DREAM THEATER's MIKE MANGINI Releases First Solo Single 'Freak Of Nature'

October 6, 2023

DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Mangini has just released a new solo single, "Freak Of Nature". The track will appear on Mangini's upcoming debut solo album, "Invisible Signs", which is set to arrive in November.

Accompanying Mangini on "Freak Of Nature", which features words and music by Mike, were Tony Dickinson on bass, Ivan Keller on guitar, Gus G. (FIREWIND, OZZY OSBOURNE) on lead guitar and former EVANESCENCE guitarist Jen Majura on vocals.

In a recently released video message, Mangini spoke about the lyrical inspiration for "Freak Of Nature". He said: "The lyric to 'Freak Of Nature' came about pretty interestingly. As I was researching things I'm interested in, like forces and laws of nature, and I came across a hurricane and 'force of nature' hit me, but it didn't sound very good to me. Then, all of a sudden, 'freak of nature' beamed in from somewhere. And the interesting thing is that that's inherent throughout the record; it just permeates the whole thing where there's meaning, but the sound was more important to me, because if it didn't sound right, I didn't think anyone would want to sing it, if that makes any sense. So, I was thinking about other freaks of nature, like musicians and athletes and things like that, and [American football player] Rob Gronkowski, who played for the [New England] Patriots, came to mind, as he was like an unstoppable force. And so those are just a couple of the things that weave their way into the song. But mainly, I was concerned about the sound, and luckily that phrase came into my mind, freak of nature, and I liked it. So I based all the lyrics off of that."

A week earlier, Mangini released a separate video message in which he spoke about the "source of the music" for "Freak Of Nature". He said: "One thing it isn't is a recreation of any band I've ever been in. I mean, why would I do that? I'm already working with, and have worked with, the best that do that. So it's not something I wanna do. Plus in DREAM THEATER, everyone's solo album sounds different than the final DREAM THEATER album."

He continued: "Anyway, one of the sources for me came from when I spent a dime ordering records from a company called Columbia House and, like, 912 LPs showed up. One of them was LED ZEPPELIN 'IV'. And when I put 'Black Dog' on, it did something to me. There was something about that riff. So over the years, I wrote some songs. And when it came time for this album, 'Freak Of Nature' was the first [song] written. And it's a riff. The thing is I had to learn how to write lyrics and melodies over the riff. But that's one of the sources, if you're interested."

Other tracks set to appear on Mangini's solo LP include "Deep Inside", "Invisible Signs", "Habit To Change", "Not Drowning", "Saying Sorry", "So Alive", "Glamorous Shades", "It's Noise", "Seek And Find", "Black Box" and "Let Me Shine".

Regarding how she landed the gig as the singer in Mangini's solo band, Majura wrote on her social media: "When I was a young teenager, my awesome dad took me to a concert of a guitar player called [Steve Vai], who became one of the most meaningful musicians in my life and literally influenced who I became in life. He was on tour with this thing called 'G3'. I was little, but I was in the front row. Not only was I fascinated by Steve's performance, but also I realized for the first time what a drummer does: I understood when he hits the 'golden plates' it's a very treble-ish shhh-sound, when he does some thing with his feet, the big drum is producing a low-end sound of dummdumm and the 'white thing' (=snare) in the middle is being a very punchy loud sound. Little did I know that the drummer's name was [Mike Mangini] and when he gave me his drumstick at the end of the show… for a few days, I thought I'd become a drummer instead of a guitar player. All of this happened decades ago. So I can easily say that Mike Mangini was the first drummer that made me understand what a drummer does.

"2 decades later, I've already become an active professional touring musician, I met up with Mike again during a summer when DREAM THEATER played a lot of festival shows and I happened to play the same festivals with the band I was with back then. Mike and I started talking, met up at festival caterings, spent a bit of time in festival backstages together, I handed him my first solo album and told him the story of my childhood with the 'G3' concert…

"In 2020 I approached Mike to participate in my '1min jammms' YouTube Series and we had major fun performing Stevie Wonder's 'Sir Duke' together with my dear friend [Alex Skolnick]. Little did I expect that Mike would choose me to be the vocalist for his first solo album ever.

"If there are any meaningful things in life for me personally - this is it!!! I am beyond proud of this collaboration and I'm even more grateful to have gotten to known this amazing human being and finding a new friend for life through countless hours of Zoom and Facetime recording sessions."

In a June 2023 interview with Heavy Debriefings, Mangini stated about his long-awaited solo album: "There's a reason why it's been taking a while and has gone in steps. I wrote everything. I'm the executive producer, engineer with our DREAM THEATER guy, Jimmy T [James Meslin] that knows my thing inside and out. I wrote the songs, wrote all the parts, wrote the lyrics, did everything, and then found some wonderful people to replay my virtual instruments and most especially to re-sing my horrific vocal guides. [Laughs]"

In July 2022, Mangini spoke in more detail about his approach to making a solo album during an appearance on the Sarah Hagan Backstage podcast. At the time, he said in part: "It's important to me 'cause of the way it sounds… I actually write notes on a keyboard, because that way I can communicate to people… But for the solo album, I wrote absolutely every single note on the keyboard, virtual instruments or MIDI. I composed absolutely everything and then at one point I turned it over to some players who took it in and occasionally would offer things like, 'Well, that doesn't work on my instrument.' I'm, like, 'I know. I know. It's a keyboard. Go ahead and just do it this way,' or whatever."

He continued: "This album is above and beyond more me than anything, because it's me doing it… It's a long time in the making. And that's how it came to be where it's not ultimately just fully totally me, 'cause Jimmy T's gotta put his little bit of whatever in there. But working together for so long, it's, like, 'This is how I sound.' When I hit the cymbal, I wanna hear it ringing two seconds later… With everything else that I've done, you're working in a group. You're working with people. You have to morph to the group. And when something's out of your control, it's out of your control, which is why it sounds so different… The end result morphs to the person in charge. That's gonna happen every single time. So whatever that result is morphs to that person who is making the call. And sometimes that person spreads the autonomy, and sometimes that person takes it and does everything that they wanna do. It just depends on the situation."

Circling back to his solo LP, Mike said: "I'm excited when it comes out, 'cause it is a solo record, except that now I'm not the one playing every single instrument. But that's okay, 'cause it came out better than my virtual instruments. [Laughs]"

Mangini joined DREAM THEATER in late 2010 through a widely publicized audition following the departure of Mike Portnoy, who co-founded DREAM THEATER more than 30 years ago. Mangini beat out six other of the world's top drummers — Marco Minnemann, Virgil Donati, Aquiles Priester, Thomas Lang, Peter Wildoer and Derek Roddy — for the gig, a three-day process that was filmed for a documentary-style reality show called "The Spirit Carries On".

Mangini made his name in the hard rock world in the mid-1990s when he played with EXTREME, before landing the gig with guitar legend Steve Vai in 1996. Nearly a decade later, Mangini took up a full-time teaching position at the world-renowned Berklee College Of Music.

DREAM THEATER won its first-ever Grammy in the "Best Metal Performance" category in the pre-telecast ceremony at the 64th annual Grammy Awards, which was held in April 2022 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. DREAM THEATER was nominated for "The Alien", a track from its 2021 album "A View From The Top Of The World". DREAM THEATER's previous Grammy nominations were for the song "On The Backs Of Angels", from 2011's "A Dramatic Turn Of Events" album, and the single "The Enemy Inside" from 2013's "Dream Theater".

This is gonna be a bit of a read🤓 - go down memory lane with me…
When I was a young teenager, my awesome dad took me to...

Posted by Jen Majura on Friday, September 29, 2023

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