Michael Mangia
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Michael Mangia

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By
Brian Dowell
9/12/2005 4:59:45 PM


Michael Mangia
September 7th, 2005
The Derby, Silverlake, CA

I had been stuck in traffic outside of a concert by the band Chicago, for nearly an hour, surrounded by former hippies in their BMWs. Ordinarily, such a scene would be the last place you'd find the likes of me, but my destination was not the Greek Theatre to see that ancient rock outfit trot out their nostalgic hits; I was headed to another venue nearby--a small nightclub--to see a singer/performance artist, Michael Mangia, present what was described as a multi-media concert event.

After parking my car a few blocks away, I walked into the sparsely populated Derby, a big, old fashioned nightspot highlighted by a large circular bar in the middle of the room, and a wooden ceiling that looked like it belonged in a church. Expensive drinks, odd bands, a vacantly pretty female bartender; the Derby is my kind of place of worship. I sat at the bar, dropping way too much money for a beer, and turned toward the stage, which was decked out with balloons, odd instruments (including a steel guitar, a harmonium, and a grand piano), megaphones of differing sizes, and small old black and white televisions, showing static.

Once Mangia, decked out in a light blue coat and tails worn over blue jeans, and his highly capable band took the stage and began to play, it was made clear that all the weird trappings were a bit deceptive. As Mangia explained later, the multi-media portion of this supposed piece of performance art was ditched because of what he termed "projector drama". (He'd filmed some pieces of video that were supposed to explain the songs and be projected over the band members, but I guess the projector didn't work.) So tonight, all the drama would be provided by Mangia and his band; just four guys onstage playing songs.

Don't get me wrong; there were weird, interesting touches to the show. Mangia sang some of his lyrics through megaphones, played an odd cover of Radiohead's "High and Dry" alternating between his piano and an accordion-like harmonium. Mangia's bass and guitar player both sat on stools facing him, giving the show a loose and intimate feel.

But overall, I thought this was standard rock fare, and that the extra touches and visual traps that Mangia added to his show seemed empty and unnecessary. This guy is clearly talented and I thought his crisp, well written songs came across great in his performance. The crowd grew restless and started talking through the last half of the show, but it didn't bother me too much because this peculiar kind of music can be enjoyed perfectly well as the background of an intense conversation. The breathiness of his singing style, his allegorical lyrics and his general attempts at weirdness (not to mention the fact that he plays rock music on a piano) bring to mind Tori Amos, but to me, he sounded more like Elton John. Which isn't a bad thing. By most any reasonable standard, Elton John's a goddamn pop music genius. I'm not sure you could pin that label on Mangia yet, but he does have a really neat songwriting gimmick, something that most other piano tunesmiths lack; disturbing, bleak songs that sound upbeat. His creations are demented doses of pessimism and doom that I'd feel comfortable listening to in front of my grandmother--provided, of course, that she didn't try to understand the lyrics. If she did, I'd be quickly disowned and lose all rights to any inheritance. I'm not sure that listening to Mangia is worth risking that, but he is clearly expressing his inner darkness with this stuff, and while he has embraced a certain pop sensibility, his songs aren't going to wind up being warbled by an American Idol contestant anytime soon. So he's got that going for him.

I'm still curious to check out the multi-media portion of his show, and see whether or not that adds to or detracts from his music. But as it stands now, even without added visuals, Mangia's talent and prospects are well worth keeping an eye on.
- Nighttimes.com


If we were to take his name literally, Michael Mangia, which means “Michael eats” in italian, and after listening to his new album The Invisible Wall I can only think of a guy, who swallowed enough life experience and matured through them to spit them all out in one go. Luckily he didn’t leave us with a big mess of food but with this well-produced Pop music collection of (chocolate-covered) fiction and I suppose biographic memorabilia.

L.A. born 25-year old Michael Mangia is a true storyteller. Most of his songs read like an abstract collage of observations and moods, like those of an addicted porn star, an admirer’s “Wet Dream”, a come-down from a drunk sex romp (“Drunk”), a “Barbie Doll”’s fake life in Hollywood. Michael’s slow, hypnotic and oft low key voice might require time to get used to, but it grows on you the more you listen to his songs.

On other songs: “Like Gone”, which is about a boy’s painful experience of his father’s suicide or “I was on the right side of wrong, when I met my rival side” on Judas Valentine or “No Sign of Life”, where Michael laments about being turned down, he becomes a more intimate, straighter storyteller, someone who might have gone through what he sings.

Musically the album sound is rich, but less adventurous as the lyrics. On most of the songs Mangia sticks to a fairly straight, mellow structure. The piano, strings and streched-out guitar chords create a certain airyness that break it up a bit. Other than that “The Invisible Wall” is a collection of good Pop ballads, which is a worthy follow up to his previous self-release Utopia (2000).

The singer and songwriter, who’s a self-proclaimed Tori Amos fan, played the piano and produced the album himself. Adding to the rich sound of the album he invited a number of musicians, who played all the other instruments.

Rounded up by a 14th hidden bonus track called “Life Support On X-Mas” Michael Mangia offers a fine collection of songs and impressions, that don’t need to be heard all in one go, but I recommend you listen to them more closely.

- BeSonic


You’ve probably already read about this talented piano playing singer/songwriter Michael Mangia from L.A and his new album The Invisible Wall.

We wanted to know who’s the guy behind such complex album or rather musical collection of short stories. We mailed him a number of questions and received very elaborate, fulfilling answers.

This is the BeSonic Interview with Michael Mangia.

1. Where are you from and where did you get your artist name (Michael eats!?) from?
I'm from sunny california, well the city of stars and scars actually, Los angeles. I got my name from my italian ancestors. Well I actually short cut my full last name from Mangiamele which means eat an apple to my current mangia which is to eat, which is one of the wonders of the world. I don't eat apples though...

2. How did you get involved with music?
I started very early and was a broadway and musicals kid, I also had my own record player, yes back when I was a kid there were still record players! Well from time immemorial or maybe around 3 years old all I can remember is embarrassing my sisters and mother at the movie theatre (musicals) while I would stand up in my seat and sing all the songs I knew by heart.

3. What are your main musical influences (i.e. bands, styles)?
I hate the word influences maybe because it's just used so much in the music industry but then I also love it because its the one word that shows what's formed yourself and your art. It's funny when I look back at what influenced me through the years. I think a lot of stuff that came out of the 80's had an effect on me. My sisters were teenagers in the 80's so I got my share of it in the house and growing up. I think the first artist that hit me was when I was 18, Tori Amos. She brought back the passion of the piano for me and the strength of abstract art which can be so detailed and specific and passionate. She has won my heart forever with what she has been able to tell. Also like most other musician's would say is the Beatles, Lennon is my favorite. The simplicity yet so true to his being and Yoko that's another story i can go on and on about. So I would say my influences come from a deeper understanding of self which then translate in taking risks in your work, your music.

4. How do you get yourself into the writing process?
Well it's not a single process, and i don't like to call it a process since it has no automaticity to it. I can be driving in my car and envision something which sparks a whole theme or story. I can be watching a good movie, silent films are so brilliant, and be so moved by it that it takes a ride in my subconscious for awhile and it comes out on piano and paper. You can write down a story of your days events and find way with everyday life rhythms that with that awareness brings new life and thought. So you see there is no single way to go about writing a song. You have to let the pot boil awhile, maybe following a recipe or deviating from it to find out what else could taste so yummy. Oh here's where my last name comes in handy...

5. How would you describe the songs and music in general and/or on your current album?
What message do you want to get across to people? Well let's talk about my current, The Invisible Wall. It's one wild ride. This has many stories in it. It took me awhile to really understand what it was I was writing or even hearing. One song was so different than the other yet they were connected. Sort of like a mother who gives birth yet doesn't feel the connection between child and mother. Well it took me some time to understand and love what was coming out. Eventually I stopped questioning the songs so much and the whole puzzle started to become cohesive. The art and concept of expressionism really moves me and it played a big role in the story of the invisible wall. Without taking up too many words this album is about a painter who paints a picture who then leaps into his canvas and is confronted with time, past present and future, though the picture is alive and moving once he has entered it. He gets lost and can't find his way back. These are some of his stories and some that appeared whilst in the living painting. It's the invisible wall in us all which we can look at or deny. I saw a film the other day that freaked me out because it's premise is very similiar to mine, The eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.

6. How long did it take you to produce the album (i.e. writing and recording process)?
This was a toughie! Took about 2 1/2 years to fully produce it the way I hoped it would come out. I learned so much from other musicians and engineers about recording. When you're recording your not just recording the songs but your recording the dirt, the smell, the texture on the walls, the way your fingers decide to move that day all onto "tape".

7. Who collaborated on the album and what equipment/instruments did you use?
Well it's kind of funny because all my base players (guitars, b - BeSonic


With a voice between... - hold your horses now cause this is the first (and probably last) time you will read these five names together - James Taylor, Steve Hogarth, Ola Salo (from The Ark), Michael Stipe and Rufus Wainwright, Michael Mangia (pronounced Manja) is a fresh breeze in the singer songwriter genre. That stated, without saying that he sounds like James and the gang, but these guys were for some weird reason the first names that came to mind when I played this album the first time. But there is also a coool British Lloyd Cole/Travis touch over the album that I enjoy a lot. And its fresh to hear this sort of singer songwriter after the whole cascade of John Mayer clones that entered the market the last two years. And the slightly "progressive" undertone on a few tunes are also a fresh wind. Gehh... my English vocabulary store is empty for the moment, so I suggest you take a listen for yourself at his site. He is well worth your attention. My favourite tracks on the album to sum it up a bit... hmmm... Sixth out "Like Gone" is a tune with a lovely vibe and "Someone Who" is another one worth mentioning with a refrain that could have been on a Steve Hogarth (from Marillion) solo album or a song from The Ark.. And there are, as you understand, more to check out on this album...
- Melodic.net


The Invisible Wall is Michael Mangia's second self released full length CD, two years after his debut effort, Utopia. He's used the intervening time to do journeyman's duty on the LA open mike scene and craft a new set of songs presented against a completely reconfigured sonic backdrop.
There's a big, lush sound throughout the album, with keyboards soaring like seabirds over waves of layered guitars. It's a fit setting for Mangia's dramatic vocal style and his lyrics, which are rich in both vocabulary and imagery. There's a story line underlying the whole thing, and fitting it together requires attentive listening, which is well worth the time it takes. If you'd rather, though, you can simply be lifted by the rich, often anthemic, sound, which is just as richly rewarding if you prefer indulgence to study.

In other words, The Invisible Wall sounds so good that the fact that it also says so much is the added ingredient that lifts it above the typical effort of its time. I can't imagine this guy lasting much longer without some serious label interest. He should attract your interest in the interim.

Track List:

Arbitraries * Barbie Doll * Drunk * Someone Who * Ticker Tape Parade * Like Gone * No Sign Of Life * Wet Dream * The Invisible Wall * Rise & Shine * Star*boy * Judas Valentine * In Your Room (Peruvian Dreaming)

- Cosmik Reviews


Michael Mangia's Invisible Wall Breaks Through

Singer/Songwriter returns with new album, expanded sound.

Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Michael Mangia has released his second full-length album, The Invisible Wall, on his own Eat An Apple imprint. The album carries listeners through the journey of a painter's life, on the way describing the desolate, plastic world of Hollywood through an array of grotesque characters. "It's an exploration of the facets of oneself you can wish to look at or not," says Mangia (pronounced "man-ja").

Using piano and voice as his primary instruments, Mangia's sound lies within the realm of Ben Folds, Travis and Tori Amos. But don't expect a stripped-down solo experience. "In order to translate (what was in) my heart and head, I had to play around with a different sonic palate than I was used to," explains Mangia (who also produced The Invisible Wall). "I brought in some really amazing players which added to the base of the iceberg."

Michael Mangia springs from the Los Angeles coffeehouse scene, where he has beeen known to appear at numerous open mic performances, promoting his first self-recorded effort, 2002's Utopia. The artist gained further recognition and exposure by licensing a couple of his songs to daytime television, which gave him the momentum to work toward his next project, which eventually became The Invisible Wall.

"Everyone has their own stories to tell," the artist explains. "What I hope to get across is the beauty of that art form called expressionism. Sort of like a good book, your sad when the last page folds over." - Mediajonez.com


Michael Mangia's music is highly pleasing to the ears. His songwriting seems mature and polished already. There are echoes of Tori Amos in his piano playing and quirky, pop-literate lyrics, and a sliver of Ben Folds in the voice.
The amount of songs using Barbie to comment on society is staggering, but Mangia slips one more through with the moving "Barbie Doll". "Drunk" is genuinely beautiful and the progressive-flavoured "Someone Who" shows real daring. "No Sign of Life" might have been an Elton John song. "Wet Dream" is a remarkable song in waltz-time with words of sex and religion. "Judas Valentine" is very Tori-like in its clever and strange words and dramatic mood. Mangia's a real talent.

-Anna Maria Stjärnell - The Ectophiles Guide


Interview with Michael Mangia


Q: Your latest album "The Invisible Wall" is now available. What would you like to tell us about the album?

MM: The invisible Wall that is and if you can hear it for awhile it's not so transparent after all. It's a story of a painter who at the risk of his own artwork climbs into his canvas and gets lost with his past and his present and can't find his way back out. Expressionism at it's heart.

Q: How can a person purchase a copy of the album?

MM: At CDBABY.COM.

Q: What are some of your favorite tracks off the album?

MM: It's a daily flavor, there's a few in there that always taste good. This week it's Starboy, No Sign of Life and the hidden track "Life Support On Xmas."

Q: In your quotes, you say that 'Starboy' is a modern stance on the Adult Entertainment Industry. Can you elaborate on this?

MM: Picture porn in space, or Ziggy Stardust if he had checked his bags and took
on the adult network career.

Q: How difficult is it to produce an album by yourself?

MM: Sometimes as simple as Honey and Tea other times much more Meatloaf
and Lima Beans. You work with what you know and then you stay open for what you don't. Some recipes work, and some you do by trial and error. "Just a pinch of emotion makes the melody go down..."

Q: Do you plan on touring to help promote the album?

MM: I do and am. Check my website soon for dates...

Q: Will there be any Florida dates on your tour?

MM: I have not planned one as of yet but if you know of any places I must play at I'd love to know...

Q: How do you spend a day off when touring?

MM: Usually finding out the history of the place I'm in. I'm fascinated by what existed before to form what it is that I am standing in today.

Q: What was the reason for starting your own publishing company?

MM: To have a library soundtrack of the catalog of my life.

Q: You've had several songs pick up and used by daytime television. Can
you tell us a few of those songs and what programs were they used on?

MM: My previous album Utopia got picked up and played on that wild and crazy
'Passions' soap opera.

Q: How old were you when you wrote your first song?

MM: I think 3 and it was probably about dancing ketchup and mustard.

Q: Did you ever record the song?

M: I grew up...well not fully

Q: How supportive was your family when you told them you wanted to be a musician?

MM: They always encouraged the artist in me, even when I doubted they made me feel like the best I could be. I believe a lot of my certainty stems from their help and support.

Q: If you weren't a musician what would you be?

MM: Probably a sonic architect, recording engineer. I'm fascinated by music technology even when I don't understand it all.

Q: What advice would you give a young musician attempting to break into
the business?

MM: Develop yourself and your heart and listen to the little knocks on the
door, the answers don't always come at once but patience and desire will invite it.

Q: If you were given the power to do one thing to make the world a better place to live in what would that one thing be?

MM: No one has all the power in the world and sometimes the little things are
the most effective. A simple song could last more than hundreds of years.

Q: You have a really cool website. Who designed it?

MM: Strahil Hadzhiev, who is amazing with flash and gave me everything and more
I could ask for.

Q: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans who may read this Interview?

Q: "The grapefruit is winning!"

Q: Thank you for your time Michael, I wish you much success.

MM: Your welcome, wishes and waves back to you as well.


- FlordiaEntertainmentScene.com


Michael Mangia
The Derby
Hollywood

Web: www.michaelmangia.com

The Players:

Michael Mangia, vocals, piano, synthesizers, harmonium; Joel Martin, guitars; Jamie Danesh, bass; David Johnstone, drums.

Material:

Known as the David Lynch of the music scene, Michael Mangia paints a twisted and melodramatic story with music and visuals. Primarily a piano man, Mangia sings and plays with a mood and style that are reminiscent of Al Stewart, the late Nick Drake and Elton John circa 1969-1971. The music leans towards easy listening and smooth jazz, but it also creates a three-dimensional atmosphere. Mangia’s prominent voice brings forth the lyrics with a delivery that is both melodious and dark.

Musicianship:

Backed by a band consisting of guitar, bass and drums, the root of Michael Mangia’s sound is his piano, and he’s a wonderfully gifted player. His playing style has a mix of classical, rock and honky-tonk, yet is indescribable as far as being genre specific. A standout in the band is guitarist Joel Martin. While not flashy on the fret board, his guitar complements Mangia’s piano and, at times, tastefully bleeds over the piano, sustaining a note an extra count or two. A smooth rhythm section is handled by bassist Jamie Danesh and drummer David Johnstone.

Performance:

The show at The Derby was said to be a multi-media live performance with extraordinary visuals. Because of “projector drama,” as Mangia called it, there was an absence of these visuals, and there remained several small televisions playing gray fuzz. It would be hard to take a guy too seriously who wears a sky blue colored coat with tails and who has three gigantic pink balloons above his piano. For that reason, it isn’t likely that a listener would plummet into an emotional downward spiral while hearing the more melancholy songs that Mangia and his band played.

Summary:

Michael Mangia managed to give a strong performance, despite technical difficulties. In fact, even without the planned multi-media extravaganza, his music, and the spirit in which his band played, were memorable.

—Charlie Steffens
- Charlie Steffens


You can practically hear the fan letters to Rufus Wainwright and Tori Amos in out Angeleno singer-songwriter Michael Mangia’s piano pop. These lilting tunes about love, loss, and the occasional porn star are solid musically, but Mangia’s lyrics tend to ramble. He’s at his most vulnerable and direct on the heartstring-puller “Drunk,” but when he strays into bombastic power-ballad territory, he sacrifices his innate likability for the kind of gaudy showmanship only Sir Elton decked out in a rhinestone-encrusted jumpsuit could pull off.

-Mikel Wadewitz
- Mikel Wadewitz


Discography

2005 Album "The Invisible Wall"
2003 E.P. "Live Sessions"
2001 Album "Utopia"
1999 E.P. "Virgins"

Photos

Bio

Michael Mangia does not mind digging around in the dirt – Hollywood dirt – to celebrate the beauty that lurks in the dark, clandestine corners and underneath bedsheets and facelifts. Michael Mangia is the David Lynch of the Hollywood music scene. His melodies are beautiful works from an extraordinarily gifted singer-songwriter-pianist, but his lyrics reveal something more – an underlying sense of the sordid that comes from having grown up in Hollywood. “It’s a mixture of the dark and the beautiful together – two sides of the same coin. My songs are definitely for people looking for three-dimensional music.”

Mangia (pronounced Man-ja) is a songwriter and storyteller whose first break came when he was 18 and met four-time Grammy-nominated producer Johnny Pierce. He flew out to Nashville where the two recorded his first EP, Virgins.

Shortly afterwards, he bought his first stand-up piano, which he nicknamed "Stein." Jokes Mangia, “That piano was just a kindergarten-type console, but he had the heart of a Steinway… He thought he was a badass!” With the help of “Stein” and a handful of other musicians (including one of the drummers from death-metal legends Slayer), Mangia began writing and recording almost everyday. He released his first self-released album, a largely piano-based opus entitled Utopia, when he was 21 years old.

While promoting Utopia, Mangia started to reap the benefits of his hard work when a couple of his more dramatic songs were picked up and used on the cult daytime NBC soap, Passions. More importantly, Mangia made the move from Hollywood to a loft in downtown Los Angeles, which he then converted into a high-tech recording studio. It was there that he began what was to become his most ambitious project to date, The Invisible Wall.

“The best part of having your studio and your home be the roof you live and work under is the musical liberty that it provides you. If you can’t sleep, you can get up and just create. I even have the freedom to break the sound barrier with my piano and not have the police show up! That’s what allowed me to experiment and consequently inspired the uniqueness of The Invisible Wall.”

Ultimately, The Invisible Wall became the story of a painter, taking listeners through his canvas, which is filled with the lives of addicted porn stars and their admirers, children’s sci-fi fantasy, Italian mobsters, and the façade-filled world of Hollywood. “As the tale started to reveal itself, I found myself piecing this one wildly crazy puzzle together from different angles, time zones and states of consciousness... It's an exploration of the facets of one’s self you can wish to look at or not.”

Deciding to produce the CD himself, Michael took a new approach this time around. “In order to translate the abstraction of the ideas in my heart and head, I had to play around with a different sonic palate than what I was used to. And so I brought in some really amazing guest players who added to the base of the iceberg. Each of these musicians opened up more doors and gave additional dimension to songs that were originally written on solo piano.” In fact, the guest roster for The Invisible Wall includes industry veterans who have frequently worked with artists ranging from Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple to Macy Gray and Gary Jules.

But perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of Michael Mangia is his live performances. No longer content to deliver simple concerts, Mangia now incorporates an unusual degree of performance art into his now legendary shows. From the pink megaphone he regularly uses for sonic effects; through the sketchpad of illustrations he flips in time with certain songs to provide a “live” music video effect; to the suitcase filled with Barbie dolls and accessories he uses as illustrative props while performing his single, “Barbie Doll,” Mangia is clearly no ordinary performer. He occasionally even uses slideshow backdrops to create a multi-media sensory journey. “It’s all about bringing the music to life through these added visual aspects. I don’t just want people to hear the songs – I want them to experience them.”

Equally unusual is the diversity of people that venture out to see Mangia perform. “I get goths, I get ravers, I get couples out for a romantic evening, I get audiences looking for something wildly different, I get people who just come for a good time, I get people who just come to get away from the humdrum of work. What I want is for every single one of those people to experience a different dimension of themselves through my music.”