Intervju med Mike Mangini i Dream Theater!
Någon timme innan giget på Hovet fick jag möjlighet att sitta ner en kort stund med Mike Mangini och prata om främst utbildning och livets skola, skulle det visa sig.
Egentligen kom intervjun inte att handla så mycket om Dream Theater utan istället blev det ett samtal om hans jobb som lärare, hur han utbildade sig själv och hur han kom att arbeta med Patriotmissilen. Trummisar är i vanliga fall måltavlor för allehanda skämt om deras intelligens, men Mangini är helt klart av en helt annan kaliber.
You´re from Newton, right? Outside Boston.
Mike Mangini: I was born in Newton, but I didn´t grow up there.
Ah ok, I´ve got a friend who lived in Newton actually. So, how old were you when you started playing drums? Was it pots and pans, and slamming around in the kitchen?
MM: Yeah, when I was two and a half and when I was four, I had my second drum set and I started performing when I was five. We had a lot of cousins in the family so there was usually one wedding a year and sometimes two every other year and my family would bring my drum set to the wedding and there weren´t 12 people there, there were 300-500 lunatics. That´s how I started performing and I cried all the time. I actually did not like it.
Who were your first kinda influences?
MM: Ringo Starr was first and then Danny Seraphine from Chicago and Bobby Colomby from Blood, Sweat & Tears and then some Motown stuff. See, my brother gave me all the music with the horns because he played saxophone and my sister gave me some Motown stuff, but my brother gave me the bulk of the material and they both liked the Beatles, so that was up until age nine and then my brother got me a Buddy Rich album at age nine. God, he made 25 cents an hour from working and saved money and bought me these records, you know what I mean? So when he handed me that Buddy Rich record, he just said two words, “Learn it!” and little did I know what was inside it. (laughs)
It´s funny because I´ve seen a few documentaries about metal and just recently “Metal Evolution” by Sam Dunn and people mention Buddy Rich as being a really good drummer and an influence in some ways.
MM: Well, he had the face. He was an aggressive man.
But listening to an album starting out, how do you know which drum to hit?
MM: I remember, before I got my first toy drum set at age three, when I set up the cans I also was looking at the back of the LP and I could see the shape of the drums and it made sense to me, the pitch going from left to right… by shape and still by shape is how I remember things.
What is it that attracted you to those drummers? Was it a special groove or them just being fast or what?
MM: I gotta tell you something, what a question to ask me, because it really is the core question that I don´t think is answerable. I have an answer for almost everything because I studied mechanics and usually I´d answer with within the mechanical side or the philosophy side, but when you ask “How did I know or what was it?”, I don´t know! I just knew a drummer was doing something that wasn´t… I just wanna say normal, but had a little something extra. Let me talk about this and maybe I´ll find an answer. It´s like a drummer that would combine some chops with the melody. You know what? It´s like the drum part was the only drum part for that song and I was never really into drummers where the drum part could go to a multitude of songs. It´s not that I don´t like a straight beat or a straight groove, it´s just that… we´re floating around on this big rock called earth and eventually the sun is gonna boil it one day and I´m gonna be dead, so I just don´t feel like doing that! I like to find a little something, just something that makes it so that drum part is for that one song. That´s all.
You´ve done a lot of teaching as well and you taught at college. Do you miss that? The interaction with the students?
MM: Well, you know something? I don´t teach for my job, I would teach for a side job. In other words, my teaching keeps me in touch. It keeps me thinking about how to answer questions and how to think about things. The students in my life, have been the ones that have kept me current. They´re the ones that´ll tell me “Listen to this record!” or “Listen to this guy!” or mention me to someone who otherwise would not know who I am. It´s nice and I sort of need them, rather than it being a one way street. The fact that they were so… and always have been, so kind to me in word and all that and they´ve always voted me really high up as far as like a teacher evaluation and I think that´s because they know that I put them first. But it´s also… it´s not a 100% that I care about you more than anything and I´m a great guy, it´s not that. It´s the little bit that I do care more about what they want than what I want, but it´s also that I have something to gain too. I have an interest and I have a lot to learn, so I love it and I´ll always do it. In fact, before I left while I was learning these songs and getting over a sever virus and illness that knocked me out for six weeks, I did teach a lesson over Skype and I´ll probably do that more now.
Can you hear right away when a kid is drumming, that he´s got something?
MM: Of course, however, I made a business and a really good one out of the guys that other teachers said “You don´t have it! You don´t have enough talent!” or “You don´t practice enough to study to me!”. You know what, send me those guys! Send me the ones that another teacher said “Kid, you don´t have it!”, because those are the ones that… I could always help them and those are the ones that would take a bullet for me, because I really believe in the method more than worrying so much about the talent level. I think it´s just an expectation thing. Yes of course you know when someone comes in and they immediately have either a little more skill than the next one or that little something special, the X factor or whatever that is? I think it´s really just that they recognize melody as a musician and have some facilities to make it concrete and mechanical, but to come up with a method that works for everybody, I think of that as the greatest achievement of my life more than winning auditions. To help somebody. The expectation thing I always keep a check on. Like I was always informed by friends before getting in a relationship to get married, the worst thing in the world is to have expectations on somebody. It´s just not smart and it´s not fair either, so perhaps some of us and I have, even as a teacher you have expectations and if you have no expectations and you don´t expect this particular person who doesn´t seem like they would be able to achieve… let´s say jazz drummer of the year. If we both know that they´re not gonna have that, you don´t expect it but they could be the right guy for their friend´s band and the best one.
Reading about you, you come across as a well educated man, but is it true that you did some computer programming for the Patriot missile system?
MM: Oh yeah! I worked for a number of years on the communication software and I didn´t even have a degree. I worked my way up to be a full staff engineer. I just started out with the documentation and I forgot how to turn the computer on (laughs) but we were programming on a binary level and I had to do punch cards and do octal math, stuff like that and trying to find the bugs in the program. I did what I was told to do, the other engineers did the thinking. As soon as I got promoted to a position where I had to do the real engineering, I almost had a nervous breakdown and I quit, really! I´ll never forget it. I sat in my office thinking “This is not where I´m supposed to be!”, but it was great that I finally had a job and I was able to save money and pay for things and live like a normal human being, rather than the musician that I really was, scraping for anything and always having to go back home and stay with my parents and never paying them a dime. Not like they could really afford that with their kids coming back home, but I had to a number of times. My dad was like “Look kid, you have great grades in school. I´ll get you a job as a software engineer.” and he did. Education wise, what I consider my greatest time was on the surface one of the worst times for me. It was between tour legs when I was with Steve Vai where I didn´t really do anything to get any work and not making enough money to survive. I should´ve gotten a job just to keep the money I had in the bank and maybe invest in a piece of property and just work anything to pay my food, but no. I made a big mistake there, in one way, but in another way I purchased a couple of thousand dollars worth of books over a couple of years. Just a rough figure, but some of the books are expensive and I started with physics because I came up with a lot of ideas as to how things are working and I´m intrigued by… when you know something before it happens. I was wondering, what is information made out of? Why can´t these scientists figure out what´s in between? How can they think that everything in this universe has a cause except the universe? I don´t agree with that and I think it´s insane that someone who´s brilliant would have, in my opinion, a lack of common sense and thinks it some accident. But those are strong words and hey, nobody knows here, but anyway, for me that´s my feeling and that´s what I thought and it doesn´t mean I´m right. So I read and then I realized that I needed some mathematics to understand it and my SAT scores in the US were very high in math, not in language. Living in LA, there were so many people that had mish mash religions. If I said “What are you? What do you subscribe to?” and they´d say “Well, I´m a little of this and a little of that.” And to get along with people rather than form an opinion and point out where I disagree with others, I decided to read books that would help me learn what they thought and it was the smartest thing I ever did because it allowed me to speak to somebody with respect, because I respected the fact that anybody tried to figure out anything and I realized with myself too that where ever you are in your life is where you are as long as you keep trying. That push with education keeps you humble, so I found that some of my best friends disagree with some of the most important things I believe and some of my best friends think things totally differently than me, you know. It´s really amazing to take a different attitude… like how can I even speak to this person if I don´t know what they think I think I do and the world is broken because of that. That´s what I consider my best education, is reading books even though I don´t remember everything and I don´t understand everything and I don´t know that I could take a test on much of this in school well, but I dug into areas of interest to me, that help me relate to people and enhance my own belief system which is basically… you know, I think I´m gonna answer to everything when I´m dead and it keeps it simple. Some of the people I have the greatest conversations with believe the opposite and you just leave it like that. That´s it, that´s how you live. However , it´s interesting because I saw many, many conversations unfold when someone had a strong philosophical or religious opinion and they weren´t nice to somebody else. What´s the point, seriously? You have to be smart enough that the way you come across to somebody translates before you process information. You can´t be pointing fingers at somebody. They don´t know any different and neither do I and I know that all of this started with the drums and teaching because when a student looks me in the face, someone paying me money and they look me in the eyes and say “I don´t know how to do this, help me!”, I looked at them often and it was like “I have to learn how to teach you!”. So I studied the mind and cognitive science and some things were way over my head, but that´s who I am.
Really interesting and I totally understand. One final thing before I have to go. Since recording the album, have you guys recorded anything else?
MM: No, but we´re establishing what I describe as fun. I´m feeling more comfortable now that I´ve had a chance to perform the older tunes and I had a chance to let them write the record and let me wean into it without disturbing the core of Dream Theater, because John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess have always written on those two instruments and those are the notes that make the songs. Then Myung have contributed quite amazing things and LaBrie even too, which I´ve seen unfold. James sings melodies and I play an instrument as a drummer and I write, but I have no business walking around into this band doing anything different. It´s unfolding and it´s evolving such that when we… Jordan is not in this room with me right now, but if we warm up, that´s the seed of new material. Soundchecks with us smiling and I´m playing the most insane stuff I could ever play and they´re making music out of it, so it´s really going somewhere and who knows, maybe that´ll be what´s on the next record? You know what? If John Petrucci shows up with six demos and says “Man, I got inspired!”, I´m privileged to jump on and play his music, so who cares? It´s all gonna be fun Dream Theater stuff!
Excellent! Thank you so much Mike!
MM: Thank you!