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Performer makes musical masterpieces from audio rabble

BY ERIC SUNDERMANN | JUNE 30, 2009 7:21 AM

mp3 sample: Junk Culture

"My Two Hands"

The ’60s had Jimi’s guitar. The ’80s had Michael’s dance moves. The ’90s had Kurt’s vocals. The ’00s have … laptops? Well, that’s the case for Deepak Mantena.

“I got really bored playing [guitar and piano], because it seemed as though the sounds I made were like the sounds everyone else was making,” Mantena said. “After a while, I discovered the computer as a music-making tool, and I used it more as an instrument. I started to get a little more excited about making music again, because the sounds I was getting seemed really fresh to my ear.”

Deepak Mantena, better known as Junk Culture, will take the stage at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., at 9 p.m. today with Horsepital, Ex-Action Model, and Single Indian Tear as part of the weekly Tuesday Night Social Club. Admission is free.

Junk Culture, an Illegal Art label artist, uses a combination of sampling, mixing, and recording to create his music. However, unlike other fellow label musicians such as Girl Talk, Mantena doesn’t use large clumps of mainstream hits in his tracks; instead, he employs tiny clips of samples ranging from old records to bar noises.

“I’m always capturing little field recordings, or little samples of songs I really like, or samples of me playing instruments on this really cheap pocket recorder,” Mantena said. “So pretty much everything on this [upcoming] record has been through the recorder.”

Mantena is able to make new sounds through this bizarre style out of noises heard by people in everyday life. Junk Culture is not alone in this sampling movement — it has been part of music since hip-hop emerged in the late-80s. Andre Perry, the Mill’s booking agent, believes this style of music is taking its natural growth.

“It’s part of the quest to find new ways to impress us [the listener] with sound,” Perry said. “Back in the early days with hip-hop, you sampled a riff to get a hook or something that was recognizable with an old soul or rock song, then put a beat behind it. Now, it’s into finding more obscure stuff with creating new interesting ways putting together weird sounds.”

Not only is Junk Culture’s music different from the modern day mash-up artist, Mantena takes a different approach to live performances.

“I don’t really feel any connection with laptop artists,” he said. “I respect what they’re doing, but I want to put on more of a show. I have a really awesome drummer [his brother Nitin] with me, and visuals I created to go along with my songs. We’re projecting those visuals combined with the energy of the live drummer to make it more of a traditional band experience. I’m also singing a little bit.”

Mantena, whose début album West Coast will drop this fall, is excited about recently becoming signed to a label and embarking on his first tour. Iowa City serves as his second stop.

“[My goal is to] keep making art and stuff that’s exciting,” he said. “[I] hope people like it, hope people are into it. But even if they’re not, just keep doing that. Even if I didn’t get signed I’d still be making music in my bedroom.”


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