Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera on the band’s first US tour in over 20 years

Phil Manzanera (left) and Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music perform at Madison Square Garden on September 12 in New York City. Photo: Steven Ferdman/TNS

Roxy Music emerged as the band that fell to earth when they released their self-titled debut album on June 16, 1972 – the same day David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” made its debut. debut – forever changing the trajectory of rock music in a more glamorous and daring direction.

And the 2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees – consisting of dapper singer Brian Ferryguitarist Phil Manzanera, saxophonist Andy Mackay, drummer Paul Thompson and keyboardist Brian Eno — managed to keep it weird for the decade that followed before going their separate ways after “Avalon” in 1982.

Now, core members of Roxy Music (minus Eno) are touring North America for the first time since 2001, with a scheduled stop at the Chase Center in San Francisco on Monday, September 26.

The shows are a celebration of the band’s eclectic material, spanning everything from the always futuristic “Re-Make/Re-Model” to the disco-punk of “Love Is the Drug” to the seductive “More Than This” – songs that have inspired legions of fans including Duran Duran, Depeche Mode and l tour opener St. Vincent.

Manzanera, who also tours with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and has a prolific solo career, spoke to The Chronicle about the band’s latest reunion tour on Zoom from his home in the English countryside.

Q: This year marks the 50th anniversary of Roxy Music’s debut album and 20 years since the band last toured America. I understand that these are facts that you only learned once you started doing interviews for this tour.

A: I had to google it because I was like, “Wait, I’m sure we were in America more recently.” I’m just like triple-checking, cross-referencing, you know, because I was on David Gilmour’s tours in America, so I went to America. But yes. We hadn’t done a Roxy tour in 10 years, anywhere, and 20 years in America, so that’s ridiculous. I mean, what did we do?

Q: I’m sure everyone in the group is busy with their endeavors. Do you think that’s what makes Roxy Music special when you reconnect — the sense of occasion?

A: Oh, yes, definitely. We like to play together.

For the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, we weren’t going to play that many songs, but we rehearsed for a week in Brooklyn and had a blast. It reminded us that we hadn’t played those songs, and it was nice to come back to them. It was nice to learn a lot of songs and play them for the first time in many years.

It’s quite a challenge to go back and listen to the multitrack recordings of the first album and see, for example, what I was playing as a guitarist when I was 21. I thought it was very simple, but trying to learn it now is a real pain in the ass.

Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera at Madison Square Garden earlier this month in New York City. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images for Live Nation

Q: You probably had no idea what you were doing at the time.

A: Exactly. We said we were inspired amateurs, and listening to it now, it’s true. Somehow there was a lot of energy and a lot of sheer determination. It was the first album when we went into the studio to record. I can hear the energy.

Q: You organized yourself by making each Roxy Music album sound different from the last. How to build a coherent set list?

A: We mix elements together to create a show that feels cohesive and will entertain people and give them what they want. There are certain songs that people want to hear, so you have to make sure you have them. It’s almost like starting a new band.

Roxy Music in 1972. Photo: Brian Cooke

Q: The real question is, are you going to wear what you wore in 1972?

A: I have these outfits, but I can’t even get them on my leg. I was so skinny then.

Q: Did you all show up to Roxy Music’s first rehearsal looking like this?

A: Absolutely not. I was raised in Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia, then moved to England when I was 9 or 10 years old. I was very primitive, and these guys, when I met them, they had gone to college and they knew the image and all that. They had friends who were promising young designers.

I showed up at the first photoshoot and Anthony Price, who is a famous fashion designer, looked over at me and said, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no! You just have to put them on. So thank you Anthony. Snapshot.

Q: Despite all your success with Roxy Music and David Gilmour, is it true that the thing you get paid the most for is a snippet that Kanye West and Jay-Z used on one of your solo albums for “No Church in the savage”?

A: Absolutely! It’s the only Grammy I’ve been associated with. The irony is that it comes from a solo album I did in 1977 (“K-Scope”). I needed to record an instrument, and the night before I was watching TV and playing around with the guitar. I said, “Oh, that’s fine.” Of all the things I’ve done, this is the one they chose.

Roxy Music: 8 p.m. on Monday, September 26. Tickets start at $72.50. Chase Center, 1 Warriors Way, SF

  • Aidin Vaziri

    Aidin Vaziri is the pop music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @MusicSF
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