"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Record Collector JULY 2004
Phil Manzanera's latest studio set, 6PM, is issued by Expression on July 5 and features guests Dave Gilmour, Chrissie Hynde, Brian Eno, Andy Mackay and Paul Thompson (Roxy Music), and Robert Wyatt. Record Collector asked him how the recording came about, and what else he is up to.
When I first did a solo album in the '70s, it was an excuse to get together with friends, and so was a sociable, fun job. When it gets corporate, it's pointless, and now the industry is imploding, maybe it'll get back to what it was about - the music - and not just chasing bloody numbers.
Did you have particular people in mind for tracks?
No. I start on a journey and let things evolve. Prior to Roxy I was in improv bands, and I just start with a blank canvas and you put yourself on the spot. As the music reveals itself, it tells you what it's all about and it says, 'how about a guitar conversation with Mr. Gilmour?' And I'm like, 'yeah, I've never done that before'.
How was it playing with Eno again?
I called him up and asked him to put some of his weird magic on it, then you go to his studio and don't recognise your track at all! [laughs] I said, 'I must have brought you the wrong version of that - I don't recognise it'. He says, 'no, no, I just sampled a couple of your bars and I'm now changing it into something completely different'. He used to do exactly the same thing in '72 - he'd feed all my guitars as a single source into boxes, and I'd be hitting the strings and what I heard bore no resemblance to what I was playing at all! 30 years later and, my God, he's still doing the same thing! Unbelievable! [laughs] But it was a good laugh and I blended my stuff in with his, some of which was really way out. Still, it's mainly about my experience of psychedelic London in 1967-68. The album before was about my childhood, so Christ knows what's next! Space opera? Other dimensions?"
How long did it take to record?
Six months in between Robert Wyatt recording in my studio. I did about 40 songs, and the ones I kept back should come out in six months or so as Fifty Minutes Later. I also went to Dave Gilmour's and we set up a call-and-response. I'd written with him before for the Floyd but we'd never recorded like that, setting up scenarios and just taping.
Did you have anyone else in mind to play with you?
No, though Brendan Jury was in South Africa and sent an MP3 by email. I never realised it was so easy - I'll be looking for Simon Phillips' address in LA next! Though I like a lot of Brazilian players who have the chops and groove, such as Gaetano Veloso, and younger bands such as Radiohead. But I wouldn't presume to think they'd want to play with an old person like me! Jonny Greenwood is fantastic and some of their sounds are very impressive."
He's been made BBC composer in residence.
Has he? Bloody hell! In terms of composition and use of the guitar, he's one of the most important people of the past 20 years. He just makes you go, 'what?' And, of course, I love the chops and the humour of The Darkness.
Do you plan to play the album live?
It'd be very difficult, 'cos everyone is busy - Chrissie is in Sao Paolo, Eno says he doesn't like performing live - the last time he fronted a band was 801 in 1976 - 801 Live is my best solo set. I saw him the other day and he said, 'I don't do live'. I was like, 'oh, come on!' [laughs] Maybe he'll pluck up the courage some day.
Maybe you could get everyone to do a concert DVD?
That's a good idea. Though when people came and did stuff, we did film some, so I may put something together and put it on the website.
Do you have any other projects on the go?
I've just produced The Modern - very Roxy - and a humourous pop-dance Spanish album, Coroncho, with a friend from Colombia, Lucho Brevia. There's also buckets of stuff in the archive, including a couple of guitar instrumental albums.
FIRST ALBUM BOUGHT Elvis Presley / Elvis' Golden Records
MOST RECENT CD BOUGHT The Streets / A Grand Don't Come For Free
BEST ALBUM EVER The Beatles / Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band