The highly touted Mantissa originally formed in 1989 under the name of Killing Time. That band comprised Adam Pringle, Nina Grant, Chris Paine, and a number of drummers (Arnie Prazz, Russell Hopkinson) until Tubby Wadsworth (real name Alex Nikolzew; ex-Massappeal, Fester Fanatics) joined as a permanent member at the end of the year.
Killing Time played the Melbourne inner-city circuit for a year. With the arrival of ace guitarist Jed Starr (real name Darren McCormack, ex-Massive Appendage, Fester Fanatics) in June 1990, the band's sound shifted from Stooges-style grunge to a more adventurous contemporary hard rock stance. Reference points extended from Led Zeppelin to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Living Colour. Killing Time swiftly outgrew its fanatical live following around Melbourne with the release of the independent `Ruby's Mind' 12-inch EP in February 1991. With its crunching guitar riffs and funkified bass lines, the anthemic `Ruby's Mind' launched Killing Time as a band with enormous potential and crossover appeal. After a modest initial pressing of just 800 copies sold out, the EP went on to sell an impressive 10000 units and reached the national Top 20 in August.
The band supported overseas visitors like Faith No More, Mudhoney, Scatterbrain and Jane's Addiction, and became the subject of a furious bidding war between every major record company in Australia. Killing Time eventually signed a deal with Sydney-based independent label Red Eye. Red Eye reissued `Ruby's Mind' (July), followed by the CD EP The Mandlebroth Set in October 1991. Wadsworth left the band at the end of 1991 to be replaced by Sid Green. The band issued the CD single `Dream Alone'/`Mystery Line' (February 1992), after which Starr left to re-form Fester Fanatics. His place was taken by Chris Collins. Killing Time then signed an international deal with Polydor Records, and entered the studio with American producer Terry Date (Soundgarden, Pantera) in May to commence work on a debut album.
Due to a band also called Killing Time in the USA and another in Japan, the local Killing Time became Mantissa in August 1992. The name was inspired by John Fowles' novel Mantissa in which Mantissa was deemed the goddess of creativity. Mantissa's debut album Mossy God came out in October, which coincided with the band's national tour support to US visitors the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Two CD singles were lifted from the album, `Mary Mary' (#55 in November) and `Land of the Living' (#60 in March 1993). The album mixed grinding, heavy riffs, Grant's rumbling bass lines and Pringle's dramatic vocals with a mystical feel and all manner of psychedelic touches. Following the release of Mossy God and the single `Land of the Living' in the USA mid-1993, Mantissa spent nine months touring across America. The band returned to Australia and issued a new CD single `Sanctify' (June 1994), then supported visiting US heavyweights Pantera on an Australian tour (November).
In January 1995, Mantissa took part in the Big Day Out national tour, and issued a new CD EP Interalia. August 1995 saw the release of the band's second album, Thirst. The album was not successful, despite the many years of groundwork the band had put in prior to its release. Having been tagged `The Next Big Thing' and `The Band Most Likely To' very early in its career, Mantissa was unable to sustain a high profile and slipped from view.