You may have heard of Marc Mann, or you might be one of those who watched The Concert for George DVD and asked “Who’s that guy with the hat?”.
There on stage at the Royal Albert Hall as part of a star-‐filled band featuring Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne, and Dhani Harrison, performing songs by George Harrison – ‘that guy’ playing lead guitar is Marc.
Or you might know him as keyboardist with the LA based band Oingo Boingo led by Danny Elfman.
The band’s amazing live performances are well documented in the ‘Farewell’ concert video compiled from 5 sold-‐out nights at the Universal Amphitheater (now known as the Gibson Amphitheater). Marc has worked with Danny since the 80’s, doing synth recording, orchestration, choir, and conducting for dozens of film scores.
You may have also noticed Marc playing guitar and keyboards with the rock group ELO, Electric Light Orchestra, led by Jeff Lynne. The concert DVD ZOOM has live performances of all the ELO hits and more, with Marc playing guitar and keyboards and arranging the string parts. Numerous other album and TV/film credits show Marc has been very busy in many areas of the music world for quite some time.
We recently invited Marc to answer a few interview questions, enjoy his answers below.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Describe the best day of your life.
Marc Mann: That would be hard to pick. There are many standout days, including the days my daughters were born, Kristi and Mallori. They are both grown up now, yet the thrill of becoming a dad ranks up there with many exciting days as a musician. And they are musically talented as well!!
When I think of standout days, a few come to mind. I attended UCLA, originally as a math major, even though I’d been playing guitar since I was about 11. I had never had any real formal music training, I was self-‐taught, and my love of music won out. So a ‘big day’ was when I got news that I had passed the necessary exams and requirements to change my major to the music department.
My parents helped a lot with being supportive about going into music as a career. That day changed my life; I went on to earn a B.A. and Masters Degree in Music, and while in the graduate program I would teach the very same music classes I had taken as an undergraduate.
Other ‘best days’ would of course include meeting and performing with musicians who I’d always held in high regard; my idols, my inspiration. I’ve had the pleasure of working with many great musicians and music producers.
One very special time was the rehearsals in London, which led up to the performance honoring George Harrison’s life and music, and the concert itself, of course.
Eric Clapton has always been an inspiration, and to have the honor of being part of his band, to go through songs at rehearsal and see the Maestro at work – that was a dream come true.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Who are your mentors?
Marc Mann: I’ve been lucky to have known wonderful musicians who were like mentors to me. One was the head of the choral department at UCLA, Donn Weiss, who recognized my talent for conducting and hired me as assistant conductor, and also commissioned choral compositions. My affinity for choral music, my conducting ability, and my compositional development were all influenced by this early mentor.
The university environment is a great place to have many supportive teachers.
I learned a great deal from a wonderful music producer, Peter Asher, with whom I did my first ‘pro session’ many years ago, and have worked with on a great many sessions over the years. A studio environment can be stressful, working under deadlines and with different personalities, but the sense of joy that Peter has really comes through in the wonderful music he has produced over the years. I love his attention to detail, and the sense of exploration and discovery that Peter brings to a music project.
A very important musical mentor is Jeff Lynne, whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for a while now. We met when he was recording the first album of The Traveling Wilbury’s, with me helping him with technology ( a computer ! ) and its use for music. Jeff involved me in many great projects, including restoration of tracks for The Beatles’ Anthology, completing George Harrison’s posthumous album Brainwashed, and producing songs for Regina Spektor.
Over the years working with Jeff I’ve created orchestral arrangements for songs, engineered, mixed, and performed both in the studio and live. I learned a great deal from Jeff about production, and music, and sound (plus I’ve also heard some amazing stories, too!). Jeff is an amazing musician, songwriter, and producer, and working with him has been an invaluable experience.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Describe one of your favorite recording sessions…
Marc Mann: One of the sessions at Jeff’s studio stands out, for the amazing musical moment, and also for humorous reasons. It was during the time I was helping Jeff with the recording of the ELO album Zoom, and there was a track that Jeff wanted Ringo to play drums on. I’d met Ringo a few times before, but we hadn’t really spoken much. I showed up at the studio unaware that Ringo was going to be there that day, and he was already there on the drums going over a song with Jeff. I walked in carrying some piece of gear we needed to use in the control room, and saw Jeff playing guitar, showing the song to Ringo.
I picked up a bass guitar to add to the ‘band’, with Jeff’s smile showing that he appreciated the assistance in getting this song recorded. What a great thing that was, to be playing with Ringo Starr in the studio – on an ELO record ! ! And then, an amazing moment was when I realized that Ringo was looking to me, the bass player, to give him cues about the form of the song, when the sections changed.
I graciously provided Ringo with subtle ‘get ready’ looks, and discretely cued downbeats to new parts, all while wanting to pinch myself that I was doing this ! ! (Of course I thought of how many times previously Ringo would be looking over to another bassist, Paul, while recording a song.) All in all it was a great day, Jeff got the song recorded like he wanted, and we all had a wonderful day of music and laughs. And it was made even more special by Ringo sharing something with me, much later, about that day at Jeff’s studio.
Months later, at some other location, Ringo sees me and says “ah, the delivery boy who plays bass” and laughs. I had a bewildered look on my face, so he then explained that he had thought I was someone who had just showed up at the studio to deliver something, and then sat down and played along ! ! That always makes Jeff and me laugh when we think about it; How cool and easy-going Ringo is, and even to this day he refers to me with a smile as ‘The Delivery Boy’.
Rock Cellar Magazine: What are some of the most important lessons about the industry?
Marc Mann: Well, there are a number of them. Some are ‘Be prepared for the unexpected’. Do your ‘homework’ so you are always well prepared. Know your instrument, know your gear, know your role -‐ and know your limitations, too. I like the TED talk that Amanda Palmer gave on musicians giving themselves value – that is an important thing to learn, I’d say.
And also that being successful involves hard work, determination, and perseverance.
Rock Cellar Magazine: What advice do you have for those just starting out in entertainment?
Marc Mann: Diversify and learn as much about as many aspects of the music/entertainment world as you can. That may mean that you learn more than one instrument, for example, or different pieces of software in addition to learning voice or piano or guitar.
There’s a philosophical saying that says ‘sharpen the sword’, which means always strive for improvement and learn new things. And of course know thyself, be aware of who you are, and that you bring a special gift to the world: music!