As the man in charge of one of the biggest rock channels in the world, Jose Mangin brings metal to the people. Foremost though, the Arizona born-and-bred metalhead (“nine blocks from the border fence!”) is an ambassador and advocate. For his Mexican-American heritage and for paving the way for kids like him. For Arizona and the heavy metal community. And, maybe most surprisingly, for politics.
Known as an authority on heavy metal, Mangin helped create SiriusXM’s Liquid Metal and Octane stations almost two decades ago. He’s also the director of programming and the on-air host for those channels. In fact, he’s the longest-running rock host in the company’s history.
But what’s notable after just an hour with Mangin is his passion for sharing Arizona’s culture and music with SiriusXM’s millions of listeners.
“Arizona is so important to my mission of talking about how I got here, and how beautiful and life-changing metal is for many people,” he says.
Mangin’s enthusiasm is disarming; he’s sincere and excited about what he’s doing whether it’s a one-on-one interview or hosting a festival for 70,000 people. His passion for music is palpable, from his vast musical knowledge to his band-tribute tattoos.
His days are full even when he’s off-air and off-stage: guest vocals on a Suicide Silence album, a Metallica interview, singing “Happy Birthday” at Ozzy Osbourne’s 70th, or hosting his famous radio guests at “taco metal parties,” replete with Riazul Tequila (co-owned by Mangin), Affliction gear (he’s head of artist relations at the brand), and California’s Finest (America’s first award-winning marijuana cig brand, of which Mangin is a brand ambassador).
Although he lives in California, to Mangin, Arizona has always been one of the most metal states. “I’m proud — and quick — to point out where I’m from and bring it up in conversation,” he says.
“Arizona is making some positive noise,” Mangin continues. “There was a piece I contributed to in Kerrang! that says Arizona is becoming more of a hot point for metal than ever before. I mean, since the ’80s we had Flotsam [and Jetsam], Sacred Reich, then Soulfly, but now there are bands gaining traction nationally like Gatecreeper and Spirited Drift, Holy Fawn, Incite, Job for a Cowboy, The Word Alive! ... Also, we play DED on Octane daily. Every time I say ‘Arizona’ — it gives me an excuse to talk about where I’m from.”
Born in Phoenix, Mangin lived in Sierra Vista and Tucson before settling in Douglas, which he says was a split between Mexican cowboys and heavy music outliers. His cousins were the latter, introducing him to a range of bands in a backyard shack adorned with metal posters. His first concert, in ’92, was Iron Maiden and Anthrax. Later, as the host of Headbangers Ball, he commemorated that first show with a “Persistence of Time” tattoo while Anthrax watched.
With a full-ride scholarship to the University of Arizona, then graduate school in Tennessee, he earned a degree in chemistry and worked as the campus radio station music director, winning an award for his on-air skills. But he knew his heart was in metal, so he moved to New Jersey in pursuit of a radio career. Soon, SiriusXM hired him to launch the rock division; in the early days of modeling his SiriusXM playlists, Mangin took a cue from KUPD, Phoenix’s popular rock station.
Now, one of the most important things for Mangin is being a role model in the metal world.
As he sees it, metal is a tight-knit community that has always embraced diversity in music and championed other types of cultures and language.
“When someone falls in a mosh pit, we pick them up. We don’t ask where they’re from, their religion, gay/straight, political party,” he says. “That’s what I say every day on the radio — I have not been silent. I am using my voice to lead people to unlearn this shit they’ve been taught. It’s not necessarily their fault — but they can unlearn. I feel that is a powerful word: unlearn.”
In the meantime, until shows are up and running again (and in between on-air time and interviews), Mangin and his family purchased a new home in California. He’s working hard on renovations with his wife, Melissa — they met nearly two decades ago while both working at TVT Records; as the story goes, they moved in together within a week and were married nine months later — and two daughters.
“Every day I’ve been working in there, scraping popcorn ceilings, painting … honestly, if I wasn’t doing metal, I’d be doing house renovations and construction.”
“And,” he adds, “not being able to go to live shows will make us appreciate it more instead of taking it for granted. People might be more passionate. I’m gonna cry when I go back to that first show!”
Emotions are running high — the upcoming elections, COVID, uncertainty about the industry’s future, as well as the importance of inclusivity — especially for someone like Mangin, who is a role model for kids, particularly Latinos. (He actually speaks more Spanish on-air at this point than he does English.)
“There’s a lot we have to do, but it’s all of us that needs to change,” he says. “It’s not just a leader or one political party. Also, people in our world need to run for office.”
Mangin knows a thing or two about that. His father was a politician, after all, known for charming the room and his public speaking skills. On Mangin’s wall is an old framed photo of his dad speaking behind a podium at a political event. It’s not far off from what Mangin does behind the mic.
“On air, I encourage everybody to vote, hard and heavy. I don’t say who to vote for, just vote. I’m also aware a lot of our fans do not like when I talk about stuff like that. And they’ve given me a hard time: ‘Shut up and play the music, no one wants to hear you talk,’ type of comments.
“There’s a lot of people who follow us that aren’t on the same page, but if you keep killing them with a positive presence every day, maybe after a while, advocating for cohesion in community, heritage, and the power of music, will change somebody.”