Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera on his latest collaborative album with Tim Finn

Currently, British guitarist Phil Manzanera is on tour with his legendary band Roxy Music, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his self-titled debut album. Outside of his famous work with Roxy, Manzanera has always maintained a long and adventurous solo career whose music has incorporated experimental rock, progressive rock and Latin music. Additionally, he has collaborated with a number of famous musicians such as Brian Eno, David Gilmour, John Cale and the late John Wetton. (His riffs were also sampled by hip-hop stars Kanye West and Jay-Z for their 2011 song “No Church in the Wild”)

Another of Manzanera’s credits includes acting as a record producer – among them New Zealand rock band Split Enz’s 1976 album Second time. Split Enz, which featured singer Tim Finn, had already opened Roxy Music’s Australian tour in 1975. This marked the start of a friendship between Manzanera and Finn that continues to this day, as shown on their final album collaborative. The Ghost of Santiago. The sequel to their 2021 album Taken by heart, The Ghost of Santiago is a dreamy, atmospheric, evocative and romantic work drawing on art rock, electronic music, jazz and Latin music.

The Finn and Manzanera albums were recorded during the 2020 lockdown and feature Finn’s warm intimate vocals and Manzanera’s dazzling guitar playing accompanied by lavish arrangements and production. The history of Manzanera and Finn’s recent collaboration (both have previously worked together on each other’s individual projects) dates back to Roxy Music’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019 at a ceremony in New York. “Stevie Nicks was receiving his award that night,” Manzanera recalled. “A few tables away from us was the set of Fleetwood Mac, and Neil Finn [also of Split Enz and Tim’s brother] has been [subbing for] Lindsey Buckingham that year.

“So I ran into Neil,” he continues. “And the party after, I had my picture taken with him and sent it to Tim in Auckland. I said, ‘Look who I ran into in New York?’ And he said, ‘Awesome. Do you want to play guitar on some songs that me and Eddie [Rayner] done? So I said, ‘Of course.’ It was the year before the lockdown. So I played on a project they had called Forenzics, which came out this year. And then when the lockdown hit he emailed me saying, ‘Do you have any Latin grooves I can write something about because we’re all locked down.’ I said, ‘You’ve come to the right place, mate.’

The two musicians have worked together, albeit remotely, on around 25 songs, 10 of which appear on Taken by heartand the other 10 on the new The Ghost of Santiago. “Those Finn brothers, boy, they just got it,” Manzanera marvels of Tim and Neil. “They wrote some of the most beautiful songs. I was very, very happy to work with Tim, who I’ve known since 1975 and who has worked on my solo albums over the years. Part of an extended family.

The Latin influence on The Ghost of Santiago dominates the album, which is natural in Manzanera’s case given that he was born to a Colombian mother and a British father, and his solo records carry Latin musical roots. And especially on tracks such as the album’s title track, “Esperando La Caida” and “Costeño”, Finn sounds oddly like a singer from Brazil or Chile, even though he’s from New Zealand.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it? Manzanera said of Finn’s whispery, romantic delivery in Spanish. “Because in fact on the Forenzics album, he sings in French. I have another song, which we haven’t released yet, which he sings in Italian. In fact, singers like to sing in another language if they can, because they don’t really understand the words – that sounds good to them. And he did very, very well. I’m bilingual in Spanish, so there’s no way I won’t miss something that’s been slightly mispronounced.

Manzanera are currently on the road with Roxy Music for several dates in the US before returning to the UK for three gigs there. In the middle of this activity, is there a possibility that he and Finn will perform the songs of Taken by heart and The Ghost of Santiago live ? “Obviously, because of COVID, you just don’t know,” says Manzanera. “But it would be nice if we could…because they’re great songs.”

The Ghost of Santiago by Tim Finn and Phil Manzanera is out now on Expression Records.

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