Few bands have been as influential in their lifetime as Roxy Music. True originators, the art rock collective released a string of albums between 1972 and 1982, before disbanding. Since their split, the work of the various members has been notable; from Brian Eno’s production work with U2 and Coldplay, to Bryan Ferry’s incredibly successful solo career. Elsewhere, guitarist Phil Manzanera has recently been crowned the ‘Virtuoso’, at the 2018 Progressive Music Awards. We caught up with Phil, and former colleague Andy MacKay, to chat about the awards, the pair’s current work, and what may become of the ‘lost’ Roxy Music album. Manifesto; Eamon O’Neill.
Good evening gents, what does it say on your award?
Phil Manzanera: It’s the ‘Chris Squire Virtuso’. I knew Chris, and he recorded one of my albums for me, so it’s got special resonance for me. And also, John Wetton was on the album that I recorded at Chris’s. Both have been celebrated tonight, so it’s a lot off my history there.
What does it mean to be at the Prog Awards tonight?
Phil: Well, it’s a surprise. because, we’re not, generally grouped in with prog music, in the conventional sense, but I never thought of Pink Floyd as a prog band. Are they a prog band? When you come to the definition of what is a progressive band, I think it started with ‘Sgt. Pepper’, and I call The Who a progressive band. They were pushing the boundaries, and they were experimenting.
Andy Mackay: It’s the kind of as much as nothing’s excluded, as much as trying to include too much. If you think; “You know what, I’d really like to have a weird chord there, I’d like to have an odd time signature”, or “I’d like to have an orchestra” or “I’d like to just have an acoustic guitar”; following that instinct and doing it, I think that’s really the thing that kind of defines the rock scene.
Roxy Music was, for a time, pigeon-holed into the glam rock category.
Andy: Art rock. Glam, musically didn’t have much meaning, really, and glam was a good style comment, I’m not sure. I mean, ‘Glam’, musically, sot of means Gary Glitter and maybe Marc Bolan, and kind of huge singles.
Phil: I think us and Bowie were a sort of, it was like ‘glam plus’. It was, but there’s a couple of tracks on the first Roxy album that I always thought sounded very proggy, like ‘The Bob (Medley)’, and we had the same management as King Crimson, we had Pete Sinfield producing our album; everything crossed over. The main thing is that there were no rules. You know, we just did what we did.
Roxy Music are such an iconic act; is there anything that you didn't achieve that you'd like to?
Andy: If anything, I’d like to finish an album we started ten years ago that we’ve never finished. If anything would make me really happy before we finally hang up our instruments, it would be to work on that album again, with both Brians [Bryan Eno, and Brian Ferry].
Was it Eno or Ferry who once said; “There’s only room for one Brian in this band”?
Phil: Who knows!
Andy: I’m not sure. It’s funny. It was probably Ferry, actually.
Phil: Funny enough, about five years ago, we did do about ten / fifteen shows, and tracks with both Brians, and with the original producer Chris Thomas, but we never bothered, and it wasn’t finished.
Andy: It wasn’t finished, it was backing tracks. But you know, that would be a nice thing to do.
Is it likely that the album will get a release in the future?
Andy: I don’t know. Wait patiently! I think ‘likely’ is a bit strong. ‘Possible’ is more likely.
Finally, what have you got happening, going forward?
Phil: Well, Andy has got a new project that he can tell you about, he’s doing a concert in a couple of months’ time.
Andy: It may be the proggiest thing I shall do, because there’s an orchestra, and a choir and some electronic instruments. It’s the setting of psalms. That is kind of an unusual project, and very, very hard. One of the most difficult things with the record deal is defining genre now, because, genre has suddenly become terribly important. I hate genre, I hate that thing of ticking ‘what are you?’; It could be ‘Jazz’, ‘Modern’, ‘Classical’.
Can you tell a member of Roxy Music what genre to go into?!
Andy: I can live without it.
Phil: That’s the way history has developed.
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Andy MacKay with Special Guest Phil Manzanera premiers 3Psalms at London Queen Elizabeth Hall on 26th November 2018. For tickets and further details, click HERE.