‘Craig Manga of Mangabros writes dark pop, riddled music, complements of past influences such
as NIN, Kate Bush and Brian Eno. Our interview with him uncovered some of the mystery to
Mangabros, also the editor of WEATNU DM.’
Good evening, Craig. Thank you for having this interview with #WEATNU Digital Magazine. This music of the new Mangabros album ‘Soulcoalblack’ is quite unique, or an anti-pop, avant-garde, shrouded in soul and electro. And even though the masses do not understand it, perhaps the complexity of the album should be better explored?
Craig Manga: I am under no illusions. ‘Soulcoalblack’ is a difficult piece of work, an awkward proposition to many. A tetrahedron peg in a square hole. And we fitted nowhere until WEATNU. And yet, somehow – ADD-fashion – we flit everywhere: there are industrial soundscapes, broken piano ballads, krautrock elements, warped glitch beats. Somehow we’re stranded between the dancefloor and the headspace.
Has #WEATNU been a success for you then?
Craig M: Oh no…(smiles) but we failed magnificently. By the numbers anyway, but we do have an avid obsessive fanbase. We remain resolutely Marmite.
That’s always a plus. But there is beauty in failure, once you get up and try again, eventually seeing the light one day.
Craig: We’re always gonna draw disdain from the Xfactor gen but admiration from those discerning enough to want something a little different, off the mainstream. “These are songs, Jim, but not as we know them.”
You’re quite popular here on weatnu, is weatnu helping your music at least gain a goal?
Craig: WEATNU is helping immensely in our magnificent failure (aka cultish success)
I hear some jazz influences in your music, would you like to talk about what influences you as an artist?
Craig: The jazz influence comes from guitarist/piano player, Glen, where as aleatoric moments of randomness (John Cage, Eno) are me.
There are two in Mangabros?
Craig: 5, but we choose our numbers by the dice. On the album: myself, Paul, Glen and Tony. Present gigs: just Paul and yours truly. I have played solo with just acoustic guitar. I once didn’t play at all. We augment with other musicians, drummer Mark, and bassist/pianist Tony.
Your sound is very distinctive, tell us more about that.
Craig: Our actual sounds are never factory settings, I sculpt and layer sounds until barely recognizable. I’m very proud of the wonky warped detuned piano sounds I’ve birthed, usually involving bowed piano strings and doppler-effected flux harp. I also add acoustic textures: the thump of wood, scrape of metal, creak of stool. So these are totally bespoke sounds. Also, the album was intended to have a claustrophobic atmosphere, so it was created entirely on headphones, no monitors or speakers involved.
Almark: There is indeed a closeness to the album and high quality. Why do you suppose the music feels as though you’re drifting in and out of consciousness, it’s very personal, almost wracked with pain?
Craig: Yeah, I agree, it is slightly fevre-dreamlike. Dreampop with Night Terrors. Black Pop, ha! Quite proggy too, in that there are many many changes in each and every song. It is sonic collage. Like the tuning, drifting on an old radio, one station bleeding into the next.
This is my first time to hear the entire album from start to finish, but this is a highly impressive and daring work. You must feel artistically satisfied?
Craig: I am proud of it, but already i have moved on. and the music is becoming purer and more layed bare, the album is the second part of a trilogy, a tryptich. slowburnblue was first, more electronic, dense and experimental, much darker UDM. The next one’s a clutch of love songs ‘Deepfleshred’, well, songs of love loss and longing (and maybe a little lust thrown in for good measure).
As these songs are intricate, it’s only right to ask you how you approach your songcraft?
Craig: I write lyrics and they can be a starting point. But lately I tend to scramble a few chords on acoustic guitar, transpose them to MIDI then sing phonetic gobbledegook over them to find melody (or not). I then strip away the primary, the original outlines, maybe add weird icing to the cake.
Speaking of weird, listening to King of Tarts, the sounds of both ecstasy and pain together, wrapped in a jazz chorus.
Craig: King of Tarts is a purely solo effort on my part, no guitars. all programmed, no playing; glitched piano.
I hear hints of Radiohead on The Blue Scrawl. Very haunting song.
Craig: Funny enough, that one originated from Glen – not a great Radiohead fan – but the angel of death coda came from me. I take Radiohead as a great compliment. Glen wouldn’t though.
I can certainly hear your music in indie films. Do you see this music making it into that genre?
Craig: I have written soundtracks for college film projects, mostly arthouse stuff. And some accompanying soundtracks to silent movies (Nosferatu, Caligari) and some alternative songs for The Wicker Man, but mangabros are now exploring their own film-making for a couple of art installations. I am very much into storytelling and interweaving narratives in songs anyhow.
Very nice. Are you self-taught?
Craig: Self-taught totally. A guitarist who can’t even name the twisted chords he comes up with. I think I’m an alien that fell to earth (not really) found a bunch of instruments and proceeded to strum the snare drum and beat the guitar with drumsticks.
We are the gifts to the world of lost souls, only to fill them with music, perhaps this is true.
I can’t help but wonder from your distinct vocal style who you are influenced by?
Craig: My vocals have been described as ‘the Hendrix of the larynx’. my vox touchstones are Scott Walker, Gabriel, Peter Hammill, Bjork and Kate Bush.
Almark: And your song on this album ‘Black Pop Caucasian Vampire Blues’ how do you feel about it’s morality?
Craig: It is an incredibly sad song. beautiful, deep and haunting. It is the requiem for a murdered child, a forgotten victim. I could weep really.
Music without emotion is dull.
Craig: Tell me, A, how do YOU feel about ‘Black Pop’?
Is that what you call this music, Black Pop?
Craig: I hope people realize that bleak songs are intended to be uplifting ultimately.
Misery loves company.
Craig: Sad songs mend hearts (like the gnarled gospel of ‘Dead Riff). Many of my songs come from a dark place, and intended as catharsis: the raising of the spirit, the soothing of the depressive mind. As a sufferer, creating my art, words and music, really helps. I hope it’s carried forward to the listener.
Any collabs ahead from meeting others artists through WEATNU?
Craig: Yeah, one with Meter Bridge. They’re also gonna write an original piece that will further the narrative on our ‘Z’ cycle of songs. Also, a project with Dave from Bufinjer, and another with Lie Craze.
Excellent, we hope to hear those in the future.
Craig: And hopefully something with that elusive founder of WEATNU, forgot his name.
Oh yeah, he will have to squeeze you into his busy time-schedule. 😉
And what are the future plans of your music, what do you hope to accomplish, the ultimate dream?
Craig: For people to listen at least once through, all the way through, and in sequence, and base their opinions not on what’s popular atm or by peer-group pressure, but on personal considered judgment. There’s tunes in them thar hills.