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Chatting with Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music: ‘AM PM’ album

British musician Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music chatted about his new album “AM PM,” where he collaborates with Andy Mackay.

Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay of Roxy Music
Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay of Roxy Music. Photo Credit: Matthew Becker
Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay of Roxy Music. Photo Credit: Matthew Becker

British musician Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music chatted about his new album “AM PM,” where he collaborates with his bandmate Andy Mackay. It will be released on October 13 via BFD/The Orchard.

Song selection of album

“We didn’t really have a song selection because there was only one spare track, and that track, we gave for free for a good cause,” Manzanera said.

He continued, “I’ve been doing an album of songs with Tim Finn from the band Split Enz, and I just wanted to do something crazy, and anarchic, with no structure, so I rang up Andy Mackay in the middle of COVID. I sent him tracks and I told him to play whatever he wanted on them, and he sent the songs back to me, and we made something out of it.”

“Then, I wanted to hear Andy’s saxophone with my guitar and some other instruments such as a tuba, which was played by George Goode,” he said. “I rang up a flute player, Seth Scott, Yazz Ahmed on flugelhorn, and a violinist Anna Phoebe. We used that as a basis to construct the tracks and then, I sent them to Andy.”

“When we finished it, I just couldn’t describe what we created,” Manzanera admitted. “It kept shifting the whole time from one thing to another, and I thought that was interesting because I could not predict where each track was going to go… so that was kind of fun. It was a free adventure because we didn’t know where it was heading.”

Favorite song on the album

Manzanera listed “Ambiente” as his personal favorite song on the album and noted that he filmed a music video for the song, which he described as “very pastural” because he is “out in the countryside.”

The digital age

On being an artist in the digital age, Manzanera said, “In some sense, it is very democratizing. I am very pleased. Anybody can release music themselves. If only the platforms would pay the younger artists a better rate so that they could make a living.”

“We won’t have a music industry of young musicians unless they can afford to pay their rent, and of course, have a life. The paradigm of how the music business works really should change. There needs to be a better distribution to the younger, smaller bands,” he expressed.

“In some ways, the digital age is brilliant. I listen to the digital platforms as much as anyone else. They need to get the payments to the artists a bit better,” he said.

Vinyl

Manzanera remarked, “Our new album ‘AM PM’ is coming out on album, and the Christmas acoustic album will also be on vinyl, and the ‘Roxymphony’ one as well. All of our upcoming releases will be on vinyl, and I am very happy about that,” he said.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

In 2019, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Roxy Music.

“That was a complete surprise and an absolute thrill,” he exclaimed. “Here in the U.K., we don’t realize what a big deal that is. When we went into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, we realized that it was huge. We were very excited, it was a lot of fun, and we were thrilled. This was not something that we were thinking of; it was not in our radar. When we got nominated and got in straight away, we were overcome with gratitude.”

“At that point in time, we hadn’t played together in five years, so we did four days of rehearsal in Brooklyn, so that we didn’t come across as a band that was unable to play. It was an absolute thrill to be there alongside the artists that we were inducted with. I grew up listening to a lot of those bands,” he elaborated.

“For us, it was a victory lap, as some people called it. We went out, did it, and showed the band in a great visual context. We will probably bring out some more music, but we will probably not tour as a band again,” he acknowledged.

Link Wray

When asked if legendary guitarist Link Wray was an influence on him, Manzanera responded, “Not particularly, because he wasn’t on my radar back then… but indirectly, he was an inspiration, because Link Wray influenced a lot of the guitarists that I liked in the ‘60s. I understand, and I liked what he did.”

“His song ‘Rumble’ was incredible,” Manzanera noted. “It has taken so many years for many great artists to finally get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame such as Link Wray and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.”

Speaking of Link Wray, he will finally be getting inducted this year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posthumously in the “Musical Influence” category.

Key to longevity in the music business

Regarding the key to longevity in the music business, he said, “Just keep doing music regardless of whether or not it is successful or not. If music is what your passion is, then go and do it.”

“I’ve always loved music and I always wanted to stay with music whether I was successful in it or not. It is just about loving music,” he added.

Favorite Roxy Music song

On his favorite tune from the Roxy Music catalog, he said, “It’s very difficult to choose one but I do like ‘In Every Dream Home a Heartache’ and ‘Ladytron’ because I get to go mad at the very end,” he admitted.

He also described “Love is The Drug” as a “great, great tune,” as well as a “great idea.” “The bass part of it is incredible,” he exclaimed.

Stage of his life

On the title of the current chapter of his life, Manzanera said with a sweet laugh, “The ‘70s.” “I am in my 70s, and it was all about the ‘70s when I started,” he said.

Advice for young and aspiring artists

For young and aspiring artists, Manzanera said, “Listen to as much different kind of music as you possibly can. These days with Spotify, you can easily do that. In your subconscious, you build up a color palette and that gives you a lot to draw from so your well is full of musical voices, literature, and art.”

Success

On his definition of the word success, he shared, “I’ve never been afraid to fail and that is the most important thing. I am very happy to take risks, so that is the main thing that I learned as a teenager playing in my school bands.”

Closing thoughts on ‘AM PM’ album

Regarding the new album, he concluded, “It is really a continuation of me, Andy, and Paul Thompson on some track doing what we have been doing for 50 years. It is just in a different way and a different context. It’s about sound textures, a little bit of technique, and just knowing when not to play.”

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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