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By Tom Murphy
Although he left Denver as a mere mortal eight years ago, Mitch Pond returned with a human-insect-hybrid alter ego that produces futuristic, hip-hop-influenced instrumental music and beats: Man Mantis. Since returning last fall, he's stayed busy with projects like "Hear the Noise," a crowd-sourced tune composed from sounds submitted online by fans and strangers. He also composed three beats on Sole's new album, A Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing, including the epic, post-apocalyptic-Kanye sound of "Non Workers of the World" and the lush, synth-driven backdrop for "The Untouchables."
Westword: Is there a significance to the human-insect hybrid aspect of your persona?
Man Mantis: 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 folklore's muse in South Africa. It's the spirit of creativity, and I really like that, too. I decided to start going with it, 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.
How did you and Sole first connect?
In 2011, I put out an instrumental album called Cities Without Houses. I decided I was going to do my own thing on an instrumental album that stands by itself and isn't just beats. I was sending it all over, and it got posted on the bomarr blog, which is one of the producers from Restiform Bodies, one of the old anticon. acts. 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, we realized we knew some of the same people. We started working on songs, and it just clicked from there.