Brighton's Mandragora are one of the hottest live dance outfits in the UK today.
Moving away from their roots in the festival dance scene, Mandragora originate sounds that draw on both traditional world musical styles and the mechanisms of the psychedelic dance scene. African and Egyptian styles are layered with hard techno trance and breakbeat rhythms, no musical genres are excluded.
The Mandragora sound defies category. Hi-tech studio techniques, traditional instruments and real musicianship are at the core of the band as they take dance music to breathtaking new heights. Mandragora are in great demand both live and as remixers and are achieving global success through constant touring, remixing and recording collaborations. The bands studio is never quiet with Simon and Phil's Earthdanceproject keeping everyone busy. The bands prolific output also includes contributions to over a dozen compilation CD's, including Drum 'n' Bass, Trance, Ambient and everything in between.
Mandragora's legendary touring has included Israel, Germany, Russia, Italy, Denmark, France, Eire, Hungary, Belgium, Holland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Hungary and the UK. Mandragora are very popular on the UK/European festival and club scene and have appeared at, amongst others,
They have also been invited to open for many varied artists such as The Wailers, Gil Scott Heron, Transglobal Underground, etc. Mandragora continue to do the occasional gig but the Earthdance project is now Simon and Phil's main focus.
Here is an extract from a recent interview with Simon Williams from Mandragora:
Q: 'How did New Age synth guru Phil Thornton come to be involved with Mandragora? I understand he's been involved both in the studio and live'
A: 'Well I first came across Phil at a festival somewhere in Sussex around 1983. I heard this great Moog synthesizer solo floating through the air and followed the sound to the mainstage. There I came across an amazing performance by a band called 'Expandis'. I was blown away and went to more of their gigs and bought their records. When I look back now, that band were so ahead of their time!! I mean they were electronic, using analogue synths like Moog's and Korg's, that are so fashionable now. Also they used sounds coming off backing tapes, electronic drum loops, they sampled speak 'n' spell machines, and also existed both as a studio concept and as live musicians, with many guest performers making each gig unique. One thing from those days that sticks in my mind is their sense of humour with strange cover versions done in different ways, I think Expandis were early re-mixers!!
Later, in about 1987, I met Phil again, and this time he was performing solo, doing this beautiful gentle music that I now know as 'Edge of Dreams'. Phil was way ahead with synthesizers, so in 1988 when Mandragora were invited to open for Hawkwind's U.K tour I phoned him and invited him to play synths for us. Back in those days we were improvising a lot live and Phil with his Moog, Wavestation and sampler gave us a much more sophisticated sound. We had a great time playing huge venues like Fairfield Halls in Croyden and the live sound was great through the massive P.A. systems. Phil seemed to enjoy playing with like minded musicians again and so around this time Phil would reguarly be seen jamming with Mandragora at festivals, the Club Dog, and especially tours of Holland!!! If you remember the late 80's then the Acid House scene was just kicking off so the music scene was just catching Phil up.
It was a natural progression from the gigs to have Phil guest on our albums. His playing, studio experience and production skills were essential to us and the impact of having him on the second album was immense. With Phil we set new standards and you can hear, unrefined but there, many of the trademark Mandragora sounds and influences from ethnic vocals, acoustic instruments, to banging techno and ambient, alien landscapes. By the time we came to record 'Earthdance' we decided to record some tunes in the 'Expandibubble', Phil's homestudio. The results were great and the track 'Zarg' was played on Radio 1 a lot by John Peel and Mark Radcliffe. It was then that the penny dropped and we realised that big, expensive, recording studios were not the way forward. So Phil's home studio was the inspiration behind Mandragora setting up our own studio. We then guested on Phil's album 'While the Green Man Sleeps' which part of was used for the film 'Glastonbury, the Movie'.
Next came the live CD 'Temple Ball' which was recorded live then mixed in Phil's studio. After that we moved into our studio in Brighton to record 'Pollen' but Phil came and recorded some synth parts and we mixed and did some post-production in the 'Expandibubble'. The most recent release with Phil was his album 'Solstice' which both I and Simon Cowburn guested on.