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Into The Ultrasonic Gap with Leslie Mandoki and Mandoki Soulmates

Into The Ultrasonic Gap with Leslie Mandoki and Mandoki Soulmates

Leslie Mandoki

Into The Ultrasonic Gap with Leslie Mandoki and Mandoki Soulmates

Hungarian – born musician and songwriter LESLIE MANDOKI and his band MANDOKI SOULMATES have just released their double album  ‘LIVING IN THE GAP‘ + ‘HUNGARIAN PICTURES‘ A Progressive Rock Suite  on Cleopatra Records. It features an absolutely amazing all-star lineup including Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Bobby Kimball of Toto, David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears and more!  I recently caught up with the one and only LESLIE MANDOKI for this interview. Enjoy!

Congratulations on your new album!! Can you tell us about your musical influences growing up?
Actually, I grew up with very unusual musical influences. On the one hand, one of my musical idols was Bela Bartok, on the other hand John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and later on great British progressive rock bands like Jethro Tull, King Crimson, or Cream, also the back to the future movement with Miles Davis and Return To Forever, with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Brecker Brothers, Steps Ahead, Weather Report. Much later I was touched by the incredible songwriter talents of the Beatles.

A true and strong influence was the Hungarian band Syrius. They became famous in 1972 in Australia, when I was a teenager. They published only one record: “Devil’s Masquerade”, then came back home to Hungary and the communists destroyed the band. They were kind of my musical guidance because I used to open the show at their concerts in the clubs with the oppositional student movement as their audience, so I somehow became the voice of the anticommunist student movement with our jazz rock. It was Mikhail Sergejevitch Gorbachev who later explained to me that the communist regime tried to kill prog rock and jazz rock because it was the soundtrack of freedom for the students opposition.

Who are the current band members now?
Our unique line-up includes Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Richard Bona (bass), Cory Henry (keyboards), Al di Meola and Mike Stern (guitar), Randy Brecker (trumpet), Till Brönner (trumpet), John Helliwell of Supertramp (saxophone, clarinet), Klaus Doldinger (saxophone), Bill Evans (saxophone), Nick van Eede of Cutting Crew (vocals and acoustic guitar), Jesse Siebenberg of Supertramp (keyboard, acoustic guitar, vocals), Tony Carey of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (Hammond, acoustic guitar and vocals), Chris Thompson of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (vocals), Bobby Kimball of Toto (vocals), Chaka Khan (vocals), Mike Stern, David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears, Steve Lukather, Anthony Jackson, Peter Maffay. Unfortunately, we lost some Soulmates, dear friends like legendary Jack Bruce of Cream, Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Jon Lord of Deep Purple, and we truly miss them.

Mandoki Soulmates
Berlin Konzerthaus-Group

How did you come to have so many special guest artists ?
They are not special guests, they are rather band members.

On his deathbed, my father told me that his grandchildren should never read censored papers. I was 16 years old back then and I said, but Dad, we are living behind the Iron Curtain, and he answered, “Boy, that’s not for you. Go, don’t dream your life, live your dreams!” and that’s what I am doing. I escaped from Hungary, and came to a reception center as an asylum seeker. The migration officer asked my dear friend Gabor Csupo, who had escaped together with me, and me about our plans in the free West. Gabor answered, he would like go to Hollywood and make his way as a cartoonist (his first moves were then to be the Simpsons and the Rugrats). I answered, I would like to play with Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, and Jack Bruce of Cream, and Al di Meola. That was back in 1975. That was my dream and I made it come true. Our group shares true friendship and mutual values. Therefore, Al di Meola came up with the idea to name the band ‘Soulmates’. So, that’s how it started and we’ve been playing together for almost three decades now, and we are always having an incredibly joyful time, cooking together, spending time together in the studio and here in my home by the lake nearby Munich. It’s simply wonderful, also the concerts, sharing this enigmatic atmosphere on stage, but also the whiskey and the stories in the dressing room backstage.

What kind of drums, percussion gear are you using?
I use different kinds of sets, for the album recording mostly DW from 1978, a big set. And I have a smaller set, a combination of Gretsch and Noble and Cooley, that’s my special touring set, including some percussion stuff, a special build up which I love to play. I have a huge selection of cymbals in my studio and I can fill up my drum set with some extra vintage drum and percussion kits. But these are the main instruments I use.

Which instrument do you find is the most satisfying to write with?
Writing is basically driven by intuition and the most important human features – your mind, your heart and your feelings. Instruments, guitar and piano, are rather helping to control that your mindset gave you the right direction. To put it in shape and for doctoring around, it’s rather the piano than the guitar, but sometimes it’s also the guitar, it largely depends on the song itself. But basically it’s rather my life that makes up the songs, I am just writing them down. I am watching life around me, enjoying it, and my hands are simply taking this all down on music paper.

Mandoki Soulmates – The Founding Members

How do you all approach a new Mandoki Soulmates song?
I am not really approaching a song, life is giving it to me, it just comes to me. Let’s call it professional work start to figure out who is going to sing what and who is going to play which part and choosing the right key that we have for the different singers and their vocal capacities. Jack Bruce once compared me to Duke Ellington because of my skill to know exactly who is going to be playing what while writing the music. It’ s fun. But I am not really approaching the songs, rather the right inspiration, intuition combined with vivid imagination and focus are doing the job. As for the others, well, let me quote Ian Anderson, who said “He’s the master-chef in the kitchen, the mastermind. We just turn up for work.”

Where are you looking forward most to start touring?
Well, I’d love to get back on stage again with the gang, the sooner the better. Here you can see some of them on our last shows before we had to stop planning to tour Germany and the US again on account of the pandemic.

Mandoki Soulmates – Album & Concerts Trailer 2020:

Do you have a favourite song or album?
Favorite song, quite honestly, this is the best record we have ever made and I have been producing my life away and recorded so many albums for so many great artists, I would say I wrote down the collection of my favorite tunes in my life on this double album, this is just the best. And everything is new and fresh, therefore this double album is my favorite. It is also an artistic legacy.

Are there plans to tour the USA in 2021?
Of course, we are going to tour, hopefully end of 2021, spring 2022 at the latest, but at the moment we are just trying to fix dates for the end of 2021.

What can fans expect at a live show?
Well, our live show is literally the longest show I have ever seen, we play all our classics, and those of our legendary band members. There are different generations on stage, each of them full of energy, fantastic soloists, wonderful songs, very clear and precise arrangements, joyful fun, that’s what you can expect.

Thank you so much for the interview, Leslie! All the best.

(Interview by Jupiter Lee)

Mandoki Soulmates on Facebook

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