INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
New Musical Express AUGUST 24, 1974 - by Nick Kent
SNAKE-EYED LATIN LOTHARIO GOES PAN-TONIC
...And that's not all as Nick Kent discovers after conversations with none other than marimboid Roxyite Phil Manzanera.
Philip Geoffrey Targett-Adams Manzanera, actually.
Mother was of South American origin and the custom down in those rhumba-orientated climes appears to involve thrusting the bride's maiden-name directly after the male-dominated familial moniker once the knot hath been tied.
Very fitting though, all things considered - particularly when you notice that the Manzanera visage does bear the vague swarthy pallor of an out-of-work marimba player gone progressive. A swift hair-cut and he could even be taken for a distant relative of Sergio Mendes.
The guitarist's surname, you may recall, did add that extra glint of lustre to the Roxy exotica quotient at the onset - a glint which, may I add, needed to compensate for the fact that Manzanera was the only doxy to sport a healthy beard, a grievance that even the donning of a pair of ludicrous sci-fi shades found on Anthony Price's floor couldn't compensate for.
From there on, it was down to garish, padded jump-suits formed from rather gauche fabrics, until finally the perfect idea was hit upon: "I wanted to get that ruffled effect particularly on the sleeves, in the same way that samba players have it but it eventually turned out more in an armadillo style."
Thus quoth the snake-eyed one in reference to the wet look ensemble he's been sporting onstage this last year or so.
But ENOUGH of this primping fashion stuff.
Let's get down to the business at hand - which is Manzanera the musician who has modestly stepped out of the shadows of Roxy of late to manfully stride back and forth between his echo-boxes and tape-loops and the control-panel (where he has been holding court with Eno as co-producer and general tempering influences on the heady activities of one John Cale).
Not to mention the fact that his guitar expertise has suddenly called attention to itself, shifting from the seeming electronic jiggery-pockery of the first Roxy Music album to stuff of the weighty calibre of that blinding opening volley to be heard of the first section of Mother Of Pearl.
Go on Phil, what's your secret? How do you make that axe speak?
"Its all down to pan-tonality, man!"
Urr... Come again, squire?
Ah, but of course. "Pantonality." Spliced 'twixt the words "pantaloon" and "pantry" in the dictionary and wrought from "pan" (meaning "all") and "tonality" (meaning uh... "the sound of a voice or instrument").
"It really just means utilising everything at your disposal and generally making the most of it."
Ah, such brazen technical connaissance is surely indicative a musician well-soaked in the treadmill of the amateur progressive jazz-rock group, i.e., the kind of animal that stemmed from provinces like Canterbury or Cambridge a few years ago.
Sooth to say, young Manzanera did just that, setting off with a combine known as Wing Commander Nixon And His Wheat-Eating Bees to be followed swiftly by another delight - Pooh And The Ostrich Feather.
Esoterica aside, the aforementioned set-ups were ultimately to act as the prototype for one Quiet Sun who played all original material and formed a tenuous link with a group called The Roxy. The fact of the matter was that a... uh, rival paper... well, you tell it then, Phil.
"There was a feature known as 'New Horizon' in (he names the journal) and one week we were featured along with this guy Bryan Ferry and a group he had called The Roxy. It eventually ended up with me going around to listen to the group, mainly because they'd been given far more of a rave review."
Ferry had not long been rather clumsily sacked from his old group, Gasboard (which at that time had featured John Porter and initial Roxy bassist Graham Simpson).
"I think it was something to do with him not wanting to rehearse. He'd just turn up to a gig with two girls on his arm.
"He was always a smoothie, so to speak. He had that style even then, though he'd wear things like black sweatshirts and denims.
"Actually it's very strange - the original Roxy sound because they had a classical drummer at that time and the first tape they made, on which they recorded 2 H.B., Grey Lagoons, For Your Pleasure, and one other, sounds incredible. It ties in with what Robert Wyatt criticised the band for in a way though, because working with Paul (Thompson), who is a great rock drummer, is so much easier. It fits together far better ultimately."
Manzanera was constantly finding himself in Roxy's company throughout their mutual "lean" period.
"It was very much of a unit thing then. Everyone was making this effort to be friendly and of course everyone was incredibly poor. Bryan had moved into Andy's place in Battersea, while Paul had moved in with Eno of all people (laugh). Paul was amazing to watch originally - because he'd just come down to London and was obviously right out of his depth. The music? Oh, it was still very much Bryan's compositions though there was, I think, one of Andy's. Actually the band were doing some of David O'List's songs as well. One was called O'List's Waltz."
David O'List was rather a problem case though. Something to do with drugs and generally feeling sorry for himself but also, while the others in the band were all for mucking in - shifting equipment and that - O'List, who'd already tasted stardom with The Nice, wasn't into that side of the deal at all.
In fact, all was rent completely asunder when O'List and Thompson got involved in a sizeable verbal tussle in the midst of a vital audition for their eventual managers, E.G. Exit one doleful O'List, enter one jubilant Manzanera, who had just known all along that the group were going to be killers. He joined on February 14, 1972, the same day that a deal was set up with E.G. An album was swiftly recorded, and the rest is history.
Well, almost all the rest. For example, when exactly did the inner-group frictions start to make themselves felt?
"I think it was around the end of that year. I remember the first actual blow-up occurring when Bryan held back on telling us that he'd designed the album sleeve of For Your Pleasure - which resulted in a huge argument on our coach."
After this fracas, Manzanera, Mackay and Thompson were to find themselves in the middle of the fearsome feud waged 'twixt Eno and Ferry.
"Well, obviously it came to a head in America, which is only natural - particularly if you're not going down so well. It finally blew up in L.A., which is the ideal setting for that kind of thing. We just felt it was an amazing drag - I mean I could understand why Bryan got so upset really, because he was working amazingly hard on one side of the stage and there was Eno on the other grabbing all the attention because he looked so incredibly weird. We ended up trying to work out any number of solutions, but there was really no way out at all..."
Shortly after that, Ferry was to don his "misunderstood artist" overcoat and get quoted for statements like, "I've always considered Roxy Music to be my band - which pleased the rest of the combo not one bit.
"Actually we weren't angry so much as hurt really. It just seemed to deflate anything that might have been achieved before. It made one fell like one's own contributions were useless."
"Well, Bryan was going through all the after-effects of the Eno thing, and his solo album had been panned. Now the relationship is better than ever. I think he's realised that he can only do so much, and that some new ideas - at least, say melody-wise - are called for. Now he's written five songs himself for the new album, and each one is superb."
And then there are the lyrics for the Mackay and Manzanera tunes - two each - which Ferry is currently hard at work completing. It's all go in the Roxy camp a ce moment - not to mention the recent sojourn which allowed Ferry and Mackay to pull off their weighty solo coups.
"Chris Thomas originally mentioned the project to me, but he'd gone to Japan by the time John was ready to record. Eventually we got in touch directly and I just went ahead and stated that I could produce him if need be. Eventually Eno and I found ourselves having to exert a tempering influence on him. The thing about John is that he goes out on these amazing tangents in almost every respect but he somehow gets himself out of them eventually with some success."
Manzanera even got to play on the new Nico album, laying a guitar track over the last section of The End as well as doing work on a couple of other tracks.
And then there's the matter of the Solo Album. It's more or less all planned out - one side instrumental and one side hopefully utilising Manzanera's favourite singers.
"I can't give you the names because it would probably backfire in exactly the same way that 'Eno joins The Velvet Underground' story did."
Meanwhile, his ultimate pride and joy of the moment is the guitar track laid down for a song on the new Roxy album.
"Ah yes, I used a twelve-string Rickenbacker and tuned the strings in such a way as to pretty much get that actual sound McGuinn worked out for The Byrds 5D album. The thing is, though - I had to hire one. They're impossible to get these days. Yeah (pause). Lennon used one and Townshend had one as well... I think he smashed it, actually!"