Mark Mangold: American Tears to Drive She Said to The Sign and a new Freaky project.
Mark Mangold runs through the new Drive She Said album, his love of working with the people he does and the new Magic Freak Society project.
Ok Mark, thanks for taking the time out to be interrogated. There is much more to the man than just a keyboard player - how would you describe yourself?
Mmm, I don't think I would actually. That's a hard one. Just another one of the 6 billion Universes living and breathing on this planet, and I must say I'm sure enjoying it.
You are a songwriter by trade - could there possibly be a tougher trade to make a living from on the face of the earth?
Soldier......But yes anything in the "arts" is subjective and hard and it often comes down to pleasing an "executive" before it even gets out there to the world. That has seriously stifled the making of music unfortunately.
I know a lot of my readers are interested in the industry side of things and behind the scenes. In relation to your songs being adopted by same very high profile names such as Cher and Michael Bolton, can you tell us just how the process works - how do you shop songs around, how are they picked up and what are the benefits to you to have these songs featured on an album and also when they reach such heights that you have been able to with a couple of hit songs?
I'm not sure after all these years, that there is a process that necessarily works. Otherwise I'd be doing it every day.
It's about perseverance and a bit of being in the right place at the right time.
It is almost a miracle when all the stars align and you have a "hit". There is so much that needs to happen. But I think of it one step at a time, write a great song and try to make a great record. The rest will come in time, hopefully.
Of course on the other end, eg. get a publisher or someone to shop the stuff, send it out. Try to get it recorded...work with awesome people only and ride their coat tails....ha ha.
When you write, do you know or can you feel that any given song is a natural candidate for a hit single? Or is it really just a good song and good luck that things work out?
Of course when you are writing something awesome you think, wow this is a hit...song. Then of course you need the other things to happen before that happens. There is a lot of spiritually involved and there's something spiritual that makes the right things happen at the right time.
You are not only a songwriter, but a writer full stop. Tell us about the book you have written?
Yes, I felt compelled to sit down a few years ago and write some thoughts down. You can check it out at Indigorecords.com. It's called The New Faith...
I don't want to prematurely age you here - but you have been around for some time! What would you put your lengthy career down to? Talent obviously is one thing!
I'm out of my frickin' mind. An insane optimist. I ignore, or try to, negativity. My motto is "we can do it" and if anyone tells me different I tell them to f--k off. I try to release my fears when they occur. And, thank god, no one is hassling me about my age. I'm in a band now called The Magic Freak Society, which is a great band (all guys in their 20's) that has some real relevance, musically, to what is happening now. It's kind of retro, psychedelic (meaning fuzz and wa) and grindy Hammond organ, with modern production and almost an alternative approach, very current in my opinion. F--k age, it's b--s--t. (fork age it's basement).
How do you approach writing for the different musical genre's you are involved in. You have covered blues, new age, pop, rock, retro and AOR....how do they differ for you?
Well I love it all really. It is a different feeling and emotion, almost a different mood really. But we all have our moods so, being a musician, it seems very natural to me. The common thing for me must be that it is all truthful, from the heart and convey emotion, even if it's sleazy delta slide guitar, or meditational piano improvisations.
We are obviously plugging the new Drive She Said record here - how was the first ever DSS album conceived?
Wow, that's been a while. Well I met Al and we just worked together on it, wrote songs, scrapped a few and defined our sound. Fortunately when we were ready we met John Luongo, our manager, who put it all together for us. One of those wonderful moments when the perseverance worked out.
And now album number 5 - how has the band - or the partnership between you and Al matured?
It's simply lovely. We barely need to talk anymore. We know what we want to do so well, and Al is an amazing musician and can basically do ANYTHING. It's one of the blessings in my life, and I kind of create the stuff with that in mind...it helps define what is being created. We joke that one day we'll be on our respective front porches talking about the new CD that Maestro Serafino just asked for. It will be called Octigeniarian and of course we'll have to have diapers and oxygen tanks on stage, for the tour...if we can afford to tour.
That may happen! But for this album, where did this set of songs come from? Were they all purpose written, or were some pulled out of the archives or dusted off?
They are actually all new, except for the chorus of "What's it Gonna Take", which has been floating around for years. They were written very quickly actually, in about two weeks, once we got the OK to do the record. It's the recording that takes time, we can conceive of this stuff pretty quickly once the "flood gates" are allowed to be opened and we know the songs will have a home. Anyone out there want another D,SS record....send $2.99 and a self addressed and we'll write one and get it out to you in a year or so.
Where do you see this album sitting amongst the DSS musical catalogue?
It is my favorite, actually. It is over the top, I think, both melodically and production wise, less "safe" than some of the early stuff. We really just did what we wanted and packed it with little surprises, vocal extravaganza's. We had a lot of fun with it.
You are basically confined to a European and sometimes Japanese release for DSS. But I know fans from the US import them via online retailers etc, so do you have a sense of frustration that you can't reach more fans via tradition CD store methods?
Yes....wouldn't it be nice.
You have your website Indigo Records - which has a strong online presence - has that been a success for you personally and professionally?
Indigorecords.com is just a place that people who love this music can check out to get any of these CD's, a place to go where it's available. It's not a serious business venture. I doubt that we've sold over 100 CD's all told over the life of the site.
What good uses have you found that the Internet has?
It's fun searching stuff and saves the leg work. E.g. buying a CD, or whatever. It brings the world closer to us all I think.
You make yourself easily reachable, which I think is cool...has that brought any advantages/disadvantages for you?
Not really. I didn't do it consciously really, I'm just out there like everyone else.
Tell us about the latest project Magic Freak Society. Thanks for the musical preview - good to see that it is as completely un-trendy as all good music is these days!
Well you can check out The Magic Freak Society at Magicfreaksociety.com. We are actually playing in the NY area quite a bit. It actually is pretty relevant to what is happening out there these days, though the funkiness and Hammond organ add a fresh (or retro) twist. It's a lot of fun and going great and a few songs are being received as possible "singles". We really hope to get a "real" deal, and hopefully I will be able to report that at some point soon. Wouldn't that be frickin' awesome. We actually do two songs off the Valhalla CD (a CD I recorded when I was about 19). It's very jammy and psychedelic...great band, great singers and players.
I love the quote on your site in relation to the sales of this album excuse the higher price, but we record this ourselves and are broke - haha....too funny. Any label interest thus far? (Can I run soundbytes for ya now?)
We are in shop mode, people are coming down to see it and the response has been great. We shall see....eye of the tiger, as they say.
Has your playing changed much over the years?
Mmm, sometimes I wonder. I guess I've gotten better, though I was fairly scathing at 19. I think "life" has matured the playing, and I do have a few more licks. The Channels record (spontaneous "meditation" or improv's) has shown me that, I can almost play what I think, which is the ultimate goal, while trying not to limit your thinking to what is in your musical "vocabulary". It comes from inside really...or some sort of transcendental "place" that musicians sometimes talk about. You become a vessel for whatever melodies are floating around out there. Well, it's for real...
How about the updating of keyboard technology? Do you have a favourite era for gadgetry, or does it just keep getting better/worse?
Now is awesome. We have access to everything. What a great time to be a keyboard player. Especially doing some Valhalla songs (at that time there were no synths and we were waiting for a monophonic (one note at a time) synth to be invented, and had to carry around a 450 pound Hammond organ. Wow. now I have the Hammond in my I-book at gigs and I swear it sounds better than the "real" thing. My Leslie speaker is a nice piece of furniture now. And with computers, well we couldn't possibly do another D,SS record without them. Impossible on these budgets...
You and the boys from The Sign are obviously getting ready for album number 2 - have you a game plan for recording album number 2?
Well we are in songwriting mode, hopefully it will get done sometime soon.
Seeing you guys at The Gods 2000, there was a fabulous chemistry. What kind of inspiration is it to work with other great musicians such as Randy and Terry?
It's so much fun, as each of us brings something distinct to the sound, but we know each other so well now we can roll play and Terry can sing Zeppy stuff like Randy, and Randy can play the bluesy stuff like Randy eg. sometimes Terry and I write and we say "what would Randy do here" and then six months later Randy gets a writing credit because we can't remember he didn't write it. It makes for an adventurous sound.
Where to from here? What next for DSS?
Working hard on the Magic Freaks, three more songs trying to get recorded, and getting a deal. That would be wonderful and even in an indirect way, allow us to do a melodic metal every few years, because that is surely a labor of love, and basically no money is ever made for us...so it is quite a sacrifice really.
And we do it because we truly love our "fans" or I should say the people who also love this music, and we love being able to be creative, and be able to have people listen to what we are doing, because I think we do do it well, I really do...even if we are somewhat dinosaurs...but dry your eyes we are OK and making it thru like the rest of us. But seriously, it is a privilege to be able to get this stuff out there, and I hope it is received well.
What about our scene that we work in - how do you see it building and expanding successfully?
Oops, probably not, unless the music is expanded, and then it's no longer the "scene". When something becomes a "genre" (eg. like country music), it limits it.
Any advice for new artists out there looking to break into this scene and the music business in general? Should they quit now?!!
I would just say do the best you can. Know going in that it's got serious limitations, but if you love it, go for it.