National Artist Spotlight: Percussionist Mingo Lewis' Room Of Voices To Launch New CD

LOS ANGELES - The name Mingo Lewis might ring a bell to some, but some of the artists he's worked with might, including Santana, Return To Forever, James Brown and The Tubes. So sit back and enjoy because Mingo is one interesting cat and quite frankly - for this longtime fan of San Francisco rockers The Tubes - this is a special one!


Article by Joe Milliken * Photos courtesy of Room of Voices

Originally from New York City, Mingo comes from a musical background and began playing drums at the tender age of six. His father, Jimmy "Babyface" Lewis, was a popular New York City jazz and blues vocalist/guitarist who also happened to be M. C. at the Cotton Club while his mother, Jane, worked at the famed jazz club Birdland. This led to many ‘jam sessions’ at the Lewis household which would include such artists as Miles Davis, Max Roach and Thelonious Monk!

During his formative years, Mingo became interested with Afro-Cuban rhythms and at age 15, after attending a Santana show at Madison Square Garden, he would actually become a member of the Santana band! At 19, Lewis recorded his own album (titled Mingo’s Flight Never Ending) on CBS Records before moving to Europe to study North African rhythms.

All these experiences would help formulate a successful run of musical collaborations over the years for Lewis which would include such amazing artists as Chick Corea’s Return to Forever, Miles Davis, Al Di Meola, James Brown, Billy Joel, Todd Rundgren, The Tubes, Stanley Clark, XTC, John McLaughlin, David Byrne, Brian Eno, Joe Satriani and Jan Hammer. Whew!

Today, Mingo leads his own band dubbed Room of Voices, a duo that also features Karissa Gallo on synths, electronic drums and vocals. The music is a unique blend of funk, reggae, world rhythms, psychedelia, fusion, dance and dub-step and the duo is currently recording their third Voices CD titled Electro.

"Let the rhythm tell you what to play," was Mingo's response to Standing Room Only when recently asked what the premise behind Room of Voices really is.

“Mingo and I got together about four years ago through mutual friends and at the time, he was a manager at a recording studio in Sebastopol while I was getting ready to move to Montana to join a band and start studio-recording arts at a specialty college,” Karissa Gallo said in a recent, exclusive interview with Standing Room Only.

“Meeting Mingo changed everything for me... we exchanged a lot of music and before long, he was asking me to be in his band! In disbelief that such a legendary player wanted me... I was very excited and soon enough, I was his partner in crime, working as an intern at the recording studio and learning Mingo's music as we prepared to start performing.”

The music of Electro is nearly all original material and incorporates a lot of dance and electronic sounds into the music. “We create massive sound like DJs do, but we do it live,” Karissa said. “Most of the songs are dance music, some are more rocked-out and there's even a hip-hop song. The only cover song is “Head like a Hole” by Nine Inch Nails, but re-done Room of Voices style. There's also a song called “Dracula” featuring Bela Lugosi's voice from old horror films.”

Along with the new CD, the band is currently running a Kickstarter program to raise funds and produce their first music video. “We are working towards reaching our goal of $10,000 to pay for the production of the video as well as the post-production, duplication and promotion for our new CD release,” Karissa added.

The CD was recorded at their home studio, Hall of Souls studio in Los Angeles and has been in the works for about a year and a half. “We started the recording process in Brooklyn before we moved to Los Angeles and are now completing the CD in LA. Our recording process is a team effort... a lot of times, one of us will come up with an original idea and then the other one will expand on the idea and we do most of our recording together.”

Moving forward, a CD release party and music video-launching is in the works to take place in Hollywood, and some upcoming shows include R Place Music Club in Livermore, CA on May 23 and the Carnival Music Festival in San Francisco on May 24. Mingo and Karissa have also recently been hired as music composers for a forthcoming television series. “It’s a pretty amazing show that we feel is going to be a hit called Sangre Negra,” Karissa concluded. “We are very excited to be creating all the music for the show!”

To learn more about Mingo Lewis, Karissa Gallo and their upcoming CD release or to contribute to their Kickstarter fund, please visit the Room of Voices website at www.roomofvoices.com and also on Facebook. Editor's Note: Also watch for an upcoming review of the new Room of Voices CD