Roxy Music exclusive: Phil Manzanera meets Tom Artrocker
Phil Manzanera, Roxy Music guitarist, founder of Quiet Sun, producer, co-writer and all round good egg chats to Tom Artrocker about the past and the future, as exemplified by his newest project: Nth Entities, a collaboration with poet Anna LeDoes.
Most men of a certain age, myself included, have at one time or another decided to take up the guitar in the hope of becoming... Phil Manzanera. But after a few sessions of finger mangling with the cheese-grater the plank has ended up under the bed collecting dust.
"Shame on you …practice makes perfect!", says Manzanera today, settling down for a 21st century conversation. "Despite rumours to the contrary," he smiles, "it's a fearsomely complex instrument."
TOM ARTROCKER: Can you recall the point at which you thought: 'Ah, I can do this!’
PHIL MANZANERA: After many years of struggling on a cheap guitar in Venezuela and sending off to London for a postal course, which was of no use at all, I realised, after asking to be sent to a boarding school in South London in 1960, that you just have to get friends to show you some chords.
Now with the Internet and YouTube you could probably play within a week!! By 1968 I think I thought I could play something although if I tried to copy stuff from other famous guitarists my so-called friends kept telling I wasn’t playing it the same! At that point I gave up trying to be like someone else. It was the easy way out!
ABOVE: ROXY MUSIC - WITH MANZANERA, THIRD FROM LEFT
Which guitarist was your greatest inspiration as an apprentice?
Do you have an all time favourite guitar solo? (Here I'd like to point out that for me 'Amazon' and 'In Every Dream Home...' are rather special).
I love the solo on the track money from Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon played by David Gilmour.
I've just had Charles Hayward's (This Heat) record company on the line - what are your fondest memories of school, and the music you made there?
It was meeting such an amazing bunch of friends and musicians such as Charles and Bill MacCormick whom I greatly admire still.
You produced the second Split Enz album, I saw them on tour with you around '75, and they managed to make you guys look like accountants... boy they were weird! Did you imagine at the time that this bunch of strangely dressed kiwis would straighten up and take the pop world by storm?
Meeting Split Enz and the Finn brothers was serendipity - I thought they were very talented but didn’t realise how much at the time. I feel honoured to have met them, as not only are they wonderful people but two of the best singer/songwriters in the world.
Co-writing a Pink Floyd single must help keep the wolf from the door?
Not as much as co producing David Gilmour’s last two releases with him – ‘On An Island’ and ‘David Gilmour Live in Gdansk’.
Are you still involved with Gallery Studios? With so many top-line studios closing do you think there's a future for them in the era of home recording?
Yes, I have owned the different incarnations of Gallery Studios for the last 30 years and yes there is a place for the top recording studios - but maybe more for the mixing stage now, unless you have a great big old fashioned recording room and then you will be in demand by bands.
How does it feel to be sampled? (sounds horrible, like a medical process)
Well Kanye West and Jay Z sampled my guitar on ‘No Church in the Wild’, the first track on their new album and they made a great job of it... it’s also in the film Safe House. All good! What’s not great is being sampled and no-one tells you...
What is The Corroncho project?
It is an all Spanish sung ‘cartoon’ album done in collaboration with a Colombian friend. Click HERE to find out more.
With the Falklands back in the news, do you think there's a disconnect between Europe and Latin America? if so, what can be done about it? (and then, if you could solve the Palestinian question and supply the solution to the North Korean enigma...)
It does seem crazy for the UK to still be hanging on to islands so far away. I say let them become independent and decide for themselves who gets the oil, which is of course what this is all about. I think there is much more of a connect between South America and the UK certainly because there are so many of them here in London – I’m half Colombian, half British, so have a foot in both camps……..
Is there a difference between poetry and lyrics?
Yes there is, both can merge into each other but most lyrics in Rock and Pop are drivel! There is very little poetry set to music and I guess that’s why I did this as a challenge to see if the two could blend.
Nth Entities - cool title, what does it mean?
The core sum of one’s being.
Do you have the rest of the year mapped out?
No at all. Any suggestions?
En fin. Sorry but I have to ask, which is your favourite Roxy track and album?
'In Every Dream Home a Heartache' and 801 Live with Eno.
Do you still have those 'bug' sunglasses?
Yes they are staring at me now.
PHIL MANZANERA DOES MUSIC / ANNA LEDOES POETRY
OUT ON 30 APRIL
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