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If you want to know about newish Trad Maryland band Mangog, with a side order of Beelzefuzz and early pioneers Revelation, then Bert Hall Jr. is the man to ask. Which is exactly what Comrade Aleks did.

Interview with Mangog.
"This band appeared on the American doom scene in 2014, and soon proclaimed their arrival with the EP 'Daydreams Within Nightmares' (2015). Two years have passed, and Argonauta Records are ready to release the band's debut full-length 'Mangog Awakens'! Who stands behind the Mangog name? Bert Hall, Jr. is the main song-writer and guitarist. He started his career in 1988, with Doom metal band Revelation, then also played in Against Nature and other lesser known bands. Darby Cox (bass) and Myke Wells (vocals) are the other remaining Mangog founders, and ex-Iron Man drummer Mike Rix joined them in 2015. Want some classic-style bluesy Doom? Like intelligent lyrics? Dig heavy 'punishing' riffs? Okay, Mangog is for you! And this interview with Bert Hall is a good thing to read, if that's the case."

Mangog's guitarist, Bert Hall Jr., answering the questions today.

Hail Bert! Thanks for your time and accept my congratulations on the release of Mangog's debut full-length 'Mangog Awakens'! And first of all, what does that name mean? It strongly reminds me of the Biblical folk "Magog", who turn themselves against God's own people!

You're very welcome! Thank you very much! LOL The name is taken from a fictitious character that is composed of the anger of a billion, billion beings! And now, he is awake. And angry! LOL

So is Mangog your anger management course? What kind of emotions do you transfer through it?

LOL A couple of us have been known to have anger issues but this is a great situation to get it out through the music! On one of the, couple of songs, that I sing, "Of your Deceit", I AM usually angry for real! The song is about a real life event that I won't go into that still pisses me off, even years later! Something I watched happen up close.

Mangog: Myke Wells (vocals), Darby Cox (bass), Bert Hall, Jr. (guitar, vocals, devices) and Mike Rix (drums).

How did you gather this lineup under the Mangog banner? How long have you known each other?

After I began to accept that Revelation wasn't going to start back up, I thought about how much I wanted to continue and eventually started writing songs towards getting something together. I eventually approached Steve Branagan, also from Revelation. who was with us for a while, Darby Cox, who I had played with in another group and Myke Wells, who I had been in other bands with. Initially, I was going to handle vocals and before we got Steve, Myke was going to play drums but I recognized the opportunity to focus more on playing over singing. I've known Myke over 20 years and was aware of what a great voice he has! Darby and I first worked together in 2011 and though I met Rix when he joined Iron Man, I never played music with him until he replaced Steve.

Mangog – 'A Tongue Full Of Lies':

I'd like to clarify one thing – do you only play bass in Mangog or do you also sing besides that? I see that Myke Wells is listed as the vocalist but you seem to sing too…

Darby Cox is actually our bassist. With this band, I play guitar, sing on a few songs, write our lyrics and a chunk of the music. Darby and Rix have either written or cowritten some of our best music, as well!

The album's artwork... You know, when I saw it the first thing that came to my mind was - "street doom"! But how would you classify this material?

"Street doom?" Hmmm, I don't think that really crossed our minds. Classifications of music can be restrictive but I'd describe it as Doomy , dark, hard rock with a bluesy, evil feel.

How did you get a contract with the Italian Argonauta Records? Wouldn't it be easier to find a label in the States?

There are lots of labels in the States but we wanted a label that understood what we are about. Argonauta Records fits that bill with the music and artists on their roster. We took notice that Hollow Leg and Dee Calhoun were doing their thing with Argonauta and knew it would be a great place for us, as well!

What was your primary goal when you started Mangog? What was your vision of this band?

Personally, I want to make heavy music that takes elements of all of the music I like to listen to and takes the music into some different places. I like jazz, prog and shoegaze, also and there are subtle ways this has been slid into what we are doing. It's not going to show up in an obvious way. That's too easy and we're sneakier than that! LOL The main objective, though, is heavy music with reasonably intelligent lyrics with our own twist in it!

It's interesting that you care about lyrics: did you write all the texts for the album? What inspires you, as their author?

I wrote all of the lyrics except "Modern Day Concubine", which Myke wrote the lyrics to. The lyrics are very important to me because I grew up with groups that wrote decent lyrics as role models. Sabbath (Thank you, Geezer Butler!!), Priest, RUSH, Maiden, Ozzy (Thank you, Bob Daisley!!) and others all had great lyrics! I have a tendency to write about what's around me and what I see that is on either end of the extremes of dark and light. Sometimes once you start working on the music, I find that the lyrics pour right out! There was no shortage of things going on to write about when things were coming together.

You're talking about social issues in "Modern Day Concubine" song (pretty catchy vocal lines, by the way!). How did you record this one?

Myke wrote the words to that and he's mostly talking about how a job or a boss can use the fuck out of people and not care less when they have no more to give. The song started out with a riff from Rix that runs through the verses. Darby and I worked on the chorus and the middle section music. "Into Infamy" and "Daydreams within Nightmares" also discuss things that are going on in the world.

Mangog – 'Time Is A Prison':

You have had a huge experience of playing bluesy Doom music since 1988, did you discover anything new working on the 'Mangog Awakens' album?

Playing with these three guys is its own experience because bands are made up of the chemistry between the group and what each member brings to that chemistry. Discovering how that chemistry would affect the music was the most interesting thing as we worked on the songs.

How long did you take to record these songs? What are your general requirements for sound in the studio?

We went into the studio three times, spending a couple of weeks on each group of songs. The recording sessions took place between April 2015 and August 2016. We basically need an engineer that can help us do right by the songs and feel confident in taking chances and doing what we need to in order to sound our best.

So… you recorded songs with three different engineers, right? How did their methods of work differ from each other? Or is it you who have the last word in the studio anyway?

I'm not sure that any two engineers are going to have the same approach, at least not in our experience. This time out, one of the major differences would be that two of the engineers worked in tandem on three songs for one of the sessions, while for remaining sessions had one apiece. We relied on their expertise in dialing in the sounds that we wanted and that worked out very well. There wasn't a producer involved as far as having the last word like, say Martin Birch, Terry Brown or someone like that.

What are your ambitions considering the band? Do you already have in mind a big tour and a bunch of songs for the second full-length record?

The four of us hope people check this disc out and find something in it they dig. We are in the process of mapping out next year's gigs, but haven't solidified any major touring, yet. We hope to play some festivals and travel, if/when there are good opportunities. Looking forward, we already have about 30 minutes worth of music towards another disc and we're still writing!

Bert, you're from Maryland: how would you describe the main features of Maryland's Doom sound?

Personally, I believe the main feature of the MD doom sound is inspiration. All these bands around here that I've been hearing for years, or in some cases, am just checking out, heard something that moved them or influenced them but they find their way to making their own statement. Is there a common sound? If you look, I'm sure you could name a thing or two but most everybody here has something cool of their own going on. I really believe that's why people listen.

Bert, you also play bass in Beelzefuzz, and that band released a new album just a few months ago. How do you share your efforts between the two bands nowadays?

I have a much larger role in Mangog in regard to writing the material we play. The bands are on different schedules so there isn't really any conflict.

Beelzefuzz, 2016.

What is your contribution to Beelzefuzz? How much of that sound is your own?

Dana Ortt writes the songs in Beelzefuzz and we all contribute our best ideas towards making them fully realized! I enjoy his songs so that makes it really easy to come up with things to support the music!

What attracted you to Beelzefuzz? Didn't you want to just concentrate on Mangog? Or are you used to being in a state where you work with a few bands at the same time?

I had been following Beelzefuzz's music and was disappointed, like everyone else, when they announced that the band was splitting. They got in contact with me shortly after the announcement and mentioned that three of them were planning a studio session and needed bass recorded. That led to another call, and another! About 6 months later, I was asked if I'd be interested in joining! I'm pretty good at managing time, though my role in Beelzefuzz doesn't require as much as Mangog, with regards to writing and figuring out what happens next. I communicate and keep aware of what's coming up and that keeps things sorted with scheduling, etc. I have managed multiple band rehearsal/show schedules before. I'm happy to be involved in both. My roles are very different and that makes the difference.

Beelzefuzz – 'The Righteous Bloom':

What's your schedule for live gigs, for both Mangog and Beelzefuzz, in the near future?

We have gigs planned from January onward. There's a cd release show in February (with Dee Calhoun and Doomsday Mavericks ) and gigs in Maryland and Pennsylvania throughout the winter. Beelzefuzz' first gig of the year is in February in Pennsylvania. One highlight, this year, will be that we are performing at the Maryland Doom festival in June!

Bert, you started in Revelation in 1988: how was it back then, playing Doom?What kind of obstacles did you meet on your way?

Back then, I don't think we all were as aware that people heard and appreciated the music. I'm grateful to have talked to folks that followed what we were doing years later. Sometimes, in some of the situations I've been in, the biggest obstacles were ourselves. We're doing our best to stay out of our own way and get on with making music.

Revelation, circa 2012.

By the way, how did it happen that you left the band in 1991 and then returned after a ten year absence? I see that you spent that period in at least two other bands.

At the end of 1991, our album had been completed and unreleased for over a year. Other things, at the time, made me feel like I needed a change. I played in five bands during those years (1992-2004). Revelation drifted back together, as Against Nature, when one member that simply stopped playing music, rediscovered his passion for it and approached us to start up again.

So you left Revelation earlier in the '90s and returned sixteen years later. How did you see changes which had happened with the band?

I think we had a better idea of what we wanted to do by the time we restarted Revelation. I was surprised to see it happen, actually. There was a desire to leave those songs in the past and move forward when we began Against Nature. We'd also had a few years of working together by 2007 that helped us zoom in on what Revelation, involving the three of us, should sound like at that point and I believe that made it easier to decide to move ahead. I loved what Steve Branagan, Dennis Cornelius and Jim Hunter did on "Yet So far"! I enjoyed Frozen Masque, also! Great songs!! "Finished with you" was amazing! "Eternal Search" and "Morning sun" from "Yet so far" were absolutely brilliant, IMO!

How do you see the main features of Revelation? What did you put into those albums – 'Release', 'Revelation', 'For the Sake of No One' and 'Inner Harbor'?

Steve and I reacted to the sketches that were brought in and added our touches to them. I had a pretty free reign to come up with whatever I heard on those songs for the bass, for the most part. The lyrics were written last or, perhaps we heard them last, after the recording was complete. We rehearsed the music instrumentally and never heard the vocals for the songs until completion. By the last album, I ended up collaborating on one set of lyrics and providing the riffs that ended two songs. Aside from working out my bass parts, I typically had little to do with the writing. We had material that I was excited about playing and that I'm still very proud to have been a part of!

Bert, thank you for your time and answers, that's all for today! I wish you all the best with spreading the Word of Mangog further. I hope that this interview helps : )

Thanks very much for talking with me!

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Mangog bandpage.

Interviewed on 2017-01-14 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Aesthetic Death
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