Mike Mangino has been producing a wide array of weird and beat-heavy electronic music for 20 years now, first with the group SMERSH (who gained some notoriety in the post-industrial scene in the 80s), and now with a variety of projects he records under for both his label, Mirandette Popular, and the cassette label IMMP. Mike's music (under any name) is quite experimental, often throwing down wickedly twisted drum loops and analogue electronic sounds with noisy dissonance and an oddly welcome sense of humour. The huge beats of SMERSH predated much of today's "big beat" techno, and I can't help but think that Mike and company never really got the recognition they deserved. He's gradually reissuing his classic material on CD, while continuing to pump out more of his unique electro-beat sounds.
GODSEND's Todd Zachritz talked to Mirandette Popular label owner and ex-SMERSH programmer Mike Mangino in October, 1998.
G-First, describe how you became interested in electronic and experimental music, and the beginnings of SMERSH (who/what/when/why/etc).
M-When I was 13, I bought a copy of "Soon Over Babaluma" by CAN in a local record store. This store was full of import albums by groups I had never heard of. Needless to say, my record buying habits were never quite the same again. Chris and I started recording together in 1978. In 1981, after unsuccessfully shopping a demo tape around, we decided to start our own label.
G-You are active now with your labels, IMMP and Mirandette Popular (and before them, Atlas King)..which are/were predominantly outlets for your work, and that of friends and associates. Describe your intentions with these labels, their differences, etc.
M-Our intention with Atlas King was to have a label that did everything the wrong way and still succeed. I have nothing to do with running the IMMP label. I just give them tapes and they release them. Mirandette Popular is my new compact disc label which will be releasing old Atlas King material as well as the occassional new release.
G-You have recorded for prominent labels like KK Belgium and Vuz Germany. How did these relations go? Were these both one-off deals or did you just feel that they weren't right for what you were doing musically?
M-After releasing "Emmanuelle Goes To Bangkok", KK Records cut off all communication with us. Our guess was we didn't shift enough units for them. The single on Vuz Records was a one-off.
G-You are involved in several "bands" and projects now, right? Please describe them as much as possible...
M-The following cassettes are available on IMMP: SMERSH-"Join The Radium Girl Fun Movement"-the last release by SMERSH as a working unit. SMERSH-"Archive Hell Volume 1"-a collection of old and unreleased things. QUATERMASS-"Coolie Joolie" PEACE HOTEL-"Unconscious Contact Unlimited" HIP HUG HER-"Nirkin' Around" WONDERBIRD-"Because Chicks Dig Assassins" The only difference between these 4 releases are the names they were released under. Everything still sounds like SMERSH except the vocals and guitars have gone missing. THE CONVULSIONS OF CREATION-"Moonba Is Here" TWILL-"Music From Studio X" These two tapes are collaborations with Igor of SUPERFINEMAGNETICPARTICLE.
G-I feel like SMERSH were an original part of the classic post-industrial electronic scene in America...do you ever look back as being an innovator, since many of the trendy electronic/techno artists are doing similar stuff today?
M-If Chris had ever said to me while recording, "Hey, we're really being innovative today!", I would have laughed in his face.
G-Your music has a prominent element of humour to it, which is a distinct change from the usual post-industrial outlook. What do you think of today's "industrial" scene(s)--from the dancier "EBM" stuff, to the more academic ambient/sound manipulation stuff, to the gut-level noise stuff?
M-I don't listen to the doom and gloom stuff at all. Lately, I've been listening to a lot of German techno, stuff like Porter Ricks and Monolake.
G-SMERSH was quite prolific...do you have any plans to re-release that work onto CD for all the kids to see how the big beat's done--the SMERSH way (I know you've already released "Emmanuelle Goes To Bangkok" and the compilation comp "Escala En Hi-Fi" on CD) ?
M-I'm going to start putting the old SMERSH cassettes out on CD in early 1999.
G-You were an active participant in the whole 80s experimental "cassette culture", right? Any thoughts looking back on that? Do you feel it's time has passed?
M-Homemade tapes were always regarded as the music industry's bastard offspring. They didn't care then and they certainly don't care now. I feel that as long as you're committed to what you're doing, it doesn't matter how you release it.
G-Your thoughts on net culture and how it has affected you and your music...
M-Well, for one thing, it has made it easier for people to find me. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not!
G--Any closing comments or words to part with?
M-Constant grinding can turn an iron rod into a needle. (Lucky numbers: 1, 9, 27, 30, 33).
Thanx to Mike for taking the time to respond to this interview.
To contact him further, email him at: MMang00@aol.com
Mirandette Popular, 46 Balboa Lane, Franklin Park, NJ 08823, USA.