As the Internet continues it's ever-pervasive crusade into every aspect of our lives, artists have struggled to try and integrate digital worlds and media into their real world public identity. Most commonly, industry-manufactured musicians will snap pretty and vacuous selfies for their Instagram or take to Twitter to muster up a half-hearted "yas" for their millions of followers without any real engagement with the medium. Less common are those artists who start online but are able to successfully steer their careers into the real world: the quintessential Tumblr star Lana Del Rey may have ruined it for everyone when she flubbed her Saturday Night Live performance, because recent efforts from acts such as Charli XCX, Grimes and Brooke Candy have all proved largely unfruitful.
Rarer still is the popstar who seems to exist only in digital form. Hatsune Miku may take the crown as the first officially crowd-funded collective to exist in hologram form, but other artists such as the walking Autotune machine Nadia Oh or the Kylie Jenner-approved Terror Jr. do their job equally well. It's into this digital categorisation that postmodern popstar, and friend to PHF, Matilda Mantis has flitted into and begun to dominate. With her vocals at the least non-existent and at the most heavily synthesised, her beats industrial, electronic and sparse and her persona fluid and ambiguous, Mantis has elusively created a distinctive style for herself despite limited knowledge of her creator.
But who is the real Matilda Mantis? Is there a girl behind the aura, or is Mantis nothing more than a social experiment designed to shock her audience into paying attention? Last week, we sat down with the curator and the character to find our more about the creation that is Matilda Mantis.
Hey! I’m doing good and right now I’m at home watching one of my favourite movies, Nightbreed.
Let's talk about how you first got interested in music. It seems like your career has exploded out of nowhere, but your production skills seem to suggest otherwise. How long have you been working on your songs for?
I am a rather inconsistent person so to answer your question I'm just going to have to tell the truth here. I started fidgeting around with some programs I found on the Internet and I kind of liked it so I stuck with it.
Since your debut, you've become known online for your unique sound, which while clearly inspired by the pop scene is also fairly left of field and unique. How did you develop such an attention-grabbing sound? Has it changed at all from when you first started making music, or was this always the plan?
I am an experimental artist so my sound really is unintentional: it's just me kind of feeling around in the dark, is how I like to describe it. It's very much a amalgam of different influences from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga to Nine Inch Nails and more. So the sound is just a manifestation of a being from my subconscious.
What's your writing process like? Do you tend to start with a specific idea and work with that, or is your writing more spontaneous?
I start by writing full songs and I just take the bits and pieces that I like and throw them together how I see fit. I love a good concept album and so that's how I approach the themes and such from my songs: every single thing is really just part of a bigger concept. For instance, my big project right now, Cosmic, is about my character Matilda going through space, going back to where she came from and trying figure out who she was and why she's here.
Your stage name is giving me Poison Ivy meets Roald Dahl realness. What's the story behind it?
My name is a mix of my favourite things: you clocked the Roald Dahl reference to Matilda, and the Mantis surname comes from the concept of my character, as it's a very humanized version of nature itself. I also chose Matilda because it's the same number of letters as Madonna and Marilyn (a reference to both Marilyn Monroe and Marilyn Manson), and I kind of liked the mirrored, symmetrical nature of that very light, feminine, and clean icon and very dark, dirty, and rough around the edges icon.
How do you conceptualize Matilda as an artist? Do you see the name as just an alternate nickname for yourself, or does using the stage name allow you to adopt a different persona entirely? Does taking on the female gendered Matilda allow you to explore ideas you wouldn't be able to normally?
Matilda is a character that mirrors who I am as a person. I chose to go for a female name due to the fact that I really wanted to view myself from an outside perspective and I thought a good way to do that would be the change genders - but Matilda as a character is actually somewhat genderless. Although I treat Matilda as though she's like a human, she actually is not: she is half robot, half insect-alien-ghost.
What would you say is your main goal with your career? Would you be interested in signing to a major label and breaking through into the mainstream, or are you happy to stay underground?
In the long term I would love to be able to get some sort of label backing to be able to achieve some of the bigger project goals I have in mind, but overall I would really love to become an active performer. I love being on stage and I feel like Matilda and myself are both characters that are built for live interactions. I also want to build up Matilda’s story some more.
If you could work with any three artists, alive or dead, who would they be and why?
I would love to work with Leigh Bowery - he is my style icon also my personal icon. He was a very over the top Club Kid that unfortunately died due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He was known as the life of the party and was a very active artist who also made several songs, including as part of a band that made very rock-pop club songs. He changed the art scene and music scene forever and allowed artists like Lady Gaga to do what they do.
I would also love to work with Björk. She was - she is - an experimental artist that started out making club music, but she moved on to become a very conceptual artist who's able to carry very small topics, but also very big topics, and make them very accessible and very personal, which is something I really would love to be able to do as an artist. For instance her album Biophilia was her taking scientific concepts and making music based off of it. She made an emotional song about how viruses work which is pretty crazy and I love it!
I would really like to be able to work with Clive Barker to make some crazy visuals and concepts. He is a multi-talented artist who happens to be gay, which I think is pretty cool, and of course he directed one of my favourite movies ever, Nightbreed, which I'm watching right now. He's a really awesome author and I love a lot of his writing, but he also has a really good visual eye for painting and directing. Directing and acting is a field that one day I want to get into and I feel like it'd be really good way to portray Matilda and my concepts that I create.
What can followers expect from you in the coming months?
My online experience called 'The Cosmic Experience' is coming very soon, buy unfortunately it was held back because I didn't realise how much time it would take. The second part of my Cosmic album, which is officially titled Cosmic: The Lost City, comes out this summer, and it has a little bit more storytelling than my last album. But the twist is it was all made on my phone: no computers will be involved in the production and making of the album, what is a little experiment I really want to try. I'm also working on my short film called Cosmic Exploration and it premieres sometime this summer as well.
Are there any last words you'd like to say to your fans?