Mark Mangold is one of the most respected and well-known musicians and composers out there. Come to think about it his name will always be associated with some of the greatest hits of the 80s by Michael Bolton, Cher, Laura Branigan etc. He has a new (great) album out with American Tears called “Free Angel Express” and he is already putting the finishing touches on a new album with Touch! Check out this really interesting interview with Mark Mangold…
Interview: Sakis Nikas
Rockpages.gr: Mark, I didn’t know that you were living in Sweden…
Mark Mangold: Yeah…in Stockholm. I’ve been back and forth for the last 4-5 years. When this Covid thing happened I was here in Sweden and with the whole border situation with USA, I couldn’t leave anyway…but I am staying here. My girlfriend is Swedish and if I return to the States I might not be able to come back to Sweden.
Rockpages.gr: So, you are stuck in Sweden (laughs)!
Mark Mangold: Well yeah….but I am applying for permanent residence and we are trying to solve this problem. Are you calling from Athens?
Rockpages.gr: Yeah…have you been here?
Mark Mangold: I’ve been to Athens once and I loved it. I’ve never been to the islands…my daughter says it’s absolutely magical. I will make sure to return one day.
Rockpages.gr: Mark, I guess you are in the middle of promoting the new American Tears album…
Mark Mangold: Yeah, we are getting great reactions and some really positive reviews. I am working hard with the label to co-ordinate things but everything’s going OK so far…they are doing a good job.
Rockpages.gr: I was really impressed by the new American Tears album…you read my review. How long did it take its whole preparations…writing, rehearsals, recording…?
Mark Mangold: It was pretty fast. Here’s my studio behind me (ed. Mark is showing me the studio equipment)…these days you can do everything quickly and easily. You don’t need to have a big budget to book a studio so as to get a great drum sound or whatever. Everything’s available on the Mac. So, if you have an idea you can record it…at least, most of it. So, with the internet and the aid of technology I can send over files to the band members and they will send me back their parts. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to work with the drummer Alex Landenburg. He came to New York and we spent 10 days on drums. We worked very fast and to tell you the truth the next record is done basically.
Mark Mangold: Yeah (Laughs)! Since we started in 2018 with “Hard Core” and then the next year with “White Flags”….now the new record…well, for me it’s really one big album! I keep writing and writing. Fortunately, we have a deal with a great label and we just keep them coming.
Rockpages.gr: Mark, from my perspective American Tears is a unique band as it combines progressive, AOR and melodic sound in one excellent package. You don’t get to hear many bands like that nowadays.
Mark Mangold: It’s keyboard-generated music but not only this. It’s a whole section…a choir. It’s thirty different instruments many of which you can play them on the keyboard. But it’s just not keyboards. With the absence of guitars it gives it a different sound. I love playing on keyboard a guitar riff like I did on “Sledgehammered”…
Rockpages.gr: Oh yeah, I love that one…it’s like a guitar riff…you are right.
Mark Mangold: Exactly! You create a unique sound on the Hammond and the synths are doubling it. I am used to that kind of musical structure but people are not necessarily used to it. I mean I get asked how I got that guitar sound…and I answer: “hey man, it’s a synthesizer” (laughs)! Most people and especially the younger generation is not knowledgeable of what they are hearing. It’s really a matter of trying to create those moments however you can and that makes it really interesting.
Rockpages.gr: Love the album cover and its title…I guess this was your idea and concept?
Mark Mangold: Stan Decker created this cool artwork but yeah, it was this concept of mine…if you can call it a concept. It was more of a three month old drawing which I sent to Stan. He took that very primitive idea of mine and created his fabulous art. I think he is one of the best album designers out there; very talented. People are really digging that cover.
Rockpages.gr: One thing that hits you instantly on this album is its powerful production. Everything sound crystal clear!
Mark Mangold: The previous album (“White Flags”) was mixed by me and somebody else. I decided this time to mix the album all by myself. I had to do it by necessity really as there’s nobody around anymore. But I am also very fortunate to have found this guy who handled the mastering process and everything sounded –as you said- crystal clear and louder.
Rockpages.gr: Who’s that guy?
Mark Mangold: Jacob Hansen from Denmark is his name. Maybe I shouldn’t say it because I don’t want anyone else to discover him (laughs). Sadly all the old school guys have passed away…you know, I used to work with George Marino who was a legend. I tried some of these modern guys who were good in mixing dance stuff but none of them could capture that dynamic which allows music to “breathe”. With a prog/melodic rock album you want to create this unique sound so you have to create those dynamics.
Rockpages.gr: Let me tell you that this album has a far better production compared to “White Flags”.
Mark Mangold: Wow…that’s amazing. I am not gonna say that I am faking it but there are far better mixers than me but I guess the final result is what counts. The equipment is also very important. I am very happy that you said that and hopefully it means more work for me.
Rockpages.gr: You know I focus on the production because nowadays with the technology everything’s is definitely easier but on the other hand the productions are flat. You get to hear good songs but not good productions, if you know what I mean.
Mark Mangold: Totally…I completely understand and I agree. You know…that’s why I started American Tears again. I got sick of all this generic stuff…the same all things. How many times can you hear a new Whitesnake kinda song rewritten all over again? You have to try something new and not copy Whitesnake or Foreigner or whatever. If you wanna do a 10-minute song that includes a synth solo or a guitar solo without being boring, then do it! That’s why all the American Tears songs do not have the basic compositional structure. I’ve done that stuff for years in the past but with American Tears you can’t have a safety net! You don’t know what the song structure will be and that’s really important for an artist and for the listener. You can do whatever you want and not stick to a formula. It’s both risky, scary but also very gratifying. You just have to say “fuck it…I am doing it! (laughs).
Rockpages.gr: How different is the world of American Tears as we speak today compared to the 70s when you when first started out?
Mark Mangold: It’s a whole different situation. In those days we had a band together, we were playing, we were touring…we did some amazing tours with great artists like Peter Frampton and we played to so many people all over America. Now we can’t play! Also, our drummer is in Germany and our bass player is in Texas…we are working long distance. It’s kinda tragic. We the work done but you can’t feel the energy of working together at the same room in the studio. This whole covid situation is hurting all the artists. Somebody told me earlier today that they are not starting gigs before October/November 2021 in the UK. So the question is: what are all these people gonna do?
Rockpages.gr: It’s the decline or the end of the music industry as we know it. But hopefully when a vaccine is available we will return to a normal situation…
Mark Mangold: It will be some form of normal but not as we knew it unless the vaccine will really work. But I think it’s gonna be very different…but, Sakis….the creative soul, the creative spirit cannot be killed! Even in my little room here in Sweden I am gonna keep creating music like thousands of artists all over the world. Sometimes I wonder why are we doing it? We have to do it, I guess…
Rockpages.gr: It’s inside you, Mark…you can’t do otherwise.
Mark Mangold: Yeah…it’s DNA…we have to do it. Do you know my other band….Touch?
Rockpages.gr: Do I know Touch? Of course I know Touch…here’s the first Touch album(ed. I am showing Mark the first Touch CD from my collection).
Mark Mangold: (laughs) Right! So we are in the middle of finishing a new record…14 new songs. As a matter of fact, one of them is available on YouTube called “Tomorrow Never Comes”…check it out.
Rockpages.gr: I will.
Mark Mangold: Cool. That’s the first song that we mixed and put it out as a teaser. The other band members live all over the States…Chicago, Connecticut, Jersey. We have to do it…we have to be alive!
Rockpages.gr: You are right. Don’t forget that there are people all over the world that appreciate what you are doing and say “thank you for the music”!
Mark Mangold: Thank you. I appreciate it…it means a lot.
Rockpages.gr: Speaking of Touch…lots of people are not aware of the fact that this was the first band ever to play in Donington Park! Any fond memories from that special day?
Mark Mangold: I didn’t realize it until 15-16 years later because when we did it, we couldn’t know what Donington will turn into. But yes…we were the first band on the first Donington Festival. It was a huge honor for us. What do I remember from that day…let’s see…Touch was on tour with Rainbow and we were waiting for that specific show. We were very tight as a band and we had played that set list so many times. We weren’t nervous at all…our only concern was how the sound will be. 60.000 people were there. It was rainy and muddy but it was a beautiful experience and we loved it. We got to meet all those bands…Rainbow, Scorpions was there, Judas Priest was there, Riot, April Wine…awesome line-up! It was memorable.
Rockpages.gr: Do you miss those days?
Mark Mangold: Hell yeah!
Rockpages.gr: Mark, one of my favorite songs of all-time is “Fool’s Game” by Michael Bolton. Tell us how you met Michael and if you remember any details about your songwriting collaboration on those two albums (“Michael Bolton”, “Everybody’s Crazy”) with him?
Mark Mangold: We were both in New York. Touch was doing well and Michael was starting over with his solo thing and I got a call from Michael’s manager Louis Levin asking me if I wanted to write a song with Michael. There was a club in New York called China Club. Everybody was there…a very cool scene. You can go at any night and see Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, David Bowie…one night I met Michael and Aldo Nova. We decided that we should write some songs together. I wrote lots of songs with Aldo…I went up to Canada a couple of times and wrote with him. With Michael we hit it off right away. The first song that we wrote was “Fool’s Game”. Later on, we wrote a bunch stuff on “Everybody’s Crazy” and some other things like “I Found Someone” which was a huge hit. China Club was a very cool place where you could met anybody.
Rockpages.gr: You know, the exact same thing Desmond Child told me about that club and New York in general.
Mark Mangold: Desmond was there. It was such a cool and vibrant scene at that time. I met Desmond there…Joan Jett, Bon Jovi…too many to mention.
Rockpages.gr: Mark, I gotta be honest with you…I prefer Cher’s version of “I Found Someone” over the one that you recorded for your “Lift” album back in 2003. By the way, do you have a favorite version of this song?
Mark Mangold: I gotta go with Cher’s version, too. That’s the demo that we created and that was the original idea for the song.
Rockpages.gr: If I mention the name “Mystic Healer” what are the first thoughts that come to your mind?
Mark Mangold: Todd Googing…an amazing singer. That was a great record. I was approached by a label asking me if I had any songs from the past that were not used and they were basically unreleased. So, Mystic Healer was really an one-off thing with songs that I wrote with people like Jack Ponti. It was a good chance to get some of my stuff out. Al from Drive, She Said was on the record and a lot of friends came and help me out on this album.
Rockpages.gr: As we are making this trip down to memory lane, would you like to tell us a few words about the late and great Al Fritch?
Mark Mangold: I have a lot of memories…Al was like a brother to me and we wrote a lot of music together. Al was very talented! Apart from his excellent singing, he was an accomplished guitar player, he played bass and drums…he played keyboards better than I did. He was an unbelievable musician…a virtuoso. In all those years…15-20 years…we never had an argument! We never really disagreed on anything. We were completely in synch. I had a great working relationship and friendship with Al.