More than a shredding guitar player, thundering drummer or even a guttural vocalist, Jose Mangin knows how to ensure the local metal community gets heard.
On a recent Wednesday night at the Observatory in Santa Ana, the sounds of Satan echo from the small, densely packed Constellation Room. Metalheads swarm the stage during the inaugural Affliction Metal Night, sponsored by Seal Beach-based Affliction Clothing. As the road crew for headlining band Kyng complete their soundcheck, Mangin prepares to warm up the crowd. Sporting a rugged Affliction T-shirt, ripped jeans and gauged earrings, he runs onto the stage in front of a sweaty, savage metal heads.
"Before Kyng comes out, let's give it up for all of the photographers and the security guards working hard for you here tonight," Mangin says. "We are all together to support local bands here in Orange County and to support metal."
If the genre's spiritual essence—euphoria, aggression, confidence and power—could be collected into human form, it would resemble Mangin. The radio host and newly appointed vice president of brand management for Affliction is one of the metal world's biggest ambassadors.
Despite his own metal empire—or perhaps because of it—Mangin isn't shy about wearing his fandom on his sleeve. "I love to make artists and musicians comfortable, and I want them to tell me that the interview was fun and they got to say what they wanted to say," Mangin says. "I want them to be in the elevator on the way down from wherever our interview is and overhear them say, 'That was the best interview I have ever done.'"
Mangin has also hosted such music festivals as Carolina Rebellion, Knotfest and Rock Allegiance. After providing black-carpet coverage at previous Revolver Golden Gods Awards shows, he was promoted last year to co-host with Megadeth's Dave Mustaine of the Revolver Music Awards.
After eight years as brand ambassador, Mangin was promoted two years ago to his current role by OC-based apparel company Affliction to move his New York-based SiriusXM show to Seal Beach and broadcast from the company's OC headquarters."It was natural for me to want Jose to work with us because of his passion for the brand," says Eric Foss, owner/design director for Affliction Clothing. "By having him in the OC, he has been able to integrate more into our social media and be a louder voice for our company. The rock and metal music fans have embraced our brand since the beginning, so outfitting bands is a top priority."
Aside from getting metal gods from all over the world introduced to the clothing brand and wearing the gear, he's giving OC metal bands their biggest platform in years by putting their music on satellite radio and online. And for him, that's only the beginning. Mangin brought with him the weekly locals-only night he used to host at a New Jersey bar.
"Building a strong metal scene around where I live is very important to me," Mangin says. "I want to see their eagerness to play and [for them to] try to impress me to get them on the radio. I want to see the local talent and introduce it to the world."
* * * * *
Before Mangin began living every metalhead's dream, he struggled to live the American dream. Growing up in Douglas, Arizona, a U.S./ Mexican border town with a population of approximately 17,000, more than 30 percent of whom live below the poverty line, his life didn't come with too many perks.
Although Mangin's dad supported his metal interests and would hand-make flyers for his son's high-school band, Damnation, he concentrated on teaching Mangin about the importance of education. "I knew by my sophomore year that I needed to do something with my education; otherwise, I would end up in jail or crossing drugs or transporting for easy money," Mangin says. "Douglas was a border town, so it had militias [and] illegals, and everyone was involved in the drug business. It was a battle zone from the beginning."
His scholarly vigor gravitated toward science and chemistry, though many of his teachers doubted his abilities because of his scraggly appearance. After graduating third in his high-school class with a perfect grade-point average and the most scholarships, he attended the University of Arizona on a full-ride scholarship, with the intent to pursue a career in pharmacy. "I had the longest hair of any dude there, and I proved to all my teachers and all these people who thought I was going to be nobody that I could smoke weed, have tattoos, be a metalhead and do something awesome," Mangin says. "That was my first big taste of success and knowing how it felt."
While in college, he primarily focused on school and science, but his first introduction to radio life came during a Spanish guitar class. The music director of KAMP Student Radio recruited him after overhearing him play some metal riffs. Though Mangin initially declined, he soon volunteered to work at the tiny station hidden in the basement of the student union. The metal memorabilia that covered the walls instantly mesmerized him. He eventually became KAMP's first metal director and inaugurated the once-a-week show Beyond the Pit.
In those college-radio days, he never imagined that decades later, there would be such a high demand for his attention. At any given time, he says, he gets hundreds of texts and emails from bands and agents pitching him new music. "I get hit up by friends of family, by friends of friends, at concerts and festivals, at events, at restaurants, in bars, by electricians and cable installers," Mangin says with a laugh. "People even hound my sister. It's crazy, but I love it. I know [SiriusXM] moves the needle with selling albums and concert tickets."
Mangin's energetic spirit and stoner positivity can be infectious. During his interviews, he's likely to offer his subjects a hit off his vape pen and a glass of tequila from his liquor cabinet before diving into conversations about their past and their music. His interviews are bookended by deep-gutted screams during name introductions and outros.
Whether he's in a studio or bumping into fans at a festival, he greets people with a warm smile and a solid handshake, all while sporting his trademark turquoise bracelets from his home state; cannabis socks covered by Converse; and spiked, blackened hair. "Not only is he a radio personality, but he's also almost a rock star himself," says Vinnie Paul Abbott, longtime friend of Mangin and the drummer for Hellyeah and formerly for Mangin's favorite band, Pantera. "He goes out to the shows; he goes to meet-and-greets. He's a well-known figure, and people want to say hello to him or get his autograph just as much as [that of] the bands they are at the show to see."
While at Ozzfest Meets Knotfest in San Bernardino last November, Mangin rarely stood still for longer than a few minutes. A natural speed walker, he's often stopped by fans who ask for a photo or offer to buy him a Modelo. Many times, the requests come from the pits in front of the stage, where you'll typically find him watching concerts with his wife of 16 years, Melissa, who often joins the fans for photos. "It's cool because everyone knows I'm married," Mangin says, adding that people often ask about his wife; daughters, Mya and Ava; and dog, Rocky Dimebag. "I've always wanted Melissa to be there with me because everything I do in life is going to be metal."
Though outsiders might perceive metal as violent and dark devil music, Mangin is confident enough in its power to raise his own children on it. "My two daughters are very much involved in my metal and entertainment life, and it's changed their lives, and they respect it," Mangin says. "They've gone to metal shows with us since they were babies. They've gotten to hang out with musicians; we have parties all the time. They are part of my radio show. They are just in it."
* * * * *
The first major interview of Mangin's career was with singer Chuck Billy of Testament at a Best Western hotel in Tucson in 1996 after their concert at an indoor soccer center. Having worshipped the band so much in high school that he made a Testament logo in woodshop, he felt overwhelmed when Billy gave him a Foster's beer and offered him some hash.
"I was like, 'Really? With Chuck Billy?' I had to gather myself," he recalls. "I never forgot how Chuck made me feel like a badass at 19 years old. To this day, he's one of my best friends in metal, and I respect him. I keep that memory in mind so I can do big things for small bands and big things for big bands."
When he moved to Memphis for pharmacy graduate school, he brought Beyond the Pit to WMFS FM-92.9, where he was a part-time DJ. When he won the Metal Director of the Year award in Album Network magazine, industry executives took notice, including TVT Records in New York. The label offered the young DJ a position as metal director, promoting bands such as Sevendust, Nothing Face and Nashville Pussy to other music connoisseurs.
Mangin called his dad for advice about the opportunity and was surprised to hear his father regretted not pursuing his own passion to be an attorney before being pressured to join the U.S. Army pre-Korean War. "He told me, 'If you don't do this, you'll be miserable and regret it like me. You've been into this music your whole life, and you're so good at this. We hated it for a while, but this is you,'" Mangin says.
His tenure at TVT lasted a few short months before he discovered Sirius satellite radio through alternative-radio music programmer Jerry Rubino. The science, technology, investment and 24/7 music cycles bewitched him, and he sent a seven-page email to Sirius' metal director about how he "lives, shits and breathes metal music."
Label exec Don Kaye sent back only a two-sentence reply, agreeing to meet with Mangin; he eventually invited him to the Sirius headquarters in Times Square. But it was Sirius executive Maria Carchidi who was interested in Mangin's charisma, especially his Latin background, and would make him a star.
"I told her I was Mexican-American, spoke Spanish and rattled off a bunch of Latino rock bands to her, and they hired me to build the rock department at Sirius and the metal channel with Don in September 2000," Mangin says.
Mangin programmed the alternative rock en español channel and the metal Hard Attack—which is now 17 years old—starting with Black Sabbath and working his way up through the albums and bands of his childhood. His explosive energy and magnetism on the Latino channel landed him his first television job on LatiNation, a half-hour show about Latino music, sports, entertainment and arts. (He later hosted MTV's Headbangers Ball.)
"[LatiNation] trained me [to be] a presenter on camera, but the first year was hard," Mangin remembers. "I'd mess up, and the director would yell at me, and I'd get nervous and mess up again. It was boot camp, but you had to nail the take right away. If you want to be this, then you need to show up ready to go—high, buzzed, tired, sick, on no sleep or stressed out. You have to be good and fast."
Over the past 17 years, he has interviewed metal icons such as Ronnie James Dio, Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Halford.
When Sirius merged with Howard Stern's XM Satellite Radio in 2008, Mangin's channels became massive and their fanbases exploded. The name Hard Attack was extinguished with the merger, and Mangin's team adopted the name of their former XM competitor, Liquid Metal. "I knew that was going to change my life, and everything I worked so hard for was going to pay off," Mangin says. "I still love Howard so much to this day for that."
But it was a surprise request from Metallica at the Big 4 concert at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 13, 2011, that catapulted him to a higher level of metal elites. While he was munching on chicken tenders in the press box, Mangin received a call from Metallica's manager, who asked him to introduce the thrash-metal band to the audience of 55,000 concertgoers. He had to talk for no less than three minutes and had less than 15 minutes to prepare.
"I felt my chest get really tight, and I went out onto the field with the Jumbotron, without anything prepared other than I knew I was going to curse once," Mangin says.
Luckily, Mangin's knack for impromptu public speaking made the crowd roar and landed his speech in the next day's New York Times, giving a boost to his professional cache. He now had free rein to host what he wanted, as his life and career shifted to bigger events and a realm of celebrity recognition.
* * * * *
A trail of cannabis smoke lingers across the private showroom from the Pantera room upstairs in Affliction Clothing's Seal Beach headquarters. Mangin is huddled in front of his computer, about to conduct an interview with Testament members Eric Petersen, Chuck Billy and Gene Hoglan before their Brotherhood of the Snake album-release party. Melissa is busy in the back, readying Satan's Jizz—the family's signature spicy jalapeño, Riazul margarita mix—for guests.
Despite claiming to do zero preparation for his interviews, Mangin methodically writes down everything from the name of the band and their album to the names of the members and the mic number each is using. The heavy-metal scientist at heart even determines rotations of songs by category and frequency, a formula to which he attributes his channels' success. "Even how I program my channels is analytical," he says.
He wasn't always able to handle a radio show so effortlessly. Mangin recalls a catastrophic on-air interview with Black Label Society's Zakk Wylde during his New York DJ days. The long-haired viking guitarist was drinking at the time and came into the SiriusXM studio already buzzed on Beck's, chains wrapped around his neck. "I had notes prepared, but he was fucking with me the whole time. He got up to play the piano, and I lost control of the interview," Mangin recalls. "I couldn't follow any of my notes; it was awful and embarrassing. He crushed me and made me out to be a little peon. I learned quickly that I have to be in charge of interviews, and I sort of threw preparing out the window after that."
Despite the heaviness of the music his subjects play, Mangin does his best to keep interviews light and entertaining without turning it into a psychology session or poking at skeletons in a musician's closet. "How many times does Vinnie [Paul Abbott] have to talk about his brother dying?" Mangin asks rhetorically. "It's so much stress, and I'd much rather be positive because that's just my mode. A lot of these musicians are friends, and I don't want to ask them to talk about dark topics that will lead them down those caves. That probably makes me a shitty journalist, but that's okay. I'd rather be this."
Mangin's most memorable moments are from gigs for which he didn't even get paid. "There's no money in metal or this stuff; it's hard," Mangin says. Early in his career, he wasn't paid to go to shows or reimbursed for anything, and he often tells those aspiring to be involved in what he does to not expect cash in return. "At least I took that chance. I didn't graduate from high school and decide to be a heavy-metal DJ."
With the Affliction title and move to California came the chance for Mangin to feel financially stable as well as the opportunity for a more flexible schedule to be home with his family. "We know what it's like to live dime-to-dime and off $20 in a week," Melissa says. "I couldn't go to shows a lot with Jose [in the past] because someone would have to watch the kids, and paying for a nanny costs money. I became very bitter because I would work all day, and then come home and take care of the kids, while Jose's job was like a party. It affected us."
The transition to Orange County from the East Coast wasn't without other challenges, but all members of the Mangin family are more active and found the balance they were seeking. "Melissa has never wanted to be 'the chick'; she wants to be powerful on her own without me and has a successful career [in the apparel industry]," Mangin says. "Without her, without her leadership and without her financial success, I would not be able to host a festival in Jacksonville or Carolina or do some of the other incredible things I get to do."
The move also fulfilled a childhood dream for Mangin. "I joke that I will get 'OC' tattooed on my face," he says, "because I love the school districts here, the concert venues, the beach, the attitude, the spirit, the marijuana, the tequila, Mexican culture and tacos."
* * * * *
On a cool October evening, Mangin sits in the family room of his Costa Mesa home, watching TV. It's one of the few times he has been able to chill. He talks about a few of his devotions outside of metal, such as his love for horror movies and his obsession with watching CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Suddenly, he realizes he has to pick up his daughter from cheer practice. Punctuality is one of his weaknesses, Mangin explains as he jumps into his SUV. "I live fast. I walk fast; I listen to fast music. I'm a fast dude," he says. "It's because I'm always late, though."
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Even in panicked-parent mode, he can't help but talk about how he strives to make OC an even bigger hub for metal and hard rock and feels a responsibility to give back. "I'd like to do more local shows in addition to Affliction Metal Night or have local bands stop and play at my studio and have them invite their friends," he says. "I want to get [local] metal bands amped up to be from where they grew up and wear their local flag proudly."
For someone whose life continues to improve because of the music he loves, giving back in a way that makes even more people connected to metal is something Mangin says he'll never stop doing.
"[Everything good in my life] has all happened because of metal. Metal, metal, metal!" he yells, sounding a bit like a cheerleader himself. "It is very weird to go from the border of Mexico and being poor and having nothing to being recognized and having your idols giving you praise."