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A Dirty Dozen with MARK MANGOLD from AMERICAN TEARS – August 2019

| 29 August 2019 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “The keyboard trio, American Tears, is back with their vintage prog sound/approach (and lyrics that prove quite relevant in today’s headlines) on their fifth album overall, White Flags – released on July 26th via Escape Music in association with 12:12 Records. With influences from his earlier work, tipping an occasional hat to ELP, Moody Blues and even Deep Purple, this new album shows the daring, and pure emotion, that can be ripped out of those instruments. In fact, the band may be the only band on the planet playing exclusively keyboard rock! American Tearsdefies the term “generic” as this purely original music, and scathing lyrics, have few if any standards for comparison – as evidenced by such standout tracks as the nine minute-plus “Fire Down Below,” the epic title track, the synth/organ-heavy album opener, “Turn U On,” and the space age “Waltz of the Angels.” We get Mark Mangold to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Nice question.  I think the goal was to hear everything, tapestries and combinations of sounds, placed in the stereo field, levels and a thing called “carving” so the frequencies of instruments do not clash too much if possible, so you can pick things out and maybe even discover some things you may not have noticed on another listen.  No secret background whispers or subliminal messages…as far as I know.  Though, if you think about it, if I were someone who was hiding secret messages…would I really be admitting it here, ha ha.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I was always drawn to music and it just seemed very natural to be discovering and noodling on one thing or another.  I started as a drummer, and then morphed into keyboards.  Fooled around with sax and accordion for a moment.  Always had a piano sitting there and then fell in love with the Hammond Organ, which became the focus, of course being augmented with various new keyboards being invented at the time.  The Moog, Arp, Mellotron, Clavinet…whatever I could get my hands on. I always was in bands…and at some point I got a call that someone saw a gig of a band I was in, Valhalla, and offered us a record deal.   At that point I think I got on that train and was hooked…but either way music has been a way of life for me.  As far as other artists…I remember at a young age hearing Elvis, Bo Diddley…and then eventually when I heard Jimmy Smith, the master Hammond organist, I became a member of the Hammond cult :))

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

In terms of learning how to play, as I am self-taught (for better or for worse) Jimmy Smith had a tremendous influence on me.  As far as what I ended up playing, I think that was just a function of my personal taste and the melodies and songs I came up with.  Always looking for something beautiful, and hopefully catchy, and always wanting the musicianship to be an important element.  Of course I love Zep, Deep Purple, AC/DC, and so many more…but always strived, at least when it came to rock, to be original and have a signature sound, with the bands I’ve been in.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Ha – The subconscious and keeping open and aware of what is being given to me from… wherever it is coming from.  In search of those melodies and tapestries and ways to translate emotion.  Very often it’s just like channeling and it comes from somewhere else…

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I would say Paul McCartney.  That would be amazing…

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Hmm to the first part I would say it’s keyboard rock…some long journeys…get ready for some surprises and let go of any firmly entrenched rules or prejudices.  Just listen and let it take you. Re the second part, nothing comes to mind.  There are so many parts and elements to these songs so there are bound to be different comparisons, I guess. I kind of accept whatever comparisons people make and try to look for the reason they may have made that comparison.  A song, or part, was recently was compared to Focus…I’m not sure why…maybe one section of a song that had some organ flute like arpeggios…so yes maybe Focus??  I think I get it ha ha.  Some sections could be Pink Floyd because they may be slow and spacey for a bit and stringy (or Mellotron)…and of course AC/DC with no guitars ha ha….grindy organ on a guitar riff is one of my favs. I guess comparisons are a way to communicate and prepare people to listen and are necessary for “reviews” and critics, but I much prefer people just making up their own minds.  With keyboards, as it’s very rare to hear a keyboard band, there are fewer bands to compare to and as people are not as used to the sounds  (i.e. organ, Mellotron, synth, etc.) the tendency may be to go to the last record they heard with a similar sound.  But for instance with a guitar band…it’s just….guitar ha ha.  We are not drawing connections between Clapton and Hendrix and Harrison and Blackmore etc. etc. based on the guitar SOUND.  We are past that…we are used to that instrument and are able to get deeper into the actual playing, style and content.  With keys I think, as there are not as many people to compare to, maybe it’s a bit more superficial…who knows. Distorted guitar equals…anybody… whereas Grindy organ equals John Lord…Mellotron equals 10 CC or King Crimson…Clavinet equals Stevie Wonder (Superstition) ha ha…etc..  Though WHAT is being played may be totally different than is what on those records. Anyway…sorry for rambling…just a thought.

7. What’s the best thing about being a musician?

Wow.  I think as I know nothing different, to me being a musician simply means life and being alive.  I do indeed love it and feel very blessed to be able to create it.  Coming up with an idea, playing something that is moving, or simply fun and kick ass, ripping some improvisations, self-expression…can be cathartic and healing…waking up in the morning with a song in your head…lyrics and all…ready to go…having a dream you are writing with Dio and loving the song you are writing and then realizing you are dreaming and it’s you who are actually thinking of the song and having to run to the recorder to get it down before the waking mind takes over ha ha….and then the recording process when it’s “nailed” and for instance sung by a great singer…all very satisfying on many levels.   It’s a trip ha ha.  I couldn’t imagine anything different…

8. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

We don’t have guitars ha ha.

9. When was the last time you were star struck and who was it?

I would go back to Jimmy Smith, the organist.  Still am amazed when I listen to his records…not only the sound of the organ but the virtuosity is astounding.

10. If you weren’t a musician, what would be your dream job?

Ain’t gonna happen ha ha.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?

At different levels of the music business it’s dangerous to say no to things, opportunities, etc.  On two occasions I followed the advice of some people who were handling us and I think in retrospect it was a huge mistake.  One was with Drive, She Said…we were offered to appear on a show called “Star Search”…which of course is now pre Idol etc.  It would have given us international coverage.  We wanted to do it but the major manager who was handling us at the time thought it wasn’t cool and was “beneath” us…which it may have been for some of his other major bands…but in the end, considering the level that D, SS was at it would have made millions of people aware of us.  Changed everything…possibly.  Plus a free all expense trip to LA to show the world our music…shouldadoneit. The other is merely a publishing deal that maybe we should have taken which was a nice amount of money and had a lot of potential to get a big company behind us…though as we had two records about to come out we thought that holding on to the publishing had a lot more potential.   Who knew ha ha.  Anyway…as it turns out may have been better to hook up with a major publisher to have that on the team.  I think I probably should have done that differently…who knows.  A different path…maybe.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Oh, so many.  Of course there are some amazing videos of i.e. Stones sessions, or Beatles…ie. “Sgt Pepper” or my favorites “Street Fighting Man” or “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”  Of course modern things like Katy Perry, Amy Winehouse or Adele would be wonderful. But you said one…so…ummm the mixing session of “I Am The Walrus” ha ha. Thanks so much for the interview…and hope this answers the questions…sorry for any rambling…ha ha.



Category: Interviews

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ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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