The Mantis Chapter – Interview
With a new album in the pipeline The Mantis Chapter answered us a few questions…
Underground United: Hello The Mantis Chapter, please introduce yourself to the readers.
Acas13: Acas13, producer.
TSOne: TSOne, vocalist.
Underground United: When did you start doing music? Have you been in other crews before?
Acas13: Started about 1990 I think and no other crews really. I’ve done some production alongside other crews and with other artists.
TSOne: I suppose I started writing rhymes mid-80’s but nothing serious until I hooked up with Acas in ’91. We did a track called ‘The Collaboration’ with another emcee who introduced us and after that myself and Acas formed The Mantis Chapter.
Underground United: How would you describe your music, what kind of style?
Acas13: There isn’t a particular style, everything’s generally pretty dark; some tracks are more breakbeat, Britcore sounding, where some have a slower tempo, more brooding.
TSOne: Hip Hop, Britcore, underground, European, mystical, menacing, epic and permanent.
Underground United: Acas 13, your music is very dark and mystical indeed, it sounds like old old books and to me. The cover of your recent release really fits the music. Where are you on the hunt for samples, it sounds very different to samples other groups use? What is the selection process? If one criteria was that it must be previously unheard it did work out. To me anyway.
Acas13: I don’t have a specific genre where I get my samples from. I use soundtracks, classical records and obscure things from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. I tend not to use funk or soul records ‘cause it’s been done. Well, if I do I wouldn’t take the whole loop, just a snippet or something. And yes, I wouldn’t use something that’s been used before. I also use synthesisers from time to time but try to make it sound lifted from a record.
Here’s a track of their latest release, The Graveyard Poets for download. If you haven’t heard it yet grab it here and check it out!
It’s called Eastern Lights and is featuring Inzaine & Ill Inspired.
Underground United: What were your main influences back then, and what are these today?
Acas13: I listened to all Hip Hop back in the days, UK, US and was influenced by it all. I don’t really listen to a lot of modern Hip Hop, just the odd artist and it seems even less in the last year or so.
TSOne: Likewise, from the electro days to the mid to late ‘80’s US scene and of course heavily into the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s UK sound that has been later dubbed Britcore. Our own sound kind of took a journey that I feel has returned to its roots in essence, is also ever evolving and progressive, not just some kind of retro sound but something fresh and challenging to the ear.
Underground United: TS-One, your lyrics are very poetic and also fitting the mystical music perfectly. What do you think is needed to be a good MC?
TSOne: For me, it’s good tonality, confidence in delivery, good patterns and lyrical content – something that paints a picture and evokes an emotion.
Underground United: How does a track grow in the Mantis lab? What’s first? A sample you definitely wanna use, Acas13? Or does TS-One tell you what kinda beat he wants and you start diggin the crates for samples?
Acas13: There is no set formula, sometimes we will discuss a concept and I’ll come up with some music, other times I’ll just make some music and we work from there.
TSOne: It always takes me longer to write than Acas takes to get the bare essentials down. I know I often hear something Acas has done and don’t feel it first time; second listen and it’s the best damn track I ever heard!! I think we always do work to the concepts though.
Underground United: What equipment, programs do you use?
Acas13: I use Protools and various plug ins, I use an MPC mainly for sequencing the beats and I use a MicroKorg XL as my main synth. Most stuff gets mangled with various FX, that’s about it really.
TSOne: Pen, paper, Octava mic and my vocal chords.
Underground United: What’s your favourite TMC track? Music- and lyricwise?
Acas13: Probably something off the latest release but I’m not going to discuss it yet. Off previous releases, although I don’t think it’s necessarily the best musically, I think Casebook of Terrors is my favourite production. Lyrically I find it hard to have a favourite as there’s no weak links in the chain.
TSOne: Likewise, my favourites are off the new album, Talisman is one of them! Lyrically from older releases I would say Essays from the Unseen and Graveyard Poets, musically perhaps Alchemist in the Mist.
Underground United: I were told that there’s something in the pipeline, please tell us about it.
Acas13: Yes, you’re right we have an LP which we are going to be releasing very soon titled Nocturnal Sorceries. We were going to release another EP originally but as you kept nagging us Boris to do an LP…
TSOne: It’s awesome, what is it, 10 vocal tracks plus a couple of instrumental/incidentals. It features Inzaine, Gambit, DJ Tones and Reach from Drunken Eejit, Dj Highfly, Suspekt amongst others. Every track is epic – no fillers.
Acas13: I’ve also got an Acas13 production release called Mausoleum Music and that features good host of emcees from Spee69, Suspekt, MC Buzz, Remark, Reach, Hideouz and of course TSOne as well as the handy skills from DJ Tones.
TSOne: Out soon! Watch this space!
Underground United: From the early demos (a few on the website here) to the debut to its follower has there anytime been that typical Mantis Chapter sound. What can we expect from the new release?
Acas13: Yeah, the new release is a continuation from the other releases. Every new release seems to be building on from the last one, new things are learned. Everything is connected but continues to progress.
TSOne: There is a Mantis Sound and this time it is bigger and better than before, ever evolving, revolving. Mystical, magical, fantastical. The essence is there – raw, yet contemporary and updated.
Speaking off old unreleased tracks, TMC were diggin’ in their crates and found this tune for you, an unreleased track recorded in 1993.
Underground United: You’ve been signed to Dropzone before, for the last release you launched your own label called Prophet and Sound. Will this be continued with the new release?
Acas13: Yes, we’ll be releasing it again on the Prophet and Sound label.
Underground United: Are you both collecting records yourself?
TSOne: I do, it’s still something very special to have a slab of wax preferably with a picture sleeve. I know it’s a dying media and to be honest it’s the music that matters first and foremost. Times have changed and so has the way in which we listen. What we must not lose is the art form of turntablism if I can call it that.
Underground United: You’re doing music for quite a while now, have you ever sent demo tapes to any labels back then or recently?
Acas13: We sent it around a few labels / individuals and handed it out at jams but we don’t do that now as we prefer to maintain control and release it ourselves.
TSOne: Focusing on making the music and putting it out there is what it’s about; without interference, politics or compromise. We may not have the distribution channels, advertising campaigns and the rewards that that brings, but realistically very few get those opportunities; those that do seem to come and go – at least we’re still doing it for the right reasons!
Underground United: Cambridge was once known for (of course not only) Assassin Records which advertised even in German magazines back then. It must’ve been the perfect place for hunting records down. How is it nowadays with Assassin Records gone? And what’s your latest record/cd purchase?
Acas13: Assassin Records or Jays as the shop was known was a blessing for us when we were younger, we could get our hands on any release. They were a good bunch of people who ran it as well and they also stocked our first EP, Truth & Rites. When it closed down nothing really replaced it so it was a great loss. I’ve been replacing a lot of my vinyl with CD’s now as the vinyl’s all up in the loft, so a lot of old Reggae.
TSOne: Jays was incredible; especially for white labels and imports – a real mainstay for underground Hip Hop. My last purchase was Underground United Vol.2!!! Go get it! I’m also waiting to get my hands on the Kinetic Effect being pressed now!
Underground United: Any last words? Some shouts?
Acas13: All the people we collaborate with, the Hamburg crews and all the people who supported us.
TSOne: Shout out to Tekneek, Geta, Eastborn, Hideouz, Psychopath, Highfly, Inzaine, Ill Inspired, Krash Slaughta, Remark, Bandog, Tones & Reach from Drunken Eijit, Lennie, Pride & the Suspekt crew, Icrom, Gambit, all from the Heroes website (Hip Hop never dies!) and you Boris – a real credit to the cause!
Underground United: Many thanks for the interview and good luck to you both, personally and musically! Really looking forward to the album.
Grabsome more TMC demos HERE.
Click HERE for some more TMC.