Robb Mancini. Composer and Producer. Los Angeles, USA

Robb Mancini Composer and Producer

In April 2018, Robb Mancini’s musical vision came into fruition. After years of playing music and writing songs, Mancini saw his band, Version 2.1, release its debut record “One Fight”. It was a seminal moment in the music career and life of Mancini. Like his bandmates, the Southern California born and raised musician had dedicated much of his life to playing music. Now, Mancini has achieved one of his main goals, to write original music that combines a wealth of influences into one fantastic album for people to hear.

Version 2.1’s sound cannot be pigeonholed. Each member of the band has had influence on the songwriting, and Mancini feels the group’s diversity will help Version 2.1 make a lasting mark on the public. Although the band won’t be touring in support of the record, as life dictates each member must contend with other responsibilities, Version 2.1 will continue playing locally in Southern California.

Recently, Mancini sat down with Totalprestige Magazine to talk about Version 2.1, “One Fight” and his music career.

Robb, your band Version 2.1, released its first full-length album in April 2018. Can you tell me about the writing processes and creation of “One Fight”?

“One Fight” began to take shape starting back in 2015. I was playing music in my cover band The Moktonots and having so much fun. After a while, I wanted to take steps toward making original music that we could play at our shows. It wasn’t really a conscious effort to say “I am going to make an album”, but rather a collection of music from the past and present. I wrote most of the songs going forward from 2015 through 2017; yet a couple tracks were from previous recordings. I wrote the bass lines and put some drums to it then added keys and finally wrote lyrics. I enlisted Frank Pledge, my long-time friend and guitar player, to record guitars. Each song has its own story of how and where it was created. Getting this album recorded and produced was a lot like a salmon swimming upstream. The current of life is pushing you in so many directions, but to get this music out has been a singular focus. I work full-time as a lead technologist in a radiology department in downtown Los Angeles. Finding time and energy to do music is often a luxury in today’s busy world. In 2017, I was out due to a knee injury and had time to do some research. I found a great mixing and mastering team in Blake at to do my mixes and he suggested Colin at It was incredible to hear them transform our recordings into radio ready music. Another really key component to the success of “One Fight” was finding Due to scheduling conflicts and expenses, I chose to hire them to re-record the drums and add a few special touches. Boll3t, our drummer, is often on tour with other projects and can play anything he is presented. What is really magical about this music is how my wife Rhena Lee was able to step into the studio and take my lyrics and really breathe life into the songs. Rhena has a truly beautiful and soothing voice that I feel was meant to be heard.  I am so proud of her for stepping up to the challenge. Recording was very emotional and a bit of challenge at times for us to get thru as some of the songs have profound personal meaning. Just as a kid starting out playing music, it really has become a way for me to express inner feelings and thoughts. It’s so cool now to watch our two kids sing along to their momma in the car and it really just brings us joy after all the sacrifice it took to make. Shannon Nelson, a.k.a. Big Snell Dog, never considered himself a vocalist. Shannon and I have worked together in the medical field since 2005. He had left the field to pursue his own business in 2014. We kept in touch and he would come to our shows and our children became great friends as well. In 2015, Shannon would visit and I would show him the music I was working on. I gave him some lyrics for him to tryout and handed him the microphone. I didn’t know this, but Big Snell was a natural. He has a great tone to his voice and has real depth in his lyrics.  “Real Right” was the first song he recorded and it was such a fun process we kept duplicating for the next two years. Often, I would give him lyrics and he would ask me what the song is about. He would take a while to think about it and get into it then he would rewrite some words or write new words all together. Watching Snell open up in the studio was such an amazing experience, because I was the only person who got to watch him transform into a true artist. As the lead singer for The Moktonots, Mike Williams, a.k.a. Big Mike, is always hungry for performing in the spotlight. He is a natural lyricist and I knew this. Mike is an ICU nurse where we work at California hospital. One day, he asked me if I was looking for a singer. I said I sure am, and he sent me a demo recording of him singing “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Greene. Though he had zero band experience, I was totally inspired by his great sound and willingness to sing all genres as that was a mandatory requirement of The Moktonots. After a while, Mike began showing me his own songs he wrote. “One Fight” the album title track was a song he had written which Boll3t, Frank Pledge and I came up with the music while we were still performing as The Moktonots. In 2016, I invited Mike over to the studio to record his amazing song “One Fight”. Naturally Big Mike was hungry for more and approached me with several other songs he had written. I decided to include “Babydoll” and “What’s Your Name” on the album as well and our new supergroup Version 2.1 was complete. I am so proud of our band’s diversity, the variety of sounds on the album which really reflects the diversity of living in Southern California. We are sort of a United Nations of bands. I am Italian and Mexican, Rhena Lee is Filipino and Indian, Big Mike is Brazilian and African, and Big Snell’s family is from Africa, but his family has been in the United States many generations. Frank was Born in South Korea, but moved to the United State at a very young age and Boll3t was born and raised in Brazil and came to the US a few years ago.

Jerry Mancini and Robb Mancini

The album was released through Deep State Records, how did you come together with the record label and what has it meant to have them behind the band’s debut?

Deep State Records is a label and recording studio that I actually came up with to represent not only Version 2.1, but any other artist I produce.  Having the experience of recording five different vocalists on “One Fight”, gave me a unique perspective and desire to produce other artists. It’s kind of a great feeling to take a person who has never recorded music before and then hand them an album with them on it. I know many talented vocalists and musicians, and have plans to release them on Deep State Records in the future. Deep State Records, the name to me, represents what I love about music. Getting into a song on a deeper level and it having a positive, profound impact. Transforming unknown talent into amazing recording artists and performers is the mantra of Deep State Records.

Let’s go back to before Version 2.1 and talk about your music career. Robb, when did you start playing music and what were some of your earliest influences?

That is a great question! I really discovered my passion for music back in the 80s as a young kid. I think instead of focusing on school, I spent a lot of time daydreaming about being a rockstar. What stands out in my memory as early influences is “Simply Irresistible” by Robert Palmer and the “Top Gun Anthem” by Harold Faltermeyer. Another early influence I cannot forget was Def Leppard. They helped shape and set in stone my love for rock music. When I was 10-years old, my father bought me my first electric guitar. A cherry red Kramer with a small amp. I didn’t really take to lessons as my first guitar teacher told me on my first lesson that music was hard and there was no future in it. It was discouraging and I was certainly not the kind of musician who would practice a scale for hours and hours.  Music has been more of a way for me to express personal feelings. I have never been very outspoken, and I guess you can say, I can be an introvert most of the time. Over the years, I would pick up my guitar and play it alone where no one could judge me for my lack of technical ability. I would spend months at a time on my guitar and then not touch it for another period of time. After a while, I began my interest in drums. In High school, I would go to a friend’s house who had drums and we would jam and have fun. Growing up, my mother had a piano in the house that really would collect dust most of the time. Out of my brother and sister though, I was the one who would use it the most, really just making noise and having fun. I took a piano class in college, but was not able to keep up with it. When I was in my 20s, computer technology really ramped up. I started recording songs and at 25-years old, I started finding other musicians on Craigslist to jam with. I met many musicians and have great memories of that. In 2014, my son was born and while at home, I decided to pick up the bass guitar. Playing guitar my whole life and creating music had given me a head start on the bass. It was an amazing feeling to plug it into a big amp and pump out the rhythm while the rest of the band played along. I guess the bass is sort of a foundation and rhythm instrument and that is really how I see myself. The Moktonots were born after that and we had a catalog of over 100 songs.

Like a lot of musicians, you have experience playing covers and Version 2.1 was originally a cover band known as The Moktonots. Why did you make the decision to change the band’s name and to move away from being a cover band?

Moktonots was a play on the words Astronaut and Mock – or copy. We played each cover song as closely to the original as possible, but we did play with our own unique sound and style. Playing music allows us to escape our regular lives and become the rockers we always wanted to be. In 2012, I finally met a great musician that I really clicked with in Frank Pledge our guitar player. We had a saying that we wanted to play music that kept people dancing and having fun. We then found our Drummer Boll3t through Craigslist and the three of us really enjoyed playing covers of all genres together. Our favorite band without a doubt is Muse.  Throughout the years, for me the desire to do more started to emerge.  Boll3t was alway very busy with various other projects, but he always made time for us. Frank was also very busy with work and school, and I was just doing my nine to five job. I started to devote time and money into just recording original music with the hopes of getting the guys together to do shows. Frank started coming over and working hard on bringing the music together with his great guitar sound. We really put the two in version 2.1, the point one being everything and everyone else. I think after adding Rhena Lee, Big Snell and Big Mike to the lineup, as well as getting Boll3t to do the vocals on the song “Another Last Chance” and remix my song Real Right to be more of a hip-hop vibe, we wanted to come up with a new name that represented the diversity of what we are doing. Version 2.1 is always updating itself and coming out with new sounds and styles.  What can you expect next from Version 2.1?  It could be a Spanish love song or it could be Trap music. We want to play music that really resonates with us and brings out the joy of creating music with a diversity of people.

Frank Pledge & Robb Mancini

Frank Pledge & Robb Mancini

Going from a cover band to a group that writes its own material, how different is that for a musician and what is the creative process like?

For me, starting The Moktonots was a great way to learn the bass. It was a new instrument and challenge, and being able to learn bass lines from a diverse array of artists like Marvin Gaye, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and David Bowie kept me ahead of the game. After a while, I stopped writing music on my guitar and began writing bass lines. I am lucky to have Frank to bounce ideas off of and work on songs with. I usually like to come up with a riff or some changes and then I will write it down on sheet music just to solidify it. As time goes on, I might forget what I came up with, but if I tab it out, it is always there. In my experience, it’s always hard for people to let go of control. As a musician, and life in general, it always seems like one person has to have control of the idea and the minute you’re opinion differs then you are out. To me, accomplishing goals is all about teamwork. It’s intimidating to think your music won’t be liked or accepted by your bandmates or fans, but that is not what it’s about. Sitting alone in silence and comping up with sounds and music to play, and then showing it to your group and seeing it build and build until now there are five other people playing your song is an incredible feeling. Sometimes, I compare it to cooking as I love to cook. You can grow some basil in your yard and come up with an idea for a dish. You can plan and prepare it alone, but in the end, you will need to depend on farmers and butchers for the other ingredients. If it turns out good, it will feed your family and friends and inspire others to do the same.

One listen to the album “One Fight”, shows the numerous influences you and your bandmates have. R&B, hip hop, alternative rock and jazz can all be heard on the album’s songs. Was there a conscious effort to add all of these elements or was it just something that happened organically?

I think Frank, Boll3t and I are mostly 90s kids. We were raised on the Seattle grunge sounds of Soundgarden, Alice N’ Chains and Nirvana – although Boll3t was raised in Brazil. At our heart we are an alternative rock band, but music, I don’t think can be contained to just one genre. The great thing about our cover band was the conscious effort to just play great songs from every genre. I think this translated into the album organically. Having our vocalists be willing to sing to any style of music was also a stroke of luck and goes back to teamwork. In particular, to have Big Mike learn rock songs was so much fun to watch and I think it helped him develop into a true artist. We may decide to put out an EP of just one style of music or we may continue to mix it up. I hope that is a little bit of mystery that keeps people interested in our music.

From Left to Right : Boll3t, Big Snell, Rhena Lee, Robb Mancini, Big Mike, Frank Pledge

From Left to Right : Boll3t, Big Snell, Rhena Lee, Robb Mancini, Big Mike, Frank Pledge

Music has changed greatly in the last 20 to 25 years. Previously bands would tour in support of their albums incessantly. Now, many bands are able to play shows here and there but have a presence thanks to the Internet. What are Version 2.1’s plans for the future now that the album is out?

“One Fight”, for us is just the foundation of what we want to do. I think our main goal for now is to continue to write and produce music until we have a really great catalog of music. We would love to go on tour and support or music. In reality, we have full-time jobs, children and spouses and all that competes for precious time, energy and financial resources. Having played extensively with The Moktonots and the scene for a typical act is not all that glamorous. Long hours practicing and traveling only to do small shows. My goal for Version 2.1 is to have so much great music that we will build a following from the ground up. We are planning on releasing a couple of new singles and an EP, and really fine tuning how we want to take our music to the stage.

Robb, what is a day in your life like?

I work full-time in radiology and my job is very interesting and fulfilling. I have two beautiful children, Luca and Gavin, who take up a majority of my time. Of course, my lead singer and beautiful wife Rhena Lee keeps me very busy as well. When I am not attending to all of those life interests, you can usually find me down at Cideshow Studios in Gardena with Frank and Boll3t rocking out!

 What makes you smile?

I get a truly hearty smile when I am lost in the moment playing music just looking over at my fellow bandmates and seeing us all perform at our best.  Watching my kids grow up and also furry little kittens.

What scares you?

I think I am most scared about a breakdown of human interaction and communication like road rage. To me, nowadays everyone is too focused on selfies and social media likes. While I too am guilty of this, I think when you put the phone down and just give people your attention it goes a long way to restoring humanity. I think about life before the Internet, and while people still owned CD players, to me that was a great time. People had time for each other, to listen and to hang out. What scares me most is seeing everyone becoming so selfish that we forget we are all in this together no matter what part of the planet you are from.

What is your secret talent?

I really shouldn’t say this, but when I was 15, I got in trouble and my parents would not let me stay home alone while they went out dancing.  They made me go with them, and for a couple years, I was one of the hottest cloggers in the country. Clogging is sort of like tap dancing, except you have double taps on the shoes. That’s really embarrassing to me now though.

Which historical figure do you most admire?

The story of Spartacus inspires me deeply. The idea of rich and poor has not changed since the beginning of time. The idea that wealthy civilized people would claim to be servants of God, yet keep poor people as slaves is a story that still existed in the United States up until 1865. To hear about one man, Spartacus, who had nothing, yet was able unite his fellow man and wage an all out war against the oligarchy of his time is truly inspirational.

What are you never without?

Unfortunately that object is my phone. It’s crazy how naked you feel when you forget it at home. I guess, I too am a victim of technocracy.

Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?

“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” – John F. Kennedy

“I’m here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum.” – “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

What inspires you?

I have to go back to teamwork. I really get happy when I work together or I see people working together. Accomplishing something greater than yourself and being a part of something bigger is something that only comes from sharing and teamwork.

If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?

I think I would have to change the idea that we are not different than each other despite the way we look or the language we speak or the religion we have. I like the idea that we are all humans and to respect people’s cultures and traditions is amazing. The idea that one group of people is better than the other, to me, is toxic thought.

Robb, what advice would you give to anyone starting in the music world?

My best advice is to play music for yourself, for health and happiness. To express yourself and enjoy playing music together with others. If you have a goal you should always keep it in mind. It’s like sailing. Sometimes to get to the destination you cannot take a straight line, rather ride the winds and keep your eye on the destination.

For more information on Version 2.1, to buy its new record “One Fight” or to find out when the band’s next live show will be, please visit





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