David Rohl

Founder of Mandalaband, composer, lyricist, arranger and orchestrator. Instruments: piano, synths, sample keyboards and percussion. Vocalist.

David was born in Stretford, Manchester, on September 12th 1950 and went to school at Manchester Central Grammar School (later renamed Central High School). After a childhood enthralled by the wonders of ancient Egypt, David began his long career in music at the age of seventeen, forming his first band The Sign of Life in 1967. This five piece (with David on Clavinet keyboard and backing vocals) finished a tour of the US military bases in Germany during the winter of 1968/9 before disbanding as David undertook his photography degree at Manchester College of Art in September 1969. It was during this time that he was commissioned by The Moody Blues to photograph the band on tour and create the inside spread of their gatefold cover for A Question of Balance (released in August 1970). Whilst at art college he formed a new band named Ankh (the Egyptian ‘Sign of Life’) which was soon being mentored by Eric Stewart (formerly of the Mindbenders, then the guitarist/singer in Hot Legs and subsequently guitarist/vocalist with 10cc) at the world renowned Strawberry Studios in Stockport. Eric recorded a set of demos for Ankh which quickly resulted in a record contract with the progressive rock label Vertigo (a part of Phonogram). The album was recorded in their Edgware Road studios in London (produced by Tommy Vance) but was never released.

David was then asked to build an 8-track studio in Poynton, Cheshire, appropriately named Camel Studios, with funding from local businessmen and began assembling the musicians for his ambitious Mandalaband project. Mandalaband I, consisting of David and Vic Emerson on keyboards, Dave Durant on vocals, Ashley Mulford on guitar, John Stimpson on bass and Tony Cresswell on drums, completed the demo version of the first movement of ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ and sent it to the record companies in London. The offers flooded in, with the band’s new management company taking ‘auction bids’ from the UK’s top labels to sign the band. Chrysalis Records won the race to sign Mandalaband and promptly set about putting the nascent outfit on the road, playing to 2,000 people a night as the support band on the February 1975 Robin Trower tour of the UK.

Recording sessions for the first Mandalaband album began in London soon afterwards – but without David who had departed back to Manchester, having been told that another record producer, John Alcock, was being brought in by the record company. The rest of the band completed the recordings and Mandalaband I was then mixed by Alcock for delivery to Chrysalis. It was not long after this that David received a personal telephone call from Chris Wright, MD of the company, who asked David if he would return to London to rescue the project as he was desperately disappointed with the results of Alcock’s production. David then remixed the album at Air Studios on Oxford Street in an attempt to recreate the power and atmosphere of the original demo which had so captured the interest of all the record companies a few months earlier. The album ‘Mandalaband’ appeared in October 1975, but David remained dissatisfied with the end result, having not been given the opportunity to record the original instruments with the power he knew he could have achieved. He simply could not conjure up what was not recorded on the multi-tracks during the rescue mix. Nevertheless the album was much loved by BBC Radio One DJ Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman’s and is still a favourite with Mandalaband fans.

David then returned once more to Manchester where he worked as an audio engineer at Indigo Sound before transferring to Strawberry Studios as Chief Engineer in 1976. There he worked with many top names in the business and began producing artists for Chrysalis and other labels. Meanwhile, the rest of ‘Mandalaband I’ had recorded a second album for Chrysalis under the terms of the original contract. However, without David’s unique writing style, the album sounded very different and Chrysalis decided not to release the disc. Instead they sold it to RCA Records and Mandalaband I became Sad Café, releasing their debut album under the title Fanx Tara in 1977.

Chrysalis then asked David to produce a second Mandalaband album, using all his friends and contacts as the members of ‘Mandalaband II’. Thus The Eye of Wendor was conceived as a mythological, fantasy world in which some of the UK’s best-known vocalists played the parts of characters in the tale. These included: Justin Hayward (Moody Blues), Maddy Prior (Steeleye Span), Eric Stewart (10cc), Paul Young (Sad Café & Mike and the Mechanics), Kevin Godley (10cc), Lol Crème (10cc) and Graham Gouldman (10cc). Musicians included: Woolly Wolstenholme (Barclay James Harvest & Maestoso), Noel Redding (Jimmy Hendrix Experience), John Lees (BJH), Mel Pritchard (BJH), Les Holroyd (BJH) and the Hallé Orchestra, as well as a whole bunch of great local musicians from the Manchester area, not least drummer/percussionist Kim Turner and guitarist Steve Broomhead. The Eye of Wendor: Prophecies was released in May 1978 to rave reviews but did not sell in large quantities at the time. Subsequently, it has been recognised as one of the great concept albums of the 1970s and, with its newly acquired cult status, still regularly appears in the top-twenty prog rock ‘best-of’ lists.

Both Mandalaband I and II were re-released on audio CD in the 1990s.

After working as producer/engineer with BJH (on Octoberon, Gone to Earth, Live Tapes, and the backing tracks for Twelve) and other artists through the late 1970s, David moved to London where he worked at Red Bus Studios, producing the pop band Vega. He then retired from the music industry and returned to his first love – Egyptology – by completing a degree at University College London (1987-90) before going on to do post-graduate research in Ancient History at the same university (1991-96). David excavated for the Institute of Archaeology, London, at Kadesh-on-the-Orontes in Syria and was Field Director of the Eastern Desert Survey in Egypt from 1997 to 2005. He became the Director of the Institute for the Study of Interdisciplinary Sciences in 1986 and editor of the Journal of the Ancient Chronology Forum from 1986 to 2002. During the 1990s he also presented the internationally acclaimed TV documentary series Pharaohs and Kings, In Search of Eden and The Egyptian Genesis as well as writing the bestselling books A Test of Time, Legend, The Lost Testament and The Lords of Avaris.

With adventures ranging across all parts of the ancient world, he is Britain’s highest profile Egyptologist (according to the Sunday Times) and is often described by the popular press as ‘the real Indiana Jones’.


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