nights we’ve loved, and been a part of a lot of interesting nights. Over time though, you come to build your own philosophy on how this should be done. A lot of nights can become very constricted, or apply restrictions to themselves that are based on flawed logic. We want to translate our philosophy of mixing music to the composition of a night.Mantissa is a way of me sharing music I enjoy whether it be through the new blog, radio mixes or parties and that’s really why I find it so enjoyable”
Tom: “A big part of this is providing our artists with the right conditions to be creative, and do so without restrictions. Our events are going to be centred around longer sets, with fewer DJs. I’ve always enjoyed playing and listening to longer sets, and we want to encourage experimentation.”
James: “We’re at a really interesting time for London also. Clubs are closing, and I read that something like half of the UK’s clubs have closed over the last 10 years. There’s been a lot of rhetoric on the matter recently, mostly inspired by the situation with fabric, and i think that’s brought to light a lot of appreciation for clubbing culture. It’s important for us to be a part of the movement that tries to counter attempts at shrinking the space.”
Thanks guys, it’s been a a pleasure.
Tom: “No problem.”
James: “It’s been fun.”